DOHA FORUM Concludes With Messages Of Hope


Doha Forum held in Qatar under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of Qatar, the 20th Edition of the Doha Forum concluded on Sunday 27th March. Over two days, high level officials, policy makers, academics and thought leaders representing more than 30 countries discussed changing realities under the umbrella of ‘Transforming for a New Era’.  The closing sessions featured H.E. Dr. Vjosa Osmani, President of the Republic of Kosovo, H.E. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs, France, as well as H.E. Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA. 

Doha Forum hosted more than 2300 guests in Qatar, including more than 200 panelists from 142 nationalities and 104 countries, who contributed to more than 50 sessions across the two-day event. Closing the Doha Forum, H.E. Dr. Vjosa Osmani spoke of Kosovo’s experience with multilateralism, when the international community responded to the conflict In the Balkans, ending the war, saying “with history constantly being made and new alliances being formed… multilateralism has never been more important. If we want to transform for a new era, we need to do it hand in hand.”

This year’s Forum saw a number of discussions and events take place on the sidelines.  The Qatar-Africa Business Forum brought together political and business leaders discussing the burgeoning relationship between Qatar and countries within Africa and explore opportunities for further collaboration. Qatar Foundation launched the Earthna Center for a Sustainable Future, which will examine ways to transition towards a more sustainable future through a holistic lens. The Global Sports Programme organized a High-Level Round-Table on the Protection of Major Sporting Events and the Use of Sports’ Values for the Prevention of Violent Extremism. The session brought together experts from sport, civil society and international organizations to discuss priorities in harnessing sport to prevent and counter extremism and violence.  Powered by Qatar Fund for Development, the Digital Citizen Fund’s BRITE (Building Resilience Through Innovation, Technology, and Education) initiatives exhibited the work of the “Afghan Dreamers”, the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, alongside other recipients of BRITE’s educational STEM programs.

More than 30 signings and individual MoUs took place during Doha Forum, which hosted more than 350 international and local media.  Doha Forum’s Viewpoint series returned with more than 30 VVIP interviews, while ECFR, Foreign Policy, RUSI, Wilson Centre, Stimson Centre, Doha Debates and HBKU used an on-site podcast studio to capture the latest by the thought leaders in attendance at Doha Forum.

Day Two sessions included:

Newsmaker Interview

In a newsmaker interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson, Dr. Sayyid Kamal Kharrazi, President, Strategic Council on Foreign Relations; Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Islamic Republic of Iran responded to questions about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) and how the resumption of negotiations would help shape Iran’s economic landscape and alliances with Western countries.

Next Anderson interviewed Robert Malley, United States Special Representative for Iran, who mapped the steps the US has taken to further the JCPoA while addressing concerns for the US, Iran, and the Gulf region. 

Spheres of Influence in the Age of Unpeace

This session discussed the shifting dynamics determining power and control in the modern era, particularly the conflict in Ukraine.  H.E. Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum, spoke of the global response to Russia’s breach of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, in contravention of agreed upon norms, and the effect this has had within Europe in particular.

H.E. Ivan Korčok, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Slovak Republic agreed, stating that this showed how “Ukraine is definitely becoming part of the political West… a watershed moment.”

With an increasingly unified Western bloc, as represented by NATO, there remains a regional difference in terms of responses to this conflict. H.E. Hina Rabbani Khar, Member of National Assembly, Pakistan spoke of how the Ukrainian conflict will “be felt not just regionally as has been the norm for most interventions, but also in the rest of the world,” continuing that non-Western powers have “seen Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo and how these wars have been conducted… [this] has left a deep dent in the reputation of the West.”  

Economic Crises and Coordinated Global Recovery Efforts: Towards An Inclusive Multilateralism

This session discussed the vulnerabilities of the global economic system – from supply chain disruptions to structural issues within existing institutional frameworks. H.E. Ali bin Ahmed Al-Kuwari, Ministry of Finance and former Minister of Commerce and Industry said 

 “International organisations like the IMF play a really important role, but they are not the only solution,” adding that “we still have instability [in the world] following the COVID-19 pandemic…the Ukrainian crisis.” 

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, also stressed the importance of stability as necessary to peace, saying “the root cause [of the current economic situation] is the war in Ukraine. The faster the tanks are out, the faster the tractors are in.” 

