Brookings Doha Center International

Advisory Council Inaugural Meeting

February 15, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

23:00 PM

Monday,February 16, 2009

01:00 AM
Brookings Doha Center, Doha, Qatar


On February 15, 2009, His Excellency Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, convened the inaugural Brookings Doha Center International Advisory Council meeting in Doha, Qatar. The Prime Minister serves as the Co-Chair of the Brookings Doha Center (BDC) International Advisory Council (IAC), together with Brookings President Strobe Talbott. The Prime Minister had inaugurated the Brookings Doha Center one year earlier in February 2008.

Carlos Pascual, Brookings Vice President for Foreign Policy Studies represented Strobe Talbott at this meeting.

Council members who attended the meeting included Madeleine Albright, 64th Secretary of State of the United States and Principal of the Albright Group LLC; Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor of nuclear physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad; Rami G. Khouri, Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut and Editor-at-Large and Former Execu­tive Editor of the Daily Star; Atta-ur-Rahman, Federal Minister and Chairman of the Higher Education Commission in Pakistan; and Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Library of Alexandria.

Also present were H.E. Abdullah Eid Salman Al-Sulaiti, Acting Director of the Office of the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs; H.E. Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Rumaihi, Assistant Foreign Minister for Follow Up Affairs; Martin Indyk, Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings; Hady Amr, Director of the Brookings Doha Center; and Shibley Telhami, Senior Nonresident Fellow at the Saban Center.

His Excellency Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim began the meeting by welcoming the IAC members. He was followed by Martin Indyk, who provided the overall context of the role of the Brookings Doha Center in the region and Hady Amr, who presented the specific mission of the BDC:

The Brookings Doha Center, a Project of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, undertakes independent, policy-oriented research on the socioeconomic and geopolitical issues facing Muslim-majority states and communities, including relations with the United States. The center is intended to be a hub for Brookings scholarship in the Arab and Muslim world, encouraging increased dialogue between policy makers and analysts from the United States and the Muslim world and promoting lasting partnerships among scholars and civil society members.

Hady Amr explained that the center’s research and programming falls under 3 main categories:

  1. Governance issues such as the analysis of constitutions, media laws, religion and society.
  2. Human Development and Economics issues such as the analysis of government and non-governmental policy in the areas of education, health, environment, business, energy and economics.
  3. International Affairs such as the analysis of security frameworks in the Gulf, the war in Iraq, Israeli-Palestinian affairs, and other contemporary issues.

Amr further illustrated some of the topics that the center will be working on under these three categories:

  1. Governance: elections in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iran.
  2. Human Development and Economics: energy consumption in the Gulf and its impact on the environment, the impact of creating a natural gas cartel, the relationship between education and militancy in madrassah education, particularly in Pakistan.
  3. International Affairs: the analysis of security frameworks in the Gulf, Israeli-Palestinian relations, Sunni-Shia relations, micro nationalism in the Muslim world, Darfur, and oil and gas pipelines and their role in fostering cooperation and resolving conflicts.

A vibrant discussion followed, during which all International Advisory Council members offered comments on the Brookings Doha Center agenda and guidance on how to enhance it. Feedback included:

    • Support for the three categories of research and programming being undertaken by the BDC, i.e. Governance, Human Development and International Affairs
    • Suggestions to concentrate on key areas where the BDC could provide the most value-added, like in the areas of education or in examining the public policy process and the role of think tanks therein, and to track findings over a period of time
    • Suggestions that there be focus on regional security crises like Darfur, Somalia, Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Region, and Iran’s role in the region
    • An emphasis on the importance of defining the entry points to the policy-making process and the need to engage policymakers in the work of the center to be able to create a real impact
    • Suggestions to convene small groups of people in seminars or small conferences on specific topics within the scope of the center
    • Broad agreement that the BDC should build on its existing assets to convene key “track 2” discussions on the key policy issues.

The meeting was followed by a private dinner hosted by His Excellency the Prime Minister. The dinner included a more informal discussion of wide ranging issues on Middle East politics and U.S. relations with the region.

Moving forward, the BDC plans to concentrate on its key areas of Governance, Human Development and International Affairs/Security. Through video-conferencing, the center will provide insights to the Washington policy community on the thoughts and feelings from the region and also provide the policy community in Doha with insights into the policy process in Washington. Finally, the Brookings Doha Center plans to build on its convening power to bring together thought-leaders for track-2-style discussions on key policy issues that affect relations between the United States and the Muslim World.

The next IAC meeting is planned to take place on the margins of the next annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum, in February 2010.