IN LESS THAN TWO DECADES, THE STATE OF QATAR HAS MADE IMMENSE ECONOMIC, POLITICAL AND SOCIAL ADVANCES WHILE RETAINING ITS ARAB AND ISLAMIC IDENTITY. TODAY MILLIONS OF TOURISTS VISIT THIS PENINSULA COUNTRY WHERE THE HARSH DESERT INTERIOR IS A DRAMATIC CONTRAST TO THE MODERN ARCHITECTURE OF CAPITAL, DOHA.
The State of Qatar occupies a peninsula that extends approximately 160 kilometres north into the Arabian Gulf. To the south and west is Saudi Arabia, Qatar's largest neighbour, while to the north-west is the island state of Bahrain and, further along the Gulf coast, Kuwait. To the east lie the United Arab Emirates and Oman. The harsh beauty of the country's desert interior is in dramatic contrast to its shimmering coastline, the modern architecture of Doha, and the complex, highly technical geometry of Qatar's oil and natural gas processing plants.
Over the past 10 to 15 years the State of Qatar has made immense economic, political and social advances, while retaining its Arab and Islamic identity. The implementation of the Qatar National Vision 2030 will continue this tradition.
Under the wise leadership of His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Father Emir of Qatar, the state has developed its vision for the future. The Qatar National Vision 2030 outlines the issues the country must address to meet its goals of today and beyond. The four pillars of the Qatar National Vision are human, social, economic and environmental development.
Qatar's population currently stands at approximately 2.17 million and continues to grow steadily. The main population centres are Doha (the business and administrative capital), Dukhan on the west coast, Mesaieed and Wakra in the south, and Al Khor and Ras Laffan in the north
A critical element of Qatar's future sustainable development is effective, long-term stewardship of its natural resources. The country has one of the world's fastest growing economies and the primary driver is the country's vast natural gas reserves.
In 2010 Qatar achieved a long-planned target: a national production capacity of 77 million tonnes per annum (Mta) of liquefied natural gas (LNG), representing about a third of the projected global market. Balancing production with strategic reserves will continue to be central to its interests. But natural gas is not the whole story. The country is actively diversifying to reduce its dependence on the energy sector and continuing its journey towards being a knowledge-based economy. Qatar now offers education to rival that offered by the world's top universities. Since 2003 Qatar University has been joined by satellite campuses of Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University's Weill Medical College, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Northwestern University, Texas A&M University and Virginia Commonwealth University. These universities are located in Education City and are directed through the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.
There have also been advances in recent years in infrastructure, government policy and public services. Among the new developments are the Qatar Science & Technology Park, linking education with industry and encouraging investment and innovation in technology-based industry; the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), established to attract international financial institutions and multinational companies to Qatar; the Doha Conference Centre; Lusail City, the newest city in Qatar; and the foundations of an integrated healthcare system.
Another important aspect of Qatar's social development strategy is the preservation of the country's history and traditions. The landmark opening of the Museum of Islamic Art in 2008 spectacularly validates this aim: the museum showcases Qatar's rich cultural heritage. Meanwhile, state tourism initiatives are drawing thousands of new visitors to Qatar every year to explore the country's stark desert beauty and shimmering coastlines. And in 2022 Qatar will welcome many thousands of football fans from around the world, when it becomes the first country from the region to host the FIFA World Cup.
Beyond these exciting changes, Qatar continues to work with its Arab region neighbours and its partners around the world to enforce international standards and encourage investment in advanced technologies that protect the natural environment.
The development of Qatar is a constantly unfolding story.