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Panel — Privacy and Passenger Biometrics: New Developments and Perspectives

On February 10, the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy (IPD) will host ‘Privacy and Passenger Biometrics: New Developments and Perspectives’ in collaboration with InterVISTAS. The virtual panel will be held at 11:00 am ET and can be watched live on Zoom. Registration is required through this page.

The application of biometric data systems and facial recognition technologies in airport environments have brought to light fundamental policy issues around the protection of personal air traveller data as well as digital profiles and identities. Currently, there are no universally accepted global standards for the protection of the personal privacy of air travellers, including the collection, use, storage, sharing, and destruction of biometric data. The opportunities created by biometric technologies to provide contactless and seamless air passenger journeys worldwide have become even more relevant in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak—especially considering that global pandemics could erupt again in the future.

International law and national policies on the use of facial recognition and other forms of biometric data remain in a state of flux: neither are keeping pace with the evolving technology and its applications. The successful application of biometrics in an airport environment will likely be determined by the promotion of a global consensus on the appropriate balance between protecting an individual’s personal privacy, while embracing the efficiencies that biometric technologies can bring. This webinar brings together a distinguished panel of global experts to discuss the opportunities, challenges, and obstacles to the use of facial recognition in air passenger travel. The panel will also address the topic of digital identity and privacy approaches in biometrics.

Registration is mandatory to attend. Reserve your spot for free, here.

Date: February 10, 2021

Time: 11:00 AM ET

Register here.


John P. Wagner
Former Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner (Office of Field Operations), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

John P. Wagner served the US Customs and Border Protection for nearly 29 years, as well as its predecessor agency, the U.S. Customs Service. He began his Federal law enforcement career in 1991, as a Customs Inspector, and has worked at the New York/New Jersey seaport and the land border port of Laredo, TX, before being assigned to Headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

Mr. Wagner has worked on a wide variety of Homeland Security operational and policy issues. He became a recognized government leader in international border management and application of biometrics. He has developed many security and facilitation programs for international travel, such as Global Entry and Automated Passport Control, and most recently, he designed and launched the vision for token-less and touch-less travel by leveraging facial recognition technology. Mr. Wagner successfully reengineered and automated many government programs. 

Mr. Wagner has testified over two dozen times before Congress in the Senate and House of Representatives on a variety of topics involving national security, use of biometrics, privacy, managing commercial trade and travel, and international border management. An experienced member of the Senior Executive Service for nearly a decade, and career, uniformed federal law enforcement officer for over 28 years, he retired as the Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Field Operations in July 2020. 

A native of Long Island, NY, Mr. Wagner graduated from the State University of New York at Albany, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. Mr. Wagner is a graduate of the Senior Executive Fellows course at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University, and was twice honored as a finalist for a Service to America’s medal in 2015, and again in 2019.

Ellen McClain
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS);
Vice President, InterVISTAS Consulting Inc.

Ms. McClain is Vice President for InterVISTAS Consulting Inc., having joined the company in 2019 after completing a three-year term as a Special Assistant and rehired annuitant with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Recently, she served as President of Executive Women in Government, a non-profit organized to prepare, promote, and support women for senior leadership positions in the U.S. federal government and the military through networking, shared knowledge and experience, and mentoring.

Prior to retiring in 2015, she served the Department of Homeland Security as Deputy Assistant Secretary (Transborder Security) from 2012-2015 and as Assistant General Counsel (Enforcement) from 2003-2012. Ms. McClain was the Deputy Associate Chief Counsel (Enforcement) for the U.S. Customs Service from 1985-2002, and Deputy Assistant General Counsel (Enforcement) at the Department of Treasury. During her career, she received several awards from both the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Commissioner of Customs. She received the General Counsel’s Extraordinary Achievement in National Security or Homeland Security Law in 2008 and was nominated in 2003 for the Federal Bar Association’s Transportation Attorney of the Year for her contributions to setting up the Department of Homeland Security. Ms. McClain holds degrees from Duke University, Vermont Law School, and Georgetown University Law Center.

