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The International System with Trump: to Where?

by Abeer Z.

International Conference

Our partner Ibrahim Abu Lughod Institute of International Studies conducted their international annual conference with this year’s focus on “The International System with Trump” and the question to where we are heading.

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International relations and political science students, professors, and experts explored the changes and transformations effected by Donald Trump’s presidency in an international conference organized by the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies at Birzeit University and the master’s program in international studies together with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 16 and 17, 2019.

Titled “The International System with Trump: Where To?,” the two-day symposium focused on domestic, regional, and international changes brought about by the Trump administration and placed them in the context of a rising wave of populism in the Western world, a heated international debate on globalization and immigration, and a power-shifting dynamic between the West and the East.

In his welcoming remarks, President of Birzeit University Abdullatif Abuhijleh emphasized the university’s role in creating an open space for constructive discourse and dialogue on local, regional, and international events. He highlighted its mission to provide impartial, interactive platforms that encourage discussion on the affairs and circumstances that affect Palestinians and their quest for independence.

“The importance of this conference,” Abuhijleh stated, “lies in its potential to provide clarity and stimulate debate on the political and economic turmoil that’s enveloping the region and the world as a whole. It aims to offer answers to an already complex situation that is exacerbated by the rise of far-right extremist political parties and by the U.S. administration’s bias toward Israel.”

Marc Frings, head of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Palestinian office, gave a brief overview of the organization and outlined its aims in the Palestinian territories. The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, he noted, is a political foundation that bases its work around the core tenets of freedom, justice and solidarity.

The organization, which set up offices in Palestine in 1996, works with government institutions, political parties, and civil society organizations to establish and strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the region. It aims to bolster civil society’s decision-making role in politics and society, Frings explained, adding that such conferences help promote healthy discussions and discourse between academia, civil society and political leaders.

Ali Jarbawi, acting director of the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies, emphasized the important role of the institute’s annual conference in connecting the university and its students to political experts and pundits from around the world, deepening their understanding of the ever-changing global political landscape.

“We must be cognizant of key changes in world politics and search for the tools and methods by which we can influence them,” Jarbawi said, stressing that one of the main aims of the conference is finding instruments through which Palestinians can counter Trump’s “deal of the century.”

The two-day conference comprised five sessions. The first, chaired by Jarbawi, focused on the changes in US domestic and foreign policy brought about by the Trump administration; the second session, chaired by Omar Shakir, director of Human Rights Watch’s regional offices, addressed international issues such as populism and globalization. The third session, chaired by Dimitris Bouris, a professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam, revolved around changes in the US relationship with China, Russia, and the EU following Trump’s presidency.

The fourth session, chaired by Ahmad Azem, a professor of political science at Birzeit University, explored the Trump presidency’s effect on regional conflicts in the Middle East; and the fifth, chaired by Ghassan Khatib, a professor of philosophy and cultural studies at Birzeit University, focused on the foreign policies of world powers such as the US, China, Russia, and the EU, towards the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian quest for freedom.

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