On 26 January of this year Kuwait marked with pride the 10th anniversary of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s accession as 15th ruler of the State of Kuwait. As His Highness the Amir enters the 11th year of his glorious reign, we look back at some of the major milestones in an illustrious career dedicated to the service of Kuwait and its people.
His Highness was born on 16 June, 1929 as the fourth son of the then Amir Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. Following the discovery of oil in 1939, Kuwait’s geopolitical influence in the region and on the international scene began to grow. It was in the wake of these new developments in the country that the young Sheikh Sabah was sent abroad by his father so that he could have wider exposure to the international arena and hone his professional and diplomatic skills.
On his return to the country in 1954, Sheikh Sabah was assigned to the committee responsible for restructuring various state organizations and, a year later, headed the Social Affairs and Labor section. This was a time when Kuwait’s rapidly growing oil industry was attracting large-scale migration of population from surrounding areas and beyond. The Social Affairs and Labor section was tasked with regulating the relationship between employee and employer, and instituting various procedures and policies to improve work conditions.
A few years later, Sheikh Sabah was appointed to head the department for publications. During his tenure in this department he introduced the Publication and Media law, which was a first for any country in the region. It was also during this time that the first-edition of Al Arabi cultural magazine was published; the magazine continues to this day to remain one of the most respected and popular periodicals promoting culture and knowledge in the Arab world.
After the independence of Kuwait in 1961, Sheikh Sabah was appointed a member of the council in charge of drafting a constitution for the state. And, in 1962, when all government departments had been changed to ministries, Sheikh Sabah was given the post of minister at the Ministry of News and Guidance. The next year, he was made the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position in which he was destined to continue for the next 40 years. In his long tenure as foreign minister, Sheikh Sabah demonstrated an extraordinary flair in skillfully charting the foreign affairs of Kuwait so that it assured the country’s continued progress on a path of peace and stability.
Known fondly in global diplomatic circles as a ‘doyen of diplomacy’, for his considerable experience and skills in negotiating foreign policies and international issues, he succeeded in bringing together opposing factions and mediating solutions to seemingly intractable political problems in the region and beyond.
It was no doubt due to Sheikh Sabah’s strong personal rapport with diplomats worldwide and his strong standing with the international diplomatic community that Kuwait was able to garner overwhelming global support for Kuwait against the vicious Iraqi invasion of 1990. And, this support was reflected in the unanimous UN Security Council (UNSC) decision 670 on 2 August, 1990 that condemned the Iraqi invasion and called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
In addition to his post as foreign minister, Sheikh Sabah has also at various periods been Acting Minister in the Ministry of Oil and Finance, Ministry of Information and Ministry of Interior. With his multifaceted experience in various domains it was no surprise that in 2003 he was entrusted as the Prime Minister. In 2006, following the demise of the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al- Sabah, on 26 January, the National Assembly held a special session during which Sheikh Sabah was constitutionally sworn in as the 15th Amir of the State of Kuwait.
Since his ascension, His Highness the Amir has taken thoughtful and judicious decisions that have resulted in the best outcome for the nation and its people. Despite repeated challenges on the domestic, regional and international levels, His Highness has proven time and again his immense ability to overcome obstacles hindering the path of peace, stability and progress for Kuwait, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and for nations around the world.
His Highness's strategy is centered on supporting people and countries to cooperate with each other so as to progress economically, socially and culturally in a peaceful manner. At the Arab Summit for Economic and Social Development, which was held in Kuwait in early 2009, is Highness announced an initiative for supporting and encouraging small and medium enterprises with an estimated capital of $2 billion and pledged $500 million as Kuwait’s contribution to this initiative.
A firm advocate of the power and importance of Arab solidarity, and the importance of discussion and dialogue in overcoming conflict and disagreement, His Highness, has taken on numerous conciliatory and mediatory roles. The distinguished role and tireless efforts exerted by the Amir in tackling challenges and issues faced by regional and Arab nations has realized historical reconciliations, bridged differences and created a positive environment for interaction between the brotherly states.
It was this belief in reconciliation and a broader vision for Kuwait that led His Highness to deliver one of his historical addresses to the nation in which he said,"…I call upon you to adopt a new approach in political work and a new vision in national work based on anticipating the future without denying the past, looking for internationalism without abandonment of locality, being keen to modernization with a grip of originality to position our nation among nations applying the reasons of civil advancement within a frame of fixed values and principles to which the Kuwaitis were brought up, one generation after the other.”
His Highness has always been known for his compassion and generosity. In the wake of enormous efforts exerted by Kuwait to host the two Syrian Donor Conferences in 2013 and 2014, and His Highness’s generous contribution of a total of US$800 million to relieve the humanitarian situation of displaced Syrian people, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced in 2014 that Kuwait is "an international humanitarian center" and its Amir is a global "humanitarian leader".
Delivering his statement on the occasion of being felicitated by the United Nations, in September 2014, as ‘Humanitarian Leader’, His Highness the Amir expressed, “appreciation for the gracious and unprecedented gesture towards the people and government of my country Kuwait, and towards me personally.” He went on to say that the honor bestowed upon him was a tribute to all the people of Kuwait, in appreciation of their longstanding and ongoing benevolence in providing humanitarian assistance to all needy countries, regardless of their geographic location, religious beliefs or ethnic origins.
Throughout his 10-year reign His Highness the Amir oversaw the handing out of many other relief aid, grants and loans worth tens of millions to nations around the world, particularly to the Palestinians and impoverished countries in Africa and Asia. In recent years, His Highness the Amir’s vision of transforming Kuwait into a financial and cultural hub in the region has resulted in numerous projects being developed or in the pipeline.
His Highness’ abiding love for his people and country was most evident when, on 26 June, 2015, after terrorists viciously attacked the Imam Al-Sadiq mosque in Kuwait City, he personally arrived on the scene to oversee rescue and relief efforts, and emotionally said that the innocent victims were more than martyrs, "those are my children." Saying that national unity is a protective fence for the security of the nation, His Highness added, “This incident targets our internal front, our national unity,”… “But this is too difficult for them and we are much stronger than that.”