G20 Summit: Showing the world Saudi Arabia’s new face

08/12/19

As the only Gulf state to be a member of the G20, Saudi Arabia is in a unique position. With the 2020 G20 Summit to be held in Riyadh, the country and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman will not only have the opportunity to showcase the Kingdom’s ambitious reform projects, but also to grow Saudi influence in the international community.

As Saudi Arabia embarks upon these ambitious reforms while navigating a difficult situation in the region, from Syria to Iran, the summit offers the Kingdom the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to modernization, and its willingness to be an honest broker and leader. With Saudi Arabia also in the midst of a leadership transition, the summit will represent the crown prince’s true introduction to the world stage.

The G20 itself represents a structure which includes the world’s nineteen largest national economies and the EU. Originally designed as a forum to coordinate and promote international financial stability on the basis of free market ideals, the G20 has radically evolved over the decades. Indeed, it has come to resemble an alternative to the UN and other supranational organizations, through which the world’s most powerful and influential states can engage in collective action so as to solve global problems. Saudi Arabia is thus making its entry into the mainstream of the G20 at a time when this critical international forum is shifting away from mere economic considerations to more overarching ones pertaining to the global balance of power and the stability of the international system.

Saudi Arabia’s role in the G20 is critical for the Gulf, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the Islamic world. With the Kingdom being not only the sole Gulf region member but also one of the most important energy leaders, it holds immense influence on global energy policy as well as the foreign policies of the Gulf. With the Kingdom having been a staunch ally of the West in their regional military interventions, Saudi Arabia’s membership in the G20 reflects its importance in relation to energy, geopolitics, and even to the representation of the Islamic world in this most important of global forums. With the crown prince also showing a willingness to reform Saudi Arabia’s domestic economic structures, a new day is emerging as Riyadh prepares to host the summit.

That said, it is important to note that G20 members have often viewed the Kingdom with skepticism, because of its dependence on fossil fuel exports, and relatively low levels of domestic diversification. Given that a neoliberal agenda has thoroughly permeated the G20, Saudi Arabia’s position in the organization has hitherto been somewhat marred by virtue of its lack of congruence with the economic policies of its fellow members. In this respect, its inclusion has sometimes been perceived as resulting from its geopolitical importance rather than its actual economic merit. The true motives underlying Saudi membership are likely to change over the years as Mohammed makes it clear that a new generation of leadership has taken the reins in Riyadh, and as Saudi Arabia makes fundamental changes to its economy and society.

With the opportunities offered by Vision 2030 not only benefiting the Saudi population but also the global community, the coming summit will let the Kingdom show the world its ambition, and the new face of its vibrant leadership. 

Dr. Hesham Alammar

Most importantly for Saudi Arabia’s future, the Riyadh summit will allow the crown prince and the Kingdom to showcase the Vision 2030 project, which promises to so dramatically alter the nation’s future, and bring its economy into line with those of the developed Western world.

With so many critiques of Saudi Arabia having historically focused on its undiversified economic structure, this cohesive plan to transform the Saudi economy into a knowledge-based one will allow the Kingdom to enter the mainstream of the developed world. With the opportunities offered by Vision 2030 not only benefiting the Saudi population but also the global community, the coming summit will let the Kingdom show the world its ambition, and the new face of its vibrant leadership.

From this, Saudi Arabia also has the opportunity to steer policy regarding Iran and Syria. Riyadh is a strong regional power with the potential to develop even greater status should it make necessary economic reforms and investments. Saudi influence will continue to grow, within the G20 and bilateral structures, because of its historic reliability in supporting Western interventions for stability in the region. From this, the summit will provide an opportunity for the leadership to renew this long-term commitment, and offer other leaders in the G20 Saudi support for ending the crisis currently brewing in  Iran, and the long-running Syrian civil war, and its associated refugee crisis.

Given the ambition the crown prince has shown in relation to remaking Saudi Arabia’s domestic economy, the coming G20 Summit in Riyadh also offers him the opportunity take on a larger leadership role in terms of coordinating with Western powers to manage the turbulence of the Gulf region. With the crises in Syria and Iran representing nothing more than microcosms of the broader instability of the area, the summit will offer him the opportunity to demonstrate his command of foreign policy, and his willingness to commit Saudi assets to necessary missions in the region.

