His Excellency (HE) Dr. Abdulla bin Ali Al Thani, President of Hamad Bin Khalifa University and Vice President of Education at Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) welcomed students from Education City, Qatar University and Rice University to the 2012 Doha Colloquium at the Qatar National Convention Centre. He was joined by the founding director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and former US Ambassador, Edward P. Djerejian, who delivered the opening address.
The students came together to share knowledge and opinions on science, society and globalization.
HE Dr Al Thani opened the discussion by emphasizing the importance of having an international perspective in education: “The universities represented at Qatar Foundation are globally recognized academic institutions, which help to prepare the students to compete and integrate into the global marketplace,” he said. He talked about the progress that has been made in education in Qatar over the last 10 years, and how QF has contributed to this.
Ambassador Djerejian talked extensively about QF’s investment in the country’s future generations by creating opportunities through education, science and research. “Qatar has become a successful example of Arab foreign policy,” he said. “Qatar is one of the few countries in this part of the world that has made the decision to invest in developing a society based on knowledge. The country’s leaders are not sitting down satisfied with what today’s landscape looks like, but are looking towards the future and working to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy for future generations.”
In 2010, the student-led Public Diplomacy & Global Policymaking Program was developed by students from Texas’ Rice University, with the aim of building bridges with the Middle East. The first interactions under the program were between Rice students and students from the American University in Cairo in 2010.
As a continuation of the program mission, Rice and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy organized the 2012 Doha Colloquium, which took place parallel to the 2012 Qatar International Conference on Stem Cell Science and Policy.
Rice students engaged in discussions with the Qatar-based students on key issues, including scientific diplomacy, modern research, ideas to promote future scientific collaborations between the US and Qatar and the importance of making science understandable if the public are to be better informed.
In addition to the dialogue on scientific diplomacy, roundtable discussions took place on topics including religion, secularism and interfaith dialogue; the Arab spring and the role of social media; the future of development for knowledge-based economies; and understanding and discussing cultural misconceptions.
The colloquium illustrated that the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is not only engaging renowned experts in science but also encourages the participation of younger generations in open discussions on the importance of science and research for public diplomacy.
Dr. Ayman Bassil, Head of QF’s Research Training & Development, commented: “These sessions reflect Qatar Foundation’s significant emphasis on the role that youth play in building a bright, peaceful future around the globe. These interactions and dialogues have a major impact on their mutual understanding and tolerance - not only in the field of politics, but also in sciences and economics. The students at this colloquium were from different academic and cultural backgrounds, which enabled rich contributions to the different issues related to sciences, economics, media and politics.”
Aisha Ghanim, Senior Research Analyst in QF’s Research Division, helped organize the colloquium: “Such sessions must be highly valued around the world for their contribution to creating future leaders who will be fully aware of the needs and hopes of people in other parts of the world,” she said. “It was a pleasure for me to be involved in organizing these sessions and I’m truly overwhelmed by the great young minds and their sophistication, openness and understandings, which makes us all very optimistic about the future of our world.”