This week marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Bahraini diplomacy. In January 1969, Bahrain established the Foreign Affairs Directorate, later to become the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, amidst an uncertain time in the Middle East and the world.
Bahrain, along with other countries in the region, were beginning to find their feet in the international arena, with the Cold War at its peak and regional countries competing for influence. Surrounded by countries larger and more powerful, success in establishing ourselves as a fully-fledged and influential member of the international community was by no means guaranteed.
Yet over the next decades, Bahrain succeeded in doing just that, placing itself at the forefront of the region, both economically and diplomatically. Bahraini diplomacy became recognised for its pragmatism and openness to others, making Bahrain a welcome addition to multilateral and global institutions. In this period, Bahrain began the establishment of embassies in major regions around the world, beginning with our friends and neighbours and our closest international partners, a process of expansion that remains ongoing.
Bahrain joined the UN as the 129th member in September 1971, and in the following years, quickly established itself as a valued and influential partner, joining the World Food Programme and Unesco within a year, and eventually winning election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 1998-1999, cementing Bahrain’s place as a respected and influential member of the international community.
In 1981, Bahrain played a pivotal role in the establishment of the GCC, and has played a full part in furthering peace, security, and development in the region. As part of this commitment, Bahrain has taken part in regional and global coalitions to preserve peace, end crises, and combat global concerns such as terrorism, extremism, piracy and human trafficking.
Behind this success was a team of dedicated diplomats, led by Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister from 1971 to 2005, and comprised Bahrainis that served their country for decades in embassies all over the world. Prominent figures in Bahraini society like Dr Salman Al Saffar, Bahrain’s first Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Taqi Al Baharna, Bahrain’s first ambassador to Egypt, and Shaikh Salman bin Duaij Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s first ambassador to the United Kingdom, were among the first in a long line of diplomats that have and continue to serve Bahrain with distinction, both at home and abroad.
Today, under the leadership of Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Bahrain is building on this legacy, and expanding the country’s reach and influence globally. The ministry is staffed by some of Bahrain’s finest sons and daughters, who serve their country both domestically and through our many embassies and consulates. Through its work, the ministry continues to strengthen and expand Bahrain’s international relations, as well as hosting high level events in the kingdom, and has recently established the Shaikh Mohamed bin Mubarak Academy for Diplomatic Studies to train and produce the next generation of Bahraini diplomats to ensure that the next 50 years of Bahraini diplomacy is as successful as the last.
- Shaikh Abdulla bin Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa is the director of Americas and the Pacific Affairs Directorate at the Foreign Ministry