On November 27, 2019, the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) invited H.E. Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, State Minister of Qatar with rank of Deputy Prime-Minister and Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) Ambassador in Residence, to deliver a talk on his experience with international institutions. In his own words, this experience “started with UNESCO, and ended with UNESCO.”
In his talk, Al-Kawari highlighted the challenges he faced as he built up his career by “choosing the difficult way of knowledge and education.” While holding the position of ambassador, he simultaneously earned degrees from several institutions, including Saint-Joseph University in Beirut, La Sorbonne, and Stony Brook University. During his studies, he became ambassador to five European countries and later became the permanent ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He explained that “opportunity comes, but if you don’t hold it well, it goes.”
“The best gift or award that could be given to distinguished Georgetown students would be to send them for one moth to the United Nations during a General Assembly, as they would acquire a lot of knowledge.”
After five years of learning French and two years of studying at La Sorbonne, he moved to New York which, along with the United Nations, are “in themselves some of the biggest schools.” He advised the Georgetown University in Qatar administration that “the best gift or award that could be given to distinguished Georgetown students would be to send them for one moth to the United Nations during a General Assembly, as they would acquire a lot of knowledge.” Al-Kawari is an advocate of the determination to “learn and re-learn,” which is also the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) motto.
Al-Kawari then discussed the benefits and challenges of working in multilateral organizations, as opposed to a bilateral ones. He emphasized that “all of the ambassadors work in the same building and see each other every day,” so “all of the work is collective work.” During his tenure as Ambassador to the United Nations from 1984 to 1990, Al-Kawari also represented Qatar as official delegate to the UN for the country. He was simultaneously elected Deputy Chairman of the General Assembly of the United Nations at its fortieth session and Chairman of the Special Political Committee (4th Committee) at its 42nd session. As the latter dealt with the Arab-Israeli conflict, “at that time it was not easy for an Arab to be the head of this organization,” he said. He later held multiple ministerial functions in Qatar and wrote a “cultural autobiography,” which he published in the form of a book titled, The Global Majlis: An Intellectual Autobiography (Doha: Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press, 2015).
H.E. Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari is State Minister with rank of Deputy Prime-Minister and GU-Q’s Ambassador in Residence. He is a Qatari diplomat, statesman, and an intellectual. He has been the Minister for Culture, Arts and Heritage of Qatar from July 2008 to January 2016. He was previously the Ambassador of Qatar for France, the United States, the UNESCO and the UN. He is married and the father of three children. Dr. Al-Kawari was Qatar’s candidate for the post of UNESCO Director General. He led the vote in pole position for 4 rounds and lost the fifth for a single vote, with 28 votes against 30 for the French candidate.
Article by Chaïmaa Benkermi, Publications Fellow