To mourn the late Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, the UN flag at the United Nations headquarters in New York City flew half-mast on Wednesday. Image Credit: Twitter account of Kuwait Mission to the United Nations

Kuwait City: The UN flag at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, flew half-mast on Wednesday, to mourn the late Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah.

The passing of Sheikh Sabah on Tuesday, led not only Kuwait to mourn the loss of their leader, but an overwhelming response by the international community, signaling the late Emir’s achievements and influence across the globe.


After assuming power in 2006, the late Emir ensured humanitarianism and diplomacy became a pillar of Kuwait’s foreign policy.

On August 9, 2014 the UN’s Secretary General of the time, Ban Ki-moon, awarded the late Emir the title “Humanitarian Leader” for his charitable and humanitarian acts around the world.

Serving as the Foreign Minister and then Emir of Kuwait, the late Sheikh Sabah gained worldwide recognition, including at the UN, and has been dubbed the “dean of Arab diplomacy”.

Reactions of UN Secretary General

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, described the late Emir as a “distinguished statesman and an outstanding humanitarian who contributed to building bridges of understanding in the Gulf region and beyond. In so doing, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed earned international recognition for his wisdom, generosity and achievements in State-building and preventive diplomacy.”

A notable leader, he was held in high esteem by the people of Kuwait. 
“As a close friend of the United Nations, His Highness always sought to strengthen relations for the shared goal of sustaining peace and stability in the region and around the world.”

Achim Steiner, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), characterized the late Emir as, “a champion of international cooperation and humanitarian action.”

The United Nations building in Kuwait, also lowered their flag, in mourning over the late Emir.

History of Kuwait in the United Nations

On the 14th of May 1963, Kuwait became the 111th member state of the United Nations. As the Foreign Minister at the time, Sheikh Sabah addressed the General Assembly and said, “this is a happy occasion which will go down in the history of my country as an important milestone on the road to progress which Kuwait is determined to pursue.”

The late Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah Ahmad Al Sabah. Image Credit: Twitter account of Kuwait Mission to the United Nations

Kuwait held a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council, the first Gulf country to do so, in 1978 to 1979. Then, in 2018 to 2019, Kuwait served a second time on the UN Security Council, where it actively tackled various issues pertaining to Arab, Islamic and humanitarian causes.

Between 2011 and 2014, Kuwait was elected by the UN General Assembly to be a member of the Human Rights Council.

In 2013, during his visit to Kuwait, Guterres thanked the late Emir for “an unprecedented donation” of $110 million to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) emergency operation for Syrian Refugees.

Speaking at the 70th United Nations General Assembly session, in 2015, Sheikh Sabah announced that it will continue to provide developmental assistance loans for the next 15 years, totaling $15 billion in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Agenda.

That same year, the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report ranked Kuwait as the top donor of international humanitarian assistance, as it donated 0.24 per cent of its gross national income in 2014 to humanitarian aid.

Under the leadership of the late Emir, Kuwait has hosted and participated in several international donor conferences and diplomatic talks. Between 2013 and 2015, Kuwait hosted three international humanitarian and donor pledging conferences for Syria, where the pledges totaled $3.8 billion.

In 2016, Kuwait hosted a UN-sponsored Yemen peace talks, with the aim of finding a solution to ending the conflict. The peace talks were attended by the Secretary-General of the time, Ban Ki-moon, who during his visit met with the late Emir and discussed a variety of issues from Kuwait’s continuous support of UN agencies to commending the Emir for Kuwait’s consistent support to Iraq since 2014.