Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Badr Omar Al Dafa an­nounced to the diplo­matic com­mu­nity in Doha that the Global Dry­lands Al­liance is all set to launch this May. He spoke to Qatar To­day on the side­lines about how this new or­gan­i­sa­tion would bring a fun­da­men­tal change i

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE -

Lady Bar­bara Judge CBE has strong views on sub­jects rang­ing from nu­clear power to gen­der equal­ity in the oil and gas sec­tor. One of her be­liefs is that Qatar should pur­sue nu­clear power and should do it with­out de­lay.

In his first ever ad­dress as the Emir of Qatar at the United Na­tions Gen­eral As­sem­bly in 2013, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad Al Thani spoke about Qatar's ini­tia­tives in bring­ing to­gether the world's dry­land na­tions, home to over two bil­lion peo­ple, to face the chal­lenges of de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion, drought and food se­cu­rity. He wel­comed the mem­ber states to join and sup­port the al­liance. Just a few months later, Qatar launched its first Na­tional Food Se­cu­rity Pro­gramme and it al­ready con­tained lit­tle hints of the coun­try's keen in­ter­est in putting th­ese sci­en­tific and eco­nomic tools to use be­yond its bor­ders, help­ing neigh­bours and friends who were in the same boat. And the Global Dry­land Al­liance (GDA) would be the ap­pro­pri­ate plat­form to ad­dress th­ese is­sues, we were told at that time. Sev­eral months passed with­out any word about its sta­tus. Fi­nally last month we were in­vited to what was the

The GDA will help coun­tries with­out sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial means to tap into devel­op­ment funds from var­i­ous fi­nan­cial part­ners or for­eign aid to fund their agri­cul­ture, wa­ter and en­ergy pro­grammes.

for­mal an­nounce­ment on the for­ma­tion of the GDA. In May this year in Mar­rakech, Morocco, GDA will present the foun­da­tion treaty to the al­liance's found­ing mem­ber states (ex­pected to be around 20 in num­ber), a cul­mi­na­tion of more than three years of strate­gis­ing, diplo­matic ma­neu­ver­ing and ce­ment­ing part­ner­ships. The ar­chi­tect of the ini­tia­tive, Badr Al Dafa, in his in­tro­duc­tory re­marks said that this might be a small start but the prob­lem they were try­ing to ad­dress was large and in­creas­ingly ur­gent, com­pounded by grow­ing pop­u­la­tions, cli­mate change and con­flict.

“Our aim is to elim­i­nate poverty and hunger in dry­land coun­tries, con­tribut­ing to their peace and se­cu­rity,” Am­bas­sador Al Dafa told the gath­ered diplo­matic corp, rep­re­sent­ing var­i­ous na­tions like Mex­ico, Nether­lands, Chad, Morocco, Spain, In­dia and more. “We hope you will sup­port us ir­re­spec­tive of whether you are a dry­land na­tion or not,” he said. Mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion is at the very core of GDA, its small sec­re­tariat chan­nel­ing re­sources across the in­tri­cate web that con­nects min­istries, the pri­vate sec­tor, the United Na­tions, in­ter­na­tional banks, NGOs and re­search in­sti­tutes. A job that Qatar, which in re­cent years has proved its diplo­matic chops, is per­fectly pre­pared to un­der­take. More so un­der the stew­ard­ship of Am­bas­sador Al Dafa, a ca­reer diplo­mat who, among other things, was pre­vi­ously the Am­bas­sador of Qatar to the United States and served as Un­der Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the United Na­tions and Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of the Eco­nomic and So­cial Com­mis­sion for West­ern Asia.

He says the nitty-gritty of putting the GDA to­gether has taken a while be- cause he has been work­ing closely with the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion, World Food Pro­gram and other such en­ti­ties to look into the char­ter and help set up the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Many en­ti­ties to­day are pro­duc­ing valu­able re­search and im­ple­ment­ing devel­op­ment pro­grammes in dry­lands and GDA's role would be to serve as a link be­tween th­ese and the mem­ber states and to es­tab­lish pre­ven­tive and re­spon­sive mea­sures while craft­ing in­te­grated food se­cu­rity poli­cies to ad­dress the needs of the in­di­vid­ual states in mak­ing them food-se­cure. “Ad­di­tion­ally there will be a price mon­i­tor­ing unit to pre­dict fluc­tu­a­tions in the cost of im­por­tant food items and ef­fort to stock­pile food that can be bought at a rea­son­able price by mem­ber states dur­ing a cri­sis.”

“Qatar learnt a valu­able les­son dur­ing the global food cri­sis of 2008. We and other coun­tries in the re­gion have suc­cess­fully cre­ated na­tional food se­cu­rity pro­grammes and have had a few suc­cess sto­ries. Through this al­liance we can trans­fer some of th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences to ben­e­fit other lesser de­vel­oped coun­tries,” he says.

The mem­ber states will be re­quired to make means-based con­tri­bu­tions to keep the sec­re­tariat func­tion­ing but in turn, the GDA will help coun­tries with­out sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial means to tap into devel­op­ment funds from var­i­ous fi­nan­cial part­ners like the World Bank, African Devel­op­ment Bank, Is­lamic Devel­op­ment Bank and Asian Devel­op­ment Bank or for­eign aid to fund their agri­cul­ture, wa­ter and en­ergy pro­grammes. “GDA will be some­one to rely on for sup­port, ad­vice and in­ter­ven­tion for our mem­bers,” he says.

Am­bas­sador Al Dafa says Qatar has long been a bene­fac­tor to many de­vel­op­ing coun­tries out­side the frame­work of for­mal or­gan­i­sa­tions like th­ese. “Look­ing at how many coun­tries are fac­ing the threat of food in­se­cu­rity, we de­cided we needed an in­ter­na­tional plat­form that is not just bi­lat­eral. A col­lec­tive ef­fort was needed to ad­dress this is­sue and its var­i­ous con­nected chal­lenges.”

Am­bas­sador Al Dafa's voice soft­ens as he talks about hunger and revo­lu­tion. “Food is the prime mover be­hind po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity,” he says. “At least that is my per­sonal in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Arab Spring. Peo­ple were hun­gry.” And more than guns, tanks and Scud mis­siles, it is ef­forts like th­ese that will bring peace to many of the trou­bled parts of the world


Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Global Dry­land Al­liance

Diplo­mats gather to lis­ten to Badr Al

Dafa in­tro­duc­ing the GDA

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