Independence and Building the Modern State
The seventh ruler of the State of Kuwait, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah "Mubarak Al-Kabeer", requested protection from Britain in September 1897 due to a dispute with the Ottoman Empire, but his demand was rejected by the British Government on the pretext of that it was unnecessary to intervene in the region. However, it changed its position after the expansion of the influence of the Ottoman Empire’s power and agreed to conclude the agreement on January 23, 1899. One of the most prominent features of this agreement was that Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah should not appoint any agent or representative of any foreign country without prior consent from the British government.
Captain Knox was assigned as the British commissioner in Kuwait, and Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah approved his appointment. He arrived in Kuwait in August 1904, and continued in this position until April 28, 1906. Later, political commissioners were assigned until the declaration of Kuwait's independence in 1961.
The Kuwaitis took advantage of this treaty to build, strengthen and establish the foundations of the modern state, as this treaty provided Kuwait and its rulers with external political stability, and protection from the external threats and ambitions. This external stability was reflected internally, and rulers of Kuwait focused on state building, as schools were built, such as Al- Mubarakiya School and Al- Ahmadiyya School, Shura Council was established in 1921, the first elections in the country were organized for the Municipal Council in 1932, also the Legislative Council in 1938, Health and Education Councils were established in 1936, Public Security Department in 1938, and the Orphanage Department in 1939. Also, the late Sheikh Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah signed an agreement with American and British companies for Oil Exploration in 1934.
The era of the late Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah was the real set off on the path to independence. Since assuming power in 1950, he took diligent steps towards the establishment of an independent constitutional state and worked on issuing laws and legislations that support the establishment of an independent state. He issued nationality laws and the organization of the judiciary in 1959, monetary law in 1960, Fatwa and Legislation Department was established in the same year, government departments were organized and other laws and regulations which are considered pillars of the state.
Due to the presence of many internal and external factors that contributed directly or indirectly to the independence of Kuwait, internal voices calling for independence rose, paving the way for Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah to play an effective role in completing his quest for the independence of Kuwait. Therefore, he expressed to the British Government Kuwait's desire to terminate the British Protection Treaty and replace it with other agreements that suit the political developments in the country and are compatible with the Arab and international reality and stressed the importance of respecting Kuwaitis' desire for full independence.
Abolition of Treaty and Declaration of Independence:
The actual independence of Kuwait was on June 19, 1961, when Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah exchanged two important memorandums with the British Political Resident in the Arabian Gulf at the time, Sir William Luce, which included “cancellation of the 1899 Treaty” as it was incompatible with Kuwait’s sovereignty and independence and the relations between Britain and Kuwait shall continue based on close friendship.
Independence means a sovereign state with an independent entity that conducts its foreign affairs without the tutelage of another state. This was achieved through the Independence Agreement signed by the father of the constitution at the time, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah.
The new stage of independence imposed the adoption of many legal, constitutional and diplomatic procedures, most notably the issuance of an Amiri decree calling for holding general elections to establish a Constituent Assembly which was authorized to draft the state constitution. Within nine months of the Assembly’s date, the draft constitution of Kuwait was accomplished consisting of 183 articles. It was presented to His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah who ratified it, and it was issued on November 11, 1962.
Moreover, the old flag of Kuwait, which was red in color with the word "Kuwait" in the center, was replaced with the current flag.
In line with constitutional provisions, Kuwait’s first parliamentary elections occurred on January 23,1962, selecting fifty representatives from ten constituencies- a pivotal moment in Kuwait modern history. Subsequently, on January 29, 1963, the late Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah inaugurated the first National Assembly in the history of Kuwait.
The independence of the State of Kuwait marked the beginning of a new phase, signifying its entry into the international community. This was guided by a Kuwaiti policy centered on the pursuit of peace and fostering collaboration with various nations, within the framework of brotherhood and friendship among countries and peoples. This initial diplomatic and political step involved the establishment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to fulfill its designated role. Thus, on August 19,1961, an Amiri decree was issued, outlining the creation of a foreign department exclusively responsible for handling the state’s foreign affairs. This decree also included the integration of the Kuwaiti government secretariat into the foreign department, which, with the formation of the first ministerial cabinet, transformed into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Following the independence, Kuwait applied for the membership of the League of Arab States, where the League Council held a meeting on July 16, 1961, and issued a resolution on accepting Kuwait as a member.
On November 30, 1961, the UN Security Council began considering the State of Kuwait’s request to join the United Nations. On May 14, 1963, approval was granted to Kuwait’s membership in this international organization, making it the 111th member. On this occasion, the late Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah - the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time - delivered Kuwait’s speech at the United Nations. He raised the flag of Kuwait at the United Nations, marking a historic moment in Kuwait’s march.
