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HomeMiddle EastSeptember 17 Panel: The Impact of COVID-19 on Security and Stability in the Middle East

September 17 Panel: The Impact of COVID-19 on Security and Stability in the Middle East

Photo credit: Mohammed Ranjbar for Tasnim News Agency

The Institute for Peace & Diplomacy is pleased to announce our upcoming virtual panel “The Impact of COVID-19 on Security and Stability in the Middle East,” in partnership with the Defence and Security Foresight Group.

The virtual discussion is scheduled for 11:00 am (EST) on Sept 17, 2020 and can be watched live upon registration here. This panel brings into conversation various perspectives on security interdependence among Middle Eastern countries and explores the opportunities and challenges that the COVID-19 outbreak has created for diplomacy and dialogue in the region.

Following the World Health Organization’s declaration of Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a global pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed for a global cease-fire in conflict zones, calling on member states to “put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the entire world, though in vastly different ways. Countries in the Middle East are dealing with regional security, socio-economic and political crises while also establishing containment measures to deal with the ongoing public health emergency. COVID-19 has contributed to ongoing security threats and further destabilized the region, but it has also brought about new opportunities for transnational humanitarian coordination and regional cooperation during, and in the aftermath of, this pandemic.

In a rapidly changing security environment that continues to challenge the Euro-American centric international system, alongside China and Russia’s evolving role in the Middle East, this panel aims to explore the ways in which this public health emergency could become the impetus for regional cooperation, and assesses opportunities for Canada’s potential contribution to this matter. 

Date: September 17, 2020

Time: 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM (EST

This panel is part of a discussion series about the impact of COVID-19 on international peace and security. The discussion series is supported by the Department of National Defence’s Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program.

We are honoured to have Ambassador Stefanie McCollum, Canada’s representative to the State of Qatar, as our keynote speaker in conversation with Younes Zangiabadi, Executive Vice President of the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy. This conversation will take place in the first section of the panel (11:00 -11:30 AM). 

The second portion of the panel (11:30 AM -12:30 PM) will be uniting experts from Canada, Qatar and the United Kingdom to provide a timely and important discussion on the opportunities and challenges to strengthening coordination and cooperation among GCC countries, Iraq, and Iran.


Dennis Horak, Canada’s Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Dennis Horak earned an honours Bachelor’s degree in political science from York University in 1983 and received his Master’s degree from the London School of Economics in 1984. He joined the Canadian Department of External Affairs in 1987, holding positions in Stockholm (1989) and Warsaw (1990-1993). Later, he returned to Ottawa to work in the UN Division and the Peacebuilding and Democratic Development Division. Before heading up to Riyadh, Horak directed the Middle East Relations Division after working as the Canadian Head of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in Tehran. He finally assumed the role of Canada’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia on July 31, 2015 — where he had previously acted as the Mission’s political-economic program manager between 1996-1999. 

Bessma Momani, Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo 

Dr. Bessma Momani is also a Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance and Innovation, and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, D.C. She was a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at both the Brookings Institution and Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., and a consultant to the International Monetary Fund. She has authored and co-edited ten books and over 80 scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters that have examined international affairs, diversity and inclusion, Middle East affairs, and the global economy.

Luciano Zaccara, Professor of Gulf Politics at Gulf Studies Center, Qatar University

Alongside his professorial role at Qatar University’s Gulf Studies Center, Dr. Luciano Zaccara is also a Visiting Assistant Professor at Georgetown University in Qatar, and the Director of OPEMAM in Spain. His research specializes in Iranian Politics, Gulf Politics, International Relations in the Persian Gulf, and Electoral Systems in MENA.

Rothna Begum, Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch

Rothna Begum is a Women’s Rights Researcher at Human Rights Watch, with a focus in the Middle East and North Africa region. She gained expertise on the Persian Gulf region through extended professional experiences in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar and Oman, but has also developed interests in Iran, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. She is an expert researcher and campaigner on an impressive array of regional human rights issues, such as freedom of expression, association and assembly; counter-terrorism; women’s rights; refugees, migrants and asylum seekers; corporal punishment and the death penalty. She has spent time in the Middle East and North Africa region including undertaking fieldwork in Yemen and Qatar.


Sanam Shantyaei, Senior Journalist & Host of Middle East Matters at France24 

Sanam Shantyaei is a journalist with more than a decade’s experience as a foreign correspondent and international news television producer. At France 24, she is the host of Middle East Matters, a weekly program that deals with political and social events through exclusive reports and interviews.