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Qatar Influence in the World Proposal

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Updated: Jan 6th, 2020

Statement of the Research Question

The main research question that my thesis will cover is, ‘How does Qatar use soft power to strengthen its global political influence?’ This question will provide an opportunity for me to study the various processes of soft power that Qatar has and/or continues to utilize to strengthen its political influence not only in the Middle East, but also across the world.

It is evident that Qatar has emerged as one of the most influential Middle East countries in the world’s political affairs. This thesis will be a revelation as to how such a country has achieved its current position.


Since 1995, following the takeover of leadership by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani through a peaceful coup d’etat, Qatar has been transformed from a little-known tiny country into a major economic and political powerhouse in the Middle East and, in extension, the world (Evans and Grant 42).

In the last 18 years, the country’s leadership has been engaged in a protracted effort to transform it into a globally recognized and respected modern state (Brannagan and Grix par. 3). Being the world’s richest country in terms of per capita income, which stood at USD$ 448,246 in 2008, Qatar has managed to achieve tremendous successes in its short history (Hey 42).

Its enormous wealth and a leadership that is keen on putting the country ‘on the map’ in the Middle East make it a major political player in the Arab World. Its influence in the world is growing (Beaumont 3). The main question is how such a country can achieve so much within such a short period.

According to Brannagan and Grix, Qatar presents a good example of how soft power can be used to propel a nation’s influence in the global political affairs (par. 5). In the last 15 years, the country has invested heavily in building an appealing image to the world without using military or other forms of hard power. This move has allowed the country to gain a substantial political influence (King 16).

The country has used its enormous resources to put in place measures of not only making Qatar an important investment destination for many nations and companies, but also as an important economic ally of many other states (Antwi-Boateng 39).

Further, its close and friendly association with western countries such as the US and the United Kingdom has separated the country from the politics of the Middle East, hence creating an appealing image to the world (van Ham 10). Other major areas of focus have been on the creation of an image of the country as a top tourism and sporting destination (Amara par. 3).

For a long time, its neighboring rich, populous, and influential neighbors such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran among others have over shadowed the country (Worth 7). Owing to the fact that it was the last Arab country to discover its oil wealth, it is a recent entrant into the politics of the Middle East. So far, it has been successful in its push for becoming a key player in the region.

For instance, while the UAE’s Abu Dhabi has been the major tourist and financial hub of the region, Qatar’s Doha has gained a strong footing against the former with an increasingly busy Airport, a key indicator of the country’s connectedness to the world (Brannagan, Mubanga, and Wolff par. 2).

Further, its global financial assistance to many countries has also put the country into the league of nations where it provides billions of dollars for humanitarian and development purposes in disadvantaged populations and countries across the world.

The country has also invested heavily in education of its citizens, thus bringing it to the forefront of nations that offer quality education to their citizens. Education is a major factor of power for top nations such as the UK and the US (Joseit par. 1).

The current position of Qatar as having a substantial and increasing power and influence in global political affairs has not gone unnoticed. This position has been captured in various researches and articles to this effect. My thesis aims at studying how Qatar has used soft power to create its growing influence and presence in global political affairs.

This topic is interesting since the country is succeeding in an area that many other countries have failed. For a long time, to gain political influence in the world affairs, many powerful countries such as Russia, the USA, China, and the UK have used hard power, through military and economic processes (Worth 7).

Consequently, the success of Qatar in gaining global political influence without using hard power presents a new approach to the understanding of power and hence the significance of the study (Nye ‘Soft Power’ 96). The thesis will create an understanding of how Qatar uses soft power through four main areas that include foreign aid, cultural institutions, tourism, and sports diplomacy to gain and maintain its global political influence.

Relevant Literature

A substantial amount of research that has focused on the growing influence of Qatar in the global political affairs is available. However, much of the research focuses on the increasing influence of the Middle East countries on the global political affairs.

With some efforts being dedicated to Qatar, it is a clear indication that the use of soft power by the small Middle East country has not gone unnoticed. In addition, the existing research has majorly focused on the economy of the country as the main avenue through which it has amassed power in the global political affairs.

The first and most relevant research article is titled, ‘The rise of Qatar as a Soft Power and the Challenges’ by Osman Antwi-Boateng. The research is important and relevant to my thesis since it comprehensively covers the various ways through which Qatar exercises its soft power. According to the article, Qatar exercises soft power influence through what it refers to as attraction and ‘carrots’.

In terms of attraction, the article points to the strong political stability, close relationship with the US, progressive higher education system, and effective income redistribution policies (Antwi-Boateng 42). The country also uses carrots through the media (Aljazeera Network), sports investments, and foreign aid policy to advance its soft power across the world.

In this study, the author explores how Qatar exerts its soft power in its foreign policy in addition to how it addresses various challenges in advancing its influence. Antwi-Boateng begins by noting that the country is an exception of its neighbors who are facing political instability or other major hurdles affecting their influence in Middle East and in extension, the world (47).

