Interview with H.E. Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi

Ambassador of the State of Kuwait to the Kingdom of Belgium, Head of Mission to the EU and NATO

Kuwait is in the middle of an extremely dynamic region. How can the State of Kuwait contribute to the stabilization of the Middle East?

The State of Kuwait is a major stabilizing force in the Middle East through its mediation efforts, humanitarian assistance, regional investments via the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and through its policy of non-interference in any country’s internal affairs. Kuwait has offered its diplomatic and mediation expertise in the region even before its independence — mediating territorial disputes in the Gulf Region beginning in 1936. Since then Kuwait has been involved in negotiations or mediation in almost every inter-Arab dispute on the Arabian Peninsula right on up through the current Gulf Crisis. Under the leadership of His Highness the Emir of the State of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Kuwait quickly positioned itself as the head mediator and enjoys widespread international support.

Kuwait is an international leader when it comes to providing humanitarian assistance all around the globe. In fact, Kuwait was recently recognized by the United

Nations as a humanitarian center and its leader, Sheikh Sabah was honored with a one of a kind status as a humanitarian leader. Per capita, Kuwait is by far one of the most generous countries in the world. Aid, while recently more focused on alleviating the plight of the Syrian and Yemeni people and assisting Iraq in rebuilding areas liberated from Daesh, is delivered all over the world. Kuwait has provided aid to countries in Africa and Asia hit by natural disasters and is always ready to support the humanitarian efforts of the UN.

The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) was established to provide economic assistance to people in need all through the Middle East. It is the first institution in the Middle East that took an active role in international development efforts. It provides loans and finances development projects in developing countries while also providing technical assistance and training nationals. Initially it was set up to assist other Arab countries but has expanded worldwide. It is just one other aspect of how Kuwait contributes to the stabilization of the region.

What are the main focus points for you today in Brussels?

There are a number of main focus points for me as ambassador and they can be split up into three distinct categories: Belgium, European Union, and NATO.

With the Kingdom of Belgium, the State of Kuwait is primarily focused on its bilateral relationship and increasing cooperation in all aspects and fields. We share a close, historic, and friendly relationship with Belgium and cooperate on a lot of international issues. Currently, Belgium and Kuwait share membership on the United Nations Security Council and this has only deepened our cooperation on a broad range of international issues. On the economic sector, a delegation of Belgian business people will be visiting Kuwait on a mission to boost mutual investment and cooperation between our two countries.

The European Union and the State of Kuwait cooperate on a broad range of issues as we share the same set of core principles and values. Most notably together we have co-chaired a number of humanitarian conferences promoting aid and reconstruction in Iraq and Syria and supporting the plight of the Rohingya people. In the past few years the friendly relations and cooperation between the EU and Kuwait has only deepened with the signing of the Cooperation Agreement, the recent Senior Officials’ Meeting, and the upcoming opening of the EU delegation in Kuwait.

NATO and Kuwait are strong partners in the fields of security and counter terrorism. Kuwait is part of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), which was created to boost security cooperation between NATO and the four members of the ICI — Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE. The opening of the NATO-ICI Regional Center in 2018 further boosted the relations between NATO and Kuwait and the first-year review of the center has brought back only favorable answers.

How do you see the evolution of Kuwait’s strategy and challenges related to this situation?

Kuwait is prepared to meet the challenges posed by the increasing focus on renewable energy and climate change. Renewable energy and foreign investment in clean energy is a critical part of the New Kuwait 2035 strategic plan. This long-term development plan calls for transforming Kuwait into a regional financial and commercial hub and lowering Kuwait’s dependence on exporting oil while also boosting the education, health, and infrastructure of the country.

Kuwait has already completed a number of solar plants and is on track to target 15% renewable energy by 2035. The first phase of the Al-Shagaya Renewable Energy Project was recently inaugurated. The complex includes 70 megawatts of power generated from solar, wind, thermal, and electro optic resources. Kuwait has set aside 630,000 square meters of land for establishing solar energy facilities. Here in Belgium Q8 Oils, owned and operated by the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, opened a state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly lubricant blending plant in Antwerp.

The Belt and Road Initiative, how will Kuwait take part?

Kuwait is actually part of the Belt and Road Initiative following the signing of a series of memorandums of understanding with China. Northern Kuwait includes a large swath of territory reserved for the development of the appropriately name Madinat al-Hareer or Silk City. Kuwait’s Silk City has plans to develop a state-of-the-art port, environmental areas, conference areas, a business center, a new airport, and concentrate on health, education, tourism, and industry. Upon completion the Silk City project is projected to include housing for over 700,000 people and create over 450,000 new jobs.

Could you share with us how Kuwait and its Cultural Heritage are a bridge to contemporary Life.

Kuwait is and has always been an outwards looking nation. We are a country of explorers, traders, and merchants and Kuwait is a natural stopping point between the East and West. Being such a small nation, Kuwait was successful in exporting our cultural heritage and values to many neighboring countries. Also historically we found ourselves importing aspects of the many cultures and peoples that we discovered and traded with. Kuwait has had contact with Europeans as far back as 17th century with Portuguese, and later Dutch, explorers. Interactions with Europeans brought an exchange of knowledge, traditions, civilization, and education. Trade with the world, especially India, brought new ideas, cuisines, and opportunities for growth. Our interactions have always been peaceful and based on the common principles of tolerance and acceptance. This is one of the side effects of a trade and maritime culture. Mixing with different cultures and learning from them is how we progress as a people. The European continent is of great historical importance to Kuwait. Eight years before its independence, Kuwait decided to establish the world’s first sovereign wealth fund in the United Kingdom. My country has since used this fund to invest in the future of Kuwait and the world.