This is likely to increase Saudi soft power in a period when Western governments are seeking reliable allies. Given that the Kingdom is in the midst of a power transition, this is a critical opportunity for the future Saudi leader.

While leadership in relation to issues pertaining to the Gulf region and the Islamic world represent some of Saudi Arabia’s natural prerogatives, the Kingdom will also be able to show the world that its modernization programs are well underway. Moreover, and with the transition of power to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman still ongoing, it will represent an immense opportunity for the him to present his vision of Saudi Arabia’s future. Vision 2030 will not only transform the Saudi economy but also the manner by which ordinary Saudi Arabians relate to their government, and the world. Inspired by the neoliberalism which predominates within the G20, its denouement will also provide Mohammed with the ability to demonstrate his commitment to G20 values.

The summit will provide the world community with the portrait of a modern nation, transcending its role as a mere oil exporter. Instead, this will show that Saudi Arabia is in the midst of becoming a modern market economy in which competition is the norm, and with whom Western powers will feel safe doing business.

• This article was published in The Diplomat Magazine, titled “SAUDI ARABIA TO HOST G20 SUMMIT IN 2020.”

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• Dr. Hesham Alammar is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Supervisor of the American Studies Center at Prince Saud al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies. Email: halammar8@gmail.com

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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TheFace: Roaa Saber, CEO and founder of Miss Feionkah

Time: December 06, 2019

I was born in a well-rooted and highly educated family in Jeddah. I am the eldest of three siblings and a mother of three boys. My grandfather on my mother’s side, Sadaqah Shaikh, is my mentor and role model.

He was a member of the board of directors at Saudi Fransi Bank, one of the few who spoke French fluently at the time, and a successful businessman in the field of medical supplies.

My other grandfather, Hussain Saber, was an author and writer in Jeddah in the 1970s. My father Saud Saber, whom I have always admired, worked at Saudi Aramco.

He and my mother, Basmah Shaikh, traveled together and lived in various countries, which enabled them to experience different cultures and cuisines.

As a little kid I heard stories about my grandfathers, and observed the art of my mother’s cooking and her mixing of different cuisines with love.

The energy and success I saw in my father influenced me greatly. My maternal grandfather used to teach me the alphabet and the art of business management.

All these influences made me the person I am, and inspired my luxury chocolate business Miss Feionkah, which I founded in 2009. With a team of more than 19 female staff members, Miss Feionkah manufactures and distributes its products all over the Kingdom, including to big companies, private jets and airlines. I learned the art of chocolate-making from Belgian chefs, and I added Saudi flavors. My goal is to reach the global market.

I am also a member of the Young Women’s Business Council in the Eastern Province’s Chamber of Commerce. I live by the motto “just do it,” and strongly encourage all fellow female entrepreneurs to do the same. If you are passionate about something, just go for it.

Throughout my career, I have learned that resilience and a positive mindset are half the battle, and you never know what you are capable of until you try.

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Adhari Al-Khalidi becomes first Saudi woman to participate in King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival

Time: December 04, 2019

Adhari Al-Khaldi took part in the 400-meter Al-Milwah competition with her falcon, Sattam. (SPA)
  • Adhari Al-Khaldi said she hopes to show that Saudi women are capable of breaking stereotypes and becoming professional falconers
  • Al-Khalidi said that she has faced many challenges since she started practicing falconry a decade ago, but her passion for the sport gave her resilience

RIYADH: Saudi falconer Adhari Al-Khaldi of Sakakah city has become the first woman to participate in the King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival.

Al-Khalidi took part in the 400-meter Al-Milwah competition with her falcon, Sattam. She said she hopes to show that Saudi women are capable of breaking stereotypes and becoming professional falconers.

Al-Khalidi said that she has faced many challenges since she started practicing falconry a decade ago, but her passion for the sport gave her resilience and enabled her to defy her detractors and not give up. She added that her family and her husband have always believed in her and supported her.

The King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival continues until Dec. 16 in Malham, north of Riyadh. The prizes amount to around SR21 million.