Firstly, in his study, Antwi-Boateng notes the importance of sport as a major source of soft power for Qatar (51). The Study gives an example of the 2006 XV Asian Games that Qatar hosted successfully. Further, the country has successfully bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup (Antwi-Boateng 51). The two events have greatly enhanced the country’s reputation and image, especially in the Middle East and the Muslim World.

Secondly, the study highlights the increasing use of football diplomacy and cultural institutions that have been characteristic of Qatar in the last few years. Antwi-Boateng regards Qatar’s sponsorship of Barcelona, a world’s re-known Spanish club as well as its purchase of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), a French club, as major steps that the nation has taken to improve its influence through the world’s most popular game (48).

The country invested a whooping USD$190 million in Barcelona’s sponsorship and another USD$ 63 Million for acquiring a 70% stake at PSG (Kamrava 540). The study identifies Qatari’s involvement in sporting, especially football, as in line with Nye’s assertion that culture is a major element of soft power (‘Public Diplomacy’ 102).

Football provides an opportunity for Qatar to be in popular culture to display its own civilization due to the wide audience that the game receives across the world (Dorsey 4).

The study identifies foreign aid as a major aspect through which Qatar has gained and maintained its soft power. According to the study, Qatar is ranked at the 20th place worldwide in terms of the percentage of its population’s giving and first position in the Middle East and Arab Countries (Antwi-Boateng 45).

According to the study, foreign aid is linked with positive goodwill, which enhances the country’s reputation among its beneficiaries. This move is in line with Nye’s claim that such efforts lead to legitimate power in the eyes of others (‘Public Diplomacy’ 99). For instance, in 2010-2011, the nation’s development and humanitarian aid amounted to more than USD$ 1 billion (Brannagan and Grix par. 2).

Its foreign aid policy has been majorly focused on Arab countries that have been experiencing political instability due to the Arab Spring (Kinninmont 5). For instance, Qatar has advanced a low interest loan of USD$1 billion to Tunisia. It has also offered to employ over 20,000 Tunisians in Qatar while at the same time funding the construction of subsidized houses to the tune of USD$ 37 million (DOHA2012 18).

The country has also provided financial support amounting to USD$ 3 billion loan facility to Egypt. Besides, it has also offered humanitarian aid support to many countries, including the US (Ministry of Foreign Affairs par. 2).

This study is very relevant and central to my thesis since it comprehensively covers different processes through which Qatar exercises its soft power. By recognizing sporting and foreign aid as major ways of gaining soft power, the paper goes a long way in terms of proving the relevance of my study. Other studies that have also addressed Qatar’s soft power are also relevant to this research.

One these researches is titled, ‘Qatar: A First-Hand Account of Soft Power’, by Brannagan, Mubanga, and Wolff. In the study, Brannagan, Mubanga, and Wolff point out the increasing influence in the regional and global political affairs (par. 4).

The study identifies the increased efforts of Qatar to become a top tourist destination. Further, there have been more efforts to market the country through its unique culture to the world. The research is also relevant to this study since it covers cultural and tourism aspects through which Qatar seeks to gain influence in regional and global political affairs.

Another important study that is relevant to my thesis is, ‘Qatar’s Soft Power Gamble: The FIFA World Cup 2022’ by Paul Brannagan and Jonathan Grix. In the study, the focus is on the growing participation and presence of Qatar in the international sports, and more importantly, its successful bid for hosting 2022 world cup games (QTA par. 2).

Hosting such an event will be in line with the nation’s plans of becoming a top tourist destination since it will present a prime opportunity of displaying the country’s culture and attractiveness to billions of spectators across the world (FIFA par. 6).

The study will be important for my thesis since it will provide important information and support on the increasing use of sporting and tourism as a means of gaining soft power for the Middle East country.


In my thesis, I will use both primary and secondary data to address the main research question. There is a considerable amount of data that can be drawn from different secondary sources. For instance, Qatar’s Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics offers a rich source of data and important figures that can support different assertions of my research paper such as foreign aid and investment in sports and tourism.

Further, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website also offers significant information on Qatar’s foreign policy and foreign aid, which are both central to my research (par. 3). Owing to the high number of other studies that the research relies on, this study will offer an important platform of accessing and drawing secondary information.

Primary data sources will include the use of interviews, surveys, and questions that will be targeted to specific population groups privy to Qatar’s soft power. For instance, interviews will be conducted on people such as lecturers and professors who can offer expert opinion on Qatar’s growing political influence in the Middle East and the world at large.

Online survey will also be important in providing important information on the opinions of different populations on Qatar’s growing influence. The primary data is important in incorporating the information that will be obtained through secondary data sources.

Outline of the Argument

In the last two decades, Qatar has emerged from a little known and less influential nation to a major player in regional and global political affairs. During this time, with a major economic transformation, the country has used different approaches to acquire legitimate power and influence over other nations.

Of these approaches, military muscle power and economic maneuvers, which have traditionally been the source power for many countries, have not been used by the country. Instead, the country has used other approaches to gain soft power. So far, it has been successful. My thesis will seek to discuss the various approaches of soft power that Qatar has used to gain its political influence in the Middle East and around the globe.