Isabelle Lelieur
Partner, Cabinet Chevrier Avocats, Paris

Isabelle Lelieur is recognized as a leading lawyer in the airport and aviation industry for over 20 years. She is now a partner lawyer (Paris Bar) with Chevrier Avocats, a Paris-based law firm specialized in aviation. Isabelle represents airport operators, airlines, aircraft lessors/lessees, international institutions, regulators, and service providers in the aviation industry worldwide. She works primarily on contractual issues, as well as on regulatory, competition and liability issues, data protection (GDPR) and aviation policy.

She previously headed the legal department of VINCI Airports (a world-leading airport operator) for 10 years, managing all legal aspects on airport projects globally. Prior to VINCI Airports, Isabelle was in a senior role as the head of the legal department of the French Airport Association. She has also held positions with the European Commission and with Air France’s international affairs department. Since 2017, she is also a Senior Associate Business Law & Policy for Aviation Strategies International, as well as an expert for the Russian Institute of Air and Space Law, AEROHELP. She is a member of the French Society of Air and Space Law (SFDAS) and of the European Air Law Association (EALA).

Isabelle has an undergraduate law degree from Toulouse Law University and a Master’s degree from the Air Transport Training and Research Institute (IFURTA) of Aix-Marseille University. She also holds a graduate degree (LL.M.) from the Institute of Air and Space Law (IASL), McGill University, Montreal. She is admitted to Paris Bar. Since 2019, Isabelle is AMPAP-accredited (the Global ACI-ICAO Airport Management Professional Accreditation Programme).

Jacqueline Lu
Co-Founder, Helpful Places

Jacqueline Lu helps organizations build new systems that use technology and data. At Helpful Places, she is building a coalition to implement and improve Digital Trust in Places and Routines (DTPR), an open-source communication standard for digital technology that enables agency for people in the real world, by advancing greater transparency and civic dialogue on the use of digital technologies (

Jacqueline is also Data Lead at Mozilla Foundation, where she is building a data strategy that will glean insights and measure progress on Mozilla’s theory of change for trustworthy AI. Previously, she was Director of Digital Integration at Sidewalk Labs where she led incorporating innovation objectives, technology policy and data ethics into the company’s approach to urban development projects. She served as the inaugural Director of Data Analytics at NYC Parks, where she founded the agency’s data science team and open data program, sparking the agency’s shift to data-informed operations.


Paul Clark
Vice President, InterVISTAS Consulting Inc.

Paul has more than 30 years of experience in strategic planning processes and facilitation services, specializing in air travel market development, economic development and tourism development. He is an expert in group facilitation, including Board, senior management and stakeholder sessions, and large town-hall forums with communities. He works with airport, aviation and tourism clients to deliver master plans, strategic plans and business plans that incorporate extensive stakeholder engagement and collaboration initiatives.

When not involved in guiding airport and tourism groups on strategy, Paul delivers solutions in airport passenger experience and tourism destination management. He has provided strategic advisory services in five continents for airport management teams, tourism organizations, governments and communities.

In addition to his consulting experience, Paul directed a number of Tourism British Columbia’s worldwide marketing initiatives for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, and has held senior positions in strategic planning, marketing and market research for Tourism Whistler, Forbes Travel, and Vancouver Airport Authority. Paul has both a Master’s and a Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree in Geography.


Panel 4: Pathways to Manage Non-Proliferation in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ET)

The Western powers have failed to effectively manage the increasing threat of proliferation in the Middle East. While the international community is concerned with Iran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia has moved forward with developing its own nuclear program, and independent studies show that Israel has longed possessed dozens of nuclear warheads. The former is a member of the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), while the latter has refused to sign the international agreement. 

On Middle East policy, the Biden campaign had staunchly criticized the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal and it has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier since assuming office in January 2021. However, serious obstacles remain for responsible actors in expanding non-proliferation efforts toward a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. 

This panel will discuss how Western powers and multilateral institutions, such as the IAEA, can play a more effective role in managing non-proliferation efforts in the Middle East.  


