Arabia Time Zone UTC+03:00
Capital City Manama
Currency Bahraini Dinar
National Day 16 December
Biography: HIS EXCELLENCY Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammad bin Khalifa Al Khalifa declares London to be his “second home,” having lived, studied and worked here before. The Ambassador’s father (also the country’s Interior Minister for some time) encouraged his son to enroll at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in 1994 in order “to strengthen [his] self-discipline.” This was an influential time in his life, so the Ambassador was happy to be posted to the UK, arriving in London at the start of September last year, accompanied by his “supportive” wife, Mrs Bouthaina Al Khalifa, and their three “wonderful children.” Presenting his Credentials to Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace was a career highlight, and “one my wife and children will always remember.”
The Ambassador humbly explains that his family “has always been in public service for the people of Bahrain,” and this was a commitment that was impressed upon him by his parents. Indeed, the House of Khalifa is the royal family of Bahrain, and the current head is Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa who became the Emir of Bahrain in 1999.
Accordingly, after studying in the US, the Ambassador joined the Civil Service Bureau in 1990, which oversees government employees. From there he moved to the Pension Fund Commission, where he became the Director of Investments. In 2000, the Ambassador assumed the Presidency of General Organisation for Youth and Sports (GOYS), where he served for ten fruitful years. Clearly a role that he cherished, it was during this time that he received the Shaikh Isa Award in recognition of his work and leadership at GOYS, which he describes as “one of the most memorable events of [his] career.”
Next came the Presidency of the Information Affairs Authority (2010-12) in which the Ambassador was tasked with restructuring the organisation and updating its technology. No small assignment, this involved moving from digital to HD technology and introducing digital archiving for the media divisions.
As Minister of State for Communication Affairs (2012-14), his main focus was to implement and develop a national telecoms strategy and work with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority that regulates and insures a competitive telecommunications landscape in Bahrain. Again, he also introduced fourth-generation technology into the telecommunications sector.
So, in light of all this experience, what are the Ambassador’s key priorities for his role in the UK? “Bahrain and the UK share a long history of bilateral relations. In fact, 2016 is the bicentennial of our friendly, cooperative relationship. My primary goal is to continue to strengthen that relationship and help identify new opportunities for cooperation on multiple fronts. For example, economic, security-related, cultural and educational exchanges, to name just a few.”
Sport continues to play “a prominent role” in the Ambassador’s life, both personally and professionally. He especially enjoys football, shooting and skiing. “London is an international sports capital. So in addition to maintaining the various fields of cooperation in sports, I will also seek to develop new partnerships.” He feels that the youth are a big asset in any society because of their great resilience, and the fact they have unique and fresh ways of looking at things. “I’ve always enjoyed working with a team that spans a wide age range, and feel that is a critical ingredient in maximising our effectiveness. I think this is also reflected in social and political circles here in London, so I look forward to this being a rich experience.”
Despite an excellent start to the job, His Excellency acknowledges that the role is not without its challenges. “Because we are a small nation located in a fast-changing region, a lot of people don’t really know much about Bahrain. I think that it is important to help people understand what makes Bahrain unique, as well as what our two nations have in common.”
Luke Oades reports on the South Asia and Middle East Forum’s recent Bahrain event, chaired by Khalid Nadeem in May at the Royal Air Force Club