The 6th Annual Gulf Studies Forum was held in Doha this weekend. Gathering researchers and experts from the region and beyond, the forum was split into two tracks, "Public Policymaking in the Gulf States" and "Threats to the Gulf States in the Regional and International Environment".
The forum was kicked off with opening remarks from Marwan Kabalan, Head of the Unit for Political Studies at the Arab Center, who stressed the importance of studying the region comprehensively and the critical nature of the topics for discussions. Kabalan stressed that the Arab Center has, over the past five years, pioneered this forum as one of its distinguished research programs. It has become an annual tradition held in the first week of December, which researchers from the region and the world have become keen to participate in, evidenced by the significant increase in applicants every year. Over the last six years, about 300 researchers from more than 50 countries around the world have offered papers in the fields of politics, economy, education, media, identity, economic diversification, Gulf social values and policymaking.
Dr Kabalan went on to introduce Abdulaziz Bin Nasser Al-Khalifa, CEO of Qatar Development Bank, who gave a public lecture on "The Role of Qatar Development Bank in Achieving Development Policies in Qatar," during which he spoke about the contribution and strategy of the Qatar Development Bank towards economic diversification and private sector growth with a focus on SMEs and entrepreneurship. Khalifa pointed out that the bank seeks to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, especially among Qatari employees, and to enhance levels of productivity, increase the proportion of exports of non-hydrocarbon services to GDP, and increase the contribution of the private sector to the local economy, strengthening Qatar as a regional center for priority sectors. Khalifa then tackled the challenges facing the Qatari private sector and the bank's efforts to overcome them, including developing the economic environment and infrastructure, developing administrative and legislative frameworks, enhancing access to information and training, and enhancing access to appropriate financing. Khalifa concluded his lecture by talking about the bank's plans to double its contribution to Qatar's GDP, supporting self-sufficiency efforts and increasing the added value across the priority sectors in Qatar.
Following Al-Khalifa's lecture, the forum split into separate tracks, policymaking and international relations. The policymaking track explored economic diversification policies and labour in the Gulf, with papers being presented on economic integration, labour policies and patterns of social inclusion. The second session looked at civil society and public policymaking in Kuwait, with the panel focusing on women and youth participation and civil society organisations. The third session was dedicated to the urgent need for state policy to address climate change in the Gulf. The speakers discussed urban planning, water policy, sustainability and natural geographic challenges.
Session one of the international track explored Gulf State reactions to security challenges. The panel debated both international and regional relations and security challenges and patterns. The second session looked at Gulf State responses to security risks, dealing with the non-existent Gulf Naval Force, Oman's And Kuwait's statecraft toward Saudi Arabia and Oman's Iran policy. The third session focused on US-Iranian tensions and the repercussions on Gulf security, especially in light of the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
Discussions on Gulf security and public policymaking continued the next day. The policymaking track focused on education, higher education and language policy in the Gulf for the first session. Special attention was given to language policy and identity in Qatar and the concept of citizenship in education strategies as well as Omani education policy in preparation for its 2040 vision. The final two panels were dedicated to policy challenges in the Gulf, with the first of these looking at various decision-making mechanisms, Gulf representative councils, the role of public opinion polls and human rights policies. The last session looked at political reform in Saudi Arabia and government policy in accordance with the Qatar Vision 2030.
The international relations track for the second day started with a session on Energy Security in the Gulf, with papers dedicated to managing regional security threats in the energy sector and nuclear projects in the GCC States as well as Russian-Saudi dialogue and the future of OPEC+. The second session looked at Gulf security in light of regional conflicts where speakers touched on the future of Gulf security given the ongoing GCC crisis, how political change in Iraq effects future collective security, and the spillover of the US-Iran crisis on the region. The final session was dedicated to analyzing Turkey's regional political and military role as well as the relationship between congress and the Gulf States. The session also investigated the prospect of engaging the UN security council in the embargo on Qatar.