Speech of His Highness Shaykh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah at the University of Roma Tor Vergata on the occasion of conferring His Highness the title of "Ph.D honoris causa"  
  22 May 2014  

His Excellency Professor Giuseppe Novelli,
Rector of the University of Roma Tor Vergata
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to express my pride in being conferred the Ph.D Honoris Causa, in the field of comparative legal systems and international relations, from the University of Roma Tor Vergata, which I consider an everlasting pride. On this occasion, I would like to pay tribute to my teacher and my mentor, His Highness Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait who authorized me to receive this Honoris Causa, especially that His Highness has spent more than sixty years in the diplomatic service, and earned the well-deserved title of "Dean of the diplomatic corps" as the foreign minister who held this position continuously for the longest period of time, and accumulated a great experience though the years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The name of Rome in my cultural memory is connected to the era that goes back to the year two thousand five hundred. It is linked to the Roman Senatus, to the Pantheon of all the gods of ancient Rome, the Colosseum which immortalize the memory of the Flavian emperors, and to the Vatican which started with Saint Peter, in addition to the great philosophers, poets, artists and scientists of Rome since the age of Renaissance until today. I salute this great city with its universities, its colleges, its institutes and its research centers. And I would like here to express my highest respect and appreciation of the University of Roma Tor Vergata that was a pioneer in coordinating between the outputs of the educational systems and the needs of the labour market, and in becoming aware of the proportional relationship between them. I would also like to share with you some ideas and opinions in light of my experience in this life, especially in international relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I do not need to repeat what was stated in my resume about my studies, my education and my practical experience, but there’s one side that was not revealed in my CV, and that is the source of the formation of my thinking and my culture: I belong to a house that has tremendous experience in good governance and in addressing regional and international challenges that the country faced throughout its history, in a responsible way which contributed, not only to the strengthening the pillars of the State, but also to adding more security, prosperity and stability to the country for over three centuries. This culture has formed a heritage that we transmit from generation to generation and a school where I learnt things as important as what I learnt at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the middle of the seventeenth century, the land of Kuwait was barren and dry with no fresh water, but the pioneer explorers persisted on settling there. Their intuition told them that its geographical location would make it a source of wealth. The first decision they took was the election of a ruling family. They chose Sabah the First as a Shaykh. A Shaykh in Arabic is an honourable term which is used to call a man who has exceeded the age of fifty, and has the ability to arbitrate. Thus, people in our region use the term “Shaykh” to refer to either clergies or ruling men.

Within a century, Kuwaitis were able to turn their country into one of the most important ports of the Gulf, where transit trade, pearl diving, and sailing ships industry flourished. They succeeded in attracting capital from neighbouring areas, to form a commercial fleet that travelled to all the Indian Ocean ports. Western Visitors, such as the Danish Carsten Neibuhr, the English William Gifford Palgrave and Harold R.P. Dickson, and the Australian Alan Villiers spoke about the competence of Kuwaitis, their endeavour at work, the high quality of their ships, and their discipline and teamwork. And just like the challenges of the desert pushed them out to the sea, the sea turned them into hardworking and disciplined people who fought the sea horrors and made fortunes. The basic task of the governor in the country was to maintain security and ensure stability, as stability allowed trade to grow and flourish. Thus, our foreign relations were established on the basis of maintaining peace, and sparing Kuwait regional and international conflicts. Achieving this goal became more and more difficult with the rise of international competition on the international trade routes in the Indian Ocean, and the increasing conflicts between the existing entities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The international relations are similar to the movement of all the vessels in a rough ocean, and the capacity of each ship to survive and to reach the mainland safely. Based on this philosophy, the governor ran the foreign relationships of Kuwait during those centuries. We were a small ship sailing between ships and fleets, and seeking to preserve its independence and trying to benefit from the new commercial situation which flourished when the West succeeded to access the Indian Ocean. At the same time, we tried to avoid provoking the religious and military authorities of the Ottomans. Kuwait was looking for an opportunity of enhanced cooperation with the British, the French, the Russians and the Germans for what they could offer, without harming its interests in the Ottoman mainland. And when the situation got to the critical point where Kuwait had to withdraw from a collapsing international order and join another rising international order, the rulers of Kuwait were able to cope with the major changes in the region, and Kuwait remained an entity, then Shaykhdom, then a principality, and finally an independent modern State.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the modern State of Kuwait, the strength of my country is no longer limited to its strategic location and to the prosperity of its seaport. The discovery of oil in the late thirties and its export in the forties after the second world war added two other sources of power: oil and money, leading to a reconsideration of the basis on which we built our international relations during the period when we relied only on trade, and Kuwait became one of the countries that now has an active role in the world strategies of energy, a role that requires being aware of its international nature and its responsibility towards world peace. Therefore, Kuwaitis have updated the basis on which Kuwait was built. Free elections were held to elect a constituent assembly whose mission was to develop the old social contract linking the ruler to the ruled and to convert it into a new constitution.