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Tough origins shaped future of Saudi women in media

Time: December 04, 2019

According to Al-Bakr, one of the main obstacles women had at the time was that they did not have the history or knowledge of what was acceptable to Saudi society, which left female presenters treading a fine line. (Saudi Media Forum)
  • It is important that this generation knows our history, not just in the media but in all sectors

RIYADH: From writing under pen names to not knowing how to dress appropriately or work with male colleagues, three Saudi female journalists have recalled the difficulties their predecessors faced working in the media during a session titled “Saudi women in media: Presence and representation” at the Saudi Media Forum (SMF) on Tuesday.
“In the past, there were many concerns,” one of the panelists, writer Dr. Fawzia Al-Bakr, said.
According to Al-Bakr, one of the main obstacles women had at the time was that they did not have the history or knowledge of what was acceptable to Saudi society, which left female presenters treading a fine line.
However, said Al-Bakr, the government was always supportive of women in the media — King Faisal was the first to help them emerge in the field via radio in the 1970s.
There were supportive Saudi male journalists, too, who used to write under female pen names to help pave the way for their colleagues, such as Ahmed Siba’i who wrote in The Voice of Hjiaz publication under the pen name “Hijazi girl.”
Al-Bakr cited the progress of the country, from women being able to drive, to having passports issued and their active participation in the workforce. “We have a historical responsibility today,” she said.
Omaima Al-Khamis, a Saudi journalist, said: “Female media existence in Saudi Arabia was hidden. In the beginning, their presence wasn’t accepted but slowly it came to be.”
Small steps forward go a long way towards reaching goals of being active, equal members of the media world, she added.
Al-Khamis noted that the first news outlet to have a women’s section was Riyadh Newspaper in 1989 — a time when media/journalism was not an option for women in colleges and universities.
“Of course, there were difficulties and obstacles, but they continued forward and persevered,” she said, adding: “The challenges are real and big, but let’s move forward not just locally, or regionally, but globally.”
Saudi women in the western media are misrepresented, according to Maha Akeel, director of the information department at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“For the longest period, the Saudi woman’s voice was absent, so now we must speak. Vision 2030 has enabled us to. It’s difficult to change years of absence, but it must be done,” she said.
“There was always a gap. There would be someone to speak on a Saudi woman’s behalf in the past, but she was absent. That gave the western media (a chance) to create a narrative,” she added.
Most westerners, she said, assume that the identity of the Saudi woman is a burqa-clad female in black. While that is the case for some, it is not for all.
“Now we have support to empower and enable women,” she said.
She added that studying the journeys of pioneers is an essential part of learning a nation’s past and where its people have come from. “It is important that this generation knows our history, not just in the media but in all sectors.”

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Saudi movie industry looking bright but still needs push from government

03/12/19

Oscar-winning producer Andres Gomez speaks during a session at the Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh on Monday. (AN photo)

  • There is no lack of enthusiasm for filmmaking in the Kingdom, says Oscar-winning producer

RIYADH: World-renowned, Oscar-winning producer Andres Gomez spoke at the Saudi Media Forum over the weekend, where he spoke about his latest film, “Born a King,” and his upcoming movie “Champions,” which will start shooting in Jeddah in early 2020.

“One of the exciting things about working here is that we are not just making movies — we are creating an industry,” he said, adding there was no lack of enthusiasm for filmmaking in the Kingdom, but a lack of a strong infrastructure to facilitate it.

“Saudi Arabia has great potential to have its own content production industry — and it is in the hands of the government to help it,” he told the forum.

“The government needs to give a framework — there must be legislation, tax rebates, subsidies. There must be regulations in terms of what foreign films can come in and what foreign films cannot.

One of the exciting things about working here is that we are not just making movies — we are creating an industry.

Andres Gomez, Film producer

“Saudi culture must be promoted and protected, and foreign films and their themes should be limited. I’m very interested in helping and developing an industry here.”

Gomez said he was optimistic about the country producing its own content. “Saudi Arabia is a strong country that can create its own content and film industry.

“Saudi Arabia has the financial means; however, it needs to produce more movies and TV content. The moment you produce 50-60 movies a year you will be in the market and (international film) festivals.

FASTFACT

Andres Gomez’s upcoming film will be shot in Jeddah with an all-Saudi crew and cast.

“This is why I made a call to the Saudi government to help young people to create this industry. It does depend totally on the government.”

As for the talents he worked with, he said: “We have collaborated with 100 Saudis on ‘Born a King.” I know there is interest from many in becoming directors, producers, and actors.”

His upcoming film, “Champions,” is a remake of a Spanish film, and shooting will begin in Jeddah by January, with an all-Saudi crew and cast.