Kuwait, thereafter, engaged with international organizations affiliated with the United Nations, such as World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNESCO, World Bank, and International Labor Organization, through its international efforts, Kuwait diligently advocated for Arab issues in general, including the Palestinian cause.
In honor of His Highness the late Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah and his significant role in the independence of Kuwait and establishing the foundations of the modern state, a decree was issued in 1963 to integrate the National Day of the state with the Accession Day on February 25. This date marks the anniversary of His Highness assuming the reins of power in Kuwait in the year 1950.
Invasion and Liberation
The Iraqi Invation of Kuwait
The Iraqi invasion of the State of Kuwait began on August 2, 1990, when Iraqi forces launched an attack on Kuwait. Scattered battles took place between the Iraqi forces and Kuwait army ended with the occupation of Kuwait lands. The Iraqi invasion lasted for seven months, in an unprecedented incident along the twentieth century.
From the outset, Kuwait and the United States called for an emergency meeting in the UN Security Council attended by the Secretary-General at the time - Mr. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. Resolution No. 660 was issued, condemning the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and demanding Iraq’s immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait. Negotiations began between the two countries to resolve their differences, however, the Iraqi regime refused to comply with the international will, maintaining its stance that this military action was an internal Iraqi matter.
The strength, cohesion, resilience, and resistance of the Kuwaiti people became evident during the Iraqi invasion, along with their commitment to their government and legitimate leadership. There was no compromise on Kuwait’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, which aroused the admiration of the entire world.
Kuwait people remember the great role played by His Highness the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in reclaiming Kuwait’s sovereignty, independence and liberation. During the first weeks of the brutal invasion, His Highness issued several Amiri orders and decrees, notably, convening the government temporarily in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and directing ministers to manage internal affairs, additionally, he oversaw the organization of domestic matters and financial support for Kuwaiti families abroad. His Highness also issued a decree requiring non-abidance with the value of banknotes stolen from the Central Bank of Kuwait, and another decree subjecting the funds of Kuwaitis and other residents to protection.
On the international front, His Highness’s efforts to restore Kuwait’s sovereignty and independence were comprehensive. In one hand he actively sought and garnered international support, attended conferences, engaged in international forums, on the other hand he dispatched Kuwaiti delegations worldwide to advocate for Kuwait’s just cause.
The first step was participating in the Emergency Arab Summit Conference held in Cairo - Arab Republic of Egypt in August 1990, where the Arab leaders took responsibility for ending the occupation and reinstating legitimacy in Kuwait. Additionally, he addressed the World Islamic Conference in Mecca on September 10, 1990, emphasizing the Islamic principles and the pillars of faith, among the most important of which is supporting the justice, confronting injustice, and deterring oppressive group.
On September 27, 1990, His Highness addressed over sixty heads of state, ninety government leaders, ministers, and ambassadors during the forty-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly, in a historic moment, he received unprecedented support from the members of the United Nations General Assembly, with all attendees standing and the hall filled with applause, admiration and endorsement for His Highness and the just cause of Kuwait.
Furthermore, on December 22, 1990, His Highness participated in the eleventh summit of the GCC held in Doha - Qatar, under the theme “Liberation and Change’’. The summit affirmed the GCC countries solidarity with Kuwait, and it was declared that the relations of the GGC countries with the rest of the world would be affected adversely or positively pursuant to the stance of such countries regarding the execution of the Security Council resolution.
In addition to many official visits performed by His Highness within the framework of extensive tours that included some of the permanent members of the Security Council, such as the United States of America, France, the United Kingdom, and China to gain their support in Kuwait’s just case.
Liberation of Kuwait
On January 17, 1991, the United States and the coalition countries fulfilled their commitment, under UN Security Council Resolution No. 678, by compelling the Iraqi regime to withdraw from Kuwait. The liberation of Kuwait known as “Operation Desert Storm” began by the coalition forces. This operation successfully achieved its objective leading to the withdrawal of Iraqi forces and the liberation of Kuwait. The legitimate government was reinstated on February 26, 1991.
Post-liberation, His Highness delivered a speech on the last ten days of the Holy month of Ramadan 1411 AH, expressing gratitude for the reunification and victory over the oppressor. He acknowledged the resilience and nobility of the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and their people, highlighting the genuine brotherhood revealed during challenging times.
His Highness praised the great role played by the friendly Arab and Islamic countries in the liberation of Kuwait, along with allies in the international coalition forces who fulfilled their commitment and exerted their powers and capabilities for defending justice and freedom.