Georgieva also highlighted the IMF’s role in protecting people, saying: “We calculated at the IMF that the pandemic cost the world economy 30.8 trillion dollars and billions to vaccinate people. So we spend trillions to protect billions.” 

Addressing the Effects of Climate Change Today: Adaptation Policies for a Climate-Resilient Future

This session outlined the actions needed to help lower-income countries and farmers avoid climate disaster and adapt to changing conditions. Bill Gates, Co-founder of Microsoft; Co-chairperson of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reinforced this, announcing Nanmo, a new partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Qatar Fund for Development, that will support and deploy game-changing innovations.

H.E. Marcelo Ebrard, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico stressed the importance of implementing a mechanism across regions and countries, recommended each participating country contribute sum relative to their emissions. H.E. Khalifa Jassim Al-Kuwari, Director General, Qatar Fund for Development, discussed the need for strong political commitment, international and regional policy, and technological mechanisms to tackle climate change through a holistic approach. He further reiterated the significance of Nanmo in reducing the inequalities faced by small-scale farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly through helping scale up productivity.

Mark Suzman, Chief Executive Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, further highlighted the importance of policy and resource prioritization at the regional level, particularly ways to increase resource allocations, providing agricultural tools, and utilizing new digital soil mapping techniques.

Maja Groff, Convenor, Climate Governance Commission, reiterated that “mitigation and adaptation challenges are formidable challenges.” By scaling up and accelerating knowledge and technology transfers, countries can learn from each other and adopt innovative means of facilitating sustainable economic solutions for the future.

Geopolitical Implications of the Russia-Ukraine War on the Middle East

This session discussed Russia’s conflict with Ukraine and its impact on MENA and beyond.

Mr. Ibrahim Kalin, Chief Counsellor to the President of the Turkish Republic spoke on the need for mediation, saying “Russia will not go away, the western bloc will remain there and Ukraine will still be an independent country, but mediation efforts to end this war will be key in shaping this renewed security architecture.” He continued, “We have kept our lines of communications with Ukraine and Russia open, which is very good. Even though we have disagreed with Russia in Syria, we have managed to discuss our differences.”

Congresswoman Jane Harman, Distinguished Fellow and President Emerita, Wilson Center, lauded Qatar for the important role it is playing to help solve the energy crisis following the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, “My impression is that Qatar is trying to do what it can to meet this request, but the issue is all its [oil and gas] supplies are fully committed, with some heading to Europe and Asia.”

Dr. John Gong, Professor of Economics, University of International Business and Economics discussed China’s role in the crisis between Ukraine and Russia, and why his country has yet to apply sanctions on the Russians, explaining that “China shares a very long border with Russia, if we put sanctions on Russia we will have issues with them. Almost all countries that have put sanctions on Russia have some kind of nuclear protection, China does not.” He also stated that the United States has been promoting a narrative that all countries must put sanctions on Russia or else they will be considered strong supporters of the war.

Mohammad Hassan Sheikholeslami, Deputy Foreign Minister, Iran and President of the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) stated: “Iran has started constructive negotiations with Qatar as well as with the UAE and we have also had discussions with Saudi Arabia. We were supposed to have the fifth round of negotiations with KSA but it did not happen due to the recent events which we are against and [find] unacceptable.”

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Qatar Dr. Majid Al-Ansari stressed that his country is against the war between Ukraine and Russia, saying: “The position is crystal clear – we are against military escalation.”  He continued: “It is our duty to facilitate the communication between small and medium power countries and large power countries.”

On the importance of creating a new world order which includes the United States and its allies, Al-Ansari said: “If the West expects the rest of the world to respect the international world order, then the West, the United States, and their allies really need to talk with the rest of the world. We are moving to a multipolar world. Let’s talk together about how to get there because if we don’t, we will see a world where everybody is dying.”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Challenges and Opportunities for a New Era

In this session, panellists discussed rapid advances in technology and how they are revolutionizing the way we live, work, play and engage.

Mohammed bin Ali Al Mannai, minister of Communications and Information in Qatar discussed utilising technology that already exists stating, “We should invest in equipping the existing resources to reach future needs.”

While previous industrial shifts (steam and water power, electricity and assembly lines, and computerization) have unfolded more gradually, the advancements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are occurring at a faster pace, disrupting sectors and economies in almost every country. Børge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum, commented on this phenomenon and added, “Covid helped a digital transformation, that would have happened over ten years, happen in two years.” 

