Egyptian Ambassador discusses cyber security, gender equality in Middle East

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Ambassador Sameh Aboul-Enein is also an assistant professor at the American University in Cairo.

Strengthening regional security and improving education in the Middle East may solve many problems in the region, according to Egyptian Ambassador Sameh Aboul-Enein.

Aboul-Enein presented a lecture titled “Emerging Regional Challenges in the Middle East” Monday, Mar. 28 in the Howard Baker Center.  His lecture discussed the regional challenges currently faced by the Middle East and several long-term solutions for solving these challenges.

“We have witnessed an era of an Arab Spring in the Middle East and there have been several developments in the aftermath of that, some of them political, some of them economic, social, [and] security,” he stated.

Aboul-Enein identified seven challenges currently afflicting the Middle East, but the two he stressed the most were issues surrounding cyber security and gender equality.

“Cyber security is one of the most pressing challenges in the Middle East currently, and the political transition in the region has undoubtedly put a highlight on the role of cyber security,” he stated.  “Information technology [gives] wide access to average citizens.  Public opinion has played an increasingly dominant role.  A decade ago that was not the case.”

Despite this benefit, cyberspace presents multiple difficulties to the region.  People with malicious intent can operate from anywhere in the world, giving them a strong advantage over governments and regional organizations.  Also, many physical concepts are linked to cyberspace, such as control over electricity or building security.  Terrorists can access these things via the Internet.  Many governments lack the legal framework to build up cyber security on national and regional levels.

The Ambassador also discussed gender quality in the Middle East.  He stated that according to statistics, women in the Middle East are more socially and economically disadvantaged than women in other regions of the world.

“There has been a major program with the United Nations…to improve empowerment capabilities by providing better education [and] by providing equality in job opportunities.”

Sarah Doktycz, a senior studying technical communications, appreciated the Ambassador’s position on women’s empowerment and gender equality in the Middle East, especially since gender equality is still an issue the United States is facing.

“I believe that we’re all part of an international community…[and] we can certainly work together.  And if we improve over [here], that can only help people improve in the Middle East and places like Northern Africa and Latin America.”

Aboul-Enein suggested several approaches as long-term solutions to these challenges.  One was to better equip regional think tanks to develop a stronger security framework.  Another was to better educate all parties involved in order to strengthen conflict management.

“In addressing conflicts, you need the proper conflict management, and that is what has been missing,” he commented.  “You need proper scenarios…and you need a lot of mediation roles.  That is the culture of engagement that needs to be developed very carefully and needs the encouragement of the international community.”

Aboul-Enein’s lecture was part of the Howard Baker Center’s Global Security Program.  The next lecture, titled “To the Moon, Alice,” will be given by U.S. Senator Harrison Schmitt on Apr. 4 at 4 p.m. in the Baker Center’s Toyota Auditorium.

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