Farewell to Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah

When world leaders mount the marble podium during the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), they often spout a lot of doom and gloom.

Not so for Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. When he entered the global spotlight in October 1963 as foreign minister of a newly independent Kuwait, he gushed with more passion and optimism than your average diplomat.

He said, “genuine hopeful signs of lasting peace on Earth are appearing on the horizon” and issued a call to “banish colonialism, racial discrimination, religious intolerance” while also ending war, poverty and hunger.

He never let up. Sheikh Sabah, who died on Tuesday aged 91 after a series of medical setbacks, will be remembered as a steadfast optimist in a volatile region who spent a 70-year career putting out fires at home and abroad.

“Sheikh Sabah was known internationally as a conciliator,” Gregory Gause, head of global affairs at Texas A&M University and a former scholar at the American University in Kuwait, told Al Jazeera.

“He frequently took the lead in trying to mediate among the other Gulf monarchies when they had spats, including the boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. His mild-mannered style was more successful at bridging gaps in the world of diplomacy than in Kuwait’s domestic politics.”