Bahrain top research hub 


A WORLD leading think-tank will use Bahrain as its headquarters to conduct groundbreaking research into the region, it was revealed yesterday.

The UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) will officially launch its Bahrain branch next week in a move described as central to a major expansion of its Middle East programme.

It will conduct analysis and research into major issues including the Middle East peace process, as well as energy security and security at sea.

The announcement follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by Bahrain's Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and IISS chief executive officer and director general Dr John Chipman.

"The IISS is the world's leading think-tank in its field and a vital facilitator of international diplomacy," said Shaikh Khalid.

"The Kingdom of Bahrain is proud that the IISS chose Manama for its regional headquarters and looks forward to an exciting collaboration that will benefit the region."

The IISS already has strong ties with Bahrain and has organised a major security summit here for the past five years.

The sixth IISS Manama Dialogue is due to run from December 11 to 13.

Dr Chipman said IISS activities in Bahrain would not only increase global understanding of Middle Eastern perspectives on international issues, but also bring the best available analysis of global strategic and geo-economic trends to the region.

"The Middle East is vitally important strategically and economically," said Dr Chipman.

"We are delighted to establish our regional office in Bahrain because of our strong and close ties with the Kingdom."

IISS Middle East managing director Mark Allworthy added Bahrain was the obvious choice when setting up the institute's first branch in the region, saying they shared a similar approach to global affairs.

"Bahrain was the logical choice as the IISS is an independent organisation with a neutral perspective and the kingdom is perhaps as close as we can get to a country which shares that same nature," he said yesterday.

"It maintains good relations with all regional countries, foreign ministries and espouses transparency on all manner of issues.

"Not only will this allow us to encourage dialogue, which is what we are here to do, but due to Bahrain's standing as the financial capital of the Middle East, also places us centrally to deal with security issues related to the regional private sector."

He revealed a conference had already been scheduled for next year to examine how security issues would affect the region's economic sector, in co-operation with the Economic Development Board and its chief executive Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa.

The fact that the IISS is based in Bahrain also means that research conducted by the IISS would be shared with the country's relevant government bodies.

"We are getting all the tools in place to begin conducting relevant and accurate research on energy security, maritime security as well as the Middle East peace process and any key issues which need tackling," added Mr Allworthy.

"We are hoping for a long relationship with Bahrain and we believe that we have the right contacts to ensure that dialogue does continue and that the right information is passed onto the right people."

Two directors of the new branch have already been permanently stationed in Bahrain, while two more have been appointed as liaisons at the IISS offices in London and Washington.

Four to five senior consultant fellows are expected to be appointed as regional experts from the GCC and Asia, as well as four additional senior fellows who will be based here permanently.

"Our global standing gives us the capacity to host international speakers as well as foreign and local dignitaries, not just those visiting on official trips but those that we ourselves invite through our own contacts," said Mr Allworthy.

"We will be bringing governmental officials, military commanders and senior businessmen who will see Bahrain through the eyes of the IISS - which I believe will be of great value to the country."

There are also plans to offer young Bahraini diplomats training at IISS offices around the globe.

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