On October 10th, 2019, the Secretary General (SG) of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), Maryam bint Abdullah Al Attiyah, reiterated that mental health remains one of the central strategic pillars of the Committee. The SG’s pronouncement was made on the occasion of the UN’s World Mental Health Day, demonstrating Qatar’s solidarity and commitment in raising mental health awareness on a national and international scale.
Most notably, health, including mental health, is one the main human development pillars contained in Qatar’s National Vision 2030 (QNV2030). The following passage illustrates the significant role of health in QNV2030, “Improving the health of Qatar’s population, through an integrated healthcare system, managed according to world-class standards. Designed to meet the needs of existing and future generations…”
So far, as the SG commented, the National Committee has been proactive in urging the development of a comprehensive mental health legislation that services all residents in the State of Qatar. In fact, the SG noted that the Committee has regularly visited and engaged with domestic mental health institutions and experts for qualitative input in order to actualize improvements, address problems, and find patient-centered solutions.
In addition, the SG stated that the NHRC welcomed the country’s positive progress in psychological care and/or services. Such progress can be seen with the greater resources being allocated in hospitals and health centers and with increased accessibility and availability to specialized mental/psychological care as well. These measures underscore Qatar’s dedication in ensuring that all of its citizens are given the adequate support they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
In order to understand Qatar’s vigorous efforts in tackling mental health, consider the nature and role of the country’s National Health Strategy (NHS), which incorporated a National Mental Health Strategy (NMHS) as well.
The NHS 2011-2016 laid the solid foundations and framework for future projects and policies for each of the identified objectives. One of the objectives was the first National Mental Health Strategy, which was drafted and launched by the Mental Health Implementation Committee in 2013. Both the NHS and the NMHS have been subsequently revised and updated as the goals were being reached and new ones were being identified.
Currently, Qatar has modified its course of action by implementing two strategic national policies: the National Development Strategy 2018-2022 and NHS 2018-2022. In tandem, Qatar has also adopted Triple Aim, and selected 7 priority/targeted populations. Individuals diagnosed with mental health (or related conditions), are one of the seven targeted populations.
The NHS 2018-2022 seeks to improve access and availability to mental health services and increase mental health awareness. This rigorous approach was justified by a study of 1,660 people between the ages of 18-65 that was conducted and that found that nearly 25% of adults who attended a public health consultation had at least one type of mental disorder.
Since its inception in 1994 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), October 5th of every year marks World Teacher Day. This year’s theme was ‘Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession.’ The day provides the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide, to take stock of achievements, and to address some of the issues central for attracting and keeping the brightest minds and young talents in the profession.
Qatar celebrated with the participation of a number of UNESCO-affiliated schools in a ceremony held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.
Education plays a vital role in the Human Development Pillar of the Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030). The Human Development Pillar looks to enable the Qatari people sustain and grow the country’s progression in all areas. Education is the foundation of the Human Development Pillar. Qatar is actively focusing on education from primary school all the way to higher education levels, in an effort to have one of the top education systems in the world.
Education City is a major part of Qatar’s education initiative. There are various programs ranging from IB-accredited school systems to specialized schools for K-12. For higher education, there are offerings that include a range of degrees from undergraduate to postdoctoral degrees. In total, there are 20 schools located in Education City; 11 are K-12 schools and 9 of them are universities. Of the universities, six of them are American universities: Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar School of the Arts, Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar, Texas A&M University at Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Georgetown University in Qatar, and Northwestern University in Qatar.
“Education is one of the basic pillars of social progress. The state shall ensure, foster and endeavor to spread it.”
– Permanent Constitution of Qatar
The State of Qatar has been a member of UNESCO since 1972, and currently holds a seat on the Executive Board. Qatar has 82 UNESCO associated schools (6 pre-schools, 39 primary, 9 primary and secondary, and 28 secondary schools). Qatar also hosts a UNESCO office in Doha, which was established in 1976 and serves as a cluster office for Qatar and other countries in the Gulf region.
(Image Source: Qatar Foundation International)
On September 23, 2019, world leaders convened in New York for the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Prior to the start of the high-level debate, world leaders convened for the UN Climate Action Summit to discuss the damage that rapid climate change is causing on our ecosystems and societies.