Peggy Mason: Canada’s former Ambassador to the UN for Disarmament

Mark Fitzpatrick: Associate Fellow & Former Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

Ali Vaez: Iran Project Director, International Crisis Group

Negar Mortazavi: Journalist and Political Analyst, Host of Iran Podcast

David Albright: Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security


Closing (5:45 PM – 6:00 PM ET)

Panel 3: Trade and Business Diplomacy in the Middle East (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

What is the current economic landscape in the Middle East? While global foreign direct investment is expected to fall drastically in the post-COVID era, the World Bank reported a 5% contraction in the economic output of the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries in 2020 due to the pandemic. While oil prices are expected to rebound with normalization in demand, political instability, regional and geopolitical tensions, domestic corruption, and a volatile regulatory and legal environment all threaten economic recovery in the Middle East. What is the prospect for economic growth and development in the region post-pandemic, and how could MENA nations promote sustainable growth and regional trade moving forward?

At the same time, Middle Eastern diaspora communities have become financially successful and can help promote trade between North America and the region. In this respect, the diaspora can become vital intermediaries for advancing U.S. and Canada’s business interests abroad. Promoting business diplomacy can both benefit the MENA region and be an effective and positive way to advance engagement and achieve foreign policy goals of the North Atlantic.

This panel will investigate the trade and investment opportunities in the Middle East, discuss how facilitating economic engagement with the region can benefit Canadian and American national interests, and explore relevant policy prescriptions.


Hon. Sergio Marchi: Canada’s Former Minister of International Trade

Scott Jolliffe: Chairperson, Canada Arab Business Council

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj: Founder and Publisher of Bourse & Bazaar

Nizar Ghanem: Director of Research and Co-founder at Triangle

Nicki Siamaki: Researcher at Control Risks

Panel 2: Arms Race and Terrorism in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

The Middle East continues to grapple with violence and instability, particularly in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Fueled by government incompetence and foreign interventions, terrorist insurgencies have imposed severe humanitarian and economic costs on the region. Meanwhile, regional actors have engaged in an unprecedented pursuit of arms accumulation. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have imported billions of both Western and Russian-made weapons and funded militant groups across the region, intending to contain their regional adversaries, particularly Iran. Tehran has also provided sophisticated weaponry to various militia groups across the region to strengthen its geopolitical position against Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel. 

On the other hand, with international terrorist networks and intense regional rivalry in the Middle East, it is impractical to discuss peace and security without addressing terrorism and the arms race in the region. This panel will primarily discuss the implications of the ongoing arms race in the region and the role of Western powers and multilateral organizations in facilitating trust-building security arrangements among regional stakeholders to limit the proliferation of arms across the Middle East.



Luciano Zaccara: Assistant Professor, Qatar University

Dania Thafer: Executive Director, Gulf International Forum

Kayhan Barzegar: Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of Azad University

Barbara Slavin: Director of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council

Sanam Shantyaei: Senior Journalist at France24 & host of Middle East Matters

Panel 1: Future of Diplomacy and Engagement in the Middle East (10:30 AM-11:45 AM ET)

The emerging regional order in West Asia will have wide-ranging implications for global security. The Biden administration has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier, an initiative staunchly opposed by Israel, while also taking a harder line on Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen. Meanwhile, key regional actors, including Qatar, Iraq, and Oman, have engaged in backchannel efforts to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table. From a broader geopolitical perspective, with the need to secure its energy imports, China is also expected to increase its footprint in the region and influence the mentioned challenges. 

In this evolving landscape, Western powers will be compelled to redefine their strategic priorities and adjust their policies with the new realities in the region. In this panel, we will discuss how the West, including the United States and its allies, can utilize multilateral diplomacy with its adversaries to prevent military escalation in the region. Most importantly, the panel will discuss if a multilateral security dialogue in the Persian Gulf region, proposed by some regional actors, can help reduce tensions among regional foes and produce sustainable peace and development for the region. 


Abdullah Baabood: Academic Researcher and Former Director of the Centre for Gulf Studies, Qatar University

Trita Parsi: Executive Vice-President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi: President, Emirates Policy Centre​

Jon Allen: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Israel

Elizabeth Hagedorn: Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor

Panel 4: Humanitarian Diplomacy: An Underused Foreign Policy Tool in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:30 PM ET)

Military interventions, political and economic instabilities, and civil unrest in the Middle East have led to a global refugee crisis with an increasing wave of refugees and asylum seekers to Europe and Canada. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has, in myriad ways, exacerbated and contributed to the ongoing security threats and destabilization of the region.

