Knowl­edge is Power

Bespoke - - VISION - WRITER: Hisham Wyne

When it comes to gov­ern­ment-backed ini­tia­tives in the Arab world, the Qatar Foun­da­tion is a unique one. It’s a non-profit that’s lead­ing the way not only in ed­u­ca­tion, but also in sci­en­tific ad­vance­ment, cut­ting edge re­search and tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

There’s a quote from a Jane Austen novel: those in the pos­ses­sion of a for­tune must be look­ing for a way to spend it. Qatar is a prime ex­am­ple of that. With about 15 per cent of the world’s nat­u­ral gas re­serves, this small na­tion-state is cur­rently the world’s big­gest ex­porter of LNG (Liq­ue­fied Nat­u­ral Gas). When you com­bine such an abun­dance of nat­u­ral re­sources with a pop­u­la­tion of just 278,000 na­tion­als, you come to the con­clu­sion that, in per capita terms, it is the rich­est coun­try in the world. Which goes to show just how it’s able to punch above its geo­graphic weight – in pol­i­tics, in­flu­ence, al­liances and soft power. Much of the world be­gan to re­alise this when they won the rights to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. But be­hind the ex­cite­ment and the en­su­ing de­bates over whether a sum­mer or win­ter com­pe­ti­tion is prefer­able, other slower, in­ex­orable changes are con­tin­u­ing to push the coun­try down the path of mod­erni­sa­tion and to­ward their ul­ti­mate ideal of “devel­op­ment with in­tegrity”. Firstly, they’ve been cul­ti­vat­ing a rich sched­ule of re­search events, talks, schol­ar­ships and sci­en­tific col­lab­o­ra­tions through quasi-pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions, most no­tably the Qatar Foun­da­tion. What ex­actly is this foun­da­tion? It’s a non-profit dreamed up in 1995 by His High­ness Sheikh Ha­mad Bin Khal­ifa Al Thani, fa­ther to the cur­rent Emir. On the tin, the Foun­da­tion states that it is a pri­vate, non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that sup­ports pro­grammes in three core mission ar­eas:

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