Qatar’s Amir, HH Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al-Thani, participated in the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 – specifically, for the Climate Finance and Carbon Pricing Coalition session. At the session, the Amir was joined by foreign counterparts, such as President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Jamaica, Andrew Holness.
During the session, the Amir reiterated Qatar’s responsibility and commitment to confront and resolve the transnational threats emanating from climate change.
This was displayed by Qatar’s ardent support for the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. At the national-level, the Amir declared that Qatar has implemented and pursued many measures to develop sustainable technologies. Qatar, under the Amir’s stewardship, has tackled clean energy, increased the overall efficiency in the gas and energy sector, aimed to improve waste-management and recycling processes, and to increase the usage of green technology in infrastructure. Many of these environmental policies and objectives are a part of Qatar’s National Vision 2030.
Most notably, the Amir referenced the transnational and indiscriminate effects of climate change by stating the following:
“…The phenomenon of climate change is undoubtedly one of the serious challenges of our time. It is a problem that is continuously exacerbating and causing many problems which intertwine in their economic, environmental and social dimensions and have very serious negative repercussions on all forms of life including human life and on both developed and developing countries alike, especially on the tracks of the sustainable development which all peoples aspire to.
This serious phenomenon makes it incumbent upon the international community to cooperate and double efforts to confront it and reduce its repercussions.”
Within the same context, the Amir mentioned the importance and exemplary role that the Qatar Sovereign Wealth Fund has taken in combating climate change. The Qatar Sovereign Wealth Fund is a founding member of the “One Planet” Global Sovereign Wealth Fund. The latter was established as part of an initiative with France’s President Macron. The fund actively promotes green investment activities and will seek to adopt low-carbon economic growth, which will complement the goals of the Paris Agreement and those of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Furthermore, as Qatar prepares itself to host the highly anticipated 2022 FIFA World Cup, the Amir highlighted Qatar’s commitment the make the mega-event a carbon neutral tournament. This will be achieved via the use of solar-powered stadiums and the application sophisticated cooling/lighting technology that will be water and energy efficient.
Lastly, the Amir announced Qatar’s financial contribution of $100 million to support small developing island states and least developed states to tackle the challenges of climate change, natural hazards, environmental degradation, and to support state/institutional capacity building initiatives that focus on countering the destructive impacts/effects of climate change.
On July 8th, 2019, the Emir of Qatar, H. H. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and other high-ranking cabinet officials, such as Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, attended a dinner hosted by Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Treasury, at the Treasury Department in honor of the Emir’s official visit to the U.S. The dinner was also presided by President Donald Trump.
At the dinner, Secretary Mnuchin acclaimed Qatar’s strategic partnership and efforts in the fight against terrorist financing by stating the following:
”I am pleased that you have joined us in the Middle East region to open the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center. We are sharing intelligence and operational capabilities to ensure that our financial system is not used by those seeking violence… Our governments continue to work together on your counter-terror financing legislation, and we are grateful for your country’s commitment to uphold the U.N. counter-terror obligations.”
Furthermore, during the dinner, President Trump praised US-Qatar military-to-military strategic relations and cooperation by adding the following:
“I know everything is going to be very positive. You’ve been a great ally, and you’ve helped us with a magnificent military installation and military airport, the likes of which people haven’t seen in a long while.”
Instead, on July 9th, 2019, President Trump hosted H. H. Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at the White House for a bilateral meeting. At the White House, the President and the Emir discussed regional security in the Gulf region and their economic and military partnerships.
During the meeting, H. H. Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani highlighted and emphasized the close ties between respective countries by stating that:
“…our economic partnership has been more than $185 billion, and we’re planning to double this number…We have a lot of investments in the U.S. We trust the economy here. We do a lot in the infrastructure, and we’re planning to do more investments.”
Subsequently, the two leaders signed a commitment which includes, among other things, the purchase of Boeing Airplanes, the agreement between Chevron-Phillips Chemical Company LLC and Qatar Petroleum on petrochemical development in Qatar.
The Emir’s visit and the signing of the agreement illustrated the strength and vibrancy of bilateral and diplomatic ties between Qatar and the United States.