While these challenges pose serious risks to Canadian security, Ottawa will also have the opportunity to limit such risks and prevent a spillover effect vis-à-vis effective humanitarian initiatives in the region. In this panel, we will primarily investigate Canada’s Middle East Strategy’s degree of success in providing humanitarian aid to the region. Secondly, the panel will discuss what programs and initiatives Canada can introduce to further build on the renewed strategy. and more specifically, how Canada can utilize its policy instruments to more effectively deal with the increasing influx of refugees from the Middle East. 



Erica Di Ruggiero: Director of Centre for Global Health, University of Toronto

Reyhana Patel: Head of Communications & Government Relations, Islamic Relief Canada

Amir Barmaki: Former Head of UN OCHA in Iran

Catherine Gribbin: Senior Legal Advisor for International and Humanitarian Law, Canadian Red Cross

Panel 3: A Review of Canada’s Middle East Engagement and Defense Strategy (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

In 2016, Canada launched an ambitious five-year “Middle East Engagement Strategy” (2016-2021), committing to investing CA$3.5 billion over five years to help establish the necessary conditions for security and stability, alleviate human suffering and enable stabilization programs in the region. In the latest development, during the meeting of the Global Coalition against ISIS, Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau announced more than $43.6 million in Peace and Stabilization Operations Program funding for 11 projects in Syria and Iraq.

With Canada’s Middle East Engagement Strategy expiring this year, it is time to examine and evaluate this massive investment in the Middle East region in the past five years. More importantly, the panel will discuss a principled and strategic roadmap for the future of Canada’s short-term and long-term engagement in the Middle East.


Ferry de Kerckhove: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Egypt

Dennis Horak: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Chris Kilford: Former Canadian Defence Attaché in Turkey, member of the national board of the Canadian International Council (CIC)

David Dewitt: University Professor Emeritus, York University

Panel 2: The Great Power Competition in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

While the United States continues to pull back from certain regional conflicts, reflected by the Biden administration’s decision to halt American backing for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and the expected withdrawal from Afghanistan, US troops continue to be stationed across the region. Meanwhile, Russia and China have significantly maintained and even expanded their regional activities. On one hand, the Kremlin has maintained its military presence in Syria, and on the other hand, China has signed an unprecedented 25-year strategic agreement with Iran.

As the global power structure continues to shift, it is essential to analyze the future of the US regional presence under the Biden administration, explore the emerging global rivalry with Russia and China, and at last, investigate the implications of such competition for peace and security in the Middle East.


Dmitri Trenin: Director of Carnegie Moscow Center

Joost R. Hiltermann: Director of MENA Programme, International Crisis Group

Roxane Farmanfarmaian: Affiliated Lecturer in International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa, University of Cambridge

Andrew A. Michta: Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at Marshall Center

Kelley Vlahos: Senior Advisor, Quincy Institute

Panel 1: A New Middle East Security Architecture in the Making (10:30 AM -11:45 AM ET)

The security architecture of the Middle East has undergone rapid transformations in an exceptionally short period. Notable developments include the United States gradual withdrawal from the region, rapprochement between Israel and some GCC states through the Abraham Accords and the rise of Chinese and Russian regional engagement.

With these new trends in the Middle East, it is timely to investigate the security implications of the Biden administration’s Middle East policy. In this respect, we will discuss the Biden team’s new approach vis-à-vis Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The panel will also discuss the role of other major powers, including China and Russia in shaping this new security environment in the region, and how the Biden administration will respond to these powers’ increasing regional presence.



Sanam Vakil: Deputy Director of MENA Programme at Chatham House

Denise Natali: Acting Director, Institute for National Strategic Studies & Director of the Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University

Hassan Ahmadian: Professor of the Middle East and North Africa Studies, University of Tehran

Abdulaziz Sagar: Chairman, Gulf Research Center

Andrew Parasiliti: President, Al-Monitor