Sunday, 19 June marks an important day in the history of Kuwait; it was on this day, 55 years ago, that the country gained full independence from Great Britain.
On 19 June, 1961, after more than six decades of being a British Protectorate, the 11th ruler of Kuwait and ‘Father of Independence and Constitution’, the late Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah signed the independence document in the presence of the then British commissioner for the Arabian Gulf Sir George Middleton, who represented Her Majesty’s Government.
The independence document abrogated the protection agreement signed on 23 January, 1899, by the 7th ruler of Kuwait, the late Amir Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah, who sought British protection against ambitions of external forces.
In his speech declaring independence for Kuwait, the late Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem, whose rule extended from 1950 to 1965, said: "On this memorable day of our beloved nation, on which we transfer from one phase to another phase of history and fold another page of the past with all its components and contents, to open a new page represented in this treaty, which you read now, whereby Kuwait gained its full independence and sovereignty."
The era of rule by late Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem, which extended from 1950 to 1965, was marked by huge changes on the constitutional, political, economic and social levels. As an appreciation of the great role played by the late Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem, a decree was issued in 1963 to integrate the National Day with Accession of the Throne Day, corresponding to 25 February, the date on which the late Amir ascended to the throne in 1950.
The late Amir was instrumental in establishing an independent constitutional state and charting the democratic path that Kuwait has since pursued. Just two months after gaining independence, on 26 August, 1961 the Amir issued a decree calling for general elections to choose members of the Constituent Council to draft the country's constitution.
Within nine months, the Constituent Council finalized the draft constitution, consisting of 183 articles, which was submitted to Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, who ratified it on the same day, 11 November, 1962. Kuwait thus became a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government.
On the government level, the late Amir worked on issuing laws and legislations to support an independent state, such as the nationality and judiciary organization laws in 1959; monetary law in 1960. Kuwait held its first parliamentary elections in 1963 and became the first Gulf country to establish both a constitution and a parliament.
On 19 August, 1961 another Amiri Decree was issued to establish a foreign department that would be in charge of the state's foreign affairs. This would later become the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In1962, Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem was appointed as a foreign minister in the first cabinet lineup, to be followed up by His Highness the current Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who was appointed minister of foreign affairs in the second cabinet, formed on 28 January, 1963.
Less than a month after becoming independent, Kuwait made its first mark on the international level by applying for being accepted as a member of the Arab League on 16 July, 1961. A few months later it applied for membership to the United Nations and on 14 May, 1963, the international community welcomed Kuwait as the 111th member of the world body.
In the early 1960s Kuwait was the largest exporter of oil from the Gulf and the first decade of its independence was marked by economic growth and modernization that placed the country as the most developed in the region.
Since its independence, Kuwait has been an effective player in the international community and a major supporter of the UN’s role in establishing and promoting world peace and security. It has used its astute diplomatic skills and influential international relations to end disputes through peaceful means. It took part and hosted several peace talks and conference, the latest of which is the ongoing hosting of the UN-mediated intra-Yemeni peace talks.
Ever since gaining independence Kuwait was worked diligently to leave an indelible mark on the international arena through its humanitarian action.
The country, headed by the current Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, has been at the forefront of global humanitarian aid and supporting communities in need around the world. In recognition of its humanitarian credentials, on 9 September, 2014, the United Nations proclaimed Kuwait as a "Humanitarian Center" and His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as a "Humanitarian Leader".