Updates on SDG 1 in Qatar
The first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is for countries to eliminate poverty. Qatar is an interesting case. While it is the second richest country in the world with an excess of riches through its oil wealth, its kafala sponsorship system has created a great disparity between its migrant population and native Qataris. The kafala system is a labor system that is a predominant culprit of poor living conditions in Qatar. Unfortunately, little data exists on updates on SDG 1 in Qatar. On the whole, Qatar has made some progress in recent years in tackling poverty, and this has been centered around fixing a broken labor system. Since Qatar won the World Cup bid back in 2010, its overall SDG rating has increased from 62.83 in 2010 to an updated score of 66.8 in 2022.

Perhaps the most positive impact of the World Cup came before the tournament commenced. In 2021, the Qatari government announced the implementation of a new increased universal minimum wage. The U.N.’s International Labor Organization (ILO) has said that this will benefit more than 400,000 workers.

Reality

However, as reports have widely stated, many of Qatar’s advancements in labor rights have not been unanimous. There remain reports of foreign workers, which make up 95% of the working population, receiving less than $1 an hour despite the legislative progress.

Under the kafala system, many foreign workers pay a fee to come to Qatar to work. This has been the primary reason for a lack of progress on SDG 1 in Qatar. Workers must work off this fee and often experience uncompromising working conditions, with 12-hour days and no days off. Another often-underreported dimension of this includes the abuse of female workers who take jobs as live-in maids and are extremely vulnerable.

Possible Solutions

Hosting a World Cup is a tremendous commitment and something that requires a variety of complex infrastructure. Qatar has built a new airport, metro system, hundreds of new hotels and multiple new modern stadiums. This has had a direct impact on SDG 8 as economic growth steadily increases and unemployment decreases. 

Approximately 20,000 workers have come under the guise of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the committee that oversaw the planning and building of the World Cup, reflecting a massive surge in employment. There have clearly been transgressions in working conditions during the preparation for the tournament, with concerning reports of worker deaths. However, there is also hope that the building of this infrastructure will trickle down and benefit the entire population.

Similarly, Amnesty International has devised a comprehensive 10-point plan to reform the labor system. This plan reflects how many of the reforms Qatar has made to its kafala system are not far-reaching enough, but with further revisions, foreign workers can have protection and enjoy greater autonomy. For instance, the government changed a law that previously meant that workers had to ask their employers’ permission to leave Qatar in 2020. Now, workers must still inform their employers.

The work of Amnesty International has influenced progress, with an expose in June 2020 surrounding the building of the Al Bayt stadium and its subpar working conditions leading to much international outcry. One can see the progress that occurred in labor reform thereafter as a direct consequence of the NGO’s investigation. 

Looking Ahead

Overall, unfortunately, there is a lack of data surrounding poverty levels and SDG 1 in Qatar. Much of the data that the government released only includes native Qatari who enjoy great benefits from the government. It remains evident that migrant workers bear the brunt of poverty, and it has been reported that Bangladeshi workers, for instance, can earn as little as $275 a month

 – Claudia Dooley
Photo: Unsplash

FIFA World Cup QatarThis year, from November 20 to December 18, 32 countries competed in Qatar for the coveted championship cup. While the FIFA World Cup Qatar tournament is an extraordinary display of international collaboration and unity, it is important to consider the social ramifications of the World Cup and its contribution to poverty. For the last several years, the impacts of major sporting events on the poor communities in host cities have been a point of concern. This year, human rights advocates all over the world are condemning Qatar for its disregard for human rights, particularly the mistreatment of migrant laborers.

Migrant Laborers in Qatar

Since Qatar was awarded the privilege of hosting the tournament 12 years ago, the nation has poured an estimated $220 billion into construction This includes the building of eight stadiums, several new hotels, rail and highway infrastructure and “expansion of the airport,” Human Rights Watch reports, through the efforts of millions of migrant workers. While FIFA moved the tournament itself to November to protect the athletes from dangerously high heat levels, laborers toiled in extreme conditions of heat.

Though it is impossible to obtain exact numbers, “official Qatari statistics show that 15,021 non-Qataris died in the country between 2010 and 2019.” After contacting five embassies in Qatar (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), The Guardian confirmed at least 6,750 deaths of migrant workers in Qatar since FIFA awarded the nation the games. However, this is an underestimation as there are many more countries that have sent workers to Qatar.

