Al Bu Sa'id, Badr Bin Hamad Bin Hamood (1960–)
Al Bu Sa'id, Badr Bin Hamad Bin Hamood
Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Al Bu Sa'id is undersecretary of foreign affairs of the Sultanate of Oman. One of the leading diplomats of the Middle East and a negotiator of many important international trade and political agreements, he has played a central role in formulating and implementing Omani foreign policy since the early 1990s.
Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Al Bu Sa'id was born in 1960 in Muscat, capital of Oman, and spent most of his early years in Salalah in the Dhofar province of southern Oman. He takes the title Sayyid as is customary among members of the ruling Al Bu Sa'id family. During the 1960s the then-sultan Sa'id bin Taymur lived almost exclusively in Salalah, where Sayyid Badr's father Sayyid Hamad bin Hamood worked as his private secretary. Badr is among the last generation of Omanis to have a clear recollection of the time before the modernization of Oman, a time when it was common to sleep on rooftops for the benefit of the cool night air (years later, staying in modern Western hotels, Badr found himself seeking his rest on the floor, the beds being just too soft for a good sleep). It was a time when education was often gleaned from the Qur'an and the BBC Arabic Service. Badr would see his father set off regularly for the desert or mountains to settle tribal disputes. During these years the family lived in the Salalah Palace compound, where some of the children benefited from the help of their neighbor, the future Sultan qaboos al bu sa'id, with their English.
As a boy of ten Badr was an eyewitness to the events of 23 July 1970 in Salalah which led to Sayyid Qaboos taking over as Sultan from his father Sa'id. Shortly afterward Hamad moved his family to Muscat, to make himself available to assist the new Sultan in the development of a modern administration. Hamad was appointed minister of diwan (court) affairs, a position of great importance which managed relations between the palace and the government, which he held till 1986, when he became Qaboos' personal adviser until his death in 2002.
Badr left Oman in the summer of 1977, at the age of seventeen, to pursue his education in the United Kingdom. He first spent several months in North Wales with a private tutor. Badr's experience in North Wales was cold and lonely, and it was with some relief that he relocated to London during the spring of 1978. Then, working with a team of tutors, he managed over a period of three years to earn sufficiently high marks on the British secondary school examinations to win a place at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, where he read politics, philosophy, and economics. He was fortunate to have as his tutor Wilfrid Knapp, a renowned teacher of political science, who over the years had many leaders of the future among his pupils, among them Peter Mandelson (guru of the early years of the Blair government in Britain) and Benazir Bhutto (erstwhile prime minister of Pakistan).
While studying in the United Kingdom, Badr took a keen interest in the well-being of his fellow Omani students. In 1983, he and his younger brother, Khalid, organized a concert in London, providing an opportunity for several hundred Omani students to celebrate their national day together and to send greetings home via Oman TV, which covered the event.
On his return to Oman, and following the death of his elder brother, Sami, in 1988, Badr took over as chairman of the family business, SABCO (Sami and Brothers Company), a diverse holding company. He remained in this position until 2000, when pressure of official work and concern to observe fully a separation between public responsibilities and private interest led him to resign all his private appointments. In 1988 Badr returned to Muscat and started work as a diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he has been ever since.
INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS
Since the early 1990s Badr has played a central role in the implementation of Omani foreign policy, acting as chief of staff for the minister, as well as directing ministry operations on his behalf. In one of his first tasks at the Ministry, he established an Office of Political Analysis to provide the ministry with a systematic process of policy assessment and analysis of international and regional issues.
Badr has represented Oman in many regional and international meetings at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), at the Arab League, in the United States, in the multilateral phase of the Middle East peace process, at the United Nations, at the Non-Aligned Movement, at the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and in many other multilateral and bilateral forums. He led the initial negotiation with the United States concerning labor law issues which began in 1993 which subsequently developed into an initiative resulting in Omani membership in the World Trade Organization in 2000, and to a U.S.-Omani Free Trade Agreement in 2006.
During the active phase of the Middle East peace process, from the Madrid Conference in 1991 to death of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Badr helped shape Oman's responses. The first official talks between Oman and Israel took place in 1995 in Washington with Badr and Yossi Beilin (then Israel's deputy foreign minister) representing their respective governments. He also played an active role in the Water Working Group of the multilateral phase, which led to the establishment of the Middle East Desalination Research Center in Oman, an institution conceived in the context of the peace process, and currently serves as Oman's representative and the chairman of the Executive Council of the Center.
