Highlights from the 2014 IISS Manama Dialogue

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The 5-7 December Manama Dialogue for the International Institute for Strategic Studies came at a crucial time for the Middle East region. With growing instability in Syria and Iraq there has never been greater need for dialogue and a clear strategy between nations to counter the threats of extremism, sectarianism and Iran’s harmful role in the region.

For those of us who could not attend the conference and who did not have the time to follow hours of debates and plenary speeches, we have included some of the most interesting insights below from a variety of figures who participated in the event:

HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrain Crown Prince

“If we are to call ourselves in a war with theocrats, then I believe that we can start to put together the military, social, political and maybe even economic policies in a holistic manner to counter this threat, as we did with communism. But what do we call it? Do we call it theocrism, to invent a word? Do we call it fascist theocracy? We must find a term that we can all share.

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Britain has demonstrated its long-term commitment and solidarity with Bahrain in the building of a £15 million permanent naval base in Mina Salman. Inevitably, there will be those who seek to criticize or undermine this decision. However, there are many reasons why this benefits us all.

This substantial investment will benefit local businesses. Meanwhile, additional visitors to our shores will be good news for the hospitality industry. Furthermore, Britain’s decision represents a major vote of confidence in Bahrain’s stability and security; giving a tangible signal to people around the world that Bahrain is a safe and welcoming state, meriting investment and partnership.

Arguably, Bahrain is one of the most natural partners for Britain in the region, as an island Constitutional Monarchy, with a representative parliamentary system which enshrines the rights of the individual; Bahrain enjoys an open and tolerant society where people of all faiths and backgrounds are respected and welcomed.

An example of this are the thousands of Britons and Europeans who work in neighbouring Gulf states, but choose to base their homes and families in Bahrain, because of the family-friendly lifestyle; the safe environment; and the tolerant and hospitable climate that Bahrain offers.

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The Bahrain Debate – Why we need more of this

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We would recommend to everyone to take the time to watch the video of the two-hour Bahrain Debate that took place in London on 3 December, not least because it’s so rare to see genuine debate being conducted about Bahraini issues, where all the sides sit around in public and talk to each other.

 

One of the important results of such debate is that the more misconceptions and misunderstandings can be addressed directly. For example, just a few seconds into the introduction Bahrain was already being accused of “gerrymandering” election borders and the recent elections were written-off as “irrelevant”.

 

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For the definitive guide on the winners of the 2014 parliamentary elections click on http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/entry/winners-of-2014-parliamentary-elections-capital-governorate

 

Despite the opposition’s boycott, unexpectedly high numbers of Bahrainis went out and voted in the two rounds of parliamentary and municipal elections, and most of the voters gave a clear mandate for change and reform.

 

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