HBKU brings Harvard Law School to Doha

The fourth annual Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) workshop marked a watershed moment for Qatar’s growing influence on the international sphere of global law, economics and social justice.

As part of a multi-year partnership between the world renowned Harvard Law School and Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a member of Qatar Foundation, the IGLP took place beyond the borders of Harvard for the first time, bringing international scholars to Doha in order to promote new perspectives and innovative approaches to issues of global law.

“It was a really phenomenal project,” recalls Dr Dennis Roberts, Assistant Vice President of HBKU. “We went into this with Harvard completely responsible for the content and for choosing the faculty and participants.  “So that was totally their responsibility, and our little niche was basically one that ended up being very significant – the logistical support, co-ordination of volunteers, and the creation of cultural events that would introduce our guests to Qatar.

“I couldn’t be prouder of how it went, and we got tremendously positive feedback from the participants. Harvard had run the IGLP for three years in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and afterwards we had lots of participants telling us: ‘Wow, this takes it to a completely different level.’”

One of the chief benefits for relocating the IGLP workshop to Doha was it would be an opportunity for scholars based outside of North America and Europe to bring their unique perspectives to the event; an aim that Dr Roberts feels was hugely important to the workshop’s overall success.

“I think the part that I’m most proud of – in terms of having added value – is the cultural component,” he says. “Ironically, the IGLP is the Institute for Global Law and Policy but previously it had been heavily concentrated on North America and Europe, so taking the workshop outside those areas made sense. The group of 140 participants were either doctoral students in the advanced stages of their work or were newly-graduated PhD students who are launching their research careers. What we really hope is that now people will see the potential of doing research in the Gulf, Asia and Africa, which were pockets that the IGLP normally didn’t reach.”

With the fourth annual IGLP considered by all involved a resounding success, the next stage for HBKU is to assess the findings of the program in general, while ensuring that any potential returning attendees will be wowed once more in 12 months’ time.

“I’m trying to help anybody who participated – particularly from Qatar – to have a voice in the ongoing evaluation and feedback to Harvard,” says Dr Roberts. “Ultimately they are responsible for all of the content and for it to be as effective as it could be. I’ve talked to lots of my colleagues since and told them: ‘Great idea, write it down and we’ll send it to Harvard.’ On our end, in terms of hosting, what’s interesting is that a certain portion of the IGLP is repeat business, so people will come back year after year. So we can’t do the same cultural events, and next year I think that we can take it even further. There were a lot of questions about Islam and while 25 percent of the participants were Muslim, I’d say that the other 75 percent might be pretty ignorant of Islam, its basic approach and how that affects the fabric of a society.

“So for next year I’m thinking of activities such as a visit to the State Mosque of Qatar, going to the Fanar - Qatar Islamic Cultural Center in Doha or perhaps the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue. I’m thinking about things like that, which I feel will do a better job of positioning the question of law and public policy in an Islamic context, which I think will offer great value.”

In other words, the Assistant Vice President of HBKU is assessing the multitude of possibilities to build on the success of the first IGLP Workshop in Qatar, while also keenly aware that the combined efforts of HBKU and Harvard Law School have laid down a considerable benchmark.

“We will feed all of the detailed critique regarding modification of the program to Harvard and then we will engage our people here to figure out what we can do new and different that will be even better than this year,” says Dr Roberts.

“We did a great job this time, so it’s going to be tough.”