Name: Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Al Bu Sa'id (AlbuSa'id)
Birth: 1960, Muscat, Oman
Family: Former wife, Nura (divorced 1993); one son, Nasr; three daughters, Aseelah, Salsabeel, and Mazan
Education: Sa'ideyya schools, Muscat and Salalah; private tutors, U.K.; M.Lit., St. Catherine's College, Oxford, 1988
- 1989: Appointed first secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; established Office for Political Analysis
- 1990: Promoted to counselor
- 1996: Promoted to ambassador
- 1997: Appointed head, Minister's Office Department
- 2000: Promoted to undersecretary
For many years the GCC and the European Union have had a persistent although relatively fruitless trade dialogue. Badr has been closely involved in this, in particular when the GCC chair has been with Oman. He has also worked closely with the United Kingdom, and took a leading role in developing Oman's bilateral relations with the Netherlands (home to Shell Oil, Oman's partner in Petroleum Development Oman, the dominant player in Oman's energy industry). He also chairs the Omani side of joint bilateral committees and political consultations with countries such as Germany and Russia.
Badr's work has not only been concerned with Oman's relationship with the West and with Middle East peace. He has made three important official visits to China (currently Oman's principal trade partner), interacting at the ministerial and vice-ministerial level. In addition, he chairs standing strategic working groups for bilateral cooperation with India. He also oversees bilateral political consultations with a number of other countries including Pakistan, Singapore, Brunei, and Japan.
Beyond the realm of foreign relations, Badr has lectured in Oman and internationally on topics such as cultural dialogue, modernization and development, and the writing of Omani history. He is an articulate and prolific exponent of the nuanced political philosophy of Sultan Qaboos.
THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE
The diplomatic community in Muscat, and indeed in Washington and other places, where he is less well known, consistently appreciate Badr as someone easy to work with: quick on the uptake, and unafraid to make decisions. Interacting with a diverse range of colleagues and visitors, from the most hardline neoconservative American to the Islamist mainstream, Badr makes his interlocutors feel they have been understood, like the professional diplomat that he is.
The issue of Middle East peace arouses very strong emotions, and Badr's firm and consistent promotion of Oman's longstanding moderate policy, which has been clearly visible from its support for the first Camp David agreement in 1979 onward, has won him many friends throughout the world.
With many years of work ahead of him, it is perhaps premature to consider Badr's legacy. However, he has clearly made an important contribution to dialogue between Islam and the West, and in particular has improved understanding of Oman's balanced policies in the United States. He has also been an effective modernizer of government administration.
WE DO WANT TO BE MODERN
Globalization also puts into question the relationship between periphery and core … it seems to me very clear that the fluidity and multiplicity that characterizes contemporary economic relations is going to break down any stable sense of core and periphery … there is a sense in which smaller nations like ours may have been living an early version of this reality slightly longer than some of the larger nations, and that as a result the kinds of diplomacy and foreign policies we have been developing for some time will increasingly be taken up by others.
We are not imposing modern things and modern ideas and hoping that they will somehow perform a kind of magic that will make us modern just like the industrial West is modern. We are adapting and transforming our own social and cultural inheritance, blending in whatever ideas and practices will enhance the process. We do want to be modern. We are modern. But we're doing it our way.
One aspect of [globalization] that is sometimes unjustly overlooked, or paid insufficient attention, is the development of cosmopolitan cities. One is inclined, on hearing the term, to think of places such as New York, London or Paris as the great cosmopolitan centres. And indeed, they were, and still are, among the great cosmopolitan cities of the modern world: of the late nineteenth and twentieth century. But there are others now, in the 21st century, other cities whose cosmopolitan character is not the result of a great imperial past or present, but perhaps a rather more modest outcome of trade and commerce. Dubai today is just one example of the cosmopolitan city in the age of globalisation. If we think back before the modern period, one might think perhaps of Venice, another cosmopolis based on an unusual commitment to free trade. One might, on a much more modest scale, think also of the network of cities from Kilwa, via Muscat to Gwadar in the eighteenth century, and then, in the light of this historical insight, look again at Muscat, its history and its future potential.
BADR BIN HAMAD ALBUSA'ID. "THOUGHTS ON WRITING OMANI HISTORY." LECTURE AT THE OMANI HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION, MUSCAT, CAT, 23 FEBRUARY 2004.
Al Bu Sa'id, Badr bin Hamad. "Small States' Diplomacy in the Age of Globalization." The Review of International Affairs 3:2 (December 2003).
Jones, Jeremy, and Nicholas Ridout. "Democratic Developments in Oman." Middle East Journal 59, no. 3 (Summer 2005).
Peterson, John E. "The Emergence of Post-Traditional Oman." Durham Middle East Papers no. 78 (2004).