Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) Mirage 2000s, a U.S. B-52H Stratofortress, and U.S. F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation over Southwest Asia, May 21, 2019.This flight was conducted to continue building military-to-military relationships with the QEAF. The B-52H is part of the Bomber Task Force deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to defend U.S. forces and interests in the region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keifer Bowes)
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).
Qatar Airways and the Qatar-America Institute together donated two round-trip business class tickets to Doha to Luke’s Wings – a nonprofit dedicated to supporting wounded American veterans and their families. Luke’s Wings is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that arranges flights for wounded veterans and their families. The tickets were the highest bid-on item at the silent auction at Luke’s Wings’ annual Heroes Gala.
Luke’s Wings was founded in 2008 after Sarah Wingfeld, a Redskins Cheerleader Ambassador, visited Walter Reed Medical Center. She met Luke Shirley, a double amputee recovering away from most of his loved ones. Seeing how quickly his demeanor changed when his mom walked in, she realized the impact loved ones have in supporting soldiers’ recovery.
Sarah and Luke’s Wings co-founder Fletcher Gill learned the US government only provides three flights for loved ones to be present upon initial injury, after which families must finance their own transportation to medical centers. Luke’s Wings – named after Luke Shirley and Sarah Wingfeld – was established to raise money so families could visit their loved ones at Walter Reed.
In 2012, Luke’s Wings secured enough funding to hire three full-time workers, allowing it to expand its work across the country. Today, Luke’s Wings serves military medical facilities, VA medical centers, and hospice facilities across the United States and has provided airfare for families internationally and across all 50 states.
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
“Our relationship between Qatar and the United States has been more than 45 years. It’s a very strong, solid relationship. Our economic partnership is more than $125 billion, and our aim and goal is to double it in the next coming years.”
– H.H. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (April 2018)
On April 9th, 2019, more than 1,000 Qatari and American government dignitaries, leaders in business, academia, and civil society, and citizens from both countries gathered in a celebration hosted by the US embassy in Doha, Qatar, to celebrate the United States’ National Day and over 40 years of US-Qatar relations.
Among the honorary guests were US Chargé d’Affaires William Grant, H.E. the Minister of Municipality and Environment Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Subaie, H.E. the Minister of Transport and Communications Jassim bin Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti, and ambassador Ibrahim Yousef Fakhro, director of Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In a speech, Mr. Grant highlighted the strong ties between the American and Qatari people across different fields, especially in exchanges related to culture, education, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
“We enjoy working with Qatar because we see so many values we prize – tolerance of people with different religions and backgrounds, a constant drive to improve and focus on the future. Both America and Qatar understand that through diversity and openness to others there is strength. There is progress. There is resilience.”
Mr. Grant highlighted various US-Qatar exchanges, such as the “International Visitor Leadership Program,” one of many programs this year focusing on disaster preparedness, women in civil society, and combating money laundering and the terrorism-financing which hosted more than 500 Qatari citizens in the US recently.
Mr. Grant also mentioned the successful US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue in Doha , which discussed areas of mutual interest such as energy cooperation, labor rights, regional security and counter-terrorism, trade and investment, education and others.
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U.S. Embassy’s National Day Celebrates Enduring American-Qatari Partnership Doha – The U.S. Embassy in Doha hosted its National Day celebration on Tuesday evening, its biggest event of the year. U.S. Chargé d’Affaires William Grant welcomed guests of honor H.E. Jassim bin Saif al-Sulaiti, Minister of Transport and Communications; H.E. Abdulla bin Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Subaie, Minister of Municipality and Environment; and H.E. Ambassador Ibrahim Yousef Fakhroo. More than 1,000 Qatari officials, foreign dignitaries, American citizens, and leaders from business, academia, and civil society gathered to celebrate the United States’ independence. . . . #usqatar #qatar #qatar🇶🇦 #qatarinstagram #doha #dohaqatar
Recently, the US Embassy in Qatar hosted a week-long festival called “Discover America,” in which more than 150 American and Qatari entities had the opportunity to promote joint military practices, arts, trade, and tourism, especially for the US engagements in FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
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.
