H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al- Thani
First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
"The Role of the Citizens in Building Society Now and in Future"
The Sixth Doha Cultural Festival
1st April 2007
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the pleasure to be amongst you today, to take part in this event which has already become an occasion we look forward to with great pride and appreciation.
I tackled during the previous three years the concepts of reform and democracy as we consider them in the State of Qatar and what is meant by democracy culture. To supplement that series of speeches on this topic I deem it necessary to tackle today the topic on the " role of the citizens in building society now and the future" since it is considered in my view a mainstay for the success of reform and democratic building. Democracy and reform are not an end per se but rather a means for ensuring better future for the present and future generations, if the objective conditions for attaining that goal are met.
If democracy means the people's participation in the process of rule, then the democratic building be it a delineation of features of the identity of that rule which suit the society or a demarcation of its processes and procedures, should be based on an intertwined network of rights and duties which are conducive to public interest. In this context, the role of citizens in building society appears to be vital. Our topic, hence, is a social subject in the first place. It is scope can accommodate many different views. We are, therefore required to embrace goodwill and be objective and open-hearted when initiating a dialogue with the other. We should endeavor to build an understanding that bring about consensus and convergence of views, since our ultimate objective is to achieve the social interest, in other words the people's interest.
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have started, as you are well aware, by the will of His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar the process of reform, democratization, and comprehensive development of the State several years ago, because it is our own conviction that this the optimal means for realizing security, peace and welfare. We underlined, in this respect, the principle responsible public participation in the decision making process and the ensuring of basic rights of citizens -both male and female. We have also been keen to adhere to graduality and systematic ways in order to achieve what suits our cultural heritage. This will guard us against surprises that may turn the democratic building into a rejected structure. We brace our efforts to enable citizens to build and develop the country.
While the political authority has been duty-bound to embark on this building process and went along way down that path, such duty does not end at establishing the rules of democratic governance but transcends that into upholding the application of these rules in letter and spirit in accordance with the Constitution. Citizens must understand that the success of this whole process is not dependent on the political power alone. Citizens are equally responsible for making this process a success. That is because the citizen is the target of this process, it is for him/her and their welfare and the welfare of the coming generation that this option of democratization has been opted for. Citizens must be aware that the rights ensures to them by this constitutional process are accompanied by duties, there are no rights that are not followed by duties.
Amongst the salient of these duties is the recognition of rights within their constitutional and legal context, and the keenness on maintaining the sound application of these duties. Sound application implies that we condescend that the democratic process involves a relative administration of justice and equality, the minority must accept the opinion of the majority. Since transparency, accountability and control are some of the basic pillars of a democratic process, it is , hence, incumbent upon the citizen ? while exercising his constitutional rights to uphold objectivity and impartiality when giving a judgment or making assessment relating to raised issues. His /her opinion should not be contentious or subjectively motivated. The concepts of good governance have become unequivocally known. The role of the citizens in protecting these concepts is therefore significant and rests in keenness on making them prevail and be effective. In this way, Public surveillance will be realized, whether through individuals or civil society organizations, or through the private sector.
We are confronted in this respect by a cultural development on exercising the democratic process which is no easy thing but rather an uphill process when bearing in mind the joint responsibility between the political power and the citizens.
Now I move to the social and economic side. The Almighty Allah has given us huge quantities of natural recourses. We seek to apply a comprehensive development plan that covers all aspects of life in away that secures a good life for our present and future generations. On this process, we always keep in mind the principle that man is the central aim for the economic and social development. As known, this principle, directs activities towards the implementation of all types of life interests of the individual. Hence, it should be clear that citizens have individual and social responsibilities in bearing burdens of development plans as it is impossible to get the desired success in securing the aims of such plans depending on the government effort alone. From this perspective, a host of burdens that should be shouldered by individuals and the society, come to the mind, from which , I mention the following:
- The citizen should understand and know the details of development efforts and participate with his individual capabilities in the developmental activity, either by money or work through the legal approaches. From this point comes the importance of supporting the government efforts, specifying developmental concepts and implementing them in the best way. The citizen should make efforts to arm himself with knowledge, whether culture or specialization, and developing his capabilities to assume leading positions in the leadership of the society to better standards. There should be much care for public fund, work should be respected and implemented urgently, precisely and with much care and responsibility avoiding the influence of nepotism and mood of mind. The individual factors should not affect in securing the rights of people as any work that fails to be on the side of public interest is doomed to be isolated from the activities that lead to the progress of the society.
