The United Nations flag was raised at the Qatar’s National Convention Centre (QNCC) yesterday in a symbolic ceremony marking the beginning of activities for the 13th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad XIII).
During the flag-raising ceremony, QNCC was handed to the United Nations as official UN territory for the duration of Unctad XIII. The ceremony was attended by HE the Minister of Culture, Arts, and Heritage, Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kuwari, ho is also head of Unctad XIII National Organising Committee, Kobsak Chutikul, special adviser to Unctad, members of the conference organising committee, the Vice Chairman of Qatar’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, diplomatic corps, and representatives from UN organisations.
In his address on the occasion, HE al-Kuwari reflected on the establishment of Unctad 50 years ago, recognising the organisation’s efforts towards creating a more inclusive world, with a global economy that works for all.
The minister said: “Almost 50 years ago, a group of visionaries made history. They saw a better world, one that was not divided into prosperity and hope, and poverty and want. They sought to make the world more inclusive, to make the global economy work for all. They sought to transform the world as it was, into the world as it should be.”
Children wave the flags of the UN member countries
“In a few days, heads of state, ministers, leaders, and thinkers will converge here, in Doha. They share the common purpose of addressing today’s challenges, of placing development on a firmer footing, and making globalisation work for all. The honour is therefore ours to host 194 countries,” said Dr al-Kuwari.
“As we raise the flag of the United Nations, we tell everyone that Qatar belongs to the world. We signal that the international community meets at the city of Doha, under the banner of humanity, to work collectively and co-operatively to make the world a better place.”
Dr. al-Kuwari also highlighted Qatar’s efforts to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing the world, including Doha’s hosting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 18th Conference of the Parties (COP 18) this December.
Kobsak Chutikul applauded Qatar for “bringing everyone, from all sectors of the society, from all countries around the world, under one roof, under one big tent of humanity.” He added: “For the first time ever, all events for an Unctad conference will be held in a single building. This is because the Qatar National Convention Centre is a state-of-the-art venue, large enough to accommodate all needs.”
Chutikul explained that as host country of Unctad XIII, Qatar will be in the position to set the international economic agenda, to shape the international discourse on the challenges and opportunities ahead and to help secure a future of stability and prosperity for all.
He said that people from all over the world and from all walks of life will be gathering for what has been described as the “Olympics of development”.
Chutikul told Gulf Times that Qatar’s hosting of the conference will help to challenge the view that developed countries are simply aid donors, and other countries are expected to take action.
“They call it aid with conditionalities. But now we have a country leading Unctad which of course everybody recognises, per capita income is the richest country in the world, it has the resources, it is not asking for money, it is not going to go round to the developed countries to seek aid. That voice carries much more weight, so when it says that something is right, [then] it should be done... it’s not about money, it’s not about assistance, it’s not about aid. It’s about everybody agreeing on a set of principles, rules, conduct that says there should be a level playing field, everything should be fair – fair competition with everybody given a chance.”
He said that the focus is on “those that do not have the opportunities: women, young people, unemployed, those that have not had access to education, healthcare, or water – 1.5bn people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water.”
Chutikul thinks that the plight of dryland countries will be addressed with a different perspective during Qatar’s leadership of Unctad. “It gives the sense of unlimited possibilities - we see a desert country with no water, and yet you can see the trees growing,” he said.
Climate change and drought in dryland countries has been a focus in previous conferences, “but it has always been in the context of developed – developing countries. They would say that now there is climate change, developing countries must stop their industrial projects, stop having cars, stop building ports and roads. The developing countries said: why now?
“For the past 200 years you were the ones who have been cutting down all the trees. Europe used to be one big forest, but they cut the trees, burned the wood and built factories, but now they’ve developed and say developing countries must stop. But developing countries simply say no, we are still poor, our people need the chance to develop our economies, to lift up our people.”
Chutikul concluded: “Qatar can be the one in the middle, it can say we are developed, we are already here. They can talk to the developing countries and say there are alternative strategies for development, we don’t have to follow the path that was followed by the Western countries. They developed by destroying the environment, creating climate change, the greenhouse effect and all that. So for the benefit of the world, let’s look at that again, let’s find other ways of development to compensate if you are not able to build the big factories anymore, the smokestacks using coal. What are the alternatives? Qatar can say natural gas, other forms of energy including wind and solar energy. Qatar has that ability to address both sides, so that’s very hopeful for everybody and it’s a new kind of leadership for developing countries, for the poor.”
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