The Marrakech conference fosters high-level dialogue between over 400 experts about issues facing the Global South and the Southern Atlantic region.
Marrakech – The Policy Center for the New South (PCNS), a Rabat-based think-tank, celebrated the launch of its 8th Atlantic Dialogues session on Thursday, December 12 in Marrakech. The three-day conference, led by established experts in various fields, will focus on leadership, entrepreneurship, and innovative policymaking.
The conference brings together senior officials, business leaders, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, civil servants, and civil society actors to engage in high-level dialogue.
Atlantic Currents: The South in the time of turmoil
The dialogues kicked off on Thursday morning with a multi-faceted discussion of the period of turmoil that currently envelops the Global South.
The panel members included Anabel Gonzalez, the former Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica; Len Ishmael, a senior fellow at the PCNS; Rida Lyammouri, a senior fellow at the PCNS; Olisaeloka Okocha, managing partner and co-founder of PS Nutraceuticals International; and former Prime Minister of Senegal Aminata Toure.
Panel members touched on a wide range of subjects including trade, terrorism, US foreign policy, agriculture, youth, immigration, and climate change.
While four of the panelists analyzed the factors contributing to the South’s current state of turmoil, former Prime Minister of Senegal Aminata Toure took the opportunity to remind her colleagues and the audience that the African continent has much to be proud of.
“We do have a lot of things to celebrate,” she stated. “The countries that were seen as hopeless are emerging in strong ways.”
The former prime minister noted economic growth, improved social indicators such as gender equality in education access, improved access to drinkable water, and higher life expectancies.
Toure did, however, highlight the importance of collaborating to effectively address security, a point that her fellow panelists reiterated as the discussion continued.
“We are in turmoil, but at the same time, we are seeing great areas of optimism and progress,” Toure stated. “How can we mitigate the [negatives] and increase the [positives]?”
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo talks multilateralism
Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria, lead the conference’s official opening conversation alongside American journalist and news anchor Richard Lui.
The duo engaged in a lively discussion of development on the African continent. Obasanjo shared a wealth of wisdom with the audience, but he maintained a consistent theme throughout each of his points: Optimism.
“We should not be entirely worried about the situation that we are in,” Obasanjo began.
“In the last century, within the first 40 years, there were two world wars. That gave the world a jitter,” he continued.
“The world was looking for peace, the world was looking for security, stability, development, growth, progress. To a large extent, all of these were achieved.
“But we did not get multilateralism. What we got was two worlds. We got a bipolar world, not multilateralism,” argued Obasanjo.
He went on to assure the South that although the world order as we know it is disappearing, “there is likely to be something better coming in.”
“I believe it will be multilateralism, which is what we need,” he said confidently.
“The old order is in the process of changing,” he added. “Before you get the dawn, it gets a little bit darker. So what you are getting, which we call uncertainty, turmoil, I think we are there. But maybe we need to get that disruption, that change, for us to get a [new world order].”
The first plenary session at the 8th Atlantic Dialogues focused on the prospects for populism around the world.
The esteemed panel members included Maria Eugenia Brizuela de Avila, El Salvador’s former minister of foreign affairs; Ana Palacio, Spain’s former minister of foreign affairs; J. Peter Pham, the US special envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa; Paulo Portas, Portugal’s former minister of foreign affairs; and Ignacio Walker, Chile’s former minister of foreign affairs.
The policy experts each spoke of populism in their respective countries and regions.
Populism is a political approach based on the idea that society is separated into two polar groups characterized by “pure people” and “corrupt elite.” Populism strives to appeal to the masses, who feel as though their concerns are ignored by the established elite.
Populism is on the rise around the world, and populist parties can fall anywhere on the political spectrum and adapt to all political, social, and economic situations.
The panelists discussed the roots of populism in various countries, the conflicts that have emerged due to the rise of populist ideologies, and solutions to social unrest and violence around the world.
The second plenary session of the 8th Atlantic Dialogues dissected the education quandary afflicting Africa and the southern Atlantic region.
The panel gathered Didier Acouetey, president and founder of AfricSearch Group; the former Minister of Education of Nigeria Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili; the former Minister of Economic Development and Planning of Vietnam Gregory Nguyen Tien Hung; and the former Minister for Education, Higher Education, and Research of France Najat Vallaud Belkacem.
The panelists highlighted the issues of poverty, inequality, and gender that limit education for citizens of the global South. Ezekwesili, for her part, described some of the solutions used in Nigeria that can help remedy the education quandary throughout Africa.
In addition to plenary sessions and expert dialogues, the conference hosts a network of 50 emerging leaders (ADELs) of 27 nationalities chosen for their initiative, leadership potential, vision, and ambition to strengthen transatlantic ties.
The objective of the ADEL program is to build a community that transcends the Atlantic Dialogues conference, according to PCNS. The community is an active body with frequent opportunities for ADELs and program alumni to network, engage in meaningful discussion, and collaborate with experts in their respective fields.
The closing plenary discussion of the conference will be dedicated to the new members of the ADEL network.