Media reports detail inhumane and unsafe working conditions in FIFA World Cup-related projects. These deaths have also put a spotlight on the Gulf region’s “kafala” (sponsorship) system, under which “laborers require their employers’ permission to switch jobs, return home or even open a bank account.” Workers cannot join labor unions or strike and Human Rights Watch has even documented “wage theft by a prominent Qatari construction firm with FIFA-related projects.” It is still standard for many migrant workers to pay inordinate recruitment fees that result in a form of debt bondage.

Restitution and Compensation for Deaths

Officials have blamed thousands of these deaths on “natural causes,” overlooking the harsh inhumane working conditions. According to the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, affected families have the right to request restitution or financial compensation for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones.

However, when these deaths are attributed to “natural causes” or classified as “non-work-related,” Qatar’s labor law refuses families any compensation. Amnesty International says the Qatari government has neglected to properly investigate these deaths. Economic hardship resulting from these wrongful deaths may push families into debt bondage and increase rates of child marriage and child labor.

Human rights organizations say FIFA is making minimal efforts to prevent these deaths or set acceptable standards of protection for migrant workers. FIFA is disregarding its 2017 Human Rights Policy that pledges to “go beyond its responsibility to respect human rights” by taking “measures to promote the protection of human rights and positively contribute to their enjoyment.”

At the “Managing the Beautiful Game” conference on May 2, FIFA President Gianni Infantino was questioned on whether FIFA supports the families of the workers who perished building FIFA World Cup stadiums. Infantino retorted, “when you give work to somebody, even in hard conditions, you give him dignity and pride,” later adding, “6,000 might have died in other works and so on…[but] FIFA is not the police of the world or responsible for everything that happens around the world.”

Taking Action

A media attaché at the Qatari Embassy highlighted in a November 2022 article that “the World Cup has been a catalyst for Qatar to develop a robust labor program.”

“Reforms include a new nondiscriminatory minimum wage, the removal of barriers to change jobs and the introduction of a worker compensation fund in 2018 that had paid out at least $350 million” at the time of writing.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) confirms this progress, recognizing on November 1, 2022, that Qatar had “undertaken comprehensive labor reforms to improve the conditions of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.” The reforms have “yielded benefits for workers, employers and the economy more broadly.”

Individuals and organizations around the world have come together to illuminate the human rights violations occurring in Qatar. Football clubs, players, supporters and celebrities from around the globe even called for a boycott of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. While there is no true compensation for losses of life, the circumstances have brought the international community together in support of basic human rights.

– Carly Ryan Brister
Photo: Flickr

the-migrant-workers-in-qatar-making-the-2022-world-cup-possibleSpontaneous celebration swept Qatar in 2010 after the FIFA governing body awarded the country the right to host the 2022 World Cup. The small gulf country is now set to host the world’s most expensive World Cup with more than $200 billion in infrastructure spending. Qatar has undertaken the building of a new airport, seven new stadiums, the expansion of metro lines and the laying of new roads to accommodate more than a million tourists expected to attend the games. With more than a decade of labor going into preparations and more than $17 billion in projected economic benefits to the Qatar economy, the 2022 World Cup is a massive undertaking with a big payout. Few recognize the extent to which the migrant workers in Qatar are responsible for making this all happen.

Migrant Labor in Qatar

About 30,000 migrant workers have undertaken the task of erecting these state-of-the-art stadiums, most of whom traveled from Asia and Africa in search of greater economic opportunity. Even after the stadiums are complete, migrant workers will be responsible for the day-to-day service operations and hospitality provided to guests of the World Cup. The long-awaited thrill of the soccer games themselves and the economic output that the events will provide for Qatar would not be possible without the hard work and sacrifice of these impoverished migrant workers in Qatar.

However, Amnesty International reports that these workers endure exploitation despite their vulnerability and necessity to the project. Individuals are subjected to high debt procured while trying to cover illegal recruitment fees. For example, about one-third of the Qatari foreign labor force consists of Nepali and Bangladeshi migrants whose typical recruitment fees amount to around $4,000 each — a debt that takes a minimum of 12 months to pay off.

