HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has called for a “gradual change” in the Arab world, through reforms and dialogues.
“The global political and economic landscape saw major changes in recent years and the Arab world too was affected by these new realities,” he stated yesterday in the opening address of the 13th annual Doha Forum.
“What we see in the Arab world today is the call by people for comprehensive reforms and an increase in their political participation in the management of public affairs.”
The Emir inferred that the main driving forces for these calls for change in the Arab world, especially those affected by the Arab Spring, were the widespread poverty, lack of human rights and corrupt regimes.
“Democracy means more than just casting votes,” he said while stressing the need to establish strong institutions, a good education system and awareness about democratic ideals and Islam too upholds the principles of democracy and social justice.
“Throughout the region, we need to bring forth changes through reform and dialogue gradually, as it is a less risky path, especially in societies where the social fabric is complex.”
The Emir expressed confidence that “those who reject reform and change, and are unable to understand the realities of the age and modern societies’ needs, are bound to be transformed by the necessities of history and the passage of time, as people neither live on slogans nor are they satisfied with ideologies”.
About Syria, he said he was ‘saddened’ that Arab initiatives did not achieve their goals and called on the international community to do more.
“We feel sorrow and grief to see the brotherly Syrian people’s revolution entering its third year without a clear prospect for ending the bloody conflict. The international community can no longer stand still as we see the humanitarian crisis unfold in Syria. Sadly all this is happening after the failure of all Arab and international initiatives to push the Syrian regime to listen to the voice of reason.”
He stressed on the importance of stability and peace between Palestinians and Israelis. “Unless we uphold the Palestinian cause, we cannot see peace. Palestinians have the right to establish a state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
The Emir called on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders. “Israel should not lose this opportunity to achieve peace,” he said.
“We have heard in the past that reform has to be put aside until a peaceful settlement is reached with Israel, but everyone should realise that such thinking is no longer tenable after the Arab Spring revolutions, which have set Israel in direct confrontation today with the Arab people and not only with their rulers. The people will not accept anymore that negotiations be an end to itself and a serious effort must be made to achieve peace.”
The Emir highlighted Qatar’s significant efforts in helping developing countries achieve their Millennium Development Goals. He said Qatar believes in international co-operation in achieving peace throughout the world.
“The Doha Forum has become an international forum that discusses regional issues, which paves the way for collaborative actions.”
He hoped that the conference would help develop ideas that took into consideration the best interests of “our people”.
Earlier, HE the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani welcomed the delegates and highlighted the fact that it was because of HH the Emir’s efforts that the country was hosting the event since April 2001. “I am confident the next generations will remember what HH the Emir has achieved in terms of progress and development,” he said.
Observing that the Doha Forum has become an annual platform bringing together experts from political and economic spheres, the Prime Minister said that like previous years, the 13th Doha Forum believed freedom and social justice were the cornerstones of successful societies.
“We are hopeful the Doha Forum will continue to discuss all challenges and determine what steps are needed in our societies.”
The three-day Doha Forum draws together political leaders, academics, analysts, representatives of intergovernmental organisations and other members of the foreign policy community to examine pressing issues in the world today as well as key Middle Eastern issues with global relevance.