“We hope to open the film by September next year,” Gomez added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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OIC counter-extremist center reaches 54m people on social media

02/12/19

  • The center is considered the intellectual branch of the OIC in its fight against extremist speech

JEDDAH: The Sawt Al-Hikma Center (Voice of Wisdom) at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has reached 54 million people around the world through social media, distributing messages in three different languages: Arabic, English and French.

The center is considered the intellectual branch of the OIC in its fight against extremist speech. It was established in 2016 at the OIC’s headquarters to work on using media platforms to dismantle extremism, reveal its religious and intellectual concepts, call for tolerance and co-existence and reflect the true spirit of Islam.

Since its establishment, the center has focused its efforts on cyberspace, as the internet has become fertile ground for violent ideas and an environment that helps extremists spread their poison.

The center has launched 11 pages on social media, in three languages, publishing content prepared by specialists to deal with calls for extremism and violence in the name of religion and to challenge Islamophobia and those trying to distort Islam.

The center added that it has also worked on combatting extremist ideologies on the ground through conferences in Saudi Arabia, Somalia and the UAE. The symposiums have focused on examining and fighting terrorism, promoting intellectual security and spreading the values of tolerance and acceptance.

Now it has launched a new initiative: The “Samahet Din” (tolerance of religion) contest of short videos, to encourage young men and women to express themselves on camera.

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Riyadh ‘rocks’ as fireworks light up skyline

30/11/19

Firework by Riyadh Season on Thursday night at iconic Faisaliah Tower in Riyadh

The fireworks display was organized as part of Riyadh Season, which aims to promote the Kingdom as a major tourism hub. (Photo/Supplied)
  • Visitors, including citizens and expatriates with family and friends, gathered around the skyscrapers well in advance of the display

RIYADH: Riyadh Season delivered the “wow factor” for a large crowd of onlookers with a spectacular fireworks display at the Saudi capital’s iconic Al-Faisaliah Tower.

Visitors, including citizens and expatriates with family and friends, gathered around the skyscraper well in advance of the display on Thursday night and began applauding loudly as the fireworks illuminated the skyline.

Iffat Aabroo, who brought her children to see the show, told Arab News: “One of our friends saw the fireworks last week and was amazed, so we came here and saw this wonderful moment. We really enjoyed it.”

Another visitor, Abdullah Al-Suwailem, said: “It was a wow moment. We had great fun and really enjoyed the dazzling moment. Riyadh Season rocks.”

BACKGROUND

• Featuring 100 lavish events and more than 3,000 activities, the season brings people from all over the Kingdom to 12 locations in the capital.

• Displays also take place at the Kingdom Tower, the Boulevard Zone and Janadriyah Heritage Village.

The five-minute fireworks display was organized as part of Riyadh Season, one of 11 Saudi seasons that aim to promote the Kingdom as a tourism hub and improve residents’ quality of life.

Large turnout

Displays also take place at the Kingdom Tower, the Boulevard Zone and Janadriyah Heritage Village. Riyadh Season has been extended to late January 2020 due to high demand and the large turnout for events.

Announcing the extension, General Entertainment Authority Chairman Turki Al-Sheikh recently said: “We have reached 7.6 million visitors in a month for Riyadh Season, and under the crown prince’s directives, we’re extending the season until late January.”

The season began on Oct. 11 and was scheduled to end on Dec. 15.

Featuring 100 lavish events and more than 3,000 activities, the season brings people from all over the Kingdom to 12 locations in the capital.

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TheFace: Hala Abdulaziz Aseel, Saudi campaigner for awareness of mental health wellness

Time: November 29, 2019

Hala Abdulaziz Aseel and her children. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
  • Aseel was one of the founding members of Zahra Breast Cancer Association
  • She also co-founded a psychoeducation support group called “Blossom,” which helps cancer survivors adjust to life

I was born in Jeddah and I am the eldest of five children — I have two sisters and two brothers.

My father married my mother when she was in the 10th grade, and she stopped her education to become a wife and a mother, but she never gave up on her dream of graduating high school. And when I was in my second year of college, I actually attended my mother’s high school graduation.

I spent most of my childhood living between Saudi Arabia and the US. My father was a general in the Royal Saudi Air Force, and in 1984 he was appointed to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, the city I called home for almost 20 years.