Another practice that has received increased scrutiny as World Cup preparations are underway is the protracted non-payment of wages. This is a particularly distressing issue considering that workers must make payments on the loans they took out to cover recruitment fees. Many workers are also responsible for family members back home, who rely on them financially. Amnesty International found that thousands of workers have endured underpayment or no payment at all for months and sometimes years.

In 2019, hundreds of migrant workers in Qatar took part in protests over these practices and the generally poor working conditions.

The Kafala Labor System

Key to this exploitation is the “kafala” legal system of labor, in which private companies and employers can sponsor migrant workers, providing housing in dormitories and covering foreign relocation expenses. These migrant laborers are bound to their sponsoring employers and cannot quit, change employers or leave the host country without their employer’s permission. Workers cannot join trade unions either.

The good news is that in 2017, Qatar signed a treaty with the United Nation’s International Labour Organization, promising reform. Qatar lived up to that promise through the passing of several pieces of legislation. In 2018, the country ended the requirement that migrant workers obtain permission from their employers to leave the nation, and in 2020, Qatar undertook further reform to allow all migrant workers to change jobs without their sponsors’ permission and introduced a minimum wage.

In March 2018, Qatar also established Committees for the Settlement of Labour Disputes to stand in place of the country’s “ineffective [labor] courts.” These Committees guaranteed that workers would receive their judgments from the court within six weeks. Qatar also established a “workers’ support and insurance fund” for exploited workers who do not receive payment from their employers.

The Story of Bijoy

However, the promise of these reforms has not quite panned out as desired as courts are overwhelmed with cases and processing times are backed up. Amnesty International’s reporting on Bijoy’s story captures the human toll of this bureaucratic backlog.

Bijoy is a migrant worker from India who worked for three years at a Qatari construction company. Bijoy had more than $3,500 of unpaid wages owed to him by the company. He waited three months to have his claim processed by the labor committee, living in conditions of squalor with no money. Finally, after seven months of non-payment, Bijoy accepted just $275 and ticket fare for a flight to India as compensation as he had a sick father to return to in India. Stories like Bijoy’s are unfortunately all too common.

Looking Forward

As the November 21 World Cup 2022 kick-off date approaches, excitement is building around the world as audiences prepare to experience the culmination of years of planning and effort. However, Amnesty International is advocating that FIFA and the Qatari government refund recruitment fees and compensate individuals for abuses before the footballing celebrations move forward. Amnesty International recommends that FIFA set aside $400 million out of the $6 billion in expected revenue, almost equivalent to the total prize fund for the World Cup, for these purposes. Amnesty International continues to push for a commitment to compensation from Qatar and FIFA, hopeful that Qatar will, as it has done in the past, implement the reforms and restorative justice necessary to uphold the rights of migrant workers in Qatar.

– Grace Ramsey
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in Qatar
Located on the waters of the Persian Gulf, Qatar has an estimated COVID-19 vaccination rate of about 87%, administering more than 4.9 million doses to its people. It is a population percentage much higher than a number of other countries, including the United States, where just 59% of U.S. citizens are fully vaccinated.

Statistics

Qatar has fewer than 2.5 million inhabitants, more comparable to U.S. states like New Mexico or Kansas. Additionally, it seems that a higher vaccination rate has made a difference when it comes to the Middle Eastern country’s efforts to fight COVID-19. Cases are currently at around 8% of what Qatar had during its time of peak infections, dating back to May 2020 when there were a reported 2,300 new infections each day.

According to Qatar’s government communications office, the country has reported some 150 new coronavirus cases by late November 2021, with more than 100 of those afflicted ultimately recovering. Since the start of the pandemic, Qatar has reported a total of 242,000 cases, with 239,000 recoveries and 611 deaths.

Qatar’s infection rate has climbed a bit in recent weeks. Additionally, while the country’s efforts are better than some of its neighbors, like Yemen — which had climbed to 11% of its peak before dropping again — Qatar is behind others, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, which reported between 1% and 2% of their respective peaks.

Bahrain, for example, averages a little more than 20 new infections per day in a recent week, with 87% of the country completely vaccinated. Saudi Arabia has more than 35 new infections each day with 69% fully vaccinated. Oman is averaging about seven new infections daily with a 59% vaccination rate.

