BECKLEY, West Virginia — On January 5, 2021, the Qatar Diplomatic Crisis came to an end after three and a half years of trade blockades and economic downfall. Many countries in the Middle East are celebrating the end of the international upheaval as trade normalizes across multiple nations in the Persian Gulf region. However, the impacts of the devastating besiegement may still be visible for years to come.
What happened during the diplomatic crisis?
On June 5, 2017, several countries in the Middle East including Egypt and Saudi Arabia severed their economic ties with Qatar. All diplomatic relations between the nations were disbanded and Qatar was forbidden from using the air and land space of the entire Gulf area. Land borders between Qatar and these regions were also closed.
Several different events led to this diplomatic crisis. Hackers posted that Qatar reportedly funded Muslim extremist groups and became “too close with Iran.” This followed a 2014 incident where multiple countries pulled their diplomats from Qatar and an event in 2011 where Saudi Arabia and Qatar chose “different sides” at the Arab Spring.
The blockading countries gave Qatar a list of 13 demands in June of 2017 which included a myriad of anti-terrorism clauses including severing ties with Iran. However, Qatar did not agree to the demands and was therefore excommunicated from trading with Gulf countries. The BBC claimed that Qatar’s foreign minister interpreted the demands as surrendering the country’s sovereignty, which is “something it would never do.”
After years of embargo, Prince Faisal bin Farhad of Saudi Arabia declared that the Qatar Diplomatic Crisis was over and that all relations with Qatar would be restored. All borders were opened and Qatar was once again permitted to use the Gulf’s air and sea space. The BBC credits Kuwait and the United States for their mediation efforts in this matter.
How did it impact citizens?
During the Qatar Diplomatic Crisis, Qatar lost access to “40% of its food” after Saudi Arabia closed its land border to the nation. The Qatari stock market took an astronomical fall and multiple businesses closed due to the nation’s poor economic state. Airline flights across the world were halted and oil prices jumped internationally. Although the global economy took a hit as a result of this crisis, Qatar’s citizens felt most of the impact.
Qatar’s poverty rates began to gradually increase during the crisis. The nation’s migration and death rates also seemed to rise as economic troubles continued. Unemployment in the nation doubled and Qatar’s spending on healthcare declined. Although the exact statistics for how Qatar’s impoverished populations fluctuated during this time are unavailable, both The World Bank and Macro Trends claimed that Qatar did not provide this data to the public. The World Inequality Database shows that Qatari citizens ultimately had a large fall in their average income after the start of the crisis.
How are Qatari citizens today?
With the nation’s ties to neighboring countries restored, the Qatar Diplomatic Crisis is seemingly over. The economy of the Gulf region is expected to improve as trade flows in and out of the nations once more. Qatar’s population is expected to grow since the country also reopened visa applications for migrant workers that will stimulate the economy. Labor reforms in the nation such as its new non-discriminatory minimum wage law have also led to more well-paying jobs for citizens and an improved poverty rate. Some other reforms include those for migrant workers and their contract standards, worker support and insurance funds, and more; all of which have caused Qatar’s unemployment rates to drop 0.14% since 2017 when the crisis started. Food imports from Saudi Arabia have resumed, but no data is available to track if the nation’s food insecure population has changed.
With help from NGOs like the Qatar Foundation for Child and Woman Protection, the social status of women and girls in Qatar is improving. The Qatar Foundation for Child and Women Protection was founded in 2002 with the goal of educating and providing service to women and children as well as preventing sex trafficking. The organization is known for helping bring awareness to the struggles Qatari women and children face today in a government setting and in the public eye.
After the crisis ended, Qatar was in a better position to contribute to global health initiatives. In June 2020, Qatar pledged to double its contribution to Gavi. Half of the contribution will go toward Gavi’s core programs and the other half will support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccine for low- and middle-income countries. Gavi, founded in 2000, works with the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help provide vaccines to children in poorer countries. So far, Gavi has provided 822 million children with vaccines across multiple countries.
The Qatar Diplomatic Crisis had a sweeping impact on Qatar’s society and economy. Now that the crisis is over, Qatar is able to be a more active participant in the international community and the quality of life for Qatari citizens and residents will likely improve over time.
– Laken Kincaid