Kuwait will mark on Wednesday the 58th anniversary of annulling its British protectorate status and declaring itself an independent state on 19 June, 1961.
It 1899, fearing an incursion by the Ottoman Empire, the seventh ruler of Kuwait Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah signed on to a security pact with Great Britain and became a British protectorate. Over six decades later, in 1961, the annulation agreement was signed by the 11th Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah and Sir George Middleton representing the British government.
Speaking on the occasion of declaring independence, Sheikh Abdulla Al-Salem said: “On this memorable day of our beloved nation, on which we transfer from one phase to another phase of history and fold another page of the past with all its components and contents, to open a new page represented in this treaty which you read now, whereby Kuwait gained its full independence and sovereignty.”
In appreciation of the great role played by the Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem in Kuwait’s independence and laying down the foundation of a modern state, a decree was issued in 1963 to merge the National Day that fell on 19 June with the day of accession to the throne by Sheikh Abdulla on 25 February 1950 and make this the new National Day.
A month after declaring independence an Amiri decree was issued calling for general elections to be held to choose members of the constituent council to draft the country’s constitution. Within nine months, the council finalized the draft constitution and submitted it to the Amir for ratification. The Constitution of Kuwait, consisting initially of 183 articles, came into being on 11 November 1962.
Meanwhile, on the political level, another Amiri decree was issued in August 1961 to establish the foreign department, which later became the ministry of foreign affairs. The fact that a foreign ministry was set up immediately after independence attests to the priority that Kuwait accords to its relations with the international community.
In 1962, Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem was appointed as a foreign minister in the first cabinet lineup, to be followed up by His Highness the current Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah who was appointed the minister of foreign affairs in the second cabinet formed in 1963. Among the early endeavors of Kuwait was to strengthen its international relations by applying was submission of an application to join the United Nations.
Despite objections from the then government of Iraq, on 14 May 1963 Kuwait was granted membership and became the 111th member of the United Nations. Later on, Kuwait joined various UN and international organizations such as, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Bank (WB), the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Just a few months after its independence in 1961, the State of Kuwait established the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, becoming the first developing country to establish a fund to provide economic assistance to fellow developing countries. Robert McNamara, the president of the World Bank from 1968 – 1981, wrote of the fund: “When first established in 1961 the Kuwait Fund was without precedent. Here was Kuwait, a tiny country, until recently among the poorest places on earth, establishing a development fund in the year of its political independence. While welcoming its new found prosperity, it was declaring a willingness to share its future wealth with its Arab neighbors.” Since its establishment in 1961, the Kuwait Fund has provided over 900 development assistance loans to over 100 nations totaling over $19 billion USD, making it one of the most active players in the field of development.
Years after the independence, Kuwait continues to value diplomacy and discussions over conflicts to find solutions to some of the world’s intractable issues. The country also remains as a beacon of hope through its humanitarian efforts worldwide. In recognition of these activities the country was accorded the status of a humanitarian center and His Highness the Amir was honored as a humanitarian leader of the world.