I completed most of my education in the US. I received my high school diploma from the Islamic Saudi Academy, my bachelor’s degree in psychology from American University and my master’s degree in community counseling from George Washington University.

Raising Muslim children when you’re surrounded by Western culture is quite a challenge, but my parents made sure that we were exposed to what American culture had to offer, while having a strong bond to our religion and culture. They made sure to speak to us in Arabic so that we did not lose our mother language. I have always thought of it as getting the best of both worlds.

My parents were always an inspiration: Creating a home and a stable family life for us while they were thousands of miles away from their own families. I learned great lessons from them. From my father, Gen. Abdulaziz Aseel, I learned hard work, dedication and having a strong character. From my mother, Thoria Etaiwi, I learned patience, kindness and selflessness.

As a child, moving back and forth was not easy. Constantly changing schools, friends, location and homes. There was a lack of stability but, reflecting on it now, I realize it has shaped me into the person I am today. It made me adaptable to the curve balls that life throws. In addition, my interaction with people of different races, religions and cultures has made me more accepting and tolerant.

Moving back home was bittersweet, because I left one home for another.  But I soon found my place among family, friends and colleagues.

I began my career at the National Guard Hospital, where I worked for seven years. That was the bridge between the knowledge I gained in the US and applying it to help people in my country.

After seven years in a government hospital, I decided to target the private sector. For the past 10 years, I have worked at Psych Care Clinics as a mental health counselor. The focuses of my practice are adolescents and adult females with various mental disorders and social problems.

The evolution of mental health development in Saudi Arabia over the past 20 years has been remarkable to witness. The increase in awareness of the importance of mental health has been very fast — it has changed from being a taboo subject to a well-recognized field.

In 2007, I was one of the founding members of Zahra Breast Cancer Association. Being part of this amazing organization and working with such dedicated women gives me great pride. I also co-founded a psychoeducation support group called “Blossom,” which helps cancer survivors adjust to life after completing their treatment. The group teaches patients that there is a life after cancer full of hope and new dreams.

That is something I understand well, as my mother is a cancer survivor. Seeing her go through that journey while far away from her family has increased my empathy for cancer patients and their loved ones. I hope that I can be a helping hand for these women fighting cancer and let them know that no one needs to struggle alone.

I am a proud wife and a mother of three. I feel very lucky to be married to a man that I can call my friend, supporter and confidant. My pride and joy are Aljudy (15), Yousif (12) and Lana (8).

Being a mother has taught me unconditional love and patience. It has made me a better human and a role model they can be proud of. Motherhood has taught me to live in the moment and enjoy life for its simplicity.

In the future, I hope that my kids will get to live their dreams and grow into individuals who care about giving back to their country and helping it grow.

I hope to continue to be part of the growth of the mental health field and to see Saudi Arabia become one of the leading countries in research and new treatments. I also hope to develop my own private practice that not only focuses on treatment but also on raising awareness of mental health wellness.

And I hope a cure for cancer will be found soon, to end the struggle of thousands of people.

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The ‘Clash on the Dunes’ boxing match will be at iconic venue

Time: November 25, 2019

On the night more than 2,000 staff will ensure proceedings run smoothly in the arena, 95 percent of which is reusable, and which will take a month to take down. (Supplied)
  • Andy Ruiz II and Anthony Joshua will match at the Diriyah Arena
  • Joshua will be looking to regain some of his belts after suffering defeat to Ruiz in New York earlier

RIYADH: A boxing match needs a spectacular venue and few can compare to the Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia which is now ready for the Clash on the Dunes as World Champion Andy Ruiz II takes on Anthony Joshua.

Earlier this week, Joshua has promised the world an ‘iconic evening of boxing’ as he flew into the Kingdom on Saturday night ahead of the bout on December 7.

The first-ever World Heavyweight title fight to take place in the Middle Easy will be staged in the custom-built 15,000 seat Diriyah Arena in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site, known as the home of heroes and kings.

“The arena and site are utterly breath-taking, with a theme park and concert the night before as well. It’s like nothing we’ve seen before in boxing. The Clash on the Dunes will be a night to remember. We can’t wait,” Eddie Hearn, Managing Director of Matchroom Boxing, said.