The UAE reported just fewer than 80 new infections each day with a vaccination rate of more than 100%. Yet, Yemen has kept its numbers mostly under control — reporting a half-dozen new infections each day despite just a little more than 1% of its population being fully vaccinated.

Precautions

The U.S. has shared with those living or visiting Qatar the precautions the country has implemented since July 2020 to help limit the spread of the coronavirus there. That includes a little bit of technology — a smartphone app called Ehteraz used for contact tracing.

The country also limits the number of people allowed in cars, and how far athletes can travel to participate in sports. Of course, there are requirements for face masks and social distancing. Anyone not abiding by these rules faces stiff fines and potential jail time.

Qatar is currently in what it describes as its fourth phase of reopening, allowing some gatherings and small groups, and the elimination of masks in open public places, except where otherwise required — like in organized public events, schools and mosques.

Currently, the State Department has a travel heath advisory of Level 3 due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. It advises anyone entering the country to be fully vaccinated.

Vaccine Distribution

Despite what appears to be high COVID-19 vaccination rates in Qatar, a study published in the National Library of Medicine in May 2021 suggests about 20% of the country’s population does not want the coronavirus vaccine. Surveys occurred in November 2020, before vaccines had received government approvals in many countries, including the United States, and when people were still building knowledge about the safety of the vaccine. The survey involved more than 7,800 adults.

Since then, Qatar has approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use and is available to everyone for free. However, the Qatari government recommends those at higher risk — such as the elderly, those with chronic medical conditions, as well as health care workers — are first in line.

COVID-19’s Impact on Qatar’s Economy and People

The effects of COVID-19 have, for obvious reasons, reduced worldwide travel. This has led to OPEC reporting its lowest demand for oil in 30 years. The heaviest impacted sectors of Qatari society include manufacturing, real estate and transportation. Finance and construction also have experienced a moderate impact on Qatar’s expected gross domestic product, according to KPMG International.

How Qatar is Doing its Part

During the Global Vaccine Summit in June 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was at its worst, Qatar pledged the equivalent of $20 million in U.S. currency to GAVI. GAVI is an international vaccine organization that intends to help underserved countries in the world through the global COVAX initiative.

The money Qatar donated was double its earlier pledge of $10 million that lasted from 2016-2020. The money from 2016-2020 went directly to GAVI with no funding for COVAX. GAVI will distribute the money evenly with $10 million going to funding GAVI’s core programs from 2021-2025 and the other $10 million will help finance the COVAX AMC initiative10.

COVID-19 vaccination in Qatar is at remarkably high levels. The vaccine and other measures still in place in the country have dramatically reduced the number of active and new coronavirus cases in the country to a fraction of their peaks in the summer of 2020.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Unsplash

Women’s Rights in Qatar
Qatar resides in the Middle East, just east of Saudi Arabia. The country boasts high economic prosperity, ranking among the highest in the world. It also occupies a low spot on the global list on gender gap — Qatar’s global ranking is 0.629 out of one. Qatar upholds female education and proactively attempts to improve women’s rights. However, women’s rights in Qatar need continued advocacy to decrease the country’s gender gap and increase equality.

Attempted Improvements

In 2009, Qatar became a member of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Despite membership, the country did not fully commit to all portions of the convention. Qatar refuses to maintain the following: gender equality in domestic laws and policies, equality with regard to nationality, equality before the law, freedom of movement and of residence and domicile and equality in marriage and family life. These requirements contradict Islamic law.

Discriminatory Laws

Qatar’s legal system centers around Shari’a, Islamic law. When Qatar enacted a (discriminatory) law, it crafted it upon the government’s interpretation of a religious belief. In this way, women’s rights in Qatar experience subjection to possible sexist ideas based on misreadings or outdated practices.

In family events or in a court of law, people do not view the testimony of a woman as equal to that of a man’s. If a Qatari woman has children with a non-Qatari man, the children are unable to assume the Qatari nationality; whereas, if the man were to be of Qatari nationality, the children would be able to assume citizenship. Women seeking a divorce have far less ability to appear in court and receive a fair settlement.

