Doha Forum Day Two: December 16 Recap

Welcome to this summary of the second day of Doha Forum, closing two days of exciting debates around the world’s most pressing issues. From the politics that affect our access to natural resources, to the role women can play in creating more lasting peace, we hope you have enjoyed and learned from today’s discussions with leading decision-makers, experts and advocates.


Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairsand the Qatar Fund for Developmenttoday signed agreements with multiple United Nations agencies to support humanitarian, counter-terrorism and relief programs around the world on the sidelines of Doha Forum. The multi-year assistance to ten UN agencies amounts to USD 500 million, including 28 million to the UN Development Program (UNDP), 8 million annually between 2019 and 2023 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 4 million annually to UNICEF and 15 million annually to the Security Council’s Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC). Qatar will also provide critical support to UNRWA, which received a strong blow this year after international funding was withdrawn, through a commitment of USD 16 million annually over the next two years.


 The Doha Forum ended on a hopeful note with a keynote speech by H.E. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General. Despite times of chaos and confusion, and what Guterres labeled as Trust Deficit Disorder, the SG said he sees winds of hope around the world. In the context of historic peace agreements in the Horn of Africa over the last year, a peace deal in South Sudan after years of war, and initiatives and actions for peace in the Korean peninsula, Guterres stated: “Hope blooming elsewhere. Commitments to peace in Colombia. Strengthened cooperation in Central Asia. Progress in resolving differences between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. UN peacekeeping missions in West Africa successfully concluding after years of work. And of course, hundreds of millions of people lifted out of extreme poverty across the world over the past three decades.”


The Turkish Foreign Minister, H.E Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, covered various aspects of Turkish foreign policies. While discussing the Jamal Khashoggi incident, he stated, “We expect Saudis to conduct a swift and transparent investigation”. He further explained, “President Erdogan has been very keen to deliver justice to the criminals.” H.E Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke about how the country has been reshaping its policies in a move to allow freedom of expression for journalists and providing a safe environment for them.”

Additionally, he explained that Turkey aims to provide a platform for dialogue between the GCC states to put an end to the Gulf crisis. He mentioned that the blockading nations have not been able to provide sufficient evidence against Qatar as promised.


CNN’s Business Emerging Markets Editor, John Defteriosmoderated a discussion on the future of world trade. Now in the middle of Brexit and the new protectionism of the Trump administration, Stephane Garelli, Professor Emeritus of World Competitiveness at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland commented, “What we are seeing with Brexit is that it is not easy to get out of the system.” “The WTO is 25 years old and it has brought about tremendous welfare to the people of the world,” added Volker Treler, Deputy CEO of the German Federal Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. “Free trade doesn’t mean that the rules are forever,” commented, H.E. Mr. Ali Bin Ahmed Al Kuwari, the Minister of Commerce and Industry for Qatar. “It is important to be fair to everyone. We need the platform the World Trade Organization (WTO) provides, and we should think in terms of the long-term instead of short-term gains.”


Nadia Muradreceived the Nobel Peace Prize last week, but despite the accolade she believes her work – to make sure the world does not forget about the thousands of women who are waiting to be rescued from ISIS – is far from done. The world knows Murad for escaping sexual slavery at the hands of ISIS and overcoming fear and shame to make sure the world heard her story. “Women find it difficult to speak about rape because of shame but terrorism will not be ended by weapons of war only, we have to use our voices,” she explained.

Murad maintained that the world should not be distracted or deluded by one story of heroism.

“The world is hearing us but there is little action on the ground to protect the victims of crimes against Yazidis. There are still at least 3,000 women missing from my town and there has been no effort to find them. The Nobel Prize has shed light on this issue but I fear tomorrow the world will forget.”

In a moving conversation with Rawaa Augé, Al Jazeera Arabic presenter, Murad spoke with a wisdom beyond her 25 years about why wartime rape is a manifestation of so many issues the region faces today. “The world needs to stop seeing women as weapons and to see them as humans. Religious clerics need to play a role in ensuring that religion is not used an excuse for extremist behavior.”

Despite the huge responsibility she has taken upon herself to remind the world of the horrors minorities continue to face, Murad is holding on to the dreams of her girlhood. “I want to go back and open a makeup salon in Sinjar and help make the girls in my hometown just a little happier.”


During this session, panelists agreed that the international community has the power to influence change in these conflict-zones.  Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, called for more early intervention, expressing his belief that the inaction of the international community led to a drastic escalation of the Syrian regime’s violence, as it monitored global reaction and raised its level of aggression when it saw it could act with impunity. Baraa Shiban, Member of Transitional Justice Working Group at the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference,commented, “The international discussion does not involve the local populations of Yemen. Instead, it revolves around Saudi and what its actions in Yemen reflect about it.”  Speaking about the ICC and whether it is still a viable option for Palestinians in their search of justice, Ata Hindi, Research Fellow of International Law at Birzeit University Institute of Law, said, “It is a mechanism and a necessary one. It’s not perfect, but the ICC understands that there are those that need to be held accountable.”


Ambassador Bader Al Dafa, Executive Director, Global Dryland Alliance, Djimé Adoum, Executive Secretary, Permanent Committee for Drought in the Sahel, Pablo Campana, Minister of Trade, Ecuador and Miguel Cuyaube, Future U.N. High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, participated in a panel on water sustainability and food security moderated by Dareen Abughaida. Al Dafa said, “Today 800 million suffer from hunger. The world population by 2030 will be 9 billion. It is a very serious issue and world leaders need to know how to deal with it.”

“We currently irrigate less than 20% of the arable land, producing once a year only. We need to produce 2-3 times a year to survive”, added Adoum. Campana said, “We need to fight together towards this world problem to manage it better. In the last 15 years, we have seen a 20% reduction in the glaciers that have lost a large amount of snow and ice.” Cuyaube expressed the need to engage in multinational companies: “The water reserves have dropped from 16,800 liters per year per city and he foresees a much worse situation in 2025, when it will reduce to only 4,000.”


The panelists in the parallel session discussed and analyzed China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, which aims at building a network of modern infrastructure to get easy access to major markets. The session provided diverse inputs, as the panel comprised of a European, Chinese, ASEAN and South Asian Perspective. Theresa Fallon, Director of Center for Russia Europe Asia Studies, said “Europeans are terrified having to choose a side when it comes to Belt and Road Initiative”, when the U.S stance against the Belt and Road Initiative was introduced to the discussion. Lu Miao, Secretary General of Center for China and Globalization stated, “Belt and Road Initiative is not a China project, but it will benefit all other countries that are part of it.”  She further added, “China is promoting peace and stability through the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Dr. Mohamad Maliki, Senior Minister of State of Singaporesaid, “China cannot be excluded in today’s world. China is very much entrenched within ASEAN.” Kabir Taneja, Associate Fellow at Observation Research Foundation said, “India knows that it cannot catch up to China’s Belt and Road initiative. Therefore, it is a natural reaction to pull away from the initiative.”


The parallel session on Russia’s global role drew a packed crowd, with Vitaly Naumkin, the Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies leading the discussion by pointing out that Russia has not really re-emerged on the international arena, it just took a break during the 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed.

“Nobody should be surprised that Russia is so proactive now,” said Naumkin.

“Trade and investment are the most important elements to establishing a relationship,” said Fahad Al-Attiyah, the Qatari ambassador to Russia. “Qatar has invested $15 billion in Russia. That’s a start but to really understand each other Russia has to start communicating in Arabic or English to us. Not many Qataris speak Russian.”

Andrey Kortunov, the Director-General of the Russian Affairs Council, also think Russia has to develop more soft power tools.” He spoke of how the Russian ability to adapt and change will be the key to its presence on the global stage.

“The United States overestimates Russia in some areas and underestimates it in others,” said Paul Saunders, the Executive Director of the Center for National Interest. “Russia is constrained because of the size of its economy but the Middle East is a favorable region for it to have a role.”


In the day’s fourth plenary session, three of the world’s leading experts on oil and gas markets discussed the future of hydrocarbon investment against a backdrop of volatility – whether market volatility in oil prices, trade volatility due to increasing global trade tensions, or the always unpredictable twitter feed of US President Donald Trump.

Led by Dmitry Zhdannikov, Thomson Reuters Editor in Charge, Energy Markets, the panel tackled the role of OPEC in a changing market, and the threat of US “NOPEC” legislation.

H.E. Mr Saad Sherida Al-Kaalbi, Minister of State for Energy Affairsassured the audience that Qatar’s withdrawal from OPEC was based on a simple evaluation of the pros and cons, stating that “leaving OPEC is not a matter of national security…we have simply left a cartel that is managing price and production of producers and sellers.”

Dr. Yury Sentyurin, Secretary General of GECF asked the audience to make a distinction between OPEC and the Gas Forum, which is not a cartel, but an organization dedicated to research and model-building for the gas and energy markets.