The Diriyah Arena has been constructed by 175 staff working tirelessly to transform the 10,000 sq m site, which includes 295 tonnes of steel, which would stretch 57km. Work began on October 7, just two months out, with 3,000 sqm of scaffolding needed to complete the work.

On the night more than 2,000 staff will ensure proceedings run smoothly in the arena, 95 percent of which is reusable, and which will take a month to take down.

Joshua will be looking to regain his WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO belts after suffering defeat to Ruiz in New York earlier this year, but the British heavyweight will have the backing thousands of UK fans join boxing enthusiasts from more than 60 countries.

Ahead of landing in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night to set up his pre-fight training camp, Anthony Joshua said: “It’ll definitely be a night people will tell their grandchildren they were at, one of those iconic evenings of boxing. Everyone from Saudi has been brilliant to work with.”

Fans will approach the Diriyah Arena via the Diriyah Oasis, a huge sprawling entertainment hub which includes ice-skating outdoors, sky diving, jetski-ing and ziplining among a host of activities on offer. The Diriyah Oasis is split into the four zones – Nature, Imagination, Reflection, Excitement- giving families a place to come together, and at its heart lies an astonishing grand installation by world-renowned Italian artist, Edoardo Tresoldi.

The Clash On The Dunes forms part of the Diriyah Season, epic month of sports which kicked off with Formula E at the weekend, the Diriyah Tennis Cup featuring eight of the best men’s players on the planet, and the Diriyah Equestrian Festival, an elite competition with Tokyo Olympics 2020 qualifying points on the line.

The Diriyah Season is also supported by the Diriyah Music Festival with huge concerts taking place around the event. On December 6, the night before the Clash On The Dunes, major artists who are yet to be announced will perform. So far artists such as Imagine Dragons, DJ Alan Walker, Clean Bandit and Maluma have performed to 40,000 concert goers.

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TheFace: Princess Abeer S. Al-Saud, pioneer in international development and peacebuilding

Time: November 22, 2019

Image for Princess Abeer S Alsaud with her grandfather Prince Meshari bin Saud Farharn Al Saud. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
  • Princess Abeer is the founder and chairwoman of Talga, an NGO, a think tank and bookstore specializing in development books
  • She spearheaded a peace-building unit in Saudi Arabia by training more than 80 Saudi professionals from 16 ministries

I was raised in a family that encourages intellectual pursuit and a love for culture and arts. Most notably, I have a very close relationship with my grandfather, Prince Meshari bin Saud bin Nasser bin Farhan Al-Saud, who is one of the most influential people in my life.

Ever since I was a child, I spent a lot of time listening attentively to the stories my grandfather passionately recounted. He mostly spoke about the history and ancient glory of Diriyah, the hometown of my ancestors and his birthplace, Saudi Arabia.

To my grandfather, our history, identity and culture are our most valuable treasures. The regular intergenerational dialogue between us made me recognize the importance of appreciating the past while at the same time looking forward to the future and also understand the importance of adapting to modernity instead of adopting it, and this, in my opinion, is what makes the Kingdom’s approach to modernity and the future unique.

My close relationship with my grandfather planted the seeds to my never-ending pursuit of knowledge in a wide range of topics. I was always fascinated by one of his personal endeavors in life, which led him to have a very profound and rare collection of letters, pictures and books in his personal archives.

After graduating from high school, I took a gap year to explore and pursue my passions and took a journey of self-discovery to Southeast Asia.

While touring the Mekong Delta from Saigon to the remote island of Phu Quoc, I witnessed true poverty in floating villages. However, where there was poverty, there were also vast untouched opportunities — the local villagers were unknowingly entrepreneurs; they were skilled craftsmen building handicrafts and the region was abundant with untapped resources and inactivated industries.

With proper training, a system would be established and the villagers could catalyze economic growth by exporting products and beautifying local services. I understood that poverty is not the only challenge standing in the face of progress and socioeconomic improvement, but one of many related problems.

My visit to Vietnam catalyzed my interest in sustainable development. I became interested in creating innovative, culturally relevant sustainable solutions. At first, I wanted to understand how to create sustainable socioeconomic growth, how public-private partnerships worked and how multilaterals impact the developing world. I had a lot of questions but few answers.