Kuwaitis played an effective role in the resistance and liberation, with the people’s struggle marking a turning point in the history of this country, during which many sons and daughters of Kuwait sacrificed their lives in dedication.
The twenty-six of February 1991 was indeed a unique day. It encapsulates the story of a nation that resisted, triumphed, and liberated itself from the oppressive occupier. On this day every year, Kuwaitis renew their gratitude to all who supported the Kuwaiti cause.
After the liberation of Kuwait, the Iraqi regime agreed to the UN Security Council resolutions regarding the invasion and the resulting of multiple obligations towards Kuwait. These decisions completely settled all issues related to the invasion and its causes.
After the return of the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to Kuwait on March 14, 1991, he undertook various official and friendly visits during which he participated in many regional and international conferences to express gratitude to the United Nations, member states, and the countries that contributed to the liberation of Kuwait within the international coalition for their honorable stance towards Kuwait’s just cause.
After the return of Kuwait’s leadership to the homeland, a comprehensive plan was devised and implemented for the reconstruction of Kuwait following the devastation it suffered. The reconstruction plan was successfully executed with an approximate cost of $70 billion. November 6, 1991, marks the celebration of extinguishing the last oil well among those set ablaze by the Iraqi regime before their defeat.
To express Kuwait’s pride in the history of November 6, 1991, Kuwait at that time proposed a resolution to the United Nations General Assembly calling for the declaration of November 6 of each year as an international day to celebrate preventing the use of the environment in wars and armed conflicts. The resolution referred to the 4 th paragraph of Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, which emphasizes that “all member states shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state…”.
The proposal was approved in November 2001, affirming that the damage to the environment in times of war and armed conflict destroys the ecosystem and natural resources for extended periods, surpassing beyond the boundaries of lands and the contemporary generation, it underscores the imperative to preserve them for the future generations.
Efforts exerted in building the state since independence reflect the wisdom of the political leadership and stand as indicator of a promising and welcoming future towards further Kuwaiti achievements. Therefore, it is worth mentioning some of these remarkable achievements in brief praising the role of the early pioneers whose imprints are still evident in their works, of which current generation is proud, and which will be a source of pride for future generations as well.
The Cooperative Movement
Cooperative Societies in Kuwait are considered among the most important economic landmarks. It encompasses 70 percent of the retail trade in the country. Also, it plays an important social and political role. Today, cooperative societies in Kuwait are very similar to modern commercial complexes.
The first attempts of consumer cooperation in Kuwait started in Al-Mubarakiya School in 1941 by establishing the school cooperative society, followed by establishing cooperative societies in some of the governmental entities in 1955, such as the cooperative society for Employees of the Department of Social Affairs, and Education Department. These societies were subject to the regulations and the law of social organizations and clubs due to the non-existence of a cooperation law at that time.
Consumer cooperation began in its organized form with the issuance of Law No.20 of 1962, which handled their establishment, membership, management, control, dissolution and liquidation.
With the beginning of the eighties, the consumer cooperative movement shifted towards openness to Arab and international cooperative movements, and the Kuwaiti Union for Cooperative Societies gained membership in the International Cooperative Alliance in March 1981.
It is worth mentioning that cooperative societies spend 25% of their annual profits on social services in their area, such as organizing Hajj and Umrah trips, providing schools and hospitals with some necessary needs, and organizing social, educational and recreational programs for the residents of the area.
Among the leading projects performed by the cooperative societies is the establishment of the Cooperative Union Cardiac Hospital for cardiac diseases and diagnostic ex-ray, at a total cost estimated at 15 million dinars (approximately 53 million US dollars).
Kuwait realized the importance of social security for humanitarian cases, this urged it to early establish social systems, through which it can guarantee a good source of income to individuals who are unable to work. Therefore, the Public Assistance Law and then the Social Security Law were initiated to constitute a form of social security.
Public Assistance Law
In 1955, all social assistance responsibilities were assigned to the Department of Social Affairs, which in turn set the basic rules for the same, based on social research for each case of beneficiaries, which included cases of total inability to work due to injury and old age, death of the breadwinner, or the occurrence of disasters or calamities due to fires, floods or rain. The number of cases receiving aid at that time was 613 families, with a total of approximately four thousand Kuwaiti dinars.
After the independence of the State of Kuwait and the issuance of the Constitution in 1962, it was necessary to draw up a law to regulate such aid. The law was issued in 1968 covering cases such as: widows, divorced women, sick persons, orphans, people with disabilities, families of prisoners, families of those laid off from work, the elderly, student’s families, unemployed and unmarried women.
Social insurance in Kuwait is essential for citizens and significantly contributes to enhancing social and economic stability. It is noteworthy that the insurance system is linked to the Kuwaiti citizen’s status, irrespective of their income source. Social insurance extends to cover all citizens through insurance for the breadwinner.
