Unprecedented recent levels of diplomatic activity have facilitated de-escalation and greater cooperation across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Responding to geopolitical shifts, regional challenges and domestic pressures, Middle Eastern governments have been working to find their own mechanisms to reduce conflict, mend ties with former rivals and increase cooperation with neighbouring states.
While these are positive developments in a region marred by conflict and instability, it is unclear whether de-escalation will prove sustainable or whether existing cooperation initiatives can move beyond the transactional. Yet given the cross-border nature of so many global challenges today – from climate change to food security to maritime security – regional cooperation has become an imperative, not a luxury.
This paper argues that the present de-escalatory dynamic offers a historic opportunity to build sustainable multilateralism in the MENA region. It proposes the establishment of a new official multilateral forum for sustainable dialogue and engagement. A MENA-led forum of this nature – initially focusing on climate change, energy policy and emergency response – would add a critical cooperative layer to the region’s largely competitive security architecture.