The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) has launched a new initiative, the Expert Voices Series. The initiative is envisioned as a medium for encouraging broader and more diverse conversations between Qatari experts and/or experts on Qatar with U.S.-based leaders in business, academia and politics.
In an effort to diversify outreach beyond the traditional East Coast hubs of Washington, D.C. and New York, QAI sought to initiate new channels of engagement with the key West Coast hubs of San Francisco and Los Angeles. With a population of 39.5 million and a GDP of $2.7 trillion – the fifth largest economy in the world – California (CA) was QAI’s natural choice for a first foray to the West Coast. The state boasts some of the world’s premier academic institutions and science labs, as well as America’s motion picture industry (Hollywood).
Silicon Valley in California’s Bay Area is the global capital for hi-tech innovation and entrepreneurship; the co-location of a critical mass of venture capital investors and a talent pool of unparalleled depth and quality has produced some of the world’s most valuable companies. California’s industrial origins in defense and aerospace remain integral to the state’s research and development (R&D) nexus and economic export composition.
Dr. Khalid Al-Ali – Qatari Tech Entrepreneur and Former NASA Specialist
The first participant in QAI’s Expert Voices Series was Dr. Khalid Al-Ali, a Qatari technology entrepreneur and Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Senseta, a Silicon Valley-based data analytics firm.
In the field of aeronautics and exploration technology, Dr. Al-Ali spent 10 years in NASA’s Ames Research Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratories. Dr. Al-Ali was also the CEO of the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP), Qatar’s premier business “free zone” dedicated to the development of market-ready tech products
Having earned his PhD at UC Berkeley and worked at NASA and DARPA-administered labs, Dr. Al-Ali has made California his second home both professionally and personally. He is uniquely well positioned to provide a nuanced outlook of promising and fertile areas of collaboration between Qatari entities and the State of California.
California Engagement Snapshot
QAI hosted Dr. Al-Ali in Northern California, where he featured as a speaker on a panel, “Technology Trends in Emerging Markets,” at Stanford University’s inaugural MENA Forum. As the CEO of tech firm, which has created knowledge-intensive jobs in both Silicon Valley and Doha, Dr. Al-Ali spoke about Qatar’s commitment to increasing its GDP contribution to R&D that forms the basis of commercially successful tech-enabled products.
On the panel, Dr. Al-Ali spoke about his experience leading the complex negotiations that brought two of the seven U.S. universities that have established full degree-granting campuses in Doha’s Education City. With his appointment as the first CEO of QSTP, he spoke of the vision to “capture the intellectual property from the academic institutions and providing a finance bridge from QSTP to create value from knowledge.” Dr. Al-Ali spoke of his leadership role on national steering committees that have shaped Qatar’s technology policy and articulated Qatar’s vision of integrating its industry with the research and higher education infrastructure that it has been investing massive resources to develop.
On the sidelines of the Stanford MENA Forum, Dr. Al-Ali held meetings with Research Fellows at the Hoover Institution, a leading American think tank, to discuss potential partnerships between Hoover Fellows and research institutes in Qatar, such as the Qatar Computing Research Institute and the Qatari Energy and Environment Institute.
Similar consultations were held with Distinguished Fellows at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Affairs, with a specific focus on food security and energy markets and with the Stanford’s Program on Energy and Sustainable Development.
UCLA’s Center for Middle East Development (CMED) hosted QAI and Dr. Al-Ali at the university’s Faculty Club for discussions that will reinforce UCLA’s already deep ties with Qatar. CMED is UCLA’s dedicated center for Middle East expertise and, for many years, has partnered with Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to host an annual conference in Qatar under the banner of “Enriching the Economic Future of the Middle East.”
