One of the consequences of the First World War was the collapse of the Ottoman Empire which can trace its roots back to the 13th century. As a result, modern day Turkey was formed leaving the French and the British with the responsibility regarding what would happen with parts of the fallen empire, particularly in the Middle East.
The British in 1914 declared that Egypt would become a British Protectorate. The British and French diplomats, Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot were responsible for an agreement allocating Britain control of what is today southern Israel and Palestine, Jordan and southern Iraq, and an additional small area that included the ports of Haifa and Acre to allow access to the Mediterranean. France got control of south-eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
So, at the stroke of a pen back in Europe the political map of this part of the world was determined 100 years ago. The agreement was seen by many as a turning point in Western and Arab relations.
It is important to note that Britain failed to live up to their promise to the Arabs of a national Arab homeland in the area of Greater Syria in exchange for supporting the British against the Ottoman Empire in the First World War.
Fast forward to the 1930s and 1940s when both the French and the British took the decision to grant independence to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan partly driven by a growing local decolonisation movement.
It unfortunately has not been a story of resounding success since the French and British handed over control. As we all know most of the people living in this part of the Middle East have suffered terribly as a result of wars, poverty, ethnic cleansing, etc.
Today the population has rapidly grown since independence with reportedly the highest levels of unemployment in the world and resultant poverty. Unemployment amongst the young is very high resulting in increasing frustration.
So much for where we have come from and where we are. It really is time for the world to wake up before things get even worse. Job number one must be a solution to the unemployment problems. Most employment is in government paid jobs and many of these jobs are given to certain ethnic groups, family members and friends of those in power. This must stop.
Job number two must be a solution to the ethic and religious issues that are tearing the region apart. All the leaders including religious, political and business must come together and speak with one voice against all forms of discrimination. Too many in power choose to stay quiet and this must end.
Job number three is providing people with hope of a better future. Without hope there is only violence and division. Today social media violence is fuelled by ‘fake news’ and this causes even more problems in already highly charged environments.
Unfortunately, the prognosis is not good. The Middle East has five per cent of the world’s population and sales of military arms to the Middle East have increased by 87pc over the past five years and now account for more than a third of the global trade according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Please change what we are doing.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org