Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky: We have a very interesting topic this afternoon, we are going to focus on the influence of small state actors. Minister, tell us, why do small state actors make a difference in the global community and on the global stage?
H.E. Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani: First of all, I would like to thank you for hosting me here and thank Concordia for taking the time for this session. Small states matter always and when you look at small states, they enjoy benefits that other big states may not have. First of all, either they will be geographically located in a strategic position or they will have a unique resource that make them more needed by other countries and they never represent a threat to other countries. So forging alliances with small state actors are always very useful and very successful for other big nations. If you look at them from performance angle, they are have efficiency, flexibility and adoptability. They are more agile moving that the bigger states. Today, if you look at the United Nations, the counties represented here, the majority are small states and they have equal rights with the big states, not on all the levels, but on the general assembly level they enjoy same vote. It doesn’t matter if they are a small state like Qatar or a small pacific island, they vote together with China, Russia and the United States.
Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky: But share with us some of the obstacles that small state actors face, you picked out a setting of the United Nations and equal votes, but what are the obstacles that come to mind?
H.E. Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani: Well normally multilateral mechanisms make us a safe guard for the small states which protect the rights of the small states and the sovereignty of those small states, making them able to contribute much better to global affairs – but when those multilateral mechanisms fail to address these concerns of small states and doesn’t have the binding mechanism to preserve the right of the small states then it presents a big obstacle for them and you have always on the world stage good actors and bad actors and the small states are more vulnerable to those bad actors sometimes. What we would like to see is an effective multilateral mechanism that resolves these disputes in a peaceful manner.
Qatar, as a small state, we look at diplomacy as the only way forward for resolving any dispute – what happened with our country since 2017 when the blockade was by our neighbours… is we didn’t see any mechanism that can resolve this issue…. even the GCC which is considered a multilateral regional mechanism failed to solve it, so I think we need to look at a more regional and multilateral mechanism that help small states to preserve their rights and solve all their disputes by a peaceful manner.
Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky: Can you give an example aside from this in the Middle East; let’s take the issue of Iran and the various tensions surrounding relations with Iran. How can small state actors be applied to that situation?
H.E. Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani: Well Iran has a unique position with Qatar because of difference circumstances, one is geography, which matters a lot, another one is the only air space we can fly over, but even with the current gulf crisis, Qatar as a small state never represented a threat for any of the countries. Even if we have differences and disagreements with any country, we still we still have the relationship and the communication, which is an open channel. As I mentioned at the beginning while small countries may not represent a threat, they can build a bridge between nations and we proved that this has been a successful path for different conflicts, for example now if you look at the dispute with Iran and the US, Qatar has a strong relationship with US and an open relation with Iran, a good relation, we share a gas field and we use their air space and they opened up their country when our neighbours closed their doors. So I think using the benefit of having a good relationship with different counties is a very good benefit mainly enjoyed by the small states.
Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky: Let me take you a little out of your area – you mentioned the GCC – let’s talk about Asia where many of the small states have banded together economically. Tell us and the audience the importance of alliances.
H.E. Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani: Well alliances are very important for any small state, any multilateral mechanism for a small state matters a lot because it gives it a clear principles of cooperation between neighbours, it gives access to a common market which is something missing in the small states – if you look at Asiana as a block, they represent a market for over 600 million population which is significant, If you look at specific states within this, for example Singapore which proved to be a successful small state model, of 5 million people I think, it can leverage the benefit for the small states. If you look at our region and the GCC, this mechanism maybe now failed in addressing the issue, but why don’t we look at the bigger picture. If we had a common market within our region, not just GCC, but Iran when all these issues are resolved, Pakistan, all of these countries in our region are in very close proximity. The transportation now between all the countries has become much easier than before. It will multiply the market of the Gulf and current GCC market 4 or 5 times at least – so I think there is a great benefit in regional mechanisms.
The EU, they started the whole concept of the principle of cooperation and now they are 28 countries and I hope they stay a strong alliance especially with the debate about Brexit, but the EU has proved a successful example after what happened with the second world war. So I think there are a lot of good examples we can grow on with regional cooperation and I believe one day this will be realized in our region.
Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky: What steps would you like to see larger states take in order to produce greater inclusivity for those that are smaller. Take it from standpoint of your country specifically.
H.E. Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani: Well larger states are enjoying benefits that small state actors are missing – so they have a responsibility – a responsibility to protect the world – to make sure there are no bad actors allowed to play and mess around in different regions. I think it’s very important to have the larger states becoming more as a leader and different mechanisms to make sure these mechanisms are implemented and enforced. We can see mass atrocities happen, for example what is happening in Syria, what’s happening with Libya, we see a disrespect for the international law. Whose responsibility to make sure this international law is applied in those countries – I think the big states have responsibility in doing so.
Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky: You have an audience that has come here that represents public, private partnerships, the business community and so on. In that context, what would be your message to them, what is it that they need to keep in mind with regards this key issue?
H.E. Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani: Well I think first of all we need to protect multilaterals – we need to make sure that its enforced and has binding mechanisms – my main message is don’t judge countries on their size, judge them on their impact. A small country like Qatar which is considered a small state, all the things we are blessed with like our energy, it made Qatar with a significant footprint in the world. Qatar investment is everywhere in the world, our programmes for peacekeeping are everywhere, Sudan, Libya, Djibouti, so it is not really about the size it is about the impact and those small states can lead.
Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky: And with the United Nations assembly going on, is that one of the core issues on your agenda?
H.E. Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani: Well it has always been on our agenda that we need to focus on serving the good of the globe, by providing development aide or healthcare or education for those that do not have the same access and to stop mass atrocities. These are always on our agenda.
Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky: Minister thank you for coming today.