The panellists also discussed Africa’s journey in technological advancements and the importance it has on the future of Africa from an economic and educational standpoint.

Patrice Motsepe, founder and Executive Chairman, African Rainbow Minerals, South Africa, commented on the importance of inclusivity in technology, stating, “We want to encourage Africans to develop African technology,” adding, “Innovation does not have its source or origin anymore.”

Perilous Waters: Peace and Prosperity in the Indo-Pacific

In the “Perilous Waters: Peace and Prosperity in the Indo-Pacific”, Southeast Asian economic and political leaders delved into the importance of securing the stability of the region.

Emphasizing the significance of the Indo-Pacific region as a place of peace, neutrality, and freedom, H.E Retno Marsudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Indonesia, commented: “ASEAN would like to achieve a mindset of dialogue and collaboration, which offers nurturing, strategy, and trust. Concrete ASEAN cooperation prioritizes issues of maritime, connectivity, attainment of SDGs, and the creation of an inclusive regional architecture”.

Building on the sentiment, YB Dato’ Kamarudin Jaffar, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia, also highlighted the need to protect the region’s role in global trade routes and stated: “ASEAN needs to be more consolidated and forceful in our disagreement when violations of our territorial integrity happen.”

Stressing the need for international support for the region’s prosperity, Lisa Curtis, Senior Fellow and Director, Indo-Pacific Security Program, reflected on the US’ contribution to the region’s development: “The US sees the region as vital, and it will work closely with its allies and partners for furthering stability and prosperity in the region. We need to work more closely with our allies in Asia to meet challenges and preserve its rules-based order.”

Vaccine Distribution: Collaborative Solutions for an Equitable System

This session revolved around global contributions to vaccine equity and efforts in tackling the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sultana Afdhal, CEO, World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), initiated the discussion with an emphasis on the humanitarian consequences of the failure of vaccine equity, the latter being “more complex than we think.” Finding cost-effective sustainable solutions to the most pressing challenges is one of WISH’s priorities, along with building on the lessons learned from the current pandemic.

H.E. Carl Bildt, European Council on Foreign Relations and Former Prime Minister of Sweden; WHO Special Envoy for the ACT-Accelerator, stated, “what has been achieved so far is the triumph of science and the failure of politics – the inequity that we see.” H.E. Bildt highlighted the acute danger of more variants and the pressing need for ongoing dialogue and further funding.

Mark Suzman, Chief Executive Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, pointed out that global health and inequity is not a new phenomenon. The world did not distribute the first wave of vaccines equitably, in fact “it disproportionately went to high-income countries.” He mentions that as we learned the lesson as a world, we now have the capacity to develop the necessary resources to respond to the vaccine inequity better.

Lady Roselyn Morauta, Vice Chair, The Global Fund, stressed The Global Fund’s position as the largest provider of grant funds to lower-income countries for non-vaccine tools – diagnostic tests, personal protective equipment, etc. In fact, “in the last two years, over 3 billion has gone to Africa in non-vaccine support.” She argued that the past two years have strengthened partnerships: “COVID has forced global health institutions to work much closer together […] there’s a lot more sharing of information and collaboration.”

Reshaping Palestinian Narratives: Who is Listening and Can it Make a Difference?

In this session, participants discussed the core shifts in the Palestinian narrative and how they came about.

Fadi Quran, Campaign Director, AVAAZ, said that the main change has been “the return of a sense of [Palestinian] agency. We’re shifting from a narrative of dependence and asking ‘where are the millions’ and saying we need a peace process from outside…The shackles of that dependency are falling on the ground and Palestinians are starting to say our destiny is in our hands and we’re going to take control of it.”

Diana Buttu, Palestinian Lawyer, Analyst and Former Legal Advisor to the PLO Negotiation Team, agreed, adding, “My participation in the negotiations for many years made me realize it was futile – it was the equivalent to negotiating with a gun to your head. We really are at a watershed moment with human rights organizations repeating what Palestinians have been saying for a long time, which is that this is apartheid. We as a people have to be pushing and shaping and shifting the narrative, to make our destiny and push it forward using our own language for our own struggle.”

Peter Beinart, Editor-at-Large, Jewish Currents, explained how perceptions have begun to shift among American audiences as well. “What we’ve seen in American public opinion is a dramatic bifurcation. 20 years ago, Americans favoured Israel over Palestine, now democrats favour sanctions against Israel…Why is this happening on the American left? Because over the last 20 years, Israel has moved from a foreign policy issue to a culture war issue, similar to the gun debate, the abortion debate, and the vaccine debate.”