The Qatari government has been investing in tourism through the Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC). QNTC has created several programs to promote tourism and increase the number of visitors to Qatar. This summer, a wide variety of programs and promotions are being offered to welcome tourists during the summer season. This summer’s program, called ‘Summer in Qatar’, runs from June 4 to August 16.
“This year’s summer season promises to attract visitors from across the globe showcasing Qatar as a destination for its unparalleled hospitality and authentic experiences”-Akbar Al Baker, Secretary-General of QNTC and GCEO of Qatar Airways.
QNTC has partnered with companies in both the public and private sectors to deliver the program. Partnerships with companies from the travel and hospitality industries provide discounts to tourists. Qatar Airways has been offering 25% discount on flights to Doha from more than 160 destinations worldwide. The promotion lasts until August 16. Furthermore, a wide variety of hotels offer promotions of up to 25% throughout the summer.
‘Summer in Qatar’ offers a large variety of programs, including indoor and outdoor activities and entertainment. Tourists can attend concerts by both international and Arab artists, or watch performances and comedy shows.
Visitors can also tour Doha, or go on adventures in the surrounding area. Indoor and outdoor theme parks also offer fun for the whole family. There are many opportunities for indoor entertainment, including a wide range of museums and exhibitions that promote the art of Qatar and the surrounding region. Shopping malls also provide entertainment, activities and retail discounts.
(Image Source: Flickr)
JUNE 17-18, 2019 — CHICAGO, IL: The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) completed a two-day outreach trip to the city of Chicago with His Excellency Nasser Allenqawi, Consul General of the State of Qatar from New York. The visit included a series of high-level engagements in the city focused on education and culture. The visit is part of a series of outreach visits focused on enhancing the US-Qatar bilateral relationship.
As part of the Qatar America Institute’s Expressions Series on those that have been inspired by Qatari art and culture, noted author and architectural critic Philip Jodidio and former Senior Associate Dean of Northwestern University in Qatar, Richard J. Roth, kicked off the Chicago-based events with a dialogue on contemporary architecture and urban development in Doha, Qatar.
The event gathered Chicago area architects, engineers, business leaders and students for an overview by Mr. Jodidio that included discussion of Qatar’s state-of-the-art museums and internationally acclaimed original architecture including the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art; the Qatar National Library; Msheireb Downtown Doha with major design and sustainability innovations by Chicago-based architects and engineers; the Sidra Medical and Research Center, and a host of Pritzker-laureate architecture that forms the campus of the Qatar Foundation and six top U.S. universities in Doha; and the newly-opened National Museum of Qatar—Jean Nouvel’s second iconic work to be built in Doha.
Mr. Jodidio and Mr. Roth expanded the discussion with audience members to focus on ways the special relationship between the U.S. and Qatar has led to an increasingly progressive and open country, radical innovations in sustainable public transit for Doha, and the highest concentration of original architecture by Pritzker Prize in the world.
“There is a desire for openness, there is a desire for lasting quality, there is desire for modernity,” said Mr. Jodidio. “Some of this must seem strange for people who listen to the news and sometimes hear negative things about the region, but after 18 visits and extensive time working in Qatar, I can tell you this is a truly inspiring place that is open, forward-thinking, and preparing its own people for a future which might just be one without carbon-based fuels, gas, and oil.”
QAI also hosted the U.S. representative from the Qatar World Cup organizing entity, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), in a briefing session with Chicago-area executives and leaders from across the sports sector.
The SC shared currents and updates, and address questions about the mega-event expected to attract 1.5 million fans to Qatar in November 2022. During the briefing, the SC’s representative emphasized Qatar’s commitment to deliver a “not only national, but also tournament showcasing all countries and cultures of the region.”
Another commitment that was highlighted was the SC’s pledge to allocate between $40-50 million to pay off construction migrant workers debts at their home-countries. The representative stressed the existing U.S.-Qatar economic ties in relation to the Qatar World Cup which will reach $10 billion invested in American services and expertise for the upcoming tournament in 2022.
