Dr. Mubasher Sheikh
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Kuwait

Dr. Mubasher Sheikh, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Kuwait, is a suave and experienced diplomat who brings with him immense experience and knowledge on global issues. A medical doctor by profession, Dr. Mubasher moved into the broader development field almost 20 years ago, having joined the United Nations and serving in various capacities and countries before taking over his post in Kuwait just over a year ago.

Speaking to The Times Kuwait from his office, the UN House, Dr. Mubasher spoke candidly and enthusiastically on a number of challenges facing the region. Having vast experience and knowledge on development issues, Kuwait provided a perfect platform as a next move in his career. With the region undergoing a difficult situation, the role of the United Nations becomes one of significant importance.

The United Nations Kuwait country office also oversees Iraq and Afghanistan operations, with approximately 10 agencies being represented, and a support staff and dependents of around 1,000 personnel. “Our presence has sufficient numbers, which means that we are busy in terms of carrying forward the mandate and agenda while engaging with the national government,” he points out, adding that they also have to coordinate and create better linkages with all United Nations teams that represent various agencies and counterparts.

“Kuwait has been generous and hospitable in hosting conferences, and my experiences so far have been very productive not only because of internal engagements in implementing projects, but also externally, such as with the Syrian crisis,” Dr. Mubasher remarked. “Kuwait’s major role in the Syrian pledging conference held early this year established His Highness the Amir of Kuwait as a humanitarian leader of the world,” Dr. Mubasher stated. “People usually identify the UN for its political side, but the bigger dimension and role of the UN is the development side of the organisation,” he stated, adding that each agency present in Kuwait is supporting and implementing a number of activities in support of the 2035 vision of His Highness the Amir.

In his role as Resident Coordinator of the UN System, Dr. Mubasher tries to create better alignment among the work of various agencies along with developing and implementing joint activities. “ Talking specifically of UNDP, where Dr. Mubasher is serving as the Head and Resident Representative, he informed that UNDP has a 4 year collaborative cycle around a programme document which is developed in consultation with the local government and all stakeholders, such as civil societies, the private sector, and the media, etc. During this period, programmes and projects are implemented while others continue to evolve.” Kuwait is at the end of its 4 year UNDP collaborative cycle this year and a new programme has already been developed which will be put into force by year’s end.

Commenting on the new programme, Dr. Mubasher explained that there were 4 strategic dimensions of the collaborative programme, which included governance, human and social development, environmental sustainability and private sector economic development. “Within these areas we have a number of projects depending on strategic priority and ensuring they respond to the national development agenda,” he noted.

Elaborating, he pointed out that the UNDP plays a very important role in supporting, facilitating and advancing the national agenda, and the added value is of great help to the government. “We set up specific projects with clear deliverables and make sure that the projects are not only implemented, but reported and documented as well.” Currently UNDP has around 25-30 projects in Kuwait with a wide range of partners. Its major counterpart is the General Secretariat of Planning and Development. There are also projects with the Parliament, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Interior, as well as civil society groups, etc.

Citing an example of a project, Dr. Mubasher said that the UNDP established a training institute within the Parliament, primarily to give parliamentarians exposure to global agendas, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Since Kuwait is also a signatory, it is important that parliamentarians have a better understanding of these goals and help in the correct legislation. With the Ministry of Interior, the UNDP has just completed a training programme for senior traffic officers.

Traffic is a major development issue in Kuwait, owing to the number of injuries and deaths, and the UNDP helps to improve rules and regulations and increase awareness and capacity building by engaging with the local officials. Another example is health related issues. Dr. Mubasher pointed out that Kuwait was 9th in the world in terms of obesity.

The UN works closely to help the local population change their eating habits and live a healthier lifestyle. Pointing at yet another successful programme in association with the civil society, Dr. Mubasher said that Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) are something the UNDP has worked very closely on with women’s organisations, which in turn has been of immense benefit to them.

Also, the Kuwaiti Women’s Declaration, released in April this year, is a unique pronouncement and the first of its kind in the region in terms of empowering women. Explaining how the process works, Dr. Mubasher points out that from a global agenda, it becomes the individual country’s responsibility to implement and report back. The UN works at both levels initially, both at the time of development of the programme and at the time of implementation. The national reports generated then go into a global report. Ultimately the national government has to agree on every project, as the partnership is crucial in the implementation and success of said project.

Another important aspect of the UNDP is the human development report, which is considered one of the most important reports released every year. This report helps countries identify and evaluate their overall performance locally, as well as vis-àvis other nations. This year’s much awaited report is expected to be released on July 24 in Tokyo by the Japanese Prime Minister, and the UNDP Administrator, Ms. Helen Clark.

On the role of the UN in humanitarian aid, Dr. Mubasher pointed out that it was not as easy as simply giving food and water. “Part of our major focus is called ‘resilience based development’ or ‘sustainable development.’ We have to prepare societies that are vulnerable to risk to absorb and react to crises at their own levels, whether man-made or natural, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, etc.,” he noted. Dr. Mubasher concluded by pointing out that the United Nations is a complex body and covers so many different areas that it is difficult to place it under one umbrella. It is obvious Dr. Mubasher and his team have been working tirelessly and achieving their targeted goals.

By Reaven D’Souza
Managing Editor

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