Category: Human Rights & Civil Society

Qatar Fund for Development Releases 2018 Annual Report

On Monday, the Qatar Fund for Development released its 2018 annual report. The report documents $585 million in projects in education, healthcare, economic empowerment, infrastructure, and humanitarian relief in 70 different countries.

QFFD structures its grants in coordination with other organizations and donors, allowing it to mobilize billions of dollars of funding in total. Some of the projects QFFD supported in 2018 include the following:

$52 million to support healthcare, housing and vocational training in Syria and for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

$30 million supporting relief and reconstruction following Hurricane Harvey, including $5 million to the Rebuild Texas Fund, $1.2 million to the YMCA of Greater Houston, $3.2 million in scholarships for students affected by the hurricane, $6 million dollars for the “Qatar Veterans Fund” in partnership with the Bob Woodruff Foundation, and more.

$3.5 million in support of healthcare and shelter for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, in coordination with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and local NGOs.

$8 million supporting healthcare projects in Libya, benefiting 600,000 people.

$6.5 million in healthcare projects in Yemen, supporting 680,000 people.

$75 million in emergency response aid to Gaza, as well as $50 million in support to the UN Refugee and Works Agency

 

At the unveiling of the report, the Director General of Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD), H.E. Khalifa bin Jassim Al-Kuwari stated that  from 2015 till May 2019, the total aid amounted to QR 8.15 billion, which equates to US$ 2.24 billion.  The previous year (2018) the Fund’s assistance reached $585 million, with 206.7 million in in humanitarian aid and US$ 378.6 million in development assistance.

Mr. Al Kuwari also added that “This aid was distributed geographically among 70 countries around the world. The total value of aid to Arab countries amounted to $451.8 million, whereas the aid to Africa totaled to $64 million, Asia $28.5 million and $17.9 million was disbursed in aid to North and South America. In terms of international and multilateral organizations, the amount of assistance provided for core funding has reached $20.1 million.”

 

Speaking about the Fund’s work, Mr. Al Kuwari noted: “The Fund’s work is focused on empowering people through the promotion of education, health and economic development. This is visible in the increase in the annual allocations of these sectors which reflects our belief that these sectors serve as the foundation for human and economic development and a gateway for achieving peace and justice.

Some of the organizations QFFD either supported or worked with include: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); The World Health Organization; and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

 

 

 

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Northwestern University in Qatar Publishes Sixth Annual “Media Use in the Middle East” Survey

Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) has published its influential sixth annual Media Use in the Middle East survey in both English and Arabic. The seven-nation survey covers public perceptions and use of media in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Tunisia, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. The survey was conducted via video chat from Qatar, and covers 7,635 respondents across the seven countries.

 

“NU-Q’s Media Use in the Middle East 2018: A Seven-Nation Survey is a comprehensive resource for scholars, as well as business, government and other thought leaders seeking to better understand and engage with the region… Since 2013, NU-Q has selected six to eight countries to approximate a reasonable representation of public opinion on media use and related topics in a turbulent and complex region. Six years of feedback suggests that our research has generated useful and discerning findings.” -Everette E. Dennis, Dean and CEO of NU-Q

 

 

Some of the findings from the survey include:

More Arab nationals consider film and TV content from the U.S. to be good for morality

Majorities of Arab nationals in most countries support online freedom of expression

Facebook and Twitter penetration have fallen among Arab nationals across the seven countries

The numbers of Arab nationals who play video games have remained steady across the region, although the amount of time gamers play per week has increased significantly from 2014 to 2018

 

 

 

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Qatar University Finds Rise in Guest Workers’ Welfare Index

Qatar University‘s Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) presented its findings from its second Guests Workers’ Welfare Index (GWWI). The GWWI measures and tracks the welfare of blue-collar guest workers in Qatar. Attendees to the presentation event included Dr. Hassan Al Derham, President of Qatar University, Dr. Hassan Al Sayed, Director of SESRI, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs.

 

The second wave of the GWWI survey was conducted in April, 2018, assessing working and living conditions including safety and security, human rights, labor rights, finance and remittances, and more. The 2018 survey interviewed 1,028 guest workers with the largest group of respondents coming from India (29%), followed by Nepal (28%), Bangladesh (17%), Pakistan (9%), Egypt (6%), Sri Lanka (4%), Philippines (3%), and other countries (4%).