These approaches include the use of culture, tourism, foreign aid, and sports. The thesis will discuss each of the above approaches in an attempt to show how they have helped Qatar to gain its influence and prominence in the global political affairs.


The first framework will be a theoretical structure that will focus on the concept of soft power. Drawing heavily from Joseph Nye’s ‘Public Diplomacy and Soft Power’, the framework will guide the thesis in providing an understanding of what constitutes soft power and how Qatar has been successful in gaining political influence through its well-calculated use of various processes of gaining power.

Nye’s article comprehensively covers and brings forth the concept of soft power by comparing its effectiveness with the use of hard power (Nye ‘Public Diplomacy’ 102). It is evident that although hard power still dominates what constitutes power in the global political influence, soft power approaches have emerged strongly as an option for many countries that cannot exercise hard power.

By utilizing the ideas brought forward in Nye’s article, my thesis will be able to cover the use of soft power by Qatar as it continues to emerge as a major power in the Middle East and in the global political environment.

My research will also adopt the conceptual framework, which will focus on how the ideas of my thesis will be organized and presented to answer the main research question. It will also focus on how Qatar frames its approaches in order to gain power over other nations across the world.

The framework is important since it helps to link the theoretical framework to real life examples of how soft power can be utilized successfully. By covering each of the areas and approaches through which Qatar has exerted its influence globally, the plan will be an important part of the conceptual framework of helping to answer various questions that arise from the process of answering the main research question.

Chapter/Section Outline

The thesis will begin with a background discussion on Qatar’s past and current status. It will show how it has gained an influential status over the years in the Middle East and beyond. This information will form an important part of the thesis. It will provide the foundation and basis for my research.

The background information will include Qatar’s growing economic significance in the Middle East in terms of how it has been able to extend its influence beyond the region.

The second section of thesis will focus on various ways through which Qatar gains its power and influence in its region and across the world. In this section, the first component to be covered will focus on how Qatar uses foreign aid to attain power and/or exert its influence across the world.

The second component will focus on Qatar’s use of cultural institutions, including education and arts to grow its profile as a top education and cultural destination in the world, an achievement that has made it gain considerable power over other nations.

The third component of coverage will be tourism and how Qatar, through the Qatar Tourism Authority, has put in place efforts to turn Qatar into a top tourist destination in the Middle East. The last component is the use sport diplomacy that Qatar has adopted to market itself to the world.

These strategies include its successful bid to host 2022 World Cup games, its sponsorship of major European clubs such as Barcelona, and its acquisition of Paris Saint-Germain among many other sporting activities that it has shown interest.

Contribution of the Research

The paper will contribute to the growing field of knowledge on soft power with Qatar as a good example of its effectiveness. It will be an important knowledge base for future studies that will be focused on Qatar and other nations’ influence on global political affairs using soft power approaches.

Works Cited

Amara, Mahfoud. , 2013. Web.

Antwi-Boateng, Osman. “The Rise of Qatar as a Soft Power and the Challenges.” European Scientific Journal 2.1(2013): 39-51. Print.

Beaumont, Peter. “How Qatar is taking on the world.” The Guardian July 20. 2012: 3. Print.

Brannagan, Paul, and Jonathan Grix. : The FIFA World Cup 2022, 2014. Web.

Brannagan, Paul, In’utu Mubanga, and Mads Wolff. , 2014. Web.

DOHA2012. Offering a helping hand, Qatar is a good neighbor around the World. Doha: The UN Climate Change Conference, 2012. Print.

Dorsey, James. “Qatar’s sports-focuses public diplomacy policies backfiring.” Daily News Feb. 10. 2014: 4. Print.

Evans, Gareth, and Bruce Grant. Australia’s Foreign Relations in the World of the 1990’s. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1999. Print.

FIFA. Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani visits FIFA President in Zurich, 2014. Web.

Hey, Jeanne. Small States in World Politics: Explaining Foreign Policy Behavior. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner, 2003. Print.

Joseit, David. The Art Effect, 2013. Web.

Kamrava, Mehran. Mediation and Qatari Foreign Policy. Middle East Journal 65.4(2012): 540-556. Print.

King, John. National Branding: Coverage and Perceptions of Qatar in Major World Newspapers. Working Paper. Tennessee: East Tennessee State University, 2007. Print.

Kinninmont, Jane. “From football to military might, how Qatar wields global power.” The Guardian February 3. 2013: 5. Print.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Qatar Foreign Aid Over QR3 Billion, 2013. Web.

Nye, Joseph. Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. New York, NY: Public Affairs, 2004. Print.

Nye, Joseph. “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 616.1(2008): 94-109. Print.

QTA. A New Chapter of Pioneering Association, 2013. Web.

van Ham, Peter. The Rise of the Brand State: The Postmodern Political Image and Reputation. Foreign Affairs 80.2(2001): 2-17. Print.

Worth, Robert. “Qatar, Playing All Sides, Is a Nonstop Mediator.” The New York Times July 9. 2008: 7. Print.

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