Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 01:38 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 01:38 | SYDNEY

Qatar: Hitting hard with soft power

8 March 2010 12:28

Carla Liuzzo is a freelance consultant living in Doha, Qatar.

For a tiny desert state, Qatar punches well above its weight diplomatically. In February alone, Qatar welcomed alleged war criminal Omar al Bashir to Doha to broker a ceasefire agreement between Sudan, Chad and rival factions in Darfur; invited two Iranian naval vessels to Doha port for the first time in a decade; and hosted US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton for a 'town hall meeting'. 

Clinton came to Doha to drum up support for tougher sanctions against Iran and her choice of forum was significant. While most people are aware (if misinformed) about Qatar's flagship organisation, the Al Jazeera television network, few people outside Qatar would be aware of another remarkable diplomatic venture.

Clinton was hosted by the Qatar Foundation, the nation's expansive empire of global education, science, technology and cultural organisations set up by the Emir and overseen by his wife, the impressive Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned. The ambitious project was created in the name of community development, and further bolsters Qatar's regional influence. 

Six of America's most prestigious universities (including Georgetown, Cornell and Carnegie Mellon) have set up campuses alongside a science and technology park housing innovation centres for Microsoft, Rolls-Royce and Shell. Due to open in 2012 is an academic health science centre worth US$7.9 billion and likely to become the finest medical facility in the Gulf. The foundation has also purchased a full classical orchestra and built a colossal Arabian equestrian centre.

Public diplomacy efforts like the Qatar Foundation and Al Jazeera are vital for performing a delicate diplomatic balancing act for Qatar, an Islamic nation with Arab and Persian heritage and near total reliance on the US for security.

Photo by Flickr user Doha Sam, used under a Creative Commons license.