Arab world condemns Canada’s ‘diplomatic failure’

Arab nations have spoken out in support of Saudi Arabia after it took trade and diplomatic measures against Canada, for comments made by the country's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Christia Freeland. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 07 August 2018

Arab world condemns Canada’s ‘diplomatic failure’

  • Bahrain regrets Canada’s position, based on totally erroneous information that have nothing to do with reality on the ground, it absolutely rejects its unacceptable intervention in Saudi internal affairs
  • The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted on Monday that “we can only stand with Saudi Arabia in defending its sovereignty”

DUBAI: Arab countries have lined up in support of Saudi Arabia after it took trade and diplomatic measures against Canada on Monday in response to the latter’s interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom.
The move came in response to statements demanding the immediate release of what Canada called “civil society and women’s rights activists” that were made on the foreign policy Twitter feed of Global Affairs Canada, retweeted by the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh, and a similar tweet but its Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland.
Saudi Arabia said it was expelling the Canadian ambassador and recalling its envoy while freezing all new trade.
In a strongly worded statement released on Monday, the Muslim World League condemned the Canadian government’s blatant interference.
The statement said the sovereignty of states needs to be respected and that international conventions, principles and norms have to be observed, adding that no country should interfere in another country’s matters.
The Muslim World League added that the Kingdom is governed by its constitution, regulations and legal processes which are widely known, much like the legal systems of other countries.
It stressed that Saudi Arabia has the right to take a firm stand towards the “outrageous and unprecedented diplomatic failure” of Canada.
Saudi Arabia, the statement added, is characterized by the enforcement of Islamic law, and it is wrong for people to compromise this.
Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, also expressed his support for Saudi Arabia’s actions. He condemned the Canadian statements, which he described as false and an unacceptable interference in Saudi Arabia's internal affairs.
"These statements are a clear violation of the principles of the UN Charter and also detrimental to the relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada," Dr. Al-Zayani added.
The Speaker of the Arab Parliament, Dr. Mishaal bin Fahm Al-Salami, expressed the parliament's full solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its decision. In a statement, he said: ”The very negative and irresponsible phrase contained in the Canadian statement that Canada urges authorities in the Kingdom to release the detainees immediately constitutes an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a condemned demand contrary to the principle of the independence of the judiciary and applying the criminal justice.”
Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, took to Twitter on Monday, saying: “We can only stand with Saudi Arabia in defending its sovereignty and taking the necessary measures to protect its laws.”
He added: “We cannot accept our laws and sovereignty becoming subject to pressure. Some countries believe that their diplomatic model and experience allows them to interfere in other’s affairs.”
Also on Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reaffirmed that the Palestinian people and leadership support Saudi Arabia.
In his statement published by Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, Abbas expressed his total condemnation of Canada’s blatant interference in Saudi Arabia’s internal affairs, saying that he considers it a serious impingement on the sovereignty of the Kingdom.
He called on Arab states to support the Kingdom by rejecting and condemning Canada’s interference.
Bahrain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying it remained in solidarity with Saudi Arabia against any external interference in its internal affairs or any side’s attempt to undermine Saudi sovereignty.
“Bahrain also confirms its absolute support for the measures taken by the Kingdom in response to the statements made by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh, on what they called civil society activists,” the statement read.
“Bahrain regrets Canada’s position, based on totally erroneous information that has nothing to do with reality on the ground. It absolutely rejects its unacceptable intervention in Saudi internal affairs.
“Bahrain affirms that it stands with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in all the measures it has taken to maintain its security and stability, stressing the need to respect the Saudi regulations and judiciary and abide by the norms and conventions governing international relations.”
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said it totally understands the Kingdom’s position requiring no interference in its internal affairs, a principal guaranteed by all international conventions and norms that reject the interference in other states’ affairs and that call for the respect of states’ sovereignty.
Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, the OIC’s secretary-general, said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign state widely respected in the regional and on the world stage. The Saudi judiciary is fully independent and has international laws that guarantee, regulate and respect the society’s activities.


W20 ‘sherpa’ Salma Al-Rashid champions gender equality and female empowerment

Updated 20 October 2020

W20 ‘sherpa’ Salma Al-Rashid champions gender equality and female empowerment

  • Prominent Saudi social worker relishes the opportunity to bring together diverse voices from across the globe for a common goal
  • The first ever virtual Women 20 Summit will bring together experts and leaders from a variety of disciplines over Oct. 20-21

RIYADH: Salma Al-Rashid has represented Saudi Arabia at the Women 20 (W20) — the official G20 engagement group on women — since 2018, first in Argentina then last year in Japan. Now, as Riyadh prepares to host the 2020 summit in November, Al-Rashid is delighted to have been named this year’s “sherpa” tasked with undertaking preparatory work for the conference.

Since Oct. 2019, Al-Rashid has been the chief advocacy officer of the Alnahda Philanthropic Society for Women, a Saudi charity that champions female empowerment and participation. At the helm of the W20 Riyadh edition, Alnahda will help facilitate discussions among a network of delegates representing non-governmental women’s organizations, female entrepreneurs and think tanks from across the G20 member states.

The aim is to ensure gender considerations are placed firmly on the table and are included in the G20 Leaders’ Declaration as policies and commitments that foster gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

“I take the task of head of delegation and sherpa very seriously,” Al-Rashid told Arab News in the run-up to the summit. “I have the responsibility to bring forward the voice of Saudi Arabian women in all their shapes, forms and experiences. I serve as the mechanism to project the voices of women of Saudi Arabia in this global forum.”

