Opening the Forum H.H. Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has stressed reforms should be genuine and not in response to outside pressure.
Addressing some 500 prominent figures attending the conference, the Amir said it was not enough to introduce "partial amendments to avoid criticism or ease pressure".
Reform now has "new supporters ... after only few voices pinned hopes on the birth of the era of democracy in the region", he told participants from some 50 countries at the forum's fifth edition.
Delegates at the meetings include US congressmen and European lawmakers, with France sending a 50-strong contingent.
In an address to the gathering read by Secretary of State for State Reform Eric Woerth, French President Jacques Chirac stressed that reforms must come from within, a point often made by leaders of the Gulf region.
While France encourages reform in the Arab world, "it knows that changes must come from inside and take place at the pace chosen by each of the countries of the region", he said.
"Every reform initiative must be based on the expectations and needs of states and civil societies," the French leader said.
He also said a fairer distribution of wealth was a prerequisite to stability.
"In an increasingly globalised economy, our common efforts must reconcile the requirements of political reform and economic justice," he said.
Democracy & development : facing the challenges of our generation
"The democracy we are talking about and endeavoring to establish as a basis of governance in our country, draws its foundation and elements from the legacy of our faith and the practices and experience of world established democracies, taking into account the rich tradition of Islamic values,
as well as social and family relationships and kinship which we take pride in. For several years Qatar has been witnessing a process of democracy that, we are trying to enhance and develop....The national heritage of the Qatari people dictates the country's own way of dealing with the drastic social, cultural and economic changes that focused itself on this society."
H.H. Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani,
Emir of the State of Qatar
The state of Qatar hosts the fifth Doha Forum on Democracy and Free Trade this year under the auspices of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani and with the participation of an upper crust elite of world experts and intellectuals.
The staging of the conference offers a good opportunity for the Qatari leadership to reflect its strong support of the principles of democracy and free trade as viable basis for the economic and social policies it is trying to promote. These principles - including the concepts of personal initiative; responsible freedom; social justice and political, economic and cultural openness - reflect to a great extent the objectives that Qatar is aspiring to achieve under the leadership and guidance of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani The Emir Of Qatar. They are also considered mandatory springboards from which Qatar should launch its plans and aspirations, aiming to develop itself and maintain its role as a conductive, active and influential member in today's world movement towards a brighter future.
"Democracy And Free Trade is a true motto that we hold fast to as a basis for our political and economic orientation.
It reflects to a large extent to the targets we are trying to accomplish,
And which are derived from the principles of individual initiative, responsible freedom,social justice and political,economic and cultural openness, as distinctly outlined &firmly founded by
H.H.Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani,the Emir of the State of Qatar.These principles are mandatory springboards from which we should launch our plans and aspirations, aiming to develop our countryand maintain its role as a conductive, active and influential member in today's world movement towards a brighter future."