Building a Cooperative Regional Security Architecture in the Middle East

This project aims to provide viable options for mobilizing an inclusive multilateral cooperation process in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

A series of policy papers exploring opportunities and challenges for establishing a MENA cooperative security architecture was published as part of this project. All papers can be found on the MENA Programme’s microsite.


The Middle East is one of the only regions of the world without a broad-based multilateral regional forum to discuss issues that cut across national boundaries. Yet transnational challenges such as arms proliferation, climate change, food security, maritime security, migration, and public health are serious threats to the region’s stability and the wellbeing of its people.

With such risks becoming more acute in recent years, combined with growing interest in de-escalation and regional calm, new opportunities for mobilizing a cooperative regional process to develop norms for regional conduct and practical confidence-building measures in areas of common concern may be emerging.

It will be a major challenge to harness the current interest in cooperation and de-escalation into a work plan that can be operationalized and adopted by policymakers – particularly against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and the strengthening of competitive regional alignments to counter Iran. The continued risk of renewed military escalation underscores the need for developing a cooperative regional processes to help prevent unwanted conflict and build trust.

Project objectives:

This initiative takes stock of prior efforts and explores opportunities in the current regional environment to jumpstart a more inclusive process that aims to bring together adversarial states to reduce tensions, agree on norms of conduct and engage in confidence-building activities that can provide mutually beneficial gains. The best way to provide fresh ideas and recommend a practical path forward is three-fold:

  1. To adapt innovations and best practices from other regional and global cooperative multilateral efforts to the conditions in the Middle East, drawing inspiration from the experience of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) and then Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as well as the ASEAN Regional Forum;
  2. To better understand regional preferences and constraints in participating in a cooperative multilateral process and key functional areas that might be conducive to such cooperation;
  3. To assess the broader global interest and capacity to support such a process.

The initiative addresses these core areas through dialogue with regional and global stakeholders. A series of policy papers will further explore the opportunities and challenges for establishing a MENA cooperative security architecture, and practical steps, models, and modalities for moving forward. The article series will be published on the Chatham House MENA Programme’s website.
This project is a partnership with the Burkle Center for International Relations at the University of California, Los Angeles and is led by Dr Sanam Vakil and Dr Dalia Dassa Kaye.