Salma Al-Rashid has represented Saudi Arabia at the Women 20 (W20) first in Argentina then last year in Japan. (Supplied)

Recalling her long association with Alnahda, Al-Rashid said she had always been passionate about social and development issues. “Throughout my career, I have firmly believed that by building a global and an inclusive culture, where all voices are heard, regardless of age, sex, race, religious beliefs and political affiliation, we can make the world more just and equitable for all,” she said.

Alnahda, which means “the awakening,” was founded in 1962 to help empower Saudi women economically and socially through targeted development projects.

As a sherpa, Al-Rashid is responsible for the operational management of this year’s W20, its advocacy and communications, and for providing overall support to the W20’s Saudi chair, Dr. Thoraya Obaid. She relishes the opportunity to bring together diverse voices from around the globe for a common goal.

“The W20 this year allowed us to create a bridge between global and local conversations that is meaningful, and at times challenging, with the different perspectives of various sectors of the community on what matters most to women and how we can ensure women’s economic empowerment,” Al-Rashid said.

“The W20 has provided us with an opportunity to contribute to the local advancement of Saudi women.”

Al-Rashid started out with Alnahda as a volunteer. She went on to found a volunteer service program and later shifted to managing academic guidance and career-development programs to give young girls from underprivileged backgrounds a leg up on the competition as well as access further education.

“After that, I co-managed a nationwide campaign to enhance civic education among Saudi men and women during the municipal elections of 2015, when women were allowed to run and vote. So that was an exciting point in my career,” she said.

“The W20 has provided us with an opportunity to contribute to the local advancement of Saudi women,” says Al-Rashid. (Supplied)

Al-Rashid’s interest in the development and social issues started at an early age thanks to her mother, who has been an Alnahda member for over 25 years.

“I've had the privilege and experience of listening to the realities and experiences of Saudi women,” she said. “So, I would sit with my mom and just listen to conversations with social workers, beneficiaries, and the leaders and employees of Alnahda.

“I grew up listening to the various experiences, struggles, challenges and obstacles that women face, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. I think that’s most probably what sparked my passion.”

With such an impressive background in women’s advocacy work, Al-Rashid seemed like the obvious candidate for the sherpa role, appointed to it in December last year. She is excited to see all the months of planning and discussion come together for the upcoming summit.

“Jointly with our delegates across the G20, we formulate concrete, actionable policy recommendations to further advance gender equality within the G20 negotiations,” she said.

Al-Rashid: We did not ignore this pandemic that hit women the hardest. (Spplied)

“One thing we did this year as W20 Saudi Arabia was an in-house analysis, before January. We wanted to understand how effective the W20 has been in the past five years and how efforts have been reflected at the G20 level, through additionally consulting with international organizations and experts who we call our knowledge partners,” she said.

Based on this analysis, the delegates have settled on this year’s framework. “W20 delegates have agreed that we have three main areas of focus: Women’s financial inclusion, labor inclusion and digital inclusion. And every year a presidency introduces a fourth focus area. We wanted to continue the legacy of past presidencies, and build on their work.”

This year’s presidency proposal was to promote inclusive decision-making, a position jointly agreed by the summit’s 20 delegates. “We need to ensure that women are represented at every level of the decision-making process,” Al-Rashid said.

“If we look across the G20, we have only one female leader among the G20 leaders. We don’t see many women in leadership positions, but W20 goes beyond that. It’s not just women on boards and as CEOs. We recognize that the decision-making process is very complex and there are different stages. We need to ensure that at every stage there is representation of women and that representation is diverse.”

An ongoing challenge the W20 delegation wants to see the G20 address is the lack of women being hired to leadership positions.

“We only recently celebrated the appointment of the first woman CEO at Citigroup. And we know that Wall Street suffers from not having enough women. So, it is a challenge across the globe,” Al-Rashid said.

This is a challenge that Saudi Arabia has risen to meet in recent years, with a raft of new reforms designed to bolster women’s participation and empowerment.

Al-Rashid: We see a lot of reforms and advancement to push for women’s participation in the economic development of Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

“We’re living in an extremely exciting time in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Rashid said. “We see a lot of reforms and advancement to push for women’s participation in the economic development of Saudi Arabia. One of the goals of Vision 2030 is to accelerate women’s representation in the labor market and in leadership positions.

“We’ve celebrated the appointment of the first Saudi ambassador to the US, Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar, and we’ve celebrated a number of appointments of women in both the private and public sector.

“Are we there yet? Are we even close to where we hope to see ourselves? Not yet. It’s a very long journey, but we are on the right track.”

As a result of the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the G20 Summit and all engagement groups are being held remotely. Al-Rashid says the virus and its consequences have laid bare the economic vulnerabilities of women and the vital role of the W20.

“Despite the difficulties and challenges that we were faced with this year, we are privileged and honored to be able to respond to the question of what we can and have done this year,” she said.

“We did not stay quiet. We did not ignore this pandemic that hit women the hardest. We look at it as an opportunity to build back better.”

Al-Rashid sees an opportunity for world leaders to take concrete action in further advancing women’s economic participation. She puts it this way: “Only through empowering women, and through addressing the impact of COVID-19 on women, will we be able to further advance and sustainably recover from this pandemic.”

Twitter: @LujainBenGassem