 

The results of the survey are measured by responses based on 6 indices (listed below) and are evaluated on a scale from 1 – 100. The results for calendar year 2018 stood at 81 out of 100, an increase from the 2017 rating (score: 75). The overall score is a composite measure of the six different factors or sub-indices that compose the index and which are rated on the same scale from 0 to 100. The greatest sub-index improvements included contracts, working conditions, and satisfaction with living and working conditions. The next Guest Workers’ Welfare Index survey will take place this month, May 2019.

 

 

The sub-indices breakdowns were as follows:

Mental Health: 87

Physical Health: 84

Living Conditions: 79

Working Conditions: 85

Contracts: 71

Satisfaction: 79

 

 

 

(Image Source: The Peninsula)

 

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Education Above All and UNHCR Partner to Educate 450,000 Displaced Children

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi traveled to Kuala Lumpur to visit UNHCR’s projects that have been implemented as part of the Education Above All (EAA)’s Educate A Child Program.

 

“It is clear from what I have seen here in Malaysia that quality primary education can truly change the course of a child’s life. Equipping refugees with knowledge and skills means they can be assets to their host countries and later support the rebuilding of their home countries. I’m proud of the work being done here and thankful to Malaysia and its people for helping these children access a better future.”Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser

 

EAA operates 131 learning centers with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Their joint mission is to educate 450,000 displaced children in 15 countries, with a shared contribution of nearly $100 million. Support for the mission also comes from the Qatar Fund for Development.

 

“I can’t emphasize more the importance of proper schooling for refugee and internally displaced children, millions of whom lose out on the education they need. Not only does it help children heal, it stabilizes families, aids acceptance locally and provides hope for the future.”Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

 

EAA and its partners currently support 10.4 million out-of-school children in 50 countries, about 2.3 million of whom are displaced or refugees. Malaysia hosts about 167,000 refugees, and EAA and its partners have helped 9,400 children among them attend school.

 

 

 

 

 

Qatar Eliminates All Remnants of the Kafala System
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Qatar Eliminates All Remnants of the Kafala System

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Qatar Completes 6th Session of Municipal Elections

 

On April 16th, Qatar held its sixth session of elections for the Central Municipal Council. The most recent round of elections featured a total of 85 candidates, aiming to represent a total of twenty-seven out of twenty-nine districts. Two of the districts had already been decided through acclimation (unanimous consent). It was estimated that the participation rate in this election reached 50%. In order to participate in the elections, voters must fulfill three main conditions – be 18 years or older, born in Qatar or have been nationalized for 15+ years, and possess no criminal record. However, if one is a member of the military or law enforcement, they are not eligible to vote.

 

During this election season, several women faced off against men vying for council seats. Many candidates ran public campaigns, employing social media, advertisements, and other means to gain votes during a highly competitive election. The participation of women, in a mostly conservative society, marks a stark difference between Qatar and its regional neighbors. Since 1999, the year in which the first election for the municipal council was held, women in Qatari society have been further integrated into governing and building the nation.

 

In the most recent round of election, two women won seats on the 29-member municipal council. The first, Fatima al-Kuwari, represents the 9th district, which covers Al- Thumama, Ras Bufontas (North), and Mesaimeer (North). Fatima initially ran an unsuccessful first attempt in 2011. However, in 2015, Fatima was able to win the majority of her constituents’ votes. Fatima al-Kuwari is also represented among Qatar-America Institute’s, Zubara Council, where she serves as an advisor on Qatari affairs.

 

The second candidate that won her district, for the third time, is Sheikha al-Jafari, who represents the 8th district that covers the ad Dawhah municipality. She stated in an interview that “There was a large turnout by women and the number of female voters in my constituency exceeded the number of males, which indicates their political awareness…I wish there were more women but I tell them do not despair and continue to fight.”

 

The remaining women that were unable to gain a seat on the council were Aisha Saqer Saleh Mohammed al-Kaabi (district 18), Fatima bin Yousef al-Ghaza (district 10), and Maryam al-Humaidi (district 25).

 

The municipal council will be responsible for maintaining municipal affairs, dictating priorities of maintenance and construction of infrastructure, and overall adherence to Qatar’s legal system. Furthermore, members of the municipal council must be well informed and are mandated to examine proposals and legislation in order to provide effective policy proposals to the executive branch of Qatar’s government. Council members are also mandated to give time to their constituents and provide a forum for them to address any grievances.

