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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Former Qatar cultural minister gains GCC backing for UN post


Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kuwari
Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari

Gulf countries have reportedly renewed their support for Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari as he runs to be the next director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

If elected, Qatar’s long-time culture minister would be the first Arab to hold the position.

Last week, GCC Secretary General Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, expressed support for Al Kuwari during his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, Al Raya reported.

Al-Zayani lauded Al Kuwari for his “exceptional efforts in enriching the cultural scene in Qatar and the influential roles he played in enhancing the cultural collaboration between GCC states throughout his appointment as the minister of culture and heritage in Qatar,” the newspaper said.

Sheikha Moza
Sheikha Moza

According to QNA, this was Al Kuwari’s first visit to the kingdom since declaring his official candidacy for the UNESCO post, and came “in recognition of Saudi Arabia’s role in preserving and maintaining Arab heritage and supporting culture on all fronts.”

Qatar has long been a supporter of the UN’s cultural agency. In 2011, Sheikha Moza pledged to help fulfill its education goals after the group lost a fifth of its funding from the US.

The nation had frozen millions of dollars in contributions after member states voted to make Palestine a full member of the group.


Al Kuwari was officially named as Qatar’s nominee for the position of UNESCO director-general last year. If elected, he will succeed Irina Bokova, current leader of the Paris-based organization whose term ends in 2017.

Al Zubarah Fort is Qatar's only UNESCO heritage site.
Al Zubarah Fort is Qatar\’s only UNESCO heritage site.

Last October, QNA reported that the GCC ministers of culture had lent their unswerving support of Al Kuwari at the conclusion of their 21st meeting in Doha.

Al-Zayani’s reiteration last week consolidates the pledge that the Gulf countries will support Qatar’s contender.

Al Kuwari served as Minister of Information and Culture from 1992 to 1997 and was named Qatar’s minister of culture and heritage in 2008. He held the post until last month’s Cabinet shakeup.

At present, he serves as the cultural advisor to the Emir.

Doha International Book Fair, for illustrative purposes only.
Doha International Book Fair, for illustrative purposes only.

How other nations outside of this region are viewing Al Kuwari’s candidacy remains unclear.

The official has previously been criticized by some organizations for allowing, in his capacity as culture minister, the inclusion of anti-Jewish material in Qatar’s 2015 International Book Fair.


Al-Kuwari obtained his bachelor’s degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Cairo University, according to a brief biography published by the government.

He studied political philosophy at La Sorbonne and acquired a PhD in political science from The State University of New York at Stony Brook.

For illustrative purposes only.
For illustrative purposes only.

He had an earlier career in diplomacy where he served in several residential and non-resident ambassadorial positions in Greece, Switzerland, the US, Brazil and Venezuela among other countries.

Between 1984 and 1990, he was also Qatar’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Al-Kuwari is trilingual, speaking Arabic, English and French. He presided over Qatar’s delegation to the 2012 Francophonie summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which concluded with the Gulf state joining the organization of French-speaking nations.


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