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 organised by Qatar Debate, a member of Qatar Foundation (QF). It focused on the future of political relation between Gulf countries.
The event at Multaqa 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 specialising 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.
Dr Abu Saleeb emphasised 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.”
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 emphasised 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 co-operation and integration between the populations of all Gulf countries,” said Dr Baabood. “The Gulf Co-operation 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."
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."