Doha, Qatar, February 25, 2020: Thought-leaders and researchers from Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman have agreed that the gap between decision-makers and youth in the Gulf region needs to be narrowed, by providing young people with more pathways for discussion that allow them to exchange their ideas and views.
The topic was discussed at Oasis of Dialogue, a platform for dialogue and the sharing of perspectives organized by Qatar Debate, a member of Qatar Foundation (QF). It focused on the future of political relation between Gulf countries, days before His Excellency Dr Khalid bin Mohamed Al Attiyah the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs, gives a talk at Education City titled Small State Security Dialogue: Qatar and the Lessons of a 1,000 Day Blockade.
The Gulf region’s development path
The event at Multaqa (Education City Student Center) hosted three keynote speakers including Dr Faisal Abu Saleeb, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, College of Social Sciences, Kuwait University; Dr. Mahjoub Al-Zuwairi Professor of Contemporary Iranian History and Middle East Policy at Qatar University; and Dr. Abdulla Baabood, an Omani professor specializing in Gulf and Middle East studies. It addressed issues including social reforms, preventing political crises, diversity of thought, economics, geopolitics, and regional security systems.
Oasis of Dialogue was presented by Anoud Al-Kuwari, an alumna of QF partner university Georgetown University in Qatar, and moderated by Qatari researcher Abdul Rahman Al-Marri Qatari, and invited young people to share their opinions and thoughts via social media.
“Our aim is to bring together decision-makers, thinkers and young people to discuss vital topics, far from any classifications that knock down the opportunity of communication; and build a bridge of communication between thinkers and youth,” said Al-Kuwari.
“We are looking to motivate all community members to share their ideas and innovate solutions as an outcome of this dialogue".
Strengthening political awareness
Dr. Abu Saleeb emphasized the importance of enabling the youth of the Gulf to take an active role in political decision-making, saying: "The Gulf crisis, whether it is long or short, remains a temporary stage in the journey of Gulf relations.
"All previous conflicts between Gulf states were resolved within the circle of Influence at leadership level. The current situation is different because some Gulf countries tried to influence all directions, including at the grassroots level, through social media users and influencers.
"This meant that, for the first time, communities in Gulf states were involved in political decisions, and unfortunately this was not the kind of involvement designed to help them achieve their aspirations, but instead related to leadership conflicts, and this is due to the impact of social media. It is therefore very important to enhance political awareness among youth, by activating constructive and targeted dialogue sessions, such as what Qatar Foundation is doing.”
In order to overcome the current political crises in Gulf region, the Kuwaiti researcher raised the importance of decision-makers taking the perceptions and ideas of youth into consideration, saying: "There are the foundations for joint Arab solidarity and the continuity of Gulf cooperation".
Dealing with challenges
Dr. Al-Zuwairi explained how regional challenges influenced the shape of Gulf relations, saying: “The Gulf crisis is the result of external interactions, challenges, and foreign policies.”
Clarifying the type of challenges the region faces in this regard, he said: "State-building and the history of relations between Gulf countries are constant challenges, together with the shaping of foreign policies through reliance on major international powers.”
He emphasized the necessity of bridging a knowledge gap, in the context of the huge amounts of information that young people now receive, and reinforced the importance of addressing an identity challenge and strengthening the “social contract” between the populations of Gulf countries and their governments.
"I deeply believe in cooperation and integration between the populations of all Gulf countries,” said Dr. Baabood. “The Gulf Cooperation Council was established on common foundations with regard to decision-making, common objectives, and strategies, and all the Gulf states are still adhering to common interests, unity of geography and culture, and a common destiny.
"We live in a world where countries cannot live in isolation, and therefore differences may occur between individuals and states. This is normal, so it is important to define how to deal with crises, how to manage conflicts, and how to benefit from lessons - going back always to our roots.".
Dr. Baabood explained that: "Deepening relations between Gulf countries is related to the common pathways of Arab countries - self-reliance in preserving their capabilities, and their independence.
“There is also a wider context of commitment for Gulf countries, which is related to the Arab and Islamic league and international relations, with the aim of maintaining peace and regional security. We are in the 21st Century, but we are still thinking as if we are living in the past and still facing the signs of our political history. If we do not change that, the current circumstances will remain.”
New role mode of dialogue
Machaille Al-Naimi, President of Community Development, Qatar Foundation, who attended the event, said: “The Oasis of Dialogue aims to communicate the voice of youth, foster a culture of dialogue and constructive critical thinking, and highlight the importance of different perspectives in dealing with future challenges.
“It is important for experts, thought leaders, and youth from different cultures to communicate through a common language within a vibrant and open academic environment. QF’s Education City offers a wide range of academic facilities designed to enhance community engagement, to meet young people’s aspirations, and equip them with the skills they need to drive positive change in the region and across the world."
Dr Hayat Abdullah Marafi, Executive Director of Qatar Debate, who also attended, said: "The Oasis of Dialogue is a response to social demand.
“It has targeted different groups from our community, and provided both young people and experts with an opportunity for discussion in an open academic environment. It is also a compass for empowering young debaters to transfer their skills toward discussion management and the presentation of questions in an interactive way.
“I am glad that we have a model of dialogue management through Oasis of Dialogue, which will discuss topics that matter to the communities.”
The session included discussions that allowed attendees to interact and discuss their thoughts with speakers. Moza Al Hajri, a high school student and member of Qatar’s national debate team, said: "Dialogue is very important for all young people, and not only for debaters, because it helps us see the bigger picture by developing our understanding of what is happening in the world.
“We need to understand what is going on around us, for our studies and for our careers in the future, and also Qatar needs us to be thinkers and to drive positive change through cultivating dialogue that takes different perspectives into account. This new platform helps us to enhance our knowledge, which we can use in our debates related to any topics related to politics and history.”
Hassan Al-Mulla, a Qatari researcher and student at the Paris-Sorbonne University, attended Oasis of Dialogue, and said: “I believe in the power of civil society and students to enrich any discussion.
“A platform of this kind of platform contributes to developing political awareness in Gulf society. Stimulating a sense of political knowledge and awareness makes this a very positive initiative.”