On the occasion of Kuwait celebrating its 54th anniversary of Independence, 24th anniversary of Liberation and the 9th year of ascension of His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as Amir of the State of Kuwait, The Times Kuwait extends its wholehearted congratulations to the leadership, government and people of this great country.
It is only appropriate that at this juncture in the country’s history we take a look at the important role that Kuwait has played over the years in shaping and consolidating regional and international relations. We also examine how the country’s adherence to the noble principles of compassion and generosity, as well as its genuine attempts to ensure peace and prosperity for people around the world, has entrenched its diplomatic credentials as an independent and important member of international community.
From the time of its independence in 1961, Kuwait has endeavored to advance economic, social and cultural development, as well as promote tolerance and peaceful coexistence, not only in the country, but also for nations around the world. Pursuit and promotion of these humanitarian goals, along with an unwavering commitment to the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the dignity of the individual, irrespective of race, religion, gender or language, have been the corner-stone policies of Kuwait’s rulers and governments since its establishment as sovereign nation.
At the heart of the country’s righteous objectives has been Kuwait’s quiet diplomacy. Soon after independence, Kuwait realized that a strong and robust diplomacy was key to ensuring its survival and continued existence as an independent state. Underlining this importance, one of the first acts of the fledgling state was the establishment of a ministry of foreign affairs and the appointment of then Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Salim Al-Sabah as the country’s first Foreign Minister.
From the beginning, a major priority of the foreign ministry was gaining recognition from the world community for its new found independence. Towards this end, and with the aim of enhancing its relations with brotherly Arab states and its belief in a shared Arab destiny, Kuwait joined the Arab League in July 1961.
In 1963, following the appointment of Sheikh Sabah Al-Salim as Prime Minister, the role of foreign minister fell on the young shoulders of Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the present Amir. For the next forty years, until his appointment in 2003 as prime minister, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad would serve as the country’s foreign minister, reinforcing diplomatic relations and spearheading the implementation of Kuwait’s foreign policies with nations around the world.
Despite objections from Iraq, which hindered Kuwait’s initial attempts to join the United Nations, the just and rightful stance of Kuwait prompted the UN in 1963 to unanimously accept the country as the 111th member of the world body. Delivering his keynote address to the UN General Assembly, Sheikh Sabah said, “Kuwait’s participation in international activities clearly indicates that our independence and our membership of the UN are not an end by themselves, but are rather a means by which Kuwait can share responsibility in improving the lives of the people in our country and in other countries.”
Soon after independence Kuwait established diplomatic ties and expanded bilateral relations with countries worldwide, based on mutual adherence to the principles of equal rights, self-determination and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. Through constructive cooperation and dialogue, Kuwait has sought peaceful solutions to global conflicts and issues, and attempted to solve social, economic and humanitarian problems besieging our world. Kuwaiti diplomacy was at the forefront in the drive for the establishment in 1981 of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The GCC bloc brings together the states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, based on their common objectives and similar political and cultural identities, to cooperate in the political, economic and military fields.
The GCC, which was formed primarily to strengthen cooperation and promote relations between governments and people of the six-nation bloc, have implemented a common customs union, free movement of capital and people, and placed their defense policy under a common umbrella. Nevertheless, further economic integration has been delayed by hesitancy in introducing a common currency and the six countries are free to follow independent foreign policies, as long as they do not impair the joint security and safety of the bloc.
“The GCC is not just a security pact, but also a cultural and economic pact because we share the same culture, and we have the same economic concerns as resource-based economies,” said Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs underlining the inherent strength as well as flexibility of the GCC to follow whatever is in the best interests of individual members.
Kuwait’s ability to pursue an independent and influential foreign policy across the globe and to build a bridge of friendship and solidarity between the state and developing nations is augmented by the activities of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, the state institution responsible for international development efforts. Since its establishment in 1961, the Fund has provided training technical assistance, as well as soft loans and grants totally over US$17 billion to more than a hundred developing countries in the Middle-East, Africa and Asia. The Kuwait Fund along with private and public charities in the country has been pivotal in bolstering Kuwait’s international standing as a humanitarian center.
Over the years, through a foreign policy characterized by transparency, clarity, generosity and sincerity, Kuwait established and consolidated strong relations with nations all over the world. These strong ties were clearly demonstrated by the overwhelming support to Kuwait from the international community in response to the vicious invasion and occupation of the country by Iraqi forces in 1990. The illegal occupation of Kuwait not only met with international condemnation, and brought immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by members of the UN Security Council, but also more than 30 countries contributed troops to the international coalition that was formed to drive out the occupying forces.
However, underscoring the maxim that there are no permanent friends or enemies, only abiding interests, in international relations, and also attesting to the maturity of Kuwait’s foreign policy, Kuwait and Iraq reestablished diplomatic ties and two countries reopened embassies in each other’s capitals in 2008. The historic visit to Iraq in 2012, by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to attend the 23rd Arab Summit held in Baghdad, had a profound impact on further consolidating relations between the two countries.
For over fifty years, Kuwait diplomacy has pursued the just causes of the Arab world and sought to find solutions to regional and international issues through dialogue and discussions without resorting to violence. It is mainly this moderating influence and keenness to seek accord among nations with diverging viewpoints that prompted representatives from around the world to attend the First and Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria. The two conferences, which were held in Kuwait in January 2013 and 2014, received pledges for billions of dollars in aid for internally and externally displaced Syrian people.
It is noteworthy that Kuwait fulfilled all the pledges it made at the two Syrian Donor conferences, by paying in full its donation of US$800 million to the United Nations and its specialized agencies. Kuwait has been providing aid for people in need around the world for more than five decades, and the country’s recent recognition by the United Nations as a center of humanitarian activities is only the outcome of a long legacy of compassion and generosity.
Besides participating and generously contributing to various UN bodies during catastrophes and other emergencies around the world, Kuwait has also steadfastly been at the lead in providing assistance for international development and peace processes. At the First Asian Cooperation Dialogue Summit, which Kuwait hosted in 2012, His Highness the Amir stated that despite different ethnicities and religions, the peaceful coexistence exhibited by people of the Asian continent, “reinforces the principle that knowing each other is better than ignoring each other, and coexistence is better than fighting, and standing by each other is better than being rivals of each other.”
The influence of Kuwaiti diplomacy on enhancing Kuwait’s international standing was best voiced by His Highness the Amir, who during the Seventh Conference of Heads of Diplomatic Missions in March 2013, told the country’s diplomats to convey to the world, “Kuwait is a peaceful country which always seeks to share in the international community’s efforts to promote peace between peoples and resolve conflicts threatening stability in the world.”