Representation in Parliament

As of 2015, Qatar’s 29-member municipal council had only two female members and its legal system included just one female judge. In 2017, the Inter-Parliamentary Union elected four female representatives to serve on the Shura Council of Qatar (Qatar’s parliament) for the first time. The Shura Council of Qatar looks over government policy, creates proposals for new laws and renews the country’s financial allocation.

Women’s Education Rights

In contrast to the lack of women’s rights in Qatar, gender discrimination has consistently remained out of the education system. The government supplies education at no cost for all citizens between ages 6 and 16. It is one of the most generous countries in its fiscal allotment per-student and allocates a large majority of its funds toward education.

The youth literacy rate rests at about 98% and close to 96% of girls attend secondary school. Further, there are more women than men attending Qatar’s University College of Law. Qatar University also provides adult courses. The class offerings improve national literacy rates and help maintain women’s educational rights. After graduation, Qatari women have the complete freedom to enter the business and financial sectors.

Conclusion

A struggle for equality and women’s rights in Qatar still exists despite its progressive nature. The country is aware of this issue and is continuing its work to further the rights of women in Qatar. There have already been achievements in creating equal opportunities and legal reform for female citizens. More are sure to come with Qatar’s commitment to increased gender equality.

Adelle Tippetts
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Qatar
The U.N. defines human trafficking as, “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.” Human trafficking in Qatar is a longstanding concern among international nonprofit organizations and human rights groups. The wealthy Gulf State’s ongoing campaign to bolster its soft power on the world stage and brand its capital Doha as a financial and investment hub comparable to its UAE neighbors Dubai and Abu Dhabi has gathered considerable momentum in recent years. The country is using large-scale construction projects such as an extravagant airport and lavish tourist attractions to cement the city’s position as an oasis of luxury and opulence. However, the dark cloud cast over how exactly the small but ambitious kingdom is achieving these construction feats remains a critical question mark.

The crown jewel of the Al Thani monarchy’s publicity campaign is undoubtedly the 2022 Qatar World Cup, which the country attained under questionable circumstances in a 2010 bid involving a high-profile bribery scandal and a multi-billion dollar proposal to secure the rights to host the upcoming soccer tournament. With the desert state’s day in the sun on the horizon, the kingdom began ramping up construction to prepare stadiums and indeed the city of Doha itself for its month in the spotlight of international attention.

Why Import Labor?

For a country like Qatar, one of the smallest sovereign states in the world covering an area roughly the size of Connecticut, such a large-scale undertaking presents one very crucial problem – labor. This is where human trafficking and labor exploitation are rearing their ugly heads time and time again in the development of the Gulf States. The ruling family and sponsors of Qatar’s development projects are seeking to meet the country’s manual labor needs by employing millions of vulnerable men and women from countries like India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Sudan seeking work abroad to send remittances back to their families. Today, of the 2.6 million people currently living in Qatar, 2.3 million are migrant workers from abroad working primarily in the domestic and construction sectors.

Abuse and Exploitation

Unscrupulous, predatory and loan-sharking recruiters in laborers’ home countries often work closely with contractors in Qatar to lure workers to the peninsula for extended periods of time under false pretenses. Upon arrival in the country, migrants are at the mercy of Qatar’s Kafala system of laws that govern the relationships between migrants, their employers and the Qatari state, placing economic migrants in a dangerous position of dependency. Under this structure of rules, the migrants’ visa and work permit status ties to a sponsor or employer which makes it illegal for workers to leave their employer or indeed the country itself without the employer’s official permission, creating a situation that is ripe for economic bondage and human trafficking in Qatar.

According to the U.S. State Department, workers suffer abuses such as:

  • Withheld Wages and Delayed Payment
  • Passport Confiscation
  • Abhorrent Company-Sponsored Living Conditions
  • Excessive Hours
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Hazardous Working Conditions
  • Debt Bondage
  • Prostitution
  • The Threat of Serious Physical Harm

Progress and Promises

There is hope, though. Facing mounting international pressure from democratic governments and NGOs such as the United Nations and Amnesty International, the Qatari government is making “significant promises of reform ahead of the 2022 World Cup” according to Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s deputy director of global issues. Such reforms include the establishment of a workers support and insurance fund, the announcement of a new minimum wage, dissolution of the laws necessitating employer permission for workers to leave the employer or the country, and a signed commitment to the International Labour Organization (ILO) to combat the brutal exploitation of workers and human trafficking in Qatar.