He continued, “This is partly the impact of the black lives matter and me too movements…That embarrassment of talking about people without having them as part of the conversation has filtered down to the Israel-Palestine debate. There are many more Palestinian voices and it changes the conversation completely.”

Rt. Hon. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Member, House of Lords, UK, reflected on how the Russian invasion of Ukraine is also shifting narratives: “When we look at the unfolding war in Ukraine, all the things we’ve been saying in the West were too difficult to do we’ve been doing, such as boycotts and sanctions. There was a big argument about how not to politicize sports but we’re doing that now. The fact that some of the policy making in Western capitals is hypocritical is not new. But the challenge becomes real when that hypocrisy becomes so overt that it’s difficult to frame it in any kind of logical, reasonable argument. There comes a point when electorally it becomes untenable for you to ignore the obvious and justify the hypocritical and the Ukraine war presents one of those points.”

Newsmaker Interview – Dr. Omar Suleiman

Dr. Omar Suleiman, Founder and President, Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research discussed the role of religion in his life as an activist and as a Muslim scholar, as well as the role of religion and its interconnectivity with social justice. He specifically focused on Islam, stating that “The assumption often is that you have to adjust religion in order to be a part of the plight for human dignity, whereas this is something that is entrenched deeply in the tradition of Islam… Islam being the first explicity anti-racist tradition in history”.

The Evolving Landscape of Strategic Alliances

The alliances carried forward from World War II and the Cold War were aimed at guaranteeing the security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states. In this session, panelists discussed how alliances are evolving along with a fast-changing and increasingly multipolar framework and how effective and efficient they are in maintaining peace and security.

Amb. Wolfgang Ischinger, President of the Foundation Council, Munich Security Conference Foundation stated, “Alliances as such are not by definition good or bad. Defensive alliances like NATO can be an important instrument of non-proliferation.”

H.E. Dr. Khalid bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs commented on strategic alliances by saying that even though Qatar is a non-NATO ally, albeit a major one, the country’s role has become significant as the second largest exporter of energy.

“We are from a region in which we understand importances of alliances, being a part of bigger alliances, because of so many things. We have a responsibility not just to our people, but to the whole of the world.”

According to Patrick Turner, Assistant Secretary General for Defense Policy and Planning, NATO, the current Russian invasion of Ukraine goes beyond European borders, stating, “There are several levels where we should not just think of formal alliances. The situation we face now is not about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or European security issue….it’s a global issue. It’s an assault on our values.”

Newsmaker Interview – Malala Yousafzai

In a Newsmaker session, activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai spoke of the importance of higher education for girls and women in Afghanistan, citing that it was the only country in the world without secondary education for its female population.

“There are so many girls out there can be changemakers, leaders, if the system does not stop them.”

How to End An Enduring Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan

According to panelists in this session, Afghanistan is in the throes of a massive economic crisis which is exacerbating the unfolding humanitarian crises. With international resources for humanitarian assistance stretched with several crises, the overriding priority in the short term is to save lives while preventing an acute crisis from becoming a chronic one that destabilizes the region.

In light of the Afghan caretaker government’s refusal to allow girls to return to school, Markus Potzel, German Ambassador to Afghanistan stated that it is “hard to convince…our taxpayers to pay money for a defacto regime that deprives girls of their right to education… a right that is founded in international law…The Taliban are violating international law and violating Islamic law.”

The discussion addressed the complexities behind and obstacles to delivering adequate assistance to Afghanistan, with HE Khalid Payenda, former Finance Minister, Afghanistan calling on Western powers to “be mindful of the unintended consequences of your assistance…hold Taliban accountable.”  Panelists elaborated on how Afghanistan could effect a functional economy, with the sustainable delivery of food, healthcare and education to its people. 

Fatima Gailani, Afghan, women’s rights campaigner stressed the need for Afghans to be involved in the development of any solution moving forward, articulating that “we won war after war [against superpowers] but achieved nothing…Because we didn’t follow a political solution that is designed by Afghans.” 

Rina Amiri, U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights elaborated on this, saying that the Afghan caretaker government needs to talk to their own people rather than focusing on the international community, stating that ultimately “it’s up to them, are they going to go backward, or are they going to let the country move forward?”