Al Jazeera Centre for Studies has released a new book, The Experience of Good Governance in Qatar: Levers of Sustainable Development and Social Empowerment (1995–2013). Highlighting for the first time the experiment of good governance in Qatar under the Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the book focuses on the levers of sustainable development and social empowerment through human development—the genuine wealth of nations and peoples—in the context of Qatar’s development project during this period. The experiment was based on an early realisation that any balanced, realistic reform process that is mindful of local particularities and context can only be successful through the adoption of comprehensive development indicators that meet aspirations for empowerment: the acquisition of the components and skills for good governance, including sound governmental, social, and economic management, with the knowledge that instruments for good governance are not incompatible with the conditions of democracy.
The book is an intellectual contribution to the study of good governance in Qatar from a group of distinguished researchers and scholars in legal affairs and political science. The starting point for the Qatari experience was the recognition that undertaking a process of comprehensive development starts with good governance but does not end there. The qualifications acquired in meeting the conditions for sound governmental, social, economic and environmental management—as demonstrated clearly in Qatar National Vision 2030 and the National Development Strategy 2011–2016—are prerequisites for fulfilling the conditions of democratisation. It is a matter of acquiring and expanding capacities, rather than assuming their existence, and enhancing the prospects and opportunities for the rulers and the ruled in a practical, incremental way as a basic guarantor of sustainability for both sides of the equation.
The seven-chapter book was edited by Al-Anoud Ahmed Al-Thani, head of publication and relations department at AJCS. The first chapter scrutinises the period in which the Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, led Qatar, examining his model of governance, particularly his modernisation of governance, and studying the links between good governance, society and leadership. In this chapter, Larbi Sadiki observes that Sheikh Hamad was able to initiate this model of political administration by blending contemporary practice with authentic Qatari heritage. The drive toward modernisation did not overtake Qatari society, which maintained its Arab and Islamic character while also keeping pace with global changes in administration and governance, as demonstrated in the frameworks adopted for good governance.
The second chapter answers two related questions about the model of good governance Qatar adopted in its domestic policy, the instruments it used to translate governance policies into concrete reality, and the practical steps it took to build sound societal institutions. In the view of Omar Boubakri, these issues bring us to an understanding of the good governance model that the Father Emir followed, with the goal of jumpstarting comprehensive development in Qatar, especially with the beginning of the new millennium. This chapter looks at how Qatar adopted good governance policies years ago to realise sustainable, fair development for current and future generations. This is demonstrated in the outstanding results seen in human and sustainable development, transparency and anti-corruption efforts over the last decade.
Chapter three offers an analytical reading of the 2004 Qatari constitution from the perspective of its relationship to the principles of good governance, relying on both the letter and the spirit of the document. The question Hassan al-Sayyed takes up is: to what extent can Qatar’s constitution be considered in keeping with the principles of good governance? To answer this question, he traces the development of the constitutional and legislative structure, comparing the constitution with the interim national charter of 1970 and the revised interim national charter of 1972. He finds that the constitution represents a significant step forward compared with the revised charter, both in the way it is written and in the way it involved the populace in affirming it through a referendum.
Chapter four takes up municipal elections in Qatar, which have been held regularly since 1999. The chapter shows how these elections not only were a step toward cementing democratic practice, involving the active participation of the citizenry, but also constituted a significant step toward undergirding the rules of good governance and social modernisation. Shakir al-Houki highlights the means and mechanisms used to cement good governance through democratic measures to affirm the right to vote and run for office and all the guarantees for integrity and transparency this entails, as well as through a set of regulatory bodies such as the Elections Directorate, the Supervising Committee, the National Human Rights Committee, and more.
In the fifth chapter, Majed Al Ansari examines the social and political changes that took place in the age of the Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, as part of Qatar’s development project. He charts the advancements made in various social, cultural, economic and political fields, particularly in education, women’s participation in social development and the evolution of civil society. Looking at these three areas, he attempts to identify the impact of public policies in the era of the Father Emir and their role in achieving the kind of sustainable human development that secures an equitable social system, improving human capacities and helping to cement good governance for the construction of a sound society.
Chapter six focuses on policies to empower women and foster sustainable development. Al-Thani looks at the role of good governance in empowering Qatari women economically, socially and politically through the political momentum generated by Sheikh Hamad immediately upon assuming power in 1995. She describes the legislative, legal and institutional means and mechanisms the state brought to bear to empower women, enhance their social status, support their rights and advance their role in various sectors. Al-Thani links this to the Father Emir’s enlightened vision of the role of women in society and his support and encouragement of the efforts of Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al-Misned in managing these issues and the institutions she supervised.
The final chapter turns to the economic policies and choices adopted by the state under the Father Emir and their impact on development. It examines the organic relationship between these economic policies and good governance in the management of state resources and capacities to secure a dignified life for current generations and respond to their needs and the social needs of coming generations. In this chapter, Saif Said Al Suwaidi reviews legislation and the institutional structure of economic policies, how Qatar National Vision 2030 fit into these policies, and how they were applied as well as Qatar’s strategic partnerships with major economic institutions to realise the aspirations of its leaders and society.
The book aims to encourage further academic interest in good governance by spotlighting the particularity of the Qatari experience. This experience offered a pioneering model in combining Qatar’s civilisational heritage with the foundations of good governance as recognised by international organisations and bodies such as the United Nations and the World Bank. This model proved its effectiveness in the rules and mechanisms on which good governance practices were based, demonstrated by the developmental breakthrough Qatar achieved in all sectors and fields. This visionary experiment in the rationalisation of governance and the sound management of society and national wealth calls for further study, in order to expose the sources of its inspiration and its strengths.
About the book
Title: The Experience of Good Governance in Qatar: Levers of Sustainable Development and Social Empowerment (1995–2013)
Editor: Al-Anoud Ahmed Al-Thani
Authors: A select group of researchers
Publisher: Al Jazeera Centre for Studies and Arab Scientific Publishers