A National Vision of a Sustainable Future

Qatar has something every country needs.  I’m not referring to oil or natural gas, although Qatar has both in abundance.  I mean a national vision of and strategy for sustainable development.

Doha skyline

In less than a generation, Qatar has experienced huge economic and social transformation.  The discovery and development of its hydrocarbon resources has fuelled – pardon the pun – Qatar’s economic growth from a small nation dependent on fishing and pearling to one of the highest per capita income countries in the world.

In the face of that rapid expansion, however, new challenges have emerged.  Qataris now need to balance modernization with the preservation of values and traditions, a priority in a country where 80% of the people are expatriates.  They must also figure out – as we all must – how to achieve economic and social equity for present and future generations while protecting environmental health.

Recognizing these challenges, Qatar embarked on an initiative to define the characteristics of the country’s future.  The State established the General Secretariat for Development Planning, which undertook multi-stakeholder consultation across Qatar.  The Qatar National Vision 2030 is the product of that initiative.

The Qatar National Vision 2030 rests on four pillars: human development; social development; economic development; and environmental development.

Human Development

The human development pillar encompasses development of all Qatar’s people to enable them to sustain a prosperous society.  In particular, the Vision recognizes the hydrocarbon resources upon which the country now depends will eventually run out, and Qatar must in future be prepared to succeed in a knowledge-based and extremely competitive world order.  Thus, the Vision sets out three main outcomes for the development of Qatar’s human resources:  an educated population; a healthy population; and a capable and motivated workforce.

Social Development

The second pillar of the Vision, social development, recognizes the importance of family as the basis of Qatari society. The social development outcomes articulated in the Vision are social care and protection, a sound social structure, and international cooperation.

Economic Development

The economic development pillar of the Vision seeks to assure long-term sustainable prosperity by encouraging optimal use of the country’s finite oil and gas resources to generate financial wealth that can be invested in infrastructure and human and social development – read future renewable wealth.  Sound economic management, responsible exploitation of oil and gas, and suitable economic diversification are the desired outcomes.

Environmental Development

The fourth and final pillar of the Qatar National Vision acknowledges the need to balance economic and social development with environmental protection.  The Vision recognizes the need for increasing environmental awareness and establishing a robust legal framework for environmental protection.  It also addresses the need for urban development planning, pollution prevention, and climate change mitigation.

Together, these four pillars provide a foundation for the development of a national strategy to achieve the Vision.  Last year, the first National Development Strategy was issued, for the five years from 2011 to 2016.

The Vision, in a taxi!

One of the most interesting things I’ve seen during my time working in Qatar over the past few months is how many companies and individuals are taking the Qatar National Vision seriously.  So seriously, in fact, that they are actively trying to figure out how they can contribute.  My clients, for example, have been trying to align their business plans and strategies with the Vision’s four pillars.  Recently, the Pakistan Professionals Forum Qatar held a seminar to discuss how Pakistani professionals could contribute to the realization of the Vision.  I even found a copy of a special publication celebrating the Vision in the seat pocket of a Doha taxi!

(Perhaps it helps that the Emir explicitly articulated his expectation that the private sector, civil society, and all Qatari citizens will play a role in helping to achieve the goals of the Vision.)

It remains to be seen how successful Qatar is in achieving its Vision.

Nevertheless, Qataris are not leaving their future to chance.  This is sustainable future by design.

 

Comments welcome – please click on the “Write Comment” link on the left!

To download the Qatar National Vision 2030, click here.

To download the Qatar National Development Strategy 2011-2016, click here.

The Qatar Tribune’s January 11, 2012 article about the Pakistan Professionals Forum Qatar seminar is here.