 

 

 

 

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Qatar’s Central Municipal Council Elections to be Held Tomorrow

 

Central Municipal Council (CMC) elections in Qatar will take place tomorrow, per Amiri Decree Number 4 of 2019. Out of 29 seats, two have already been won uncontested; there are 94 candidates, including five women, competing for the remaining 27 seats. The Central Municipal Council first held elections 20 years ago, on April 8, 1999.

A Qatari man casts his vote for municipal elections at a polling station in Doha, Qatar,Wednesday, May 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

 

All Qatari adults are eligible to vote. The CMC is not a legislative body, but rather handles municipal affairs, and works closely with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment to make sure voters’ concerns are addressed. Some accomplishments of the Council include installing street lights, developing beaches, beautifying streets, and more.

 

Qatari regulations prohibit candidates for the CMC from attacking rival candidates or inciting sectarian or tribal strife. This helps ensure a friendly campaign and means candidates must work closely with voters to represent their interests.

 

The Central Municipal Council is distinct from the 45-person Qatar Advisory Council, often known as the Shura Council. The Shura Council is partly elected and partly appointed, and maintains legislative and budgetary powers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2022 FIFA World Cup Brief

On March 26th, Qatar-America Institute hosted a representative of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), a Qatari entity mandated to deliver the infrastructure and legacy programs for the upcoming FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar, who shared relevant information about the mega-event set to take place in November 2022.

 

The SC is tasked with delivering proposed tournament venues and projects for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – the first to be held in the Arab world – while ensuring that its preparations align with Qatar National Vision 2030.

 

For the FIFA World Cup™ in 2022, there will be a total of eight stadiums that are being built within a 55km radius, making it the first compact FIFA World Cup™ in the modern era. Each stadium will fulfill multiple purposes, not just sporting: community-based workshops were instituted to address and express the needs of local constituencies in the stadiums’ surrounding areas. The aim was to maximize the benefits from these projects by integrating and satisfying local demands as these structures are being completed to ensure they are used long after the last ball has been kicked in 2022.

 

This strategy will foster local development, promote and increase social cohesion, avoid bureaucratic mismanagement of resources duplication, and decrease the likelihood of disenchantment or skepticism from the local population towards the perceived benefits of hosting a sporting mega-event such as the FIFA World Cup™.

 

A concrete example of this strategy can be seen with the construction of the new state-of-the-art Doha metro system that will serve a dual purpose: firstly, it will offer sustainable transport to tournament venues and Qatari attractions for the 1.5 million fans Qatar expects in 2022, and secondly it will enhance accessibility and inter-connectivity amongst the eight municipalities that constitute Qatar. Therefore, the mega-event will be an opportunity for Qatar to promote its role as a main international destination for sports and to modernize the country’s infrastructure for its population.

 

Another noteworthy characteristic of the eight stadiums for the FIFA World Cup™ is that they are being built according to a criterion that incorporates sustainability and efficiency. For instance, the under construction Ras Abu Aboud Stadium will be a clear example of such commitment and, furthermore, demonstrate the country’s degree of technological sophistication. Like a Lego set, the stadium will be fully demountable, being built via the assembly of repurposed shipping containers that were used to transport materials to Qatar. Thus, once the tournament ends on 18 December 2022, state-of-the-art software will be employed to assist the disassembly of the structure. The various parts and components will be re-allocated to create both sporting and non-sporting facilities in Qatar. Ras Abu Aboud Stadium will be the first fully demountable tournament venue in FIFA World Cup™ history.

 

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 labour laws in the country and build government officials’ capacity to implement them and ensure that recruitment practices are in line with best international practices. Additionally, the Amiri’s promulgation of Law No. 13 of 2017, which established a judge-led Labor Dispute Resolution Committee, and Law No. 15 of 2017, which limited working hours and secured paid leave, and with the creation of a Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund to ensure workers are paid overdue wages are just a few of the other significant reforms made.

 

Most notably, the SC pledged to allocate between $40-50 million to write off the debts that supply-chain migrant workers may have incurred as a consequence of unscrupulous non-affiliated recruiters in key labor markets. Unfortunately, the recruitment and placement industry, which is a global phenomenon, is a $464.3  billion industry that affects more than 150 million migrant workers. The SC’s pledge will transform the lives of those affected by these illegal practices.

 

The SC representative also discussed safety and security preparations for the 2022 World Cup and INTERPOL’s Project Stadia, which was established by INTERPOL in 2012 and funded by Qatar.  The aim of Project Stadia is to create a Centre of Excellence to help INTERPOL member countries in the planning and executing policing and security preparations for major sporting events. The 10-year project will contribute to policing and security arrangements for the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar and will leave a lasting legacy for the world’s law enforcement community.

