A LEADING ROLE

Kuwait 2019 | DIPLOMACY | FOCUS

Kuwait remains a quiet force of stability in the Arabian Gulf through its increasing humanitarian and diplomatic efforts in the region and beyond.

Kuwait, a small petroleum-based economy with a wealthy population of about 4 million, has long played an outsized role in advancing global humanitarian causes. Since 2014, the Kuwaiti government has spent USD1.4 billion to help alleviate extreme poverty and suffering around the world, becoming one of the leading donors in the GCC, a political and economic alliance it established in 1981 with Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

In a generous display of soft power, the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has used the nation's vast reserves to support humanitarian efforts around the world. At the same time, the Amir has played a crucial role as a neutral mediator in recent diplomatic disputes between GCC members. As tensions continue between neighboring Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait has pushed forward as a force for stability, taking a quiet yet notable leadership position in a world increasingly fraught with conflict

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the Kuwaiti government has played a key role in supporting multilateral humanitarian action, most notably by hosting three International Humanitarian Pledging Conferences for Syrian aid in 2013, 2014, and 2015. These efforts gathered a total of USD7.6 billion in donor pledges and led to the establishment of the Top Donors Group for Syria, which has helped bolster UN projects and aid distribution to civilians impacted by the ongoing war.
The Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) has also played a significant role in delivering aid, medical facilities, and shelter to Syrian civilians in recent years while working in coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and Turkish Red Crescent relief operations. Much of the international financial and logistical support for Syrians taking refuge in neighboring countries, such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, has been managed by Kuwaiti organizations, which helped deliver vital services to Syrian families, many of whom may otherwise have struggled to access adequate medical care and educational services after fleeing their home country.

Kuwait took a leadership role in setting up sufficient refugee camps and facilities, lightening the financial burden for host nations such as Lebanon, which has struggled to accommodate the large influx of Syrians into its already fragile economy. Government officials in Kuwait took a similar approach to the conflict in Yemen by dispatching multiple humanitarian convoys to the nation's port cities, providing relief to famine-stricken civilians. In August 2018, a Kuwaiti donation of USD50 million for emergency food assistance delivered much-needed wheat flour and cooking oil to more than 2.5 million people in Yemen. Over the last 10 years, Kuwait contributed nearly USD190 million to World Food Program operations, helping to alleviate hunger for some of the world's most vulnerable people.

While many of the world's leading aid organizations, including United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have praised the Kuwaiti government for its contributions, Kuwait's aid reaches far beyond its Middle Eastern neighbors. To date, Kuwait has provided assistance to Bangladesh, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan, among other nation's facing crises stemming from conflicts and natural disasters. KRCS has played a significant role in the financing and constructing many of the shelters currently being used in Bangladesh to shelter Rohingya refugees that fled their homes in Myanmar due to violent persecution.

Back in the Gulf area, Kuwaiti funds have also been directed at infrastructure to secure safe and sustainable drinking water for populations in Iraq. In 2018, a technical team from the Kuwait Ministry of Electricity and Water delivered four seawater desalination units to Iraq that will produce 1 million gallons of fresh drinking water per month, ensuring long-term prosperity and economical viability for the nation's southern residents.
Beyond international aid, Kuwait has become a crucial intermediary between GCC nations since Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed a blockade on Qatar. The Amir has so far prevented the dispute from escalating into a potentially devastating conflict and his role as a deal broker will only grow as tensions continue into the foreseeable future. By remaining relatively neutral, the Kuwaiti government has continued seeking a mediated solution, providing further proof it is a force for the greater good in the Gulf region.