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Celesa. It is important for all ORGANIZATIONS to realize that sustainability is about operating in a responsible manner. These responsibilities are generally thought of as: environmental stewardship, social well being, and economic propsperity, Responsibility is guided by LEADING INDICATORS from the EFQM “Framework for CSR” that was written under a MOU with the UN Global Compact. The processes that have quantitative leading indicators include: leadership, strategic planning, employee engagement, stakeholder engagement, information & knowledge management, and process management. The GRI provides us with an extensive listing of results (lagging indicators) that enable us to determine whether quantitative gains in the leading indicators are realized in the results. (Remembering that results are merely the outcome of performance and not a direct measure of the performance per se.) It sounds like the Qatar officials have understood the universal knowledge (about 70 countries have national performance frameworks like EFQM – some for more than 25 years) organizational excellence. It would be very interesting for you to compare these important documents against the other national frameworks that are available. I would be happy to send you some papers that describe the frameworks present in the US, Europe, Austrailia, Brazil and Mexico. It is great to see companies using leading indicators to create a sustainable future and not being a slave to the GRI lagging indicators and other compilations of ESG result categories. We need both! I hope you will share the information with your contacts in Qatar!

  2. Great post. Thank you Celesa. There may be plenty of national SD visions and strategies out there. Most of them are gathering dust on the shelf – or whatever the digital equivalent of that is – instead of inspiring and guiding action by the public and private sector. From your post, it seems like Qatar has managed to avoid this dead end. You mention possible reasons for this in your post – a rapid transition to modernity, a need for diversification and clear expectations from a strong leader. What else would you point to that enabled this outcome?

    • Thanks for your comment, Duncan!

      During development of both the National Vision and Strategy, the Planning Secretariat engaged all industry sectors in the country; many companies were directly involved in preparing sector strategies that informed the National Development Strategy. Such engagement often fosters a sense of ‘ownership’ on the part of contributing organizations, and this may be adding to the momentum now apparent.

      In addition, there is obviously a consistent and coordinated communications strategy in play: many State and corporate press releases refer to the alignment of the subject project or initiative with the Vision, and these get carried as stories in the local media. Consequently, awareness is high and action is visible.

      The Emir, Heir Apparent, and other members of the ruling family, many of whom hold high-profile positions in industry and the civil sector, are also frequently linked to initiatives described as contributing to or supporting the Vision. This may be corollary to visible senior leadership so critical to integrating sustainability into organizational culture (although I discount the importance of this to some degree because this kind of publicity is par for the course in that part of the world, vision or no).

      Another important factor must also be the resources they have at hand to advance their cause. Qatar is among the wealthiest economies in the world, and the State retains a great degree of control over its expenditure. They have the money to undertake many of the envisioned infrastructure and capacity-building initiatives. However, a major constraint they face is manpower; they rely heavily on skilled expatriate workers, the recruitment and retention of whom is difficult.

      Having said all that, I don’t want to paint the picture that everyone is on board; I’ve heard some Qataris opine that the Vision is just a PR exercise and the country remains focused largely on expansion of its hydrocarbon economy. The majority I spoke with, however, appear to support the Vision.

  3. For the benefit of my readers who don’t belong to the same LinkedIn groups as I do, I thought I would copy over some of the comments received there, to round out this discussion.

    From the Development Crossing CSR and Sustainable Development Group, Craig Sobey offered this comment:
    “How does Qatar go as far as sustainable food production? My very limited understanding of Qatar leads me to ponder whether or not they have much arable land (farm suitable) to be self sustainable? I wonder if you have some thoughts to share? Kind regards, Craig”

    Peter Gregg responded:
    “There are other food production options such as hydroponics, aquaculture to meet sustainable food production objectives, Peter”

    Here is the response I offered:
    “Qatar’s National Development Strategy contemplates the development of the country’s domestic agri-food sector and the need for food self-sufficiency. Among other things, they are acutely aware of the constraints imposed by water (virtually all of Qatar’s potable water comes from desalination), and water conservation and water projects (including wastewater recycling and irrigation technology) are an important focus of the Strategy. Environmental conservation, preventing over-fishing for example, is another focus.

    About 15% of the country’s food needs are met domestically, and increasing this (e.g., through improved farming methods and water efficiency) is a goal of the Strategy. The Qatar National Food Security Programme (http://www.qnfsp.gov.qa/) was established for this purpose.

    I also understand Qatar has purchased land in Africa and perhaps elsewhere to ensure a secure food supply over the long term. I heard – although I am not directly familiar with the details – Qatar is investing in agricultural development projects in those countries in which it has purchased land.

    While Qatar’s goal is food self-sufficiency, they have a long way to go to get there and many challenges to deal with, including the high carbon footprint of desalinating water in a desert climate, using current fossil-fuel fired technologies.”

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