Aviation summit reveals plans for Saudi Arabia to become global transport hub

Capt. Aysha Alhameli, Mercy Awori, Haifa Hamedaldean, Chaima Ben Miloud, Maha Alyemni, and Rima Tayyah speak during the ‘Women in Aviation’ panel. (AN photo by Abdulaziz Alaquil)
Updated 04 April 2019

Aviation summit reveals plans for Saudi Arabia to become global transport hub

  • Anticipated boom likely to create thousands of new jobs in air-related careers

Saudi investment chiefs have revealed ambitious plans to transform the Kingdom into a top-class hub for world transport.

The visionary proposals, incorporating the privatization of the country’s 27 airports, were outlined by the governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), Ibrahim Al-Omar, on the final day of the 2019 Global Aviation Summit (GAS) being held in Riyadh.

Air traffic in the Kingdom grew by 8 percent last year with 99.86 million passengers travelling on 771,828 flights.

Al-Omar said: “Our vision is to put Saudi Arabia, the GCC’s largest country by economy and population, at the heart of this important industry, and maximize the potential of our strategic position to develop Saudi Arabia as a hub for world-class services and connections between air, land, and sea.

“In the past three years, we have made huge steps forward implementing 45 percent of around 500 economic reforms. This has resulted in the Kingdom being ranked 4th by the World Bank for the number of reforms achieved within the G20.”

And the anticipated aviation boom is expected to create thousands of new jobs in air-related careers.

Saudi Arabia currently has 13 international and 14 domestic airports, together hosting more than 120 foreign airlines. According to passenger statistics for 2018, the top destinations out of Saudi airports were the UAE and Egypt followed by Pakistan, India, and Turkey. Foreign pilgrims arriving by air last year for Hajj and Umrah were estimated at 10 million.

One of the Kingdom’s objectives for 2030 is to privatize many government services and in an attempt to separate the legislative side from the operational, the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority (SAVC) was established to operate and handle all the commercial activities and investments of the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA).

The privatization strategy will look to place all Saudi airports under a single umbrella wholly owned by SAVC.

The summit, organized by the GACA at the capital’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), concluded on Tuesday with discussions between delegates from leading international aviation corporations on the best use of technology for growing and streamlining air transportation in the Middle East.

Talks also centered on strategies to optimize human resources in developing air traffic transport operations to meet top international standards.

The conference also heard about Saudi achievements within the ICAO. These included the Kingdom joining the ICAO carbon compensation and reduction initiative, winning elections to the ICAO council, and being one of the first countries to ratify the Chicago Convention, a specialized agency of the UN