The Good News

Although the reforms on paper still lack the unwavering enforcement that is necessary to implement the new laws to their fullest extent, their creation signals a willingness of the Qatari government to meet certain labor standards ahead of the 2022 World Cup, which at this time should proceed as scheduled. The good news is that the country’s need to build and preserve its reputation at the center of its soft power initiatives allows for a motivated international community to demand immediate reforms and changes in labor laws and policies. In the context of growing calls to boycott the tournament if it does not meet standards and increasing international attention as the tournament nears, the Qatari government is likely to respond to sustained pressure if others apply it with strength and in numbers.

– Cem Gokhan
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Qatar's Foreign Aid
Qatar is one of the world’s wealthiest counties, and by some metrics, the wealthiest. Even more so than its fellow petroleum-exporting neighbors, Qatar is an indisputable giant in the oil industry, holding 13% of the world’s global oil supply. The nation’s vast wealth, compounded by its population of only about 3 million, contributes to the Qatari citizens’ notably high quality of life, as seen in Qatar’s minuscule unemployment rate of 0.4% and its population life expectancy of 79.4 years in comparison to the global average of 71 years. The small nation’s close proximity to poorer regions and conflict areas make it a highly capable potential distributor of much needed foreign aid. Qatar has an interesting variety of causes and countries to which it has supplied considerable development assistance, but the country’s massive wealth elicits the possibility of an expanded foreign aid budget. Here is some information about Qatar’s foreign aid.

Regional Development Cooperation

Qatar’s foreign aid record tells the story of a nation devoting most of its foreign development cooperation to its more poverty-stricken neighbors, including Morocco, Yemen, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip region and Egypt. Funding went mostly into sectors such as construction and infrastructure. Unfortunately, the latest foreign aid report by the Qatari government was released in 2013, but the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates a total foreign aid contribution of $1.3 billion that year alone.

After the summer of 2014, which significantly elevated conflicts between Israel and Gaza, nations including Qatar, the U.S., the U.K. and other Gulf states made foreign aid contributions to Gaza, with Qatar’s being the largest with a pledge of $1 billion. Qatar’s massive donation evolved into a cash distribution program to tens of thousands of family-specific beneficiaries.

Qatari aid in Syria has had an impact on both financial and political levels; Qatar has donated more than $1.6 billion in humanitarian aid for conflict victims as well as vocally called for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

Contributions to Wealthier Nations

Beyond regular contributions to the surrounding economies of Qatar, the small but financially prosperous nation has given considerable aid to wealthier countries in times of crisis. In 2011, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan and caused $360 billion in damage and took nearly 16,000 lives. Along with a substantive monetary donation, Qatar was the host of a multinational football match to raise funds for Japan in the wake of the disaster. The relief aid went mostly to infrastructural projects and the purchase and transportation of natural gases to refill Japan’s national stores.

The Potential for More

As stated earlier, Qatar’s foreign aid comprised of $1.3 billion in 2013. While this is the latest official report and one that the Qatari government published on its own, Qatar has also worked in a partnership with the OECD to publicize and account for its development aid activity. As per the website for Qatar’s own Department of International Cooperation, one of the departments’ many functions includes participation in the “development of the state policy in the field of aid and developmental and humanitarian assistance” and supporting “economic and social development in developing countries.”

However, despite any prioritization of international development cooperation within the department, one can easily determine that Qatar operates far below its capabilities in terms of being a prominent source of foreign aid. Compare Qatar to the United States, which has a population of about 330 million – 110 times larger than Qatar’s population of about 3 million – and a foreign aid budget of a little under $40 billion. Factoring in the nation’s smaller population and its prosperous financial stature, Qatar is more than capable of being one of the world’s largest contributors to international development cooperation.