RAND Corporation Santa Monica
At the RAND Corporation’s Santa Monica headquarters, Dr. Al-Ali gave remarks on “Qatar’s Economic Diversification and Tech/Innovation Policy” to a select group of researchers, followed by an engaging Q&A session under Chatham House rules. He highlighted the nexus approach of linking Qatar’s universities with government-backed funding mechanisms, such as Qatar Development Bank (QDB) and QSTP. He emphasized that enabling the private sector through access to credit and business incubators will facilitate the creation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that will help Qatar diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons.
Though the RAND Corporation no longer maintains an office in Doha, it remains an important strategic partner to many Qatari institutions who rely on RAND for research and advisory support.
The Larta Institute defines itself as providing a “mesh network” of mentorship resources, expertise, funding and connections to patient capital. In that sense, Larta is an Institute and not in the mold of traditional Bay Area “accelerators” that tend to be a source of one-time funding, office space for a limited time, and a scattered feedback loop.
Larta recognizes the fiercely competitive space of emerging technology start-ups and instead seeks to support nascent tech companies in every step of their lab to market transition. This starts with pairing companies with Principal Advisors who are experienced practitioners in both academia and industry. Larta is organized around the four pillars of Feed, Fuel, Heal and Innovation, with long-standing partnerships with the federal research funding arms of the National Institute of Health, Department of Energy and United States Department of Agriculture.
QAI and Dr. Ali had a very positive meeting with the Larta leadership. QAI expressed enthusiasm for converging some of Larta’s internationally renowned experience with Qatar’s efforts to cultivate its own organic “mesh network” of business enablers. This will help advance the Qatar National Vision 2030, which prioritizes economic diversification and human capital development.
The Pacific Council on International Policy
The Pacific Council is the West Coast’s premier member-based public diplomacy institute. It has hosted sitting U.S. Secretaries of State, Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, former presidents, and the list could go on.
The Pacific Council hosted a lunch in their LA headquarters in honor of Dr. Khalid Al-Ali. The lunch was well attended by Pacific Council members who hail from diverse industries: financial services, aviation, law enforcement, defense, academia and literature.
Dr. Al-Ali offered some remarks on Qatar’s journey from seeking partners in the 1960s to finance and provide the technology for a world-leading LNG industry, to its current investment-led boom in human capital development and a sovereign wealth fund with a global and diversified portfolio of assets. Under Chatham House rules, Dr. Al-Ali fielded many thought-provoking questions about Qatar’s role in international affairs, its sporting ambitions and engagement with the U.S.
On February 13, 2019, after 2 years of the Saudi led air blockade of Qatar, the EU has finally spoken out. “The air blockade of Qatar was unthinkable to us,” said the director of Transport for the EU Commission. “We cannot tolerate countries using civil aviation for political moves like this.” These comments were the first time the EU has publicly taken a stance on the blockade. The countries in the EU are some of the Gulf’s largest foreign markets, and they champion free skies.
The EU is now trying to work out a deal that will boost market access for Qatar to a significantly higher level than any other gulf country. They are creating a “Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement [CATA] between the EU and State of Qatar.” The CATA will be the first agreement of its kind between the EU and a GCC state. It will allow Qatar airways to fly to cities located within 28 European countries without any of the prior restrictions that were imposed before. Negotiations are reaching the finalization stage with the agreement set to be signed later this year.
( Image Source: Politico )
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani emphasized that Qatar is willing to engage in a dialogue that will resolve the Gulf crisis. He went on to state that Qatar has continuously called on the blockading countries to engage in negotiations that aim to resolve the Gulf Crisis.
At the Munich Security Conference, Qatar’s Foreign Minister stressed that both Saudi and Emirati leaders should prioritize the Gulf issue as it is vital to the security of the greater region. The Foreign Minister suggested that the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) should be used as a platform for negotiations as it was originally established for regional cooperation.
