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Comprehensive security
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 14 - 02 - 2019

Egypt's participation in the annual Munich Security Conference, which concluded early this week, was an important opportunity to present the vision of its leadership on major political, economic and security challenges facing the Middle East region and the world.
Egypt is a country that dynamically interacts with its Arab and African surroundings, and effectively plays a pivotal role in the pursuit of security, stability and development in both the Middle East and Africa. Earlier in February, Egypt was handed the one-year rotating presidency of the African Union, which added to its responsibilities highlighting the concerns of the African peoples who yearn to achieve stability, progress and development.
The Munich conference was held this year amid growing challenges and dangers, including the continued existence of hotbeds of conflict, prevalence of terrorism and extremism, and escalating rates of organised crime. All these challenges not only put intense pressure on the core concept of the nation-state, but also augur collapse of its institutions in a way that endangers the peoples' resources, security and stability. These challenges have been compounded by polarisation and the intensification of political confrontations engulfing the international order, not to mention the impact of natural hazards, namely climate change, desertification and water scarcity, among others. This requires strengthening international efforts in view of the fact that present-day challenges are beyond the capacities of any state to confront or contain alone, while geographical boundaries are rendered irrelevant by many of them.
These challenges are manifested clearly in the Middle East as well as the African continent. We witness nowadays armed conflicts, civil wars, ethnic clashes and terrorist attacks, not to mention the problems of poverty, unemployment, low productivity and the declining standard of services. Added to that are economic crises, financial market instability, capital inflow conditionality and exacerbating debt problems. Therefore, handling such problems requires genuine international cooperation with the primary aim of ending armed conflicts.
No other conflict in the Middle East region, if not in the world, has consumed so many years, wars, and caused such tremendous suffering for millions of human beings as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The core reason behind this conflict is Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories. Thus, the formula Palestinians, and Arab countries, have insisted on for decades is simple: land for peace. Indeed, in recent years, namely following the “Arab Spring” in 2011, many new problems and conflicts surfaced, particularly the disintegration of several nation states and the rise of regional powers that sought to exploit the security vacuum. Both Turkey and Iran have sought to benefit from the current chaos in several Arab countries. Nevertheless, the fact that the Palestinian conflict remained unresolved provides more sources for instability in the region, and allows both regional powers to add to the chaos, particularly along sectarian and religious lines that became prominent over recent years.
Finding a just solution for the Palestinian plight, based mainly on the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and to have their own independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, has been a cornerstone of Egyptian foreign policy for decades, and will continue to be so. Domestically, there are other fields of priority, namely entrenching the concepts of good governance, protecting human rights in their comprehensive meaning, empowering women who make up half of society, upgrading education and health, developing infrastructure and agriculture, boosting rural development, creating job opportunities, increasing investment, promoting trade and strengthening regional integration and incorporation.
Finally, Egypt has been involved in a relentless war against terrorism. There is no doubt that terrorism has become an international phenomenon with increasing risks that lead to the destabilisation of societies. This requires everyone to make genuine efforts to uproot this abhorrent phenomenon, which is the first threat to the pursuit of development, including tightening the noose around terrorist groups and organisations, or the countries that either turn a blind eye to it, or even flagrantly support terror as a means to achieve political goals and regional ambitions.
Egypt needed no reminders on the dangers terrorist groups pose to security, both domestically, regionally and internationally. However, the terrorist attack that took place in northern Sinai earlier this week, leading to the martyrdom of one army officer and 14 soldiers, confirmed that we still have a long way to go in confronting the plague of terrorism. What is required is not only security solutions, but more regional and international cooperation, as well as genuine effort towards religious reform that would drain these terrorist groups and prevent more young people from joining their ranks.
That's the ambitious vision Egypt presented in Munich, and will continue working hard to put it into practice.

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