Stirling MacDougall
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Qatar
Ever since the International Federation of Association Football’s (FIFA) announcement that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup, migrant flows to the country have exploded. Since 2010, Qatar has sought to bring thousands of workers to its shores in order to assist in the construction of stadiums, hotels and other infrastructure necessary to facilitate the tournament. To meet this demand, migrants from all over the Persian Gulf region, as well as South Asia, have flooded into the country. Migrants hoped to escape dire straits in order to find a stable job and a stable income. In fact, 700,000 workers came from India alone. However, migrant poverty in Qatar has become a significant issue.

Migrants in Qatar

According to Human Rights Watch, the migrant labor force has reached more than 2 million, making up approximately 95% of the labor force. However, despite being the second richest country in the world with a GDP per capita of $124,500 in 2017, a lack of labor rights has created widespread poverty in Qatar, especially among migrants.

The reason poverty persists among workers is the kafala sponsorship system. Migrants have to apply for visas from employers, often incurring costs through recruiters to do so. Even if workers do manage to pay enough to get access to a job, employers have broad controls over what workers can do. Employers often take passports from workers, preventing them from escaping brutal conditions. Additionally, some workers have gone with little to no pay. This has led to hundreds of thousands of people living in labor camps, where disease and poverty are rampant.

Solutions

In 2017 and 2018, Qatar’s government passed policies intended to reduce migrant poverty in Qatar. In October 2017, the government established a temporary minimum wage for migrant workers in the hopes of improving the conditions of laborers. One year later, in October 2018, Amnesty International reported that Qatar implemented a support and insurance fund in order to protect workers from lost wages.

However, Human Rights Watch has reported that both of these reforms were implemented unevenly, and thus have not had much of an effect. Employers still have a lot of control over workers, and poor enforcement has meant that the kafala structure is still in place.

On August 30, 2020, Qatar announced two new reforms in order to rectify this issue. The first was an increase in the existing minimum wage. The law will take effect in January 2021, and also requires employers to pay workers a stipend for food and housing. The second was a law to allow workers to leave their jobs without having express permission from their employers. This mobility could allow workers to escape dangerous conditions and find better work.

Such reforms could even save lives, as even the lowest estimates indicate that at least 1,200 people have died working on World Cup stadiums due to harsh conditions. International watchdogs have applauded these reforms. Amnesty International has argued that these small steps provide some hope that migrant poverty in Qatar, as well as worker exploitation, will soon be on the decline.

– Thomas Gill
Photo: Flickr

For decades, the Middle East has had a complex reality. It has been divided into two groups of countries: those looking toward new opportunities and peace, and those involved in instability and wars that have increased national poverty, hunger and despair. The region’s dynamics are not easy to understand with the analysis of simple single factors. As such, there are many reasons to contribute to Qatar Charity. The Qatar Charity is one of the largest humanitarian non-governmental organizations working to provide essential aid to vulnerable populations through developmental programs. It has reached 29 million people with its projects and initiatives valued at $1.2 billion.

Alarmed by the convoluted context in the Middle East and the number of orphan children from wars and conflict, Qatar Charity is committed to being a leader in the global emergency response and sustainable development solutions. The organization currently has field offices in 30 countries and is developing partnerships in 20 more. Qatar Charity continues to aim for a wider reach and help in fields such as social welfare, sanitation, education, nutrition and economic empowerment that will ultimately help vulnerable communities prosper.

Qatar Charity’s Initiatives and Programs

Since 1979, Qatar Charity has been working exhaustively in its commitment to poverty reduction. Three examples are not enough to demonstrate the huge impact that this organization has made, but it is a hint of the capacities and effective programs and strategies that allow the organization to fulfill its goal.

WASH facilities provision in Pakistan

Mirpur Khas, Sindh, is a dry territory in Pakistan. The limited access to food and scarce water supplies have led to extreme poverty, unemployment and threats to the health and safety of the inhabitants. In 2019, Qatar Charity intervened in the locality. It worked to promote health, hygiene and awareness through educational programs and the provision of safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities. The organization installed 440 BioSand filters in households and constructed 278 flush latrines.

Aid to Sudan

Qatar Charity has initiated a lot of projects to help Sudan overcome disasters and improve the poor living conditions. This year, Qatar Charity, in partnership with Qatar Airways, sent an aircraft to Sudan carrying 100 tons of food and medical supplies that were later distributed under the “Peace for Sudan” campaign.

