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Atlantic Currents: Setting Sail on Currents Powered by Winds of Change

Lilia Rizk | Posted : October 19, 2015

OCP Policy Center holds in its arsenal a wide array of different resources aimed at creating a knowledge sharing platform that constructively dissects key economic, international relations and strategic issues. To achieve this objective, research initiatives, training programs and sessions, as well as conferences and seminars are put in place, thus offering an appropriate open debate platform to stimulate new analytical approaches. 

Within this range of activities, OCP Policy Center, in collaboration with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, organizes the now reputable ‘’Atlantic Dialogues Forum’’ regularly held in Morocco on a yearly basis. This conference provides the opportunity for policy shaping conversations around the restructuring of the Atlantic space, offering an additional and crucial link that was missing in previous discussions. 

As a significant complement to the Atlantic Dialogues conference, the “Atlantic Currents” publication allows a deeper and further extension of the analytic contribution provided by the “Dialogues”. These two complementary platforms aim at providing a more comprehensive approach of the transatlantic debate to include both North and South perspectives; the goal being to enlarge the discussion pertaining to economic, political and security dimensions of a “Wider Atlantic Area”,  favoring  a new geopolitical construction of this  highly strategic region.

Wider Atlantic-Semantic Construction

“He who holds the sea holds world trade; he who holds trade holds wealth; and he who holds the world's wealth holds the world itself.” Though this geopolitical understanding of the world greatly contributed to the rationale behind colonial ventures, it is even more significant today as it heavily underscores the importance of the sea, trade, cross ocean dialogues and consequently new waves of transatlantic relations. Though North-North relations are still largely endemic to Atlantic relations, due to a significant past that materialized into the Washington-Brussels Axis, a slow shift in the Atlantic geopolitical space is being witnessed through the attempts at creating a new inclusive narrative.

The concept of a “Wider Atlantic” has been finding its way into mainstream discourse, as it is progressively molding into an alternative to present-day international challenges. The attention is being refocused to a wider geographic area around the Atlantic basin, which includes Southern Atlantic states in the policy and opinion-shaping conversation. With 23 states now comprising the Western Atlantic Coast of Africa, this continent has an ever-growing role to play in the new geopolitical discussions pertaining to a “Wider Atlantic” region. Enlarging the exchange to include states that were previously perceived as the strategic backwater is therefore a reality aimed at engaging a wider range of Atlantic partners, who could potentially contribute in reshaping and redefining the existing standards. The wider Atlantic hence encourages new forms of multilateralism, as well as a discursive and practical reconfiguration, that account for the change in underlying power dynamics and consequent modern global challenges.

The notion of a Wider Atlantic space in itself comes with its share of challenges, as there is an attempt to construct a geographic- and geopolitical- space that brings together a heterogeneous grouping of countries, concerns, and interest. The identification of common challenges on the one hand, and common opportunities on the other, represents the driving force behind initiatives aimed at redefining Atlantic consciousness. The Atlantic Dialogues conference, along with the Atlantic Currents publication, serve this purpose.

Atlantic Currents: Conceptualization and Implications

Atlantic Currents is a collection of contributions by different authors for one same purpose: understanding the implications, both positive and negative, of increased interactions between countries of the Atlantic Basin. The 2014 edition of Atlantic Currents brought together a wide range of topics, which is reflective of the diversity found in the basin. These contributions serve the purpose of not only outlining the disparities between countries of the Northern Atlantic and countries of their Southern counterpart, but also pointing to the important elements of convergence between the two. Topics included a discussion of a reconceptualization of Atlanticism, a thorough examination of intra-Atlantic trade patterns, an energy analysis, and the motivation behind U.S. and European involvement on the African continent. Through these discussions, the reasons behind a more inclusive Atlantic space become clear, and are multifold. On the one hand, it would assist the South in its development endeavor, and on the other, it would allow the North Atlantic states to maintain their influence, countering potential geopolitical competition by countries such as China. Consequently, not only does the Atlantic Space represent a potential for economic development through North-South and South-South cooperation, but it also represents a means of maintaining influence in the region.

Through these articles, two main Atlantic features are however highlighted: the continued vitality of Atlantic societies and the centrality of transatlantic relations in international affairs.

Atlantic Currents: New waves of information

The Atlantic Currents publication offers an insider perspective upon the brightest minds’ outlook and analysis of the respective fields discussed. This facilitates an understanding of the implications for both North and South Atlantic countries, in an intra-Atlantic exchange. In order to deepen this understanding, Atlantic Currents also provides a crucial section with maps, tables, graphs, and indicators to further the grasp of transatlantic relations and their repercussions. The data for the 2014 edition was collected from databases of the World Economic Outlook, the World Bank’s World Development Indicators, the UN’s Conference on Trade and Development, and the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey, to name a few. The data collection was then meticulously translated into tables and graphs for the purpose of further analysis and assessment of a Wider Atlantic space.

Thematic groupings such as GDP per capita benchmarks, economic activity synchronization, public finance, trade integration, migration and remittances, food security, natural resource endowment, political stability and security were featured in Atlantic Currents. Grasping concepts such as the intra-Atlantic economic integration happening through trade and capital investments, along with the synchronization between activity cycles of countries in the Atlantic basin, enables risk-analysis, consequently providing the reader with valuable information and indicators regarding the new conceptualization of transatlantic relations. The objective is therefore to place interactions visually and numerically, pushing for a deepened understanding of intra-Atlantic interactions that would make the Wider Atlantic more conceptually tangible.

Atlantic Currents: 2015 Edition

This year’s Atlantic Currents edition will be undertaking an additional set of topics relating to the Wider Atlantic, allowing for an extension of the analytical work that has already taken place.  Some of these topics include a thorough analysis of existing Atlantic systems, private sector and sustainable development in Africa, culture and counter-extremism, the green revolution, national strategic planning in emerging African countries, and social entrepreneurship in the Wider Atlantic.

The 2015 editions of both the Atlantic Dialogues and Atlantic Currents will provide more room for exchange and further examination of critical topics, enabling one to sail on the currents powered by winds of change.

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