The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, along with Director-General and Chief Executive of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Sir John Chipman, engaged in a panel discussion on the subject of small countries and strategies for success in a competitive world. This discussion took place last week at the Ruffles Hotel in Singapore upon the Qatari Prime Minister’s official visit to the Southeast Asian nation.
Members of the official delegation accompanying the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs were in attendance, alongside a distinguished gathering of Singaporean ministers, senior officials, scholars, and business leaders.
Prime Minister Al-Thani presented the State of Qatar’s vision regarding the challenges confronting small and medium-sized nations. He explored strategies to enhance and develop security cooperation, aiming to achieve comprehensive and sustainable security across various domains, including security, defence, politics, economics, investments, innovative technology utilization, environmental sustainability, and collective action.
“In our world, which has undergone great transformations in the past few years, we are witnessing the emergence of multiple centres of influence, each with its own political, economic, and technological strengths. New conflicts and major confrontations between big power blocs put the international order in real jeopardy. These interconnected threats impact billions of us”, his Excellency said.
Sheikh Mohammed initiated his lecture by highlighting the shared characteristics between Qatar and Singapore emphasizing that “Small states have an important role to play”. He also noted the evolving global landscape characterized by multiple influential centres of power, each possessing distinct political, economic, and technological capabilities. The PM also drew attention to pressing challenges worldwide, including the conflict in Ukraine, political polarization in the Americas, instability in Africa, ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, and the rivalry between the United States and China, which has significant implications for global supply chains and international commerce.
Al-Thani elaborated on Qatar’s approach to balancing relations between United States and China: “I am often asked about how Qatar has been able to balance between these two big powers as a small state,” he said pointing that Qatar believes in the interdependence of the international community. “This conviction makes it possible for us to have a strong commercial partnership with China, while maintaining our strategic alliance with the United States,” he explained.
Qatar’s Prime Minister underscored their country’s belief in the interdependence of the international community, which enables it to cultivate a robust commercial partnership with China while maintaining a strategic alliance with the United States, at times playing critical roles in conflict resolution due to their vulnerability to geostrategic competition and heightened tensions.
His Excellency stressed that small nations are actively engaging in stability and peacebuilding, and facilitating dialogue or mediating global conflicts, highlighting Qatar’s success – “Qatar succeeds in such engagements by focusing our efforts on three main areas: alliance building and multilateralism, peace facilitation, and investment in economic growth for future generations.”
Prime Minister Al-Thani emphasized Qatar’s commitment to preserving and strengthening multilateral frameworks and promoting a rule-based international order. He cited Qatar’s accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC): “Last year, we signed the instrument of accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), stemming from our common will to create a safe and stable area for the promotion of sustainable economic development. Our relations with the ASEAN countries are of paramount importance to us, and we are keen to continue to strengthen our ties with them and with the Asian continent in general”.
Qatar has long prepared for its role as a regional hub for multilateralism, already hosting various UN offices in Doha, including the “United Nations House”. Sheikh Mohammed underscored Qatar’s focus on peace facilitation as a key pillar of its foreign policy, noting the advantages of agility, mobility, and network-building that small states possess. He highlighted Qatar’s mediation efforts in facilitating agreements between the United States and Iran, as well as between the Taliban and the United States, resulting in significant humanitarian achievements.
Qatar’s investment in its future, particularly in education, infrastructure, and economic diversification through projects in various global markets. The Qatari Prime Minister spoke of Qatar’s economic model’s success in hosting the FIFA World Cup stating “Qatar’s successful organization of the 2022 FIFA World Cup constituted a major feat for a small state. Not only did the tournament present an opportunity for sustainable infrastructure-building and substantial economic growth, but it also showcased Qatari, Arab, and Muslim culture, and the region to positively change stereotypes”.
He acknowledged Singapore’s economic success as a global financial hub and urged small states to prioritize investments in education, healthcare, and social welfare. Prime Minister Al-Thani stressed the importance of providing opportunities for Qatari citizens and investing in people as the foundation for progress and resilience, even in times of regional tensions and global crises.
Closing his lecture, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani highlighted the success stories of small states like Singapore and Qatar: “History has shown that size does not dictate favourable outcomes. Through planning, fostering global partnerships, and nurturing our inherent strengths, small nations will not only succeed, but also inspire others to do so.”