Additionally, the Qatar Fund for Development and Qatar Charity signed an agreement to implement a project to strengthen the health system emergency preparedness in Sudan. It will equip isolated health centers, train health workers and issue the emergency preparedness plan in 16 localities. This project is expected to benefit around two million people.

COVID-19 Relief in Yemen

Qatar Charity is helping 150,000 Yemenis that were impacted by the pandemic. For this cause, the organization targeted areas with poor health services. It now provides equipment to treat those affected by the virus and sterilization devices to prevent more infections. Additionally, it granted sanitizers, cleaning materials, masks, medical ventilators, oxygen cylinders and other materials to help Yemen cope with the virus amid the country’s lack of financial resources, support and medical supplies.

The Impact

The organization is committed to helping communities in extreme poverty, crises and perplexing circumstances. It analyses the needs and areas of intervention and works closely with the governments to coordinate its efforts to the country’s development strategies. The organization considers the development and humanitarian indicators of the areas, the accessibility of humanitarian partnership and cooperation opportunities. Through this framework, and with the help of thousands of sponsors, it has successfully become an example of commitment and solidarity.

In countries with weak institutions and fragile societies, dynamics make it harder to cope with disasters. Many times, the casualties and costs in terms of infrastructure, human capital and economic resources are significant. When a disaster occurs, it is necessary to act rapidly and build a proper strategy to save lives, avoid traumas and ultimately help communities thrive. For this reason, Qatar Charity works to effectively address the causes in the countries in which it operates.

Isabella León Graticola
Photo: Unsplash

Homelessness in QatarThough Qatar may be known for its gleaming skyline and booming business hub, there is notable income inequality that leads to downstream consequences, such as an explosion of homelessness within the nation. While perhaps the country evokes images of riches and wealth, the reality is not so for all those living and working within the country. Here are six facts about homelessness in Qatar that warrant everyone’s attention.

6 Facts About Homelessness in Qatar

  1. As a result of the economic boom during the last 40 years in this small nation in the Middle East, Qatar has gone on a massive building spree. To maintain this rapid pace of building, the country has relied primarily on migrant immigrants to help construct the city. These migrant workers have been subjected to repulsive conditions. Worse yet, the Qatari government could historically do more when it comes to basic human needs for these vulnerable, migrant workers.
  2. Many migrant workers, unable to afford accommodation, sleep at the construction sites in which they work. The companies that sponsor these migrant workers for construction projects in the city do not provide sufficient wages. Furthermore, these same employers do not provide any type of housing to support thousands of workers. Therefore, many migrant workers end up sleeping outside.
  3. An Amnesty International report on the construction of the future FIFA World Cup site in Qatar looked into the mistreatment of these migrant workers. Most notably, the report focused on migrant workers’ unfair treatment concerning housing securement. The report identified multiple individuals who were priced out of their affordable rental housing, due to their company delaying salary payments.
  4. Those who are homeless in Qatar face consequences from all angles of society. The government often views these workers as expendable — thrown into subjugated parts of society and subject to threats from criminals and police alike. These actors take advantage of the migrant workers already poor situation. Without proper living conditions, living on the streets can be quite difficult, especially if one lacks the required documentation and visas.
  5. The government of Qatar has been investing in improving labor conditions for workers. In addition, the government is addressing homelessness in Qatar, more broadly. Encampments like “Labour City,” funded by the State of Qatar’s private engineering office, is an area designed to house over 100,000 migrant workers. The new residences are significant improvements from previous accommodations. Some features of these new residences including access to the internet, green spaces and larger living areas — a far cry from a life on the streets.
  6. Private firms have also been investing in migrant laborers’ living conditions. Barwa Al Baraha, a subsidiary of a private property management business in Qatar, has built residences that can house up to 53,000 people in significantly improved living conditions.

Protecting Vulnerable Populations

While the nation of Qatar has experienced economic success in recent decades, there is no guarantee that the fruits of this success will be distributed equitably. In contrast, some marginalized and vulnerable populations (e.g., migrant workers) within Qatari society are at a higher risk of exploitation, simply due to their life circumstances. Through a concerted effort from both public and private initiatives, labor and living conditions for migrant workers are improving in Qatar and these efforts must continue.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Wikimedia