I came to understand that poverty, lack of financial support and minimal adequate mentorship stand in the way of progression. In developed countries, consumerism that is not balanced with production prevents sustainable progress. Achieving truly sustainable socioeconomic progress anywhere is more complex than applying small projects or initiatives. Our shared efforts to bring good to our societies and contribute to development is best achieved through a system of moral responsibility, which I believe is the building block for anything that is truly sustainable.

To apply a comprehensive model for sustainable goals we must adopt moral responsibility as the main infrastructure, apply an integrated approach and promote inclusive communities.

An integrated approach that covers development aspects with all its dimensions — from social needs and cultural beliefs to moral conceptions and modern-day demands — is essential for harvesting a fertile soil. This will ensure that our objectives, which will be achieved by establishing positively inclusive communities, will thrive and bloom as long as the essential elements were present when the seeds were planted.

I have a bachelor’s degree in life sciences with a focus on Neuroaesthetics from a joined program from Al-Faisal University/University College London (UCL).

My undergraduate work is why my interests are combined with aesthetics, literature, architecture and art. I collect Indochina art.

I am also currently a part-time master’s student at SOAS studying international development.

Aside from academia, I love sailing and horses.

I am currently a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) seconded peace-building advisor to Ambassador Mohammed Al-Jaber. I have been working on peace-building since 2016 at the GCC Secretariat. I have been the technical lead for the GCC-UK Manama Summit and was a member of the communique drafting committee. I also managed technical bilateral relations with European countries and was the lead on the GCC-UK Strategic Partnership, working on all areas of cooperation from security and defence, to trade and investment, cultures and art, where during my posting I successfully created an ecosystem for proper usage of development funds in the GCC region by encouraging the participation and adherence to international benchmarks of development. I also endorsed the UN Security Council’s “Call of Action to End Modern Slavery,” which Saudi Arabia is among the few countries to have endorsed.

As part of my current job as a peace-building policy and advocacy lead, I spearheaded and led a nationwide stabilization initiative that aims to establish the ecosystem of this field to Saudi civil servants at a national level through building the capacities of more than 80 local development professionals from 16 ministries. Seventy percent of the participants were youths and 40 percent were women — achieving UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. This is done through educational workshops with development agencies like the US Agency for International Development, the UK’s Department for International Development, Germany’s Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, the UN Development Programme and Japan International Cooperation Agency.

So far I planned and executed two intensive, five-day Saudi-US workshops on stabilization and a three-day intensive Saudi-UK workshop on peace-building that was attended by more than 80 people from within 16 ministries across Saudi Arabia. In addition, I have delivered a training of trainers deep-dive workshop on stabilization with the US and the UK, where a key Saudi cadre was selected to train Saudis in the future, hence localizing and sustaining the knowledge.

I am also a member of the C2 and W20 2020 drafting committee and actively involved in the civil society sector.

Aside from professional work, and driven by the desire to make communities, countries and environments better, I founded Talga. It is a non-governmental organization, a creative think tank and an independent bookstore specializing in development. Talga is the local name for the resilient Fiscus Vasta tree located in the Emirate of Asir region. It lived for more than 1,500 years under harsh conditions, representing one of our main values: To encourage our community to thrive and not merely survive. Its objective is to create a platform for development where different programs are designed to encourage the vibrant Saudi youth to take on impactful initiatives in their communities, planting seeds of fruitful gardens. We also have the ambition to serve the ecosystem of the third sector in the Kingdom. This is done by partnerships and improving the performance of the already existing providers and introducing a new innovative and integrated approach to development.

In my work, and through Talga, we aspire to maximize our contributions to achieving sustainable impact and address the growing complex challenges we face by encouraging philanthropies, NGOs, corporations and governments to bridge the wide gap between innovation experts and thinkers, to achieve practical solutions. Imagine how much more would be achieved if the enormous potential was unlocked and if each one of us acted now upon our diverse personal interests. Yes, we will face challenges, but Saudis’ resilience towards betterment always prevails, and with that, I want to quote Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “The young Saudis’ ambition is like Mount Twaiq, and it’s unbreakable unless it’s leveled to the ground.”

I want to emphasize the importance of the butterfly effect and aspiring to do an impactful initiative regardless of the number of people you will reach. Changing the life of one person has a ripple effect on impacting the world.

I want to conclude with a Qu’ranic verse that reads: “That man can have nothing but what he strives for; That (the fruit of) his striving will soon come in sight.” (verses 39 and 40 from Surat An-Najm).

This article was first published in Arab News

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