Shiekh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani
HE Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Shiekh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani on Friday participated with Director-General and Chief Executive of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Sir John Chipman in a panel discussion on small countries and strategies for success in a competitive world. The function was held at the Ruffles Hotel, Singapore.
Their Excellencies members of the official delegation accompanying HE the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs attended the lucture along with a lineup of Singaporean ministers senior officials, scholars and business people.
During the session, HE Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Shiekh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani delivered the inaugural lecture of the IISS Raffles Lectures series, organized by IISS.
His Excellency touched on the vision of the State of Qatar on the challenges facing small and medium-sized countries, and ways to enhance and develop security cooperation in order to achieve comprehensive and sustainable security, especially in the security, defence, political, economic and investment, innovative ways of using modern technology, environmental sustainability and collective action, in addition to promoting peaceful solutions and diplomatic initiatives to resolve various conflicts and wars in the region and the world.
At the outset of his lecture, His Excellency spoke about Qatar-Singapore relations, pointing that the two countries have a lot in common. "Small states have an important role to play," he said.
His Excellency went on saying; "In our world, which has undergone great transformations in the past few years, we are witnessing the emergence of multiple centers of influence, each with its own political, economic, and technological strengths.
New conflicts and major confrontations between big power blocs put the international order in real jeopardy. These interconnected threats impact billions of us." Talking about the current challenges in the world, His Excellency said: " The war in Ukraine, which has shaken global energy markets, and caused widespread food insecurity, political polarizations in the Americas, political instability in Africa, ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, and the ongoing rivalry between the US and China, with repercussions on the global supply chain and international commerce we are all concerned about this rivalry, particularly in this region." "I am often asked about how Qatar has been able to balance between these two big powers as a small state," he said pointing that Qatar believes in the interdependence of the international community. "This conviction makes it possible for us to have a strong commercial partnership with China, while maintaining our strategic alliance with the United States," he explained.
"In the same year we were designated a non-NATO ally to the US, we also signed three new energy deals with China. Our ability to navigate our relations with China and the US is grounded in our adaptability, diplomatic engagement, and pursuit of mutually beneficial interests. This not only serves Qatar's own national interests, but also contributes to regional and global stability as well," he added.
His Excellency went on saying: " The many conflicts we witness in every region can at times tempt small states to be complacent and think they do not have a role to play strictly due to their size. It is quite the opposite. Small states are at times better positioned to play a critical role in resolving conflict.
Because small states are often more affected by geostrategic competition, heightened tensions, and economic insecurity, we must be resilient and positively engage whenever and wherever possible.
Leaders of small states must be prepared to face these challenges, not as passive onlookers, but as active participants in building peace and stability, as facilitators of dialogue, and as agile mediators in global conflicts.
Qatar succeeds in such engagements by focusing our efforts on three main areas: alliance building and multilateralism, peace facilitation, and investment in economic growth for future generations." HE Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs outlined that for Qatar, as a small state in a turbulent neighbourhood, alliance- building and multilateralism is key. "It is at the center of our foreign policy to try to preserve and empower multilateral frameworks and to fully embrace and advocate for a rules based international order. Qatar has maintained effective cooperation with international and regional bodies, and has been an active member in various international initiatives," he stressed.
"Last year, we signed the instrument of accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), stemming from our common will to create a safe and stable area for the promotion of sustainable economic development," His Excellency said, stressing "Our relations with the ASEAN countries are of paramount importance to us, and we are keen to continue to strengthen our ties with them and with the Asian continent in general."
HE Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Shiekh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani stressed that Qatar has also become a regional hub for multilateralism by opening numerous UN offices in Doha. We launched the "United Nations House" last March, which includes 12 UN offices.
Qatar also focuses on peace facilitation to strengthen international peace and security. This has been one of the key pillars of our foreign policy for more than 25 years. Just like Singapore, being a small country gives us a lot of advantages in agility, mobility, and building networks. Small states can open reliable channels of communication between countries which can serve as an opportunity to strengthen strategic partnerships with major powers in the international community, resulting in vital ceasefires, dialogues, and peace and security arrangements, he said.
