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HomeEventsPanel — Global Aviation Policy Roundtable 2022: Regional Perspectives and the Common Path Towards Sustainability

Panel — Global Aviation Policy Roundtable 2022: Regional Perspectives and the Common Path Towards Sustainability

The Institute for Peace & Diplomacy will host a joint webinar titled ‘Global Aviation Policy Roundtable 2022: Regional Perspectives and the Common Path Towards Sustainability‘ in collaboration with InterVISTAS on February 17, 2022.

Global aviation has been historically vulnerable to external shocks such as economic crises, geopolitical tensions, oil prices, militant terrorism, and public health outbreaks. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only accelerated some of the social trends and technological developments observed in pre-pandemic years, but it has also reenergized the global aviation industry in unexpected ways, creating opportunities for collaboration, innovation and future visioning.

This roundtable brings together influential regional voices from around the world to discuss the challenges ahead on how to advance a common path towards sustainability. In addition to regional updates from each of the speakers, some of the questions that will be discussed will include: how can regional experiences and current initiatives inform the way forward? How can we close the economic and infrastructure gaps that exist across regions? What are the key obstacles to achieve the common path towards sustainability? How can we ensure that global aviation does not become a tool of coercive diplomacy?


Abdul Wahab Teffaha
Secretary General, Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO)

Mr. Teffaha joined AACO in 1980 as an assistant tariff analyst and rose in the ranks until becoming Assistant Secretary General in 1992. He was elected Secretary General of the Association in June 1996 and still serves in this capacity. Mr. Teffaha has played a key role in developing and deploying a new strategy for AACO based on delivering specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound results to AACO member airlines. Joint projects between AACO members have included initiatives on distribution agreements, ground handling, fuel, training, and MRO cooperation. Mr. Teffaha also leads AACO on all industry affairs related issues and has been consistently a leading voice and advocate on aeropolitical and regulatory issues that affect AACO members within the region and foreign markets.

Abderahmane Berthe
Secretary General, African Airlines Association (AFRAA)

Mr. Berthe has over 30 years of experience in the air transport sector, including 16 years acting as Managing Director for various African airlines including Air Mali and Air Burkina. As Secretary General of AFRAA, he has been a leading voice on issues such as air liberalization, intra-African connectivity, global pandemic management and the role of Africa in global aviation. He started his career as an aircraft performance engineer and has also occupied various roles in industry: Quality Maintenance and Operations Director, Deputy Director of Flight Operations, and Director of Ground Operations. He is a graduate of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace de Toulouse and the Institute of Business Administration of Toulouse. Mr Berthe holds a private pilot’s licence for single-engine aircraft.

Rafael Echevarne
Director General, Airports Council International, Latin America and Caribbean (ACI-LAC)

Rafael Echevarne is the Director General of Airports Council International – Latin America and the Caribbean (ACILAC). Previously he was CEO of Montego Bay Airport in Jamaica, and also held various positions in international organizations and airport companies in Europe, Australasia and the Middle East. He specializes in airport economic regulation, privatisation and infrastructure, and airport business development. Rafael holds a PhD in Air Transport Economics from Cranfield University, UK.

Suzanne Acton-Gervais
Interim President & CEO, National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC)

Suzanne Acton-Gervais has over 35 years of aviation experience, with previous roles in airlines, governments and industry associations. She is currently Interim President & CEO at the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC), the industry association which represents Canada’s largest air carriers. Suzanne collaborates with NACC’s members (Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet) to develop policy positions and engage in public advocacy on political and regulatory matters. Prior to joining NACC in July 2015, Suzanne held positions with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) where she liaised with international organizations, governments and industry stakeholders around the globe to drive the development of global standards.  A frequent speaker at international industry conferences, Suzanne has also worked for the Airports Council International (ACI World), served in the Canadian federal government, and worked for a major Canadian airline. Suzanne holds a Bachelor of Education with a specialization in Adult Education, and graduated with distinction.

Igor Aptsiauri
CEO, Aero Georgia Group (AGG)

Igor has over 17 years of airline experience, previously holding commercial positions at Tui AG, airBaltic, and Qatar Airways. He has also participated in numerous intragovernmental as well as bilateral air transportation negotiations and meetings with foreign governments, including the European Commission. From 2015-2018, Igor acted First Deputy Director of Georgian Civil Aviation Agency (GCAA), where he was directly responsible for the Air Transportation, Financial/Economic Analysis, Flight Standards/Certification/Inspection and Aircraft Airworthiness & Registration. In 2019, Igor founded Aero Georgia Group (AGG) taking the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Aero Georgia Group focuses on the development of the aviation sector in Georgia and the Caucasus Region. Igor holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Administration from Vilnius Gediminas Technical University and a Diploma in Civil Aviation from the Singapore Aviation Academy.

Thomas Reynaert
Managing Director, Airlines for Europe (A4E)

Thomas Reynaert is Managing Director of Airlines for Europe (A4E), Europe’s largest EU airline association. Prior to joining A4E, Thomas was President of United Technologies (UTC) International Operations (Europe), where he led their European government relations activities between 2008–2015. During this time, he provided counsel to the corporation and its business units on EU rulemaking and policy and served as a corporate liaison for key decision-makers in the EU institutions and national governments. Prior to joining UTC, Thomas led the government relations and regulatory affairs team for Nortel Networks in EMEA, in 2000. Previously, he was director of EU public affairs for Lucent Technologies (today: ‘Alcatel-Lucent’). Thomas was a member of the Supervisory Board of the UTC Company OTIS Management GmbH (Germany) from 2008-2014. From 2011-2015 he was Chair of AmCham EU’s Security and Defense Committee, and in 2015 was appointed a Member of the Executive Committee of the European Centre for Public Affairs (ECPA).


Marcelo Garcia
Senior Director, InterVISTAS Consulting

Currently Senior Director at InterVISTAS Consulting Inc., Marcelo has broad experience in policy and global advocacy matters in regulated industries. On the aviation front, he has worked with Canada’s Department of Transport – based in Ottawa, Canada – and with Qatar Airways’ aeropolitical and regulatory affairs – based in Doha, Qatar. He has advised airlines and industry associations on a wide array of legal and regulatory issues such as regional airspace disputes, international public air law, state subsidies, passenger rights, airline partnership agreements and air service agreements. He has also advised the Canadian government on airline joint ventures and competition law. Marcelo’s integrated approach to global advocacy has led him to coordinate and deploy market access efforts in Australia, India, Japan, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Kenya and Namibia, among others. He has also designed governance frameworks for airline programs such as new stations, airport incentives, and the management of foreign air operator permits. He holds a Master of Laws from McGill’s Institute of Air and Space Law in Montreal. He has also earned common law and civil law degrees from McGill University.



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