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Leaders Gather for Munich Security Conference

03 Feb 2012

World leaders, ministers, heads of international organisations, top military officials and scientists gather today in Germany for the 48th annual Munich Security Conference, which runs from 3-5 February 2012. The elite-level conference is the most important independent forum for debate on current and prospective security policy challenges.

Details such as the attendance list and agenda for the conference are closely guarded, but guests reportedly confirmed include US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta; US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton; World Bank President, Bob Zoellick; German Defence Minister, Thomas de Maziere; Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd; and distinguished former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.

High-level guests at last year’s meeting were taken by surprise by the Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, which somewhat overtook the pre-planned agenda. The 2012 conference will provide delegates with an opportunity for a more structured and reflective consideration of developments across the Arab world. Leaders of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Qatar will make formal contributions and the situation in Syria will be the subject of in-depth discussion. 

Other issues likely to feature prominently include transatlantic security cooperation and NATO-Russian relations. Munich Security Conference Chairman, Wolfgang Ischinger, announced that an academic study, produced jointly by experts from the US, Europe and Russia, containing a proposal for a compromise solution to the NATO-Russia standoff on missile defence, will be presented in Munich. This issue, as well as burden sharing between NATO members, will be revisited during the NATO summit in Chicago in May 2012.

Another panel will discuss “America, Europe and the Rise of Asia”. Ischinger has drawn attention to the growing impetus for Europe to follow the US’s recent reorientation of its foreign policy towards Asia. The Middle East Peace Process, cyber-security and Iran’s nuclear programme will also be considered, and Polish Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, will address a session on the security implications of the financial crisis. 

In an age of transnational security threats and unprecedented interdependence in the global security environment, multilateral conferences play an important role in bringing diverse actors to the table and giving impetus to new ideas. The Munich Security Conference has become a major annual event and organisers hope that it will help lay foundations for an increasingly networked approach to global security. 

Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference will speak at the IIEA on 27 April 2012.

As an independent forum, the Institute does not express any opinions of its own. The views expressed in the article are the sole responsibility of the author.

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