Qatar: The world’s go-to mediator

Qatar is at the centre of efforts to mediate the Hamas-Israel conflict. How does a country of less than 3 million people, Qatar, become the worlds’ go-to mediator?

This week’s Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Rear Vision podcast provides an explainer, and then some: Qatar has become the world’s go-to mediator, but what’s in it for them?

Qatar is situated in a rough neighbourhood. That leads to a high level of insecurity.  In response, they have undertaken rapid massive economic development (a la Singapore). Qatar also adopted another survival strategy. They seek out and work to maintain as many lines of communications and relationships, as possible.

Five characteristics of Qatar’s approach to international mediation

  1. Extensive communications channels.  Qatar establishes and maintains communication channels with as many countries as possible; even those countries that don’t talk to each other.
  2. Don’t shy away from seeking out and maintaining difficult relationships. Qatar maintains relationships with all actors, no matter their stripe (including: Hamas, Taliban). This enables Qatar to foster dialogue and compromise when needed; essential to resolving polarized conflicts, and crises; e.g., hostage situations.
  3. Leverage relationships in mediation.  Qatar can call on its’ personal connections and ties forged over time to its advantage, in mediation contexts. “You owe us”.
  4. Complex and highly-nuanced approach. Complex problems necessitate complex solutions. Qatar’s foreign policy approach is complex and highly nuanced. They monitor what’s happening and avoid pissing their connections off to much. That said, their is a risk, a flip side, to Qatar’s approach – not everyone understands the Qatari logic. From the outside, Qatar’s foreign policy can look incoherent, even maverick.
  5. Learning mindset. Qatar continues to refine and improve their mediation skills and capacities. Once best in slow-moving negotiations, they have sought out (from allied countries, U.S. and others) training, and have learned new synergistic, dynamic approaches (e.g., a “multi-lateral fused response”) to mediate international conflict.

Qatar is a global player, writ large

Qatar is a constitutional monarchy, not a democracy, yet not a repressive dictatorship either. Rather, they are viewed as a “benign, authoritarian state”. Consensus is emphasized over conflict.

Qatar was host to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, is home to Qatar Airways, the world’s largest airline, and shares the world’s largest oil field (with Iran).

Qatar is perceived as a neutral, an impartial mediator, adept at high stakes diplomacy, and possessing the goods to craft and manage complex negotiated agreements.

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