Global Uncertainty, the middle east, the west and beyond Marco Vicenzino
Distinguished global affairs analyst and ASI International Advisory Council board member Marco Vincenzino discusses how upheavals in the Middle East are providing lessons for us all.
“A tour de force” was how our chairman Roddy Gow described Marco Vincenzino’s presentation to the Asia Scotland Institute in Edinburgh. And with good reason.
Mr Vincenzino, director of the Global Strategy Project and a member of our International Advisory Council, recently spoke with authority and insight at the University of Edinburgh Business School on a wide range of topics, from the continuing fallout from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 to this year’s referendum on Scotland’s future.
But his main focus was recent turbulent events in the Middle East – “the Arab Reawakening” – and the impact these have had throughout Asia, and indeed across the world.
“Politics, not only in the Middle East but in many other parts of the world, traditionally have been determined from the top down,” said Mr Vincenzino, a regular commentator on CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC. “What the Arab uprisings demonstrated is that politics now in the region, and other parts, are from the bottom up. The streets count. Ordinary people count. The concept of the democratic age has become more of a reality.”
The central role that young people now play in the Middle East was also an important theme, he said: “With seventy percent of society under the age of 30, if you are in a position of power and you are not addressing the needs of young people… and you don’t promote some sort of vision for the future, it’s going to come back to haunt you. You see that through many societies, even beyond the Middle East.”
And Mr Vincenzino highlighted the concerns that countries such as China and the Russian Federation will have felt over the recent unrest in the Middle East.
“Things travel so fast today there’s that constant fear that examples of external influences can have repercussions internally…” he said. “It’s not just China but many other mutlicultural societies with different ethnic groups, different religious groups, different linguistic groups, different nationalities within their own country. Many of them become fearful when you have these type of uprisings that took place on such a massive scale in the Middle East.”
“Non-state actors” – such as Western and Asian companies – also need to be alive to the rapidly changing circumstances in the Middle East, said Mr. Vincenzino. “Before you could go into a country and probably pay off certain leaders, a family that was controlling… As long as you were doing business with them you didn’t have to worry about anything else. But today it’s different.
“You have to understand that local people feel enfranchised [and] if you’re just going into a specific area and you are doing nothing for the local community to create change it’s going to create resentment, it’s going to lead to blowback on the security front.
“I understand you’re in business to make a profit. But if you’re not giving something back those profits are not going to be there for much longer.”
Our thanks go once again to the Business School for kindly hosting this ASI event.