The Shura system, which is the consultative principle present in Islam, was converted into a democratic system, which encouraged the separation of powers, and the new financial wealth was managed according to three principles:

  • Firstly, spending on the modernization and development of Kuwait;
  • Secondly, saving a percentage of the oil revenues for the benefit of future generations;
  • And thirdly, providing financial and technical support for development projects and humanitarian matters in poor countries.

The oil wealth was managed according to the following principles:

  • To develop our production capacity in order to reach the highest levels and meet the needs of the market;
  • To consider oil as a strategic commodity for the world, therefore its price should not be exaggerated and it should not be used excessively as a bargaining power;
  • To encourage oil industry within Kuwait.

The mentioned principles resulted in Kuwait being transformed into the Pearl of the Gulf. Kuwait is not just a modern city decorated with skyscrapers and providing services using the most modern technologies, its people are full of life and are leading the industry of thought, the industry of opinion and the industry of culture in the region. They are considered to be one of the most experienced and active financial people within the world. As a result of the early government policies mentioned above, Kuwait became a pioneer among the contemporary States in establishing sovereign wealth funds, as well as one of the pioneers among the oil-producing countries in the establishment of development funds for poor countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
These policies built ​​us priceless international relationships, the value of which was demonstrated during the crises of Kuwait, especially by the superpowers that supported Kuwait against the occupation of Iraq during the end of the last century. The effectiveness of these policies has also been proven in the human dimension that allowed Kuwait to play a pivotal role through hosting five conferences in the last two years:

  • The International Humanitarian Pledging Conferences for Syria, held upon request of the UN, which highlights the importance of the position given to the State of Kuwait by the United Nations Organization. That position was crowned by granting His Highness the Amir Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al -Sabah a “Certificate of Appreciation” from the United Nations as an expression of appreciation for his efforts to support humanitarian works around the world. I can very proudly say that he is a reference for our friends across the world.
  • The third Afro-Arab Summit entitled "Partners in Development and Investment";
  • The Arab summit
  • And the GCC summit during the same year.

In addition, and given the international and regional challenges and the accompanying rapid developments, Kuwait’s policies allowed her to play a conciliatory role in the relations between the countries of the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
My experience in international relations taught me that success does not depend on external assistance as much as it depends on self-confidence. It taught me as well that the strength of the international peace system is not based on the size of countries, but on the skills of dealing with the power of others. The existence of large States and small States does not mean that the small States are powerless. Actually, small States affect the cohesion of international peace as much as the large States do. I would like to cite here a symbolic story written by the Arab poet Elia Abu Madi, entitled "A Small Stone", in which he talks about a well built dam on the outskirts of a small town. The dam was built of big and small rocks, but a small stone in the wall of the dam felt that it had no value among the huge rocks of the dam and decided to plunge to the bottom, leaving a small hole of its size in the wall of the dam, which resulted in the leakage of water, the collapse of the entire dam, and as a result the whole city was drowned. It's a symbolic story that refers to the importance of all countries in maintaining international peace, regardless of the size.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In conclusion, I hope I could reveal to you, through this speech, a glimpse of the knowledge and the practical experience accumulated over three centuries, from which I drew upon, in addition to my studies and my personal experience. I would like to reiterate my thanks to the University of Roma Tor Vergata and its academic staff, especially Professor Giuseppe Novelli, for nominating me for this title. I wish you further progress and prosperity.


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