He highlighted that regional states have been able to resolve conflicts in the past but that the current state of affairs poses a grave security risk to the region. He specifically stated “We have been through various conflicts and disagreements in the last 20 years, but we have never reached this level and reflect a shift in the position of the leadership of these countries.”
The Foreign Minister went on to state that Qatar was ready for dialogue during an upcoming summit in Kuwait but Qatar’s willingness to solve the dispute is not shared by the blockading states. He also addressed past criticism of ‘Qatar’s unwillingness’ that was leveled at the nation during the most recent Gulf Summit. The Foreign Minister stated that that since the invitation to Qatar was extended by the GCC Secretary-General rather than the host country’s leadership, they explained “that is why we participated with a lower representation.”
In regards to Washington’s efforts in resolving the Gulf crisis, the Foreign Minister praised the willingness of the United States in their attempts at resolving the dispute. He highlighted the rejection of the blockading states to US President Donald Trump’s proposal of holding a Gulf Summit. He also stressed that Qatar’s relations with the United States have never been affected by this crisis, stating: “Our strong alliance with them continues. We have the largest US airbase and there are 11 to 12 thousand US troops on our territory. The centre of the international coalition is in Qatar, and everything is going well.”
(Image Source: Munich Security Conference)
On January 17, 2019, Qatar-America Institute Cultural Advisor Diana Untermeyer visited the Indiana Council on World Affairs (ICWA) in Indianapolis to discuss “Qatar and its Neighbors.” She joined Bill Clifford, president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of America and Melissa Beuc, executive board member of ICWA Board, both of whom recently traveled to Qatar.
In her talk, Ms. Untermeyer discussed the context for the blockade imposed on Qatar in June 2017 by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt; the resiliency with which Qatar has withstood and even thrived in the midst of the blockade; Qatar’s policy of engagement in the region and its focus on education, sports and culture.
Ms. Untermeyer spoke about her experience living in Qatar from 2004-2007 and attributed Qatar’s resilience to the strong foundation built by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani culminating in the peaceful transfer of power in June 2013 to his well-prepared son, His Highness Sheikh Tamim. In a region known for coups and octogenarians who cling to power, this unprecedented, planned succession sets Qatar apart.
Moreover, the fruits of His Highness Sheikh Hamad’s leadership — including the development of the massive LNG industry, the granting of equal rights to women, the promotion of modern educational and cultural institutions, the founding of Al Jazeera, and a commitment to transparent and inclusive foreign policy — both set the stage for the showdown with the blockading nations and provide the fortitude to withstand it.
The blockade has fast-tracked many endeavors including anti-terrorist money laundering agreements, social and labor reforms, free trade zones, and food security initiatives. It also has strengthened a sense of national pride and caused an outpouring of support for Sheikh Tamim. The iconic image “Tamim the Glorious” now festoons buildings and innumerable windshields.
National service was instituted before the Blockade; however in April 2018, the mandatory time for men was extended from a few months to a full year following graduation from high school. And, women are now allowed to volunteer as well. The decision is so much more important than one might think. Imagine: Women in the military in a traditional Muslim country; youth increasingly differentiated by degrees of wealth and education literally in the trenches together; and a shared sense of discipline should all add up to transformative national unity and individual growth.
In response to lively questioning from the audience about Qatar’s political alignment, Ms. Untermeyer explained that while Qatar remains committed to the GCC and looks forward to a resumption of a strong alliance, their policy has always been to maintain positive and constructive dialogue with all countries, including Iran. While Qatar has disagreements with Iran, they are also neighbors and share the massive gas field. The blockade led to closer ties with Iran. Iran opened their skies providing the sole access for Qatar’s commercial and civilian air traffic. Additionally, Iran provided immediate food relief.
Qatar hopes to normalize relationships with their neighbors but is moving forward with its own vision including the massive infrastructure build up for the 2022 World Cup. Overall, the attitude in Doha is optimistic and full speed ahead.