Discussing the need to continue investing in energy to feed development and growth in world markets, Claudio Descalzi,CEO of ENI said: “To invest in the right way you need the right price. The world needs energy, and worldwide, we need some sort of regulator. Managing return on investment over a span of ten, twenty, or forty years requires require some control over volatility.”


Doha Forum welcomed Chief Palestinian Negotiator, Saeb Erakat on the main stage in a newsmaker interview where he talked about the evolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, emphasizing that peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved for so long as Palestine remains occupied. He said, “In order to end extremism in the Middle East, Israel’s occupation needs to end.”

Fending off criticism from a member of the audience, Erakat outlined the Palestinian efforts to seek peace with Israel and stated, “As Palestinians, we have done everything to achieve peace.” He further explained that Palestine always is open to a political solution, but only on fair and equal terms and firmly said that “Palestine and Jerusalem are not for sale.” Emphasizing that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a political rather than a religious one, Saeb Erakat said “Judaism was never a threat, is not a threat, and will never be a threat to me. This is not a religious conflict but a political one.”


Moderated by Mely Anthony, Head of Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, RSIS, the session on ‘Gender and Mediation and the Role of Women in Conflict Resolution’, ignited an enlightening discussion. Ivonne Baki, Ambassador of Ecuador to Qatar, Ann Phillips, Senior Advisor, U.S. Institute of Peace, Delia Albert, Philippines Former Foreign Secretary and Meenakshi Gopinath, Director, Women in Security Conflict Management and Peace, threw light on how women can play a role at the forefront of peacekeeping and negotiations.

Mely kicked off the session by asking the panelists about the progress in the UN peace building and women’s role in it.

“Too many women in too many countries speak the same language of silence’. The fact that women can be at the peace table is due to their own experience of marginalization and injustice”, said Meenakshi.

“After many years of conflict in the Philippines, we had a breakthrough and decided on a negotiating team of 5 people, of which 4 were women. This team was tasked to settle religious differences in the country”, added Delia.


The panelist in the parallel session discussed and analyzed the complexities that fall under the umbrella of Extremism. The panel explained the process of how extremists group recruit, radicalize and create a rhetoric that attracts young individuals. While proposing an approach to counter extremism, Elisabeth Kendall, a Senior Research Fellow at in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Oxford University, said “We need a strong local knowledge on how extremist group works to tailor case specific policies to counter the spread of extremist recruitment. One single policy cannot be implemented in every case.” Anne Speckhard, Director at International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, commented “we can kill a man, but you cannot kill an idea” while talking about different conflict zones.

 Peter Bergen, Vice President of Global Studies & Fellows at New American Foundationsaid: “ISIS is Middle Eastern and a European Phenomena, not a Western one”. Further developing the topic, Oomar Mulbocus, Counselor at UK Prevent, stated “ISIS can smell vulnerability in youngsters from miles away. We need to help the youngsters to overcome their vulnerabilities to avoid radicalization.”


Mahjooh Zweiri, the Director of the Gulf Studies Center at Qatar University,moderated a discussion that looked at the impact of sanctions on Iran and the Gulf crisis, potential cooperation on the energy front with Russia and long-term demand for natural gas in Asia.

“To call Iran out of the oil market is a big phrase,” said Simon Henderson, Director of the Bernstein Program on the Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The sanctions from 2010 actually worked to change Iran’s perceptions,” added Kristan Ulrichsen from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

“The Gulf crisis has allowed Qatar to make independent decisions and not be subject to Saudi dictates,” said Ulrichsen. There was further discussion about the decision by Qatar Petroleum to enter into a joint venture with Exxon Mobil to drill for natural gas in Block 10 in the Eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Cyprus. All panelists agreed that demand for natural gas from Asia will continue to be strong although the price might be affected by Australia’s production which now exceeds that of Qatar. That situation is likely to change as Qatar increases production in the coming years.


The panelists in the plenary session discussed various aspects of serving individuals in need. While addressing conflicts and conflict zones, Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director at UNICEF, deemed social cohesion a necessity to avoid future conflicts. She said, “Social cohesion in a society is essential for peace and stability”.

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock elaborated on the importance of innovation in humanitarian response. He said, “Today, the response to crises is much better as compared to 30 years ago. Innovation has made humanitarian response easier and has helped in saving lives.”

Khalifa Al Kuwari, the Director General at Qatar Fund for Development,elaborated on different projects that Qatar is undertaking to serve the people in need. He commented, “As part of the international community, we have a responsibility to help the people and the communities in need.”