His Excellency said: "With Iran, we reached an agreement with the US, becoming a key mediator in the recent prisoner swap deal, and in opening a financial channel for humanitarian purposes that will help resolve long lasting issues - a step that we hope will lead to wider dialogue on the Iranian nuclear issue." He went on saying: "Before this, in August 2021, we succeeded in mediating between the Taliban and the United States, which resulted in the end of a war that spanned more than two decades. Qatar played a critical role in one of the biggest humanitarian airlifts in history, successfully evacuating more than 80,000 individuals through Qatar." His excellency said: "The future of our countries lies in the hands of our future generations. In the case of Qatar, the last decade has taught us crucial lessons inspiring us to set out a concrete plan, which balances risk and reward, and takes into account present demands with the future needs of generations to come. It was vital for us to ensure that we build a lasting legacy and carry on our wealth to our future generations. We are a young country, guided by a leader who is recognized around the world as ambitious and forward-looking." HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs added: "Using the wealth we generated, we invested in our country and our people. We invested in education and infrastructure, establishing a state-of-the-art airline, airport, and seaport, while becoming experts in logistics, technology, and professional services. We also established Qatar Investment Authority, which plans on investing in Qatar's future through projects that are diversified, spanning across major global markets, sectors, and geographies." His Excellency pointed that Qatar has set up its own Qatar Investment Authority regional hub here in Singapore. "Currently, our investments in Singapore are in the real estate, sports, and healthcare sectors, and we look forward to exploring potential investments in more sectors," he noted.
He outlined that Qatar's economic model has proven successful in helping host one of the biggest sporting events in the world: the FIFA World Cup.
"Qatar's successful organization of the 2022 FIFA World Cup constituted a major feat for a small state. Not only did the tournament present an opportunity for sustainable infrastructure-building and substantial economic growth, but it also showcased Qatari, Arab, and Muslim culture, and the region to positively change stereotypes," he said.
Our mission now is to become a centre for connectivity, His Excellency stressed saying: "As a transit hub, Qatar is located at the gateway between the East and West, and offers unparalleled market access and connectivity to billions of people across more than 25 economies: 80% of the world's population is within a 6-hour flight from Qatar; and Asia, Europe and the US are all just 18 days away from Qatar by ship." His Excellency further outlined that Qatar is strategically located to connect people and businesses physically and digitally from around the world, pointing that Qatar's energy sector continues to expand, with many investment opportunities emerging for both local and foreign investors in the hydrocarbon industry.
"Our energy industry has launched best-in-class technological and logistical capabilities and in the years to come, we will convert this further into the healthcare and innovation industries," he said.
Qatar has a clear long-term vision on the industries that will continue to form the backbone of its domestic economy, with a multiplier- effect on the global economy as a whole, His Excellency pointed saying: "This is what guides the vision for our country, as well as our investments in select industries around the world, such as here in Singapore." He added that: "Likewise, Singapore has achieved great economic success becoming a global financial hub known for its exceptional financial infrastructure and regulatory stability. Singapore's role as a bridge between Eastern and Western markets, along with its dedication to technological advancement, sets an impressive example for all small states to work towards. For small countries, investments in education, healthcare, and social welfare must remain at the forefront of our priorities." His Excellency stressed that providing opportunities for Qatari citizens equips them to contribute meaningfully to the world stage, while ensuring a robust social foundation for progress.
"It is this investment in our people that allowed Qatar to exhibit remarkable resilience in the face of regional tensions and the global pandemic.
Qatar's leadership and its people demonstrated a steadfast resolve to maintain stability, diversify our trade routes, strengthen domestic industries, and boost our ability to withstand adversity," he said.
For the longest time, we have looked at small states as countries that are limited by their size. "But today, looking at successful examples of small states, such as Singapore and Qatar, we see how small states use the tools and strategies at their disposal to become successful actors in the international community," he said.
Wrapping up, HE Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Shiekh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani said: "History has shown that size does not dictate favourable outcomes. Through planning, fostering global partnerships, and nurturing our inherent strengths, small nations will not only succeed, but also inspire others to do so."