American University of Beirut

President's Speech - Abdlatif Yousef Al-Hamad

President Peter Dorman's speech
introducing Abdlatif Yousef Al-Hamad 
June 27, 2009 

Abdlatif Al-Hamad is an individual whose vision of economic and social development in the Arab world has been years ahead of its time. A key ingredient of his vision for development is the idea of equitably sharing the world's power and resources among all peoples of the globe. In a speech given at AUB's commencement exercises in 2002, Al-Hamad stated his firm conviction that in order to achieve this "true sharing, the true motive must be 'human solidarity and a commitment to international social justice.'" 

Born a citizen of Kuwait, Abdlatif Al-Hamad received his college education in the United States, graduating in 1960 with honors in international affairs from Claremont McKenna College in California. From there he went on to study at Harvard's International Affairs Program, graduating in 1962. His service to his native country began that same year, when he served as a member of the Kuwaiti UN delegation, during Kuwait's initial application for United Nations membership. Al-Hamad's lifelong interest in economic development started concurrently, as he served as Director General of the Kuwait Investment Company, then later as Kuwait's Minister of Finance and Minister of Planning. 

Al-Hamad's global vision for the empowerment and development of societies is perhaps best illustrated by his long tenure-24 years-as Director General of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development. Since 1985, the Arab Fund has sponsored and financed countless development programs in the Arab world, with special preference given to "overall Arab development and to joint Arab projects; encouraging the investment of private and public funds in Arab projects; and providing technical assistance services for Arab economic and social development." The focus has been on the development of infrastructure to encourage investment, yet social services, public health, housing, and education have always been priorities as well, including funding for academic and applied research, and institutional support and training. Notably, the Arab Fund makes special arrangements for emergency projects, including direct assistance to Lebanon following the July war with Israel in 2006. 

Al-Hamad has contributed his keen insights and perspectives to a number of educational institutions throughout the world-among them our own university, where he is a current member of AUB's International Advisory Council. He has served in a similar position with the University of Chicago's Center for Middle Eastern Studies since 1995 and with Princeton University's Institute for the Transregional Study of the Contemporary Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia since 1997. Moreover, he is a trustee of his alma mater, Claremont McKenna College, Kuwait University, Jordan University, the Vienna Development Institute, the World Institute for Development Economics Research, and the Thailand Development Research Institute-just a sampling of his global interests and dedication to higher education. 

Other affiliations attest to Al-Hamad's key concern for the environment. In his opening address to the 2007 meeting of ICARDA's Board of Trustees, Al-Hamad highlighted with concern the Arab region's food security and its unrealized agricultural potential, and the crucial need to "adopt more efficient water policies." Al-Hamad has always acknowledged the link between careful planning and resource allocation as the first step toward realization of such sweeping vision. Nor has he been daunted by local challenges. He continues to endorse the Millennium Development Goals in the Arab countries, especially "progress in youth literacy, gender equality, and child mortality," despite the weaknesses of national policies and the volatility of the region, to bring social and economic progress to the countries of the Arab world. 

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