During the briefing, the SC’s representative noted Qatar’s recently implemented reforms for workers’ rights, which reflect their commitment to respect the standards of hosting the tournament and to improve the welfare of the country’s expatriate labor force. This was witnessed with the following policy decisions: Qatar’s unilateral decision to sign a three-year technical cooperation agreement with the United Nations’ International Labour Organization to promote labor laws in the country and build government officials’ capacity to implement them and ensure that recruitment practices are in line with best international practices.
The two-day run of events concluded with a packed reception that gathered more than 100 local business and community leaders to celebrate the impacts, cultural and education links, business opportunities and jobs created by the long-standing partnership between Qatar and the U.S. Consul General Allenqawi and Illinois Secretary of State the Honorable Jesse Clark White addressed the guests and underscored the commitment to continued collaboration between Qatar and Chicagoland businesses and cultural institutions.
In his concluding remarks, Consul General Allenqawi thanked QAI and Chicago’s local business and cultural communities for a successful series of meetings and events. “I sincerely hope this was energizing and inspiring for you all, as it was for me, and that we can build and inspire on the ideas exchanged to further the relations between our two nations.”
June 5, 2019 marked two years since regional neighbors severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, as well as imposed a trade embargo. Even though Qatar ranks first among Arab countries and 22nd in the world in the Global Food Security Index (GFSI), Qatar has had to strengthen its food security.
With all food supplies and access to medicine from these four Gulf states cut off, Qatar had to develop new trade routes and expand trade with regional neighbors. Doha also opened a multibillion-dollar port, making it a new transport hub in the Gulf region.
Companies such as Baladna and Mazzraty, Qatar’s largest livestock farm and Qatar’s largest poultry farm respectively, have expanded exponentially due to the blockade.
Baladna received an order of thousands of cows just weeks after the implementation of the blockade. Baladna now not only supplies Qatar with over half of its milk, it also exports to multiple nearby countries.
Agrico has developed a new system to keep greenhouse conditions cool enough to grow fruits and vegetables year-round, even in the harsh Gulf climate. The polycarbon greenhouses and growing system have helped fruit and vegetable outputs more than triple.
Qatar has implemented a strategic food security project in its efforts to become self-sufficient. Two years ago, Qatar only produced about 15% of its dairy and poultry but is now completely self-sufficient. Qatar’s food security goes beyond domestic milk and poultry. Fruit and vegetable outputs are up 20% to roughly 66 tons per year. This number is projected to increase by 30-60% next year with more farms opening. Qatar also produces roughly 85% of its grains and 75% of its fish, both of which are increasing.
The Qatar Harvey Fund will give $1 million in scholarships to support Texas A&M University System students who were forced to withdraw during Hurricane Harvey. The grant will be provided in coordination with the Rebuild Texas Fund, a collaboration between the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the One Star Foundation.
The scholarships will be available starting in the fall to any undergraduate or graduate students with qualifying GPAs (2.0 for undergraduates, 3.0 for graduates) who were unable to attend school as a result of Hurricane Harvey. The Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp stated that “The Texas A&M University System is very thankful for this grant. This money will help rebuild the future for hundreds of deserving Texans whose dreams of obtaining a degree were rained on by Harvey.”
The scholarships will cover tuition, fees, books, living, and emergency expenses at five colleges within the system: the College Station flagship, Texas A&M at Galveston, Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and Texas A&M Kingsville. Qatar has also supplied aid to students at Houston Community College, the University of Houston, and Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. The Qatar Harvey Fund is a $30 million fund established in 2017 to support recovery in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Other projects that have been funded by the Qatar Harvey fund include $2.5 million for the City of Houston’s Fund to Reduce Homelessness, $2.5 million for the renovation of the Riverside Hospital Center and $241,000 for the Wesley A.M.E Church. Additionally, the Qatar Harvey Fund has also partnered with the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) to establish the Qatar Veterans Fund. BWF will establish the Qatar Veterans Fund using a grant from the Qatar Harvey Fund (a $30 million gift from the state intended to help the 41 Texas counties impacted by the storm). The investment in the new veterans fund will be managed by BWF and will support Texas’ large population of former service personnel and military families.