- The great natural resources that the Almighty Allah has endowed to us, and which forms the main source for development effort, are subject to depletion. Hence, at the time that the State works to invest these resources in ways for sustaining them for the longest possible period, the individual, who will enjoy the revenues of investment, should be wise in consumption to support the State's efforts for sustaining the benefits. it is right that we are a luxurious society, but this fact should not lead our behavior to apathy and extravagance.
- It is well-known that the implementation of ambitious development plans affects the economic situation of the population and leads to higher standards of inflation. As the various sectors of the population have different financial incomes, citizens should not neglect supporting the poor sectors of the population. Attaining personal interests is a legitimate aim secured by all laws, but profits should be at reasonable limits that does not make rich people richer and the poor poorer. This side does not depend on the legal system alone as it is related to the behavior of individual and their personal tendencies. A citizen's duty to pay attention to sound societal culture that conforms to our age is also important. Despite the fact that views differ as regard the meaning of culture, it can be said that culture is what accumulation in the nation's memory of knowledge, ideas, morals, laws, customs, traditions and historical heritage which define for the nation its social behavior in life. We live in the age of globalization. This raises the following question: If we aspire to freedom under democracy, is it possible to maintain a coherent society composed of free individuals equal in terms of rights, when relations with society's culture in the above sense are severed? In my modest opinion, we should all, as citizens with different positions in life, seek to face the challenge of modernity provided that society's cultural constants are maintained. By their nature, these are capable of evolution. We should be aware that modernity separated from values produced by society's culture in the above sense cannot be sufficiently rooted to the degree required for progress. Therefore, not everything new or contemporary is worthy of imitation due to the fact that conditions of societies differ. What is even more important is that blind imitation deprives a society and even man of true identity. With the passing of time a system based on or leading to a vacuum will form. This is not a call for retaining outmoded elements of social culture. On the contrary, it is a call to rejuvenate a rational review in which a balance is struck between non-neglect of society's culture and utilization of achievements of modern civilization flowing into the optimal wellbeing of human life.
- An issue related to what I have said is the family issue. Its traditional structure has witnessed considerable changes, especially with regard to children's positive upbringing as a result of integration and cooperation by family members. Within this respect, globalization has had a clear impact, both positive and negative. In the positive side, there is opening up to the world and tangible change in the view towards women and their role in society, social legislations within the framework of social development plans. On the other hand, there have been negative effects leading to a shake-up of the family establishment as a result of changes in the economic situation and accumulation of wealth, programs and projects leading to the improvement of the family's status in the fields of health, education, childcare, housing, provision of job opportunities, occupational training, etc. As a result of such factors, the role of family education, which was traditionally central, has receded a great deal. Hence, a citizen has a duty to exercise his role in sound family upbringing that conforms to social constants constituting the system of values and ethics in our society. It seems to me, in general and without any of us feeling embarrassed, that we do not carry out our duty as appropriate in this respect, at home, within the family and even at school. We only need to observe closely, despite many positive results in the process of modernization and development, how young people behave to see serious negative aspects arising from weak family upbringing, especially in terms of discipline and follow-up.
- Another issue is how individuals behave in the media. The important question here is: if freedom of expression is a basic factor of individual freedom guaranteed by the democratic system, does that mean allowing claims that are not based on facts or accurate knowledge as well as absence of any restrictions on the method, style and content of what is said? In my opinion the answer should be: no. Therefore, the citizen should exercise his freedom of expression with respect that does not involve personal defamation or revenge tendencies, and the objective should always be to serve public interest in seeking the truth.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
These are quick glimpses of some aspects of the citizen's role in building society at present and in the future. There are other issues that can be addressed but time does not allow it. In conclusion, I would like to state that no democratic system is viable without the citizen's exercise of his role as defined by law and the prevalent system of social values. Without this, society becomes a rigid and lifeless structure and, even more seriously, without identity. Consequently, its fate can only lead to diminishing and marginal life.
I hope what I have said will invoke a constructive dialogue and I am confident of that and I look forward to it.