Doha, Qatar - February 21, 2022: While the COVID-19 pandemic placed immense pressure on families – leaving governments and societies scrambling to implement appropriate health and safety measures – it also provided communities across the region with the opportunity to strengthen family bonds.

And this year’s edition of the Doha Briefing – titled “The Family and COVID-19 Policy Response in the Arab Gulf”- which was organized by the Doha International Family Institute (DIFI), in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Qatar to the UN, and the GCC Executive Bureau of Ministers of Labor and Social Affairs, addressed this topic.

H.E. Ambassador Sheikha Alya bint Ahmed bin Saif Al Thani, Qatar’s Permanent Representative to the UN, opened the virtual event, which was held as part of the UN 60th session of the Commission for Social Development.

H.E. Sheikha Alya thanked participants and ministers from GCC states “for leveraging their experience and vision to contribute to the discussion on the central role that families have played in policy responses to the pandemic worldwide.”

Moderated by Dr. Saleh Al Ghadouri, Director of the Social Affairs of GCC Executive Bureau, the session brought together a number of senior officials including H.E. Ambassador Ms. María del Carmen Squeff, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the UN and Chair of the 60th Session of the Commission for Social Development; H.E. Maryam bint Ali bin Nasser Al Misnad, Qatar’s Minister of Social Development; H.E. Hessa Bint Essa Buhumaid, UAE’s Minister of Community Development; H.E. Laila Al Najjar, Oman’s Minister of Social Development; H.E. Mubarak Al-Aro, Kuwait’s Minister of Social Affairs and Community Development; and H.E. Dr. Hala Al Tuwaijri, Secretary General of Saudi Arabia’s Family Affairs Council. 

Dr. Sharifa Nouman Al-Emadi, DIFI’s Executive Director, discussed the findings of a DIFI study, titled “Surviving a Crisis: A Case Study on the Impact of Coronavirus on Family Cohesion in Qatar”. She explained that the lockdown had provided families in Qatar and the region with the opportunity to be more interconnected and cohesive, despite the multiple economic, social, health, psychological, and educational challenges they faced.

“I am pleased to also announce the launch of a joint research project to assess post-pandemic flexible work arrangements to provide scientific evidence that highlights to decision-makers the importance of maintaining these arrangements, not only to improve family cohesion, but also given their positive impact on the productivity of various institutions and employers,” Dr. Al-Emadi said.

Social and institutional stability driven by a sense of national and Arab belonging was another catalyst for quickly devising emergency policies to combat COVID-19, Dr. Amer Al-Hajri, Director General of GCC Executive Bureau, explained.

“The outcome of today’s briefing will be the subject of discussion by GCC Ministers of Social Affairs,” he said.

The impact of the pandemic on youth in particular was the theme of another panel held on the sidelines of the Doha Briefing, titled “Youth Wellbeing: How COVID-19 Has Impacted Youth around the Globe.”

Speaking at the panel, Ignacio Socias, Director of International Relations of the International Federation for Family Development, said youth would have to navigate a much more complex transitional terrain in the post-pandemic era. “That is why family support can be key to getting through it successfully, and to avoid the other consequences of social disintegration,” he noted.