Between the 16th-18th May Forward Thinking, in collaboration with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, convened the 6th meeting of the Helsinki Policy Forum (HPF), in Helsinki. The Forum brings together political leaders & senior parliamentarians, government officials, and financial experts from Europe, the Gulf, Middle East and North Africa (Gulf-MENA). It aims to provide a neutral space and working environment to facilitate informal, non-binding and regular contact between leading countries of the Gulf-MENA region in order to work towards a sustainable dialogue on peace and security in the region.

With an uncertain and unpredictable international environment, a new US administration, developments in Europe including Brexit, and continued conflict and instability in the Gulf-MENA region – in particular in Libya and Syria/Iraq – this meeting provided an important opportunity for a timely, high-level, discussion of the challenges faced in the region and what practical steps can be taken to address them. The Foreign Minister of Finland, H.E. Timo Soini, opened the Forum and framed the discussions around how leading regional countries, with the support of Europe, can contribute to de-escalating tensions, manage and resolve conflicts and identify workable approaches to shared challenges. 

On the 18th of May, participants of the Forum were invited to the Parliament of Finland to brief the Foreign Affairs Committee on the work of the Helsinki Policy Forum and on how recent international developments are perceived in the region. The meeting provided a valuable opportunity to also explore practical steps that European countries can take to support the stabilisation and development of the region.