H H the Father Emir: A visionary leader of the nation

 19 Dec 2017 - 16:44

To have a dream and do greatly to achieve it is not given to many people and it is this combination that distinguishes Father Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, as one of the greatest leaders in the history of Qatar, the Gulf and the Middle East. The success of Sheikh Hamad lies on his ability to turn the odds that Qatar has faced into its favour.

During his 18 years of rule, Sheikh Hamad led tremendous reforms and succeeded to inspire his men to think great things and achieve them. He was able to tap into hopes and dreams of the Qatari people and created a destination that not only inspired but challenged them to be better.

The story of Al Jazeera channel is not just another story of success of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, it is also a story of a fundamental change in the Arab media landscape. Before 1996, Qatar had no voice and that was one of the odds that the country faced. Sheikh Hamad was skillful enough and fortunate to turn this odd into Qatar’s favor. Al Jazeera became very popular shortly after it was launched as the Arab world’s first 24-hour news network and was viewed as the Arab CNN.

Al Jazeera success proved that no power could dominate the global market of news and information. This success has opened up the door to all current Arab satellite cable televisions. Millions of people around the globe now have direct access to Al Jazeera and many countries are buying commercial time on it.

On March 19, 2002, Voice of America broadcasted a speech delivered by Newton Minow, a Northwestern University professor of communications law and policy, to Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois. Professor Newton said “Forty years ago, I accompanied President Kennedy on a tour of our space program facilities. He asked me why it was so important to launch a communications satellite. I said, “Mr. President, unlike other rocket launches, this one will not send a man into space, but it will send ideas and ideas last longer than people do.” I never dreamed that the ideas millions of people receive every day would come from Al Jazeera.” Al Jazeera has succeeded to put Qatar in the global light.

When Qatar was drilling for oil in 1971, a huge reservoir of natural gas was discovered instead in the North Field. This was bad news and big odd for both Qatar and the drilling companies. A quarter of a century later, Sheikh Hamad succeeded to turn this bad news into the best news Qatar has ever had. Faced with a lot of challenges and obstacles, Sheikh Hamad managed to exploit the natural gas to meet the domestic needs, and export the first shipment of liquefied natural gas “LNG” to Japan in 1997. He skillfully forged international partnerships with international energy companies to drill and export the LNG to the global market. Amazingly, Sheikh Hamad has done that in a business fashion away from politics. Under his leadership Qatar succeeded to be the most reliable partner and supplier in the energy global market. Qatar is now the largest exporter of LNG and GTLs in the world.

Unlike other oil countries, Qatar under H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has succeeded to invest its energy revenues in different areas and diversifies its economy which has fostered stability and provided the Qatari people with higher living standards. In 2005 Sheikh Hamad formed the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) to spearhead the state financial investment. According to these policies Qatar’s economy has grown faster than any other economy in the region, and Qatar now enjoys the highest income per capita in the world. As a visionary leader, Sheikh Hamad successfully led his country to be one of the most prosperous countries in the world today.

H H Sheikh Hamad and his wife H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser have been very active in advocating for modern education and social reforms. In 1994 Qatar Foundation (QF) was established to promote community development through modern education. This was followed in 1998 by the establishment of the Education City, an unprecedented brilliant idea that hosts a number of top of the world universities that reshaped the Qatari community and the education landscape. By reforming the education system, Sheikh Hamad has given a quality of modern educational opportunities to thousands of young Qataris and non-Qataris who live in the country who would otherwise have not had that chance.

Small states have traditionally been perceived as weak and vulnerable, and incapable of making any influence on international relations. Sheikh Hamad proved this wrong. Despite this well-established stereotype, Qatar under the leadership of Sheikh Hamad has successfully made its way to the local renaissance and to the international arena as well. Since he assumed power, Qatar has been engaging in a robust vigorous foreign policy. His understanding of the global picture and the challenges that Qatar faces helped him to frame the right policies to protect Qatar from the perils of small states. Sheikh Hamad has used a blend of public diplomacy tools ranging from Al Jazeera TV, to mediation of conflicts in the region, especially between Israel and the Palestinians, Lebanon, Darfur-Sudan, to the handsome donations that it has delivered to negatively affected areas around the globe. During his tenure Qatar has risen to become one of the leading regional actors in the international relations of the Middle East. His views and insights were highly respected by many leaders around the world.

Under Sheikh Hamad, Qatar has established itself as a modern, business-oriented state that is able to compete in the international economy. A congressman who was very fond of Sheikh Hamad once said that he admired the business style that Qatar runs its foreign policy.

Father Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani persona is a combination of characteristics that had prepared him for his unique role in the history of Qatar and the region. Sheikh Hamad was a charismatic leader, a good communicator, strategic planner and a devoted public servant. His visionary leadership set him apart. He is a true giant of the history of Qatar and the founder of a nation who will be remembered for generations to come as the father of modern Qatar.

The writer is a legal consultant in Qatar and has over 25 years experience as a lawyer and legal consultant. LLB Cairo University Sudan, LLM Washington College of Law, Washington DC, USA.