Social Insurance Law No. (61) of the year 1976 was issued in accordance with the provisions of the Kuwaiti Constitution, specifically (Article 7) which emphasizes “cooperation and compassion are the closest ties between citizens,”. Additionally (Article 11) that “the state ensures assistance to citizens in the cases of old age, illness, and disability, providing them with social insurance services, social aid, and health care. The law consists of (132 articles). In October 1977, the implementation of the social insurance system commenced, encompassing civilian citizens in (governmental - oil - private) sectors. It expanded to include all citizens across various sectors reaching the highest level of insurance coverage, which is 100% in practical terms.
The social insurance system in Kuwait is distinguished by its efficiency and superior benefits provided by the state to citizens. This is due to the great support provided by the government for this system, in addition to the distinguished method of providing insurance services through the General Organization for Social Insurance.
Public Authority for Minors Affairs
The Public Authority for Minors Affairs was established in 1938 during the reign of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait at the time. Its noble mission is to provide guardianship of those who have no guardian from minors, attached, incapacitated, and missing persons by ensuring the protection and management of their money and properties.
The work of the Authority shall be supervised by the Minister of Justice in his capacity and has all the capacities granted to the guardian and all their duties pursuant to the provisions of the law No. 67 of 1983, and the civil law, as long as they do not contradict with the provisions of Islamic Sharia. If such laws do not contain a text applicable for the concerned case, the provisions of Islamic Sharia shall be applied.
Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS)
The Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences was founded by the initiative of the late Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah during when he was the Crown Prince, through an Amiri decree issued on 21 Dhul-Hijjah 1396 AH, corresponding to December 12, 1976, with the support and contribution of Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, a private institution of public benefit, was considered an innovative project in the Arab region at that time. Overseen by a board chaired by His Highness the Amir and six members chosen by Kuwaiti shareholding companies for three years terms. The institution aims to support the development of science, technology and innovation.
Sabah Al-Ahmad Center for Giftedness and Creativity
The Board of Directors of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS), in its meeting held on February 9, 2009, under the chairmanship of the late Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, adopted His Highness’s noble initiative to establish Sabah Al-Ahmad Center for Giftedness and Creativity. The center is dedicated to discovering and nurturing distinguished, talented and creative individuals, and helping inventors in developing their ideas and registering patents for their inventions.
In addition, the center works on developing artistic skills, organizing activities for young scientists, and providing training programs that enhance creative abilities. This effectively contributes to supporting scientific development in Kuwait, making it one of the leading projects in the Arab world.
Reserve Fund for Future Generations
On November 28, 1976, an Amiri decree was issued regarding establishing the Future Generations Reserve Fund, by allocating 50% of the general reserve fund for the country in the first year, and it was decided that 10% of the state’s total revenues would be deposited into the fund annually starting from the fiscal year 1976-1977. The General Investment Authority is responsible for managing the funds and reinvesting the funds on behalf of the government in various projects, both domestically and internationally.
The Future Generations Reserve Fund is the primary source upon which the government relies to cover any economic crisis the country may face.
Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development
The State of Kuwait has not overlooked the suffering of many developing countries. For decades, even before the discovery of oil, it was the first to recognize the challenges facing these countries and always strived to address their developmental issues. Despite being a developing country, Kuwait has not hesitated to allocate a significant portion of its national income to assist other countries. From this perspective, the idea of establishing the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development emerged as an initiative of His Highness the late Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who was the Minister of Finance at the time, and it became the first developmental institution in the Middle East dedicated to providing developmental assistance to Arab developing countries and extending a helping hand to them.
The establishment of the Fund was announced in December 1961, immediately after Kuwait’s independence. This reflects Kuwait’s awareness of the development crisis in the Third World. Despite its small size, Kuwait dedicated a portion of its resources to enhance developmental issues and assist developing countries, particularly in the realm of loans and necessary technical aid to fund development programs on sound basis. This ensures the success of the funded projects and grants the benefiting countries the highest possible economic and social benefits.
In July 1974, the Fund expanded its scope to include all developing countries, increasing its capital from 200 million Kuwaiti dinars to 1 billion Kuwaiti dinars. In March 1981, the Fund’s capital doubled again, reaching 2 billion Kuwaiti dinars. Undoubtedly, the Kuwait Fund has succeeded in achieving its intended goals and has significantly contributing to building a positive international reputation for Kuwait through its support for economic development and humanitarian aid. This has positively influenced the strengthening of relations between Kuwait and beneficiary countries, impacting these countries positions positively in international forums towards Kuwait.