“We are going to fight terrorism from UNESCO with education”
La Nacion (PARAGUAY)
Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari (69) is an experienced public man who has served his country, Qatar, for more than 21 years, from his role of chief adviser to the Emir, to his position as both Minister of Information and of Culture and Arts. He also worked as a diplomat in various countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela, and had a brief but fruitful passage through literature, since he was a journalist and launched numerous publications.
He is currently touring South America, as he aspires to fill the highest position in UNESCO, the United Nations agency that promotes education, culture and science worldwide. And to do so, he seeks Paraguay’s support for his candidacy for the post to which he competes with nine other candidates to succeed the Bulgarian Irina Bokova.
In the midst of a busy agenda, Dr. Al-Kawari offered a press conference to present his ideas and the vision that he plans to implement during his period if he is elected next October as head of this important international organization.
First of all he was grateful for the good reception in our country, which demonstrates the good relations between the two nations, and said that his candidacy began a couple of years ago, when he started a wide tour that led him to the five continents to learn about the problems and challenges facing each country. “I was not going to run for the position of Director if I was not well qualified for that, but due to my studies, experience and work, I feel that I am able to face it,” said the man who stated that he has a very special relationship with Latin America.
He emphasized that although it is the first time that Qatar aspires to such an important position, he recalled that he does not only represents his country but also the whole Arab world with this candidacy and his eventual becoming head of the UNESCO. While recognizing that there may be opposition to his nomination, especially from countries that back Israel — which has a longstanding dispute with the Arab countries — Al-Kawari is confident that he will be able to obtain enough votes to take office, because he is considered a man highly prepared to lead the organization. “UNESCO has a special meaning for me because of education and culture. My whole life was put at the service of those fields,” he said.
About the bases on which his eventual period will be based upon if he is elected, Al-Kawari indicated that he knows perfectly well the current situation of conflict that the entity based in Paris is going through. “UNESCO is going through a very big economic crisis, but this is a political problem. If there are no political solutions, it will be very difficult to solve economic problems,” said the former minister.
He stressed that he will work to bring back the United States as an active member of the organization and assured that the return of the americans will not only strengthen UNESCO, but will help to obtain better tools to face the real threats that exist today like terrorism .
“We want to fight terrorism and the United States is one of the countries that are at the forefront of this fight,” said Al-Kawari, who said that this fight is not only fought with military means but also with education. “If we do not solve the problems of poverty, the problems related to respect for culture, then we will not be able to fight terrorism. UNESCO was created to implement peace, so we are going to fight terrorism through UNESCO with education, “he said.
Challenges for the region
He toured most of Latin America, in some countries he even served Qatar as Ambassador, thus he has a special relationship with the region. About the challenges that he saw during his visit and what he will do about them if elected, Al-Kawari stressed that education will be key in his period. “It is the bases for any development. If you give a good education, you are constituting a person capable of facing difficulties,” he said. Education is also a “weapon” against terrorism and fanaticism that has caused so much damage. “Terrorists, besides killing individuals, want to kill the culture of countries,” he recalled.
Protection of journalists
On the other hand, Al-Kawari was consulted about the priority of the issue of the protection of journalists and the promotion of freedom of the press could have under his management, two sensitive issues, especially in Latin America. “I am one of the defenders of freedom of the press and journalists,” he said, while remembering that after being for several years the Minister of Information of Qatar he suggested to the government of his country to suppress this Ministry, since an office of this type is almost always associated with vices such as control or censorship. “As Director I will continue more strongly with this line because I am going to represent a global organization, representing all countries,” he said.
Finally, he referred to one of the topics that UNESCO is currently working: gender equality. Asked how he will promote this campaign, Al-Kawari said that he is one of the most supportive of women’s rights and equality, and recalled that the experience of Qatar is different from other countries in this area.
“In the last 15 years, a lot of progress has been made in the social, political and economic spheres, and the situation of women in my country is no different than the situation of men, today they are ministers, university presidents, ambassadors” he said. He also stated that today the percentage of women in the universities in Qatar exceeds that of men. He will work decisively to benefit from his country’s experience to the programs of UNESCO.
Age: 69 years.
Studies: Holds a degree in Arabic and Islamic studies from the University of Cairo. He holds a Master’s degree from the University of Beirut. He studied Political Philosophy at La Sorbonna, Paris, and completed a PhD in Political Science at Stony Brook University in New York. He speaks perfect English and French, as well as Arabic.
Positions: Minister of Information and Minister of Culture and Arts of Qatar. He was Ambassador to the United Nations, as well as in Latin American countries like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela.