Qatar and UNESCO celebrate 50 years of longstanding partnership

On 27th of January 1972, the State of Qatar became Member State of UNESCO. By adhering to the ideals and values spelled out in the Organization’s Constitution, Qatar joined the efforts of the international community to create stable conditions for peaceful coexistence between nations.

Ever since, Qatar has embodied high aspirations, hopes and an ongoing commitment to build peace through international cooperation in education, sciences and culture. In the same year 1972, Qatar established its National Commission to UNESCO. Four years later, Qatar started hosting the UNESCO Office for the Arab States of the Gulf based in Doha that since 1976 sets a local programme of action for the implementation of UNESCO’s priorities in consultation with Member States in the Gulf area region. The Republic of Yemen was included under the geographical scope of this UNESCO field office at a later stage.

Right from the start, Qatar has strongly supported UNESCO’s programs. In Qatar, the Government and UNESCO have built a long-standing cooperation in partnership ensuring access to quality education, promoting cultural heritage and the equal dignity of all cultures, fostering scientific research and innovation and promoting media development. As the result of its commitment and efforts all over the years, Qatar hosts since 2007 a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (Al Reem), which offers unparalleled research opportunities for sustainable development and use of arid lands. Al Zubarah Archaeological Site was the first Qatari property inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2013. The country has also one designated UNESCO-UNEVOC Centre, which is housed within College of the North Atlantic and aims at promoting technical and vocational education and innovation in the country and beyond. Qatari universities have established in the past few years three UNESCO Chairs while two others are currently under evaluation. Qatar is a very active member of the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) which promotes UNESCO’s ideal of peace and contributes to improving the quality of education. Two Qatari cities are part of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) while Doha was recognized in 2021 as UNESCO Creative city for design. Having at its core the development of a knowledge society, Qatar has been a crucial partner in the implementation of the SDG 4-Education 2030 Agenda in the GCC region and beyond.

At all times, the State of Qatar was aware of its obligation vis-à-vis the various UNESCO conventions and legal instruments, where the Organization has provided support to adopt international standards and implemented programmes that foster the free flow of ideas and the exchange of knowledge.

Qatari leaders have quickly grasped the essence and vision of UNESCO’s principles by investing in inclusive knowledge-based societies. Because Qatar believed since day one on the core areas of mandate of the Organization, prominent national institutions were established in line with UNESCO’s lines of action. For instance, Qatar Foundation was created as a unique ecosystem of education, science and research, and community development. In this context the Qatar National Library provides a great knowledge sharing opportunity to the people of Qatar and UNESCO was privileged to partner on many occasions but in particular in actions aiming at the protection and conservation of the documentary heritage in the Arab region. Qatar has led the organization of international events, like WISE that has provided to the world a unique platform for exchange of knowledge on education policies at the intersection between technology and innovation. In this context, the guidance of Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser who strongly believes that education has the power to transform lives and societies and is our UNESCO Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education an Education, has been essential to materialize UNESCO’s values.

The strength of the partnership between UNESCO and Qatar has been also observed in the travelling exhibition Majlis – Cultures in Dialogue that was launched in 2018, where the collaboration between Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum and UNESCO aimed at connecting people, beliefs and cultures by offering a platform for dialogue. In the same spirit, the partnership with Katara has brought to the establishment of the first International Festival of Cultural Diversity bringing together an array of different cultural expressions from around the world highlighting the importance of celebrating the diversity of humanity and foster mutual understanding through culture. Synergies have been sought in strategic areas such as the management of crises resulting from armed conflicts and disasters caused by natural and human-made hazards all over the world. To this end, the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) is one of the main donors of the Heritage Emergency Fund (HEF) that was created at UNESCO in 2014 to support the protection of heritage in emergency situations. Moreover, Qatar has emerged as champion in the protection of Education from Attack by promoting at the General Assembly the establishment of a dedicated UN day.

UNESCO being based in Doha has been a privileged and grateful partner to many institutions in the country for the promotion of its core values. The office has observed the remarkable results that these commitments have produced towards achieving more peaceful societies. Qatar has appeared as one of the world’s most proactive mediators in recent years, prospering as a neutral peacemaker in many of the international and intra-national conflicts brewing across the Middle East region. Not only the country has shown leadership in peace negotiations, but also fought for stability and alleviated the suffering of those affected by conflict and natural disasters.

More than just a joint effort, the friendship between the UNESCO and Qatar grows stronger and deeper every year. It is of paramount importance that we take this opportunity to endorse our shared commitment and take it to another level. We all know that building peace in the mind of women and men is not an easy task: it is a process that implies vision, strong dedication, trust, patience and delivery on commitments. Qatar has a special role to play by supporting and investing in UNESCO’s initiatives and promoting key values of shared interests, in a moment where the whole world contends with the COVID-19 crisis and the call to ‘build back better’ is more relevant than ever. There is great potential for such a vision, moving towards cementing a strong roadmap and aspirations of a culture of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.

The UNESCO team in Doha seizes this opportunity to express the deep value that it places upon the partnership that has been built between UNESCO and Qatar over the last 50 years and is confident that the firm ties established will continue to prevail in the next five decades, fostering innovative ideas to take forward our common vision.