On Monday, 30 May 2011, Ambassador Khalid Hashil Al-Muslahi, Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman to Japan, spoke at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo. The ambassador presented his country’s profile to students of the UNU master’s degree programme and interns from UN agencies. This was the second in a series of ambassadorial lectures organized jointly by the UNU Office of the Rector and the UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP).
Dr. Vesselin Popovski, a Senior Academic Programme Officer at UNU-ISP, opened the lecture by introducing the Sultanate of Oman as a rapidly developing country on the Arabian Peninsula that achieved major improvements during the latter part of the twentieth century.
In his lecture, Ambassador Al-Muslahi covered major historical, political and social topics. He started his presentation with an introduction to general geographical facts about Oman, such as that the country oversees the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most important shipping checkpoints with an oil flow of more than 15 million barrels per day. In fact, some 30 to 40 per cent of the world’s oil imports pass through the Strait of Hormuz. He also presented a variety of photos to illustrate that Oman is a naturally diverse country with both deserts and forests.
The Ambassador then described how Oman’s strategically important geographical position has played a key role in the country’s development throughout the centuries. The Omani people were able to access the historical Silk Road and establish trade with China and the East. An Omani navigator, Ahmed bin Majid, is known for guiding Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama from the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa to India and China in 1498.
Ambassador Al-Muslahi went on to describe the structure of the political system of Oman, whose head of state is a hereditary sultan. Currently the country is led by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who took power from his father in July 1970 in a peaceful coup. At that time, Oman was an isolated state that had minimal relations with other countries, including its Arab neighbours. This isolation could be experienced in all aspects of Omani life — there were stringent curfews, radios and newspapers were banned, and healthcare was virtually nonexistent.
Since then, however, Oman has undergone extensive change, most notably in the education, healthcare, public services, infrastructure and other sectors. The United Nations Development Programme listed Oman as the most-improved nation over the last 40 years, from among 135 countries worldwide. Today, Oman is one of the most developed and stable countries in the region. Per capita income, which was just US$360 in 1970, rose to US$3,140 in 1980 and US$7,000 in 1991, and by 2010 had reached US$ $25,800 (figures are estimates). While Oman’s economy is dominated by the petroleum and services sectors, the government is aware of the vulnerability produced by the dependency on natural resources, and thus has increased its funding to develop other sectors.
After concluding his presentation, the Ambassador answered various questions posed by the audience, which ranged from historical and regional relationships to literacy topics. In his answers, Ambassador Al-Muslahi emphasized that Oman is a peaceful country that maintains friendly relationships with its neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Iran.
The third instalment of this ambassadorial lecture series will feature the Ambassador of Ukraine to Japan, who will visit UNU Headquarters to lecture about Ukraine on 13 June 2011. From September 2011, this lecture series will be organized on a monthly basis exclusively for UNU students and UN interns.