The eighth Gulf Studies Forum, organized by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, kicked off on Saturday, 27 November 2021, the first of two days. This year, The theme for the Forum’s domestic track this year addresses the policies and repercussions of the response of Gulf states to Covid-19. The international relations track takes up the implications of Gulf states reconciliation. The event welcomes the participation of 30 researchers from the Arab region and abroad, with their research divided into 12 sessions, including a public lecture. The forum was opened in attendance of the Qatari Minister of Culture, His Excellency Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Hamad Al Thani, President of Qatar University, Hassan Rashid Al-Derham, and a number of ambassadors and consuls.
The forum was opened by Arab Center Researcher and Chairman of the Gulf Studies Forum, Marwan Kabalan, who emphasized the importance of the forum, which has been held since December 2014, as an academic platform specialized in studying the political, economic, social and cultural affairs of the Arab Gulf region. So far, the forum has covered social and economic reforms in the GCC, education, economic diversification, the blockade of Qatar, social transformations, identity and values in the Gulf, public policy-making, Gulf security, relations between the Gulf countries and the US and Iran, and sovereign wealth funds. The forum has continued without interruption, despite the various political crises and the ongoing pandemic, without losing interest or participation in the forum.
The first session, “Gulf Reconciliation: the Background and Potential Challenges,” was chaired by Marwan Kabalan. Majed al-Turki, Head of the Center for Media and Arab-Russian Studies in Riyadh, began with his paper on “Gulf Reconciliation and Potential Challenges to the Path of Gulf Rapprochement.” He was followed by Professor of International Relations at Kuwait University, Abdullah al-Shayji, who presented his paper, “The Incomplete Gulf Reconciliation: Reasons and Repercussions.” Head of the Qatar International Academy for Security Studies, Majed al-Ansari presented the next paper on “The Regional Arab Gulf System in the Post Gulf Crisis Period” and Researcher, Abdullah al-Ghailani concluded the panel with “Gulf Reconciliation: Reading of the Prospects for Regional Security.”
The second session in the Gulf Reconciliation track again focused on the background and potential challenges of the Gulf Reconciliation, chaired by Abdullah Baabood. Professor of Political Sociology in the Sociology and Social Work Department at Kuwait University, Mohammed Ghanem al-Rumaihi spoke on “Prospects for Regional and International Alliances after the Gulf Reconciliation”, while Executive Director of the Gulf Monitoring Group, Dhafer al-Ajmi, presented “Gulf "Nose-Greeting" Diplomacy: Full Reconciliation or Temporary Truce?” The panel was concluded by Khalid Al-Jaber, Director of the Middle East North Africa Center in Washington DC, with his paper “Gulf Reconciliation and International Competition in the Gulf Region.”
The parallel session on Covid-19 explored “The Double Blow of Covid-19 and the Oil shock,” under the moderation of Al Jawhara Al-Obaidan. Kuwaiti Economics Professor, Nayef Nazal al-Shammari, presented his paper, “The GCC States' Response to Covid-19 and its Economic Implications in light of a Double Blow” followed by Ahmed Aref, Public Policy Researcher at the Doha International Family Institute, whose paper was titled “Social Justice under Covid-19: A Comparative Study of Health and Socio-Economic Policy Responses” The panel was rounded off by Tarek ben Hassen, Assistant Professor of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Qatar and his intervention, “The GCC States after Covid-19: Towards Knowledge Economies in the Post-Oil Era.”
Following the lunch break the Gulf Reconciliation track looked at “Gulf Reconciliation and Relations with Iran,” chaired by Abdullah al-Ghailani. Mohammed Al-Mesfer, Retired Professor of the University of Qatar, spoke on “Iran's Regional Policy Following the Gulf Reconciliation and the new Administration in Tehran,” followed by Robert Mason, Non-Resident Fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, who presented “Saudi - Iranian Talks: On Track to De-escalation in the Middle East?” Director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University, Mahjoob Zweiri, concluded the panel with his paper, “Iran and the Arab Gulf States: Whither Relations Post the Ula Agreement?”
The parallel session was devoted to “Kuwait's Response to Covid-19 and Its Repercussions,” under the moderation of Yacoub Al-Kandari. Fahd Yusuf al-Fadala, Consultant at the Arab Planning Institute in Kuwait, and Mohammed Batwaih, Senior fellow at the Arab Planning Institute in Kuwait, presented “Kuwaiti Public Policy and the Covid-19 Crisis.” The second paper by Malak al-Rasheed, Associate Professor of Social Work at Kuwait University, looked at “Kuwait's response to Covid-19 and its handling of migrant labor.”
Following the conference sessions, a public lecture was delivered by Guy Peters, Maurice Falk Professor of American Government at the University of Pittsburgh, on “The GCC Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Actions and Lessons Learned,” under the moderation of Khalid Rashid Al-Khater. He discussed the GCC responses to the pandemic, making note of the similarities and differences between these countries. He also compared the response of these countries to that of other countries in the world, in the MENA and elsewhere. The researcher pointed out that although the Gulf countries were able to achieve high vaccination rates, many questions remain about other aspects of managing the pandemic that are important to work on in the event of new waves of the epidemic or the outbreak of other epidemics, especially regarding economic diversification and public health programs.