 

Lastly, the representative emphasized the existing degree of U.S.-Qatar economic ties in relation to the mega-event. Qatar has worked with over 30 U.S. organisations across a range of industries to date, all of which have been involved in some of the country’s most important tournament projects. Turner International, CH2M and Jacobs and AECOM have been integral to a number of construction projects. CISCO, Oracle and Amazon have been working with Qatar on everything from IT to networking to cybersecurity solutions, all to ensure 2022 will be the most connected tournament ever, for fans and businesses. And Leading U.S. universities including Georgetown and Northwestern and tech giant Facebook have been helping support Qatar’s innovation legacy programs. Overall, $10 billion will be invested in American services and expertise for the upcoming tournament in 2022.

 

 

(Image Source: Archinet.com)

 

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New York Times Profiles Doha as a Tourist Destination

 

Sebastian Modak, The New York Times’ “52 Places Traveler,” visited and reported on Doha as a tourist destination this week. His travels and pieces are a follow-on to the Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2019” travel guide. His article chronicles his experience in a city where age-old traditions meet a modern, globally-facing society.

“It’s as if Qatar consulted the list of winners of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and invited them all to town.”

Sebastian Modak’s parents used to live in Qatar and he had visited prior, so Modak had the priceless opportunity to witness the uncannily rapid development of the country.

“On those earlier visits, there was a lot of space — space for the shiny, the new and the over-the-top. Those spaces are filling fast as the 2022 Soccer World Cup approaches…”

Modak’s visit coincided with the opening of the National Museum of Qatar, the desert rose-inspired museum chronicling the history of Qatar from prehistoric to modern times.

“It can be hard to know where to look, as the building seems to be in constant motion, a forge spewing out discs in an engulfing, entropic pattern.”

Other stops on Modak’s trip included Souq Waqif, the Corniche, and the Qatar National Library – which was inaugurated one year ago this month.

 

 

 

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Dr. Reem Al-Ansari Speaks at Georgetown University Women’s Forum

On Thursday, March 28th, 2019 Georgetown University hosted its second annual 2019 Women’s Forum at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The two-day forum convened panels and discussions with experts in law, business, policy, science, technology, government, and the wider public sector.

Dr. Reem Al-Ansari, Director of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Center in Doha, Qatar and a graduate of Georgetown Law, was featured as an expert on the panel “Women in Peace Negotiations.” The panel was moderated by Ambassador Melanne Verveer, and featured fellow panelists Uzra Zeya, Rachel Milner Gillers.

 

“Women play a key role in advocating for and maintaining peace around the world. The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security says that women are largely excluded from conflict related negotiations, despite evidence that they are critical to achieving sustainable peace. Join us for lunch and a conversation about the role women play in peace negotiations and the importance of their expanded presence in the field.”

 

Dr. Al-Ansari spoke to the audience on her experience as a female leader in anti-corruption efforts in the Gulf region and the wider Middle East. She reported that in the Gulf region over the past decade, there has been a fundamental paradigm shift in thinking on a woman’s role in society, business, education, civil society, and government. Women have empowered themselves to engage in the most senior levels of these sectors, to the betterment of humanity. For example, in Qatar, woman now compose the majority of higher education students and hold seats in the Shoura Council, cabinet, and head major businesses and civil society groups.

Dr. Reem also mentioned “the #MeToo movement in the West is something that has enlightened women’s empowerment in the Middle East, and we are trying to replicate the lessons of that movement in our own societies. This is essential to advancing women’s roles in power structures, while holding everyone more accountable.”

Dr. Al-Ansari reported that when women are active participants critical dialogues, the outcomes tend to have higher success rates than without their participation. For example, Dr. Al-Ansari was tasked with interviewing high-risk youth involved with extremist organizations in Europe. She found that she was able to gain the trust of the male interviewees, and extract more information, than her male counterparts. As a result, female leadership proved vital to counter-extremism efforts in the region.

Overall however, female inclusion in peacemaking and peace negotiations is very low – less than 10% globally. When women do participate, they tend to build trust more effectively, forge compromises, and are more likely to be viewed as honest brokers than their male negotiator counterparts. The panel noted that when women are implementors of peace processes, evidence indicates that there is less corruption, less frivolous spending, and more durable peace plans.

 

 

 

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