Qatar has been under intense scrutiny as it undergoes preparations of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Amid the preparations, calls for Qatar to update and strengthen its labor conditions and employment laws have been at the forefront. Since the announcement, Qatar has introduced a series of labor reforms since its selection as the 2022 World Cup host, with the event setting in motion a huge construction program that employs thousands of foreign workers.
Some of those reforms have been the removal of the Kafala system for the majority of workers (although some workers were still required to gain approval from their employers to leave the country), formally establishing a minimum wage for migrant workers (750 riyals | $206), and the implementation of a Wage Protection System (WPS), among various other reforms.
In an effort to alleviate additional concerns held by international rights groups that those reforms did not go far enough, the state of Qatar facilitated in opening an office of the United Nations’, International Labor Organization. Earlier this year, Qatar reiterated its commitment to implementing labor reforms following the release of an Amnesty International report. The report, titled “Reality Check,” concludes that the 2022 World Cup host needs to do more to combat labor abuse.
The Government Communications Office (GCO) of Qatar responded in a statement saying that:
“From the outset, we have said that we understood labor reform would be a journey and not an end in itself. We have publicly stated, and restate here, our commitment to labor reform so that Qatar would have a suitable labor system that is fair to employers and employees alike…Far from seeing time as running out, the government of the State of Qatar understands further change is needed and we remain committed to developing these changes as quickly as possible, while ensuring they are effective and appropriate for our labor market conditions.”
The GCO stressed that the State of Qatar will continue to engage and work with foreign governments, both international and multilateral organizations, and NGOs, to ensure that its labor code meets international standards. In response to the criticism and as a testament to its commitment to labor reforms, the state will now proceed to permanently abolish the controversial exit visa system for all foreign workers by the end of 2019.
The head of the agency’s office in Doha, Houtan Homayounpour stated,
“Last year, the exit visa was eliminated for the majority of workers, this year, that will be extended to all remaining categories of workers,”
In September 2018, Qatar approved legislation that would eliminate the “kafala” system that required foreign workers obtain permission from their employers to leave the country. The reform came into effect In October for majority of workers but for a select 5% of a company’s workforce — reportedly those in the most senior positions. Mr. Homayounpour said the system “will officially be eliminated” by the end of 2019 and no worker will be required to obtain permission to leave the country.
In October of last year, Qatar University’s College of Law entered into an agreement with Boston University Law School to develop a joint-program that would train students and officials in how to combat the threat of terrorist financing. The program, “Counter Terrorist Financing,” will aim to further develop and refine the institutional capacity of Qatari organizations.
Boston University School of Law Dean Angela Onwuachi-Willig stated that “A partnership with Qatar University College of Law to develop a customized training program gives us a unique opportunity to support the country’s efforts to fight terrorist financing.”
The courses on counter-terrorist financing will be specifically tailored to meet the needs of Qatari prosecutors, government ministry officials, and financial services professionals that are responsible for stemming the flow of illegal funds to terrorist organizations.
The courses will be led by Boston University academics and faculty that specialize in national security, anti-money laundering, Financial technology, and financial regulations, in conjunction with Qatar University College of Law’s faculty.
The two organizations will develop class simulations and case studies that are based on experiences dealing with real-world threats. The program will also feature experts from the US Treasury department, the US Department of State, and the FBI. The programs inaugural course will feature 11 Qataris from the legal, financial, and governmental sectors. Topics that will be addressed will be strengthening institutional capacity to counter cyber-attacks and the usage of cryptocurrencies in terrorist financing.
In addition to Boston University;s diverse faculty coming from the university’s other schools, such as the Hariri Institute for Computing, The Pardee School of Global Studies, and the Cyber Security, Law, and Society Alliance, the following government officials will also be participating in the program.
Michael Madon, former deputy assistant secretary, US Department of the Treasury
Adam Isles, former deputy chief of staff, US Department of Homeland Security
Jason Blazakis, former director of the Office of Counterterrorism Finance & Designations, Bureau of Counterterrorism, US Department of State
Debra LePrevotte, former supervisory special agent, FBI International Corruption Unit
Kate Eyerman, former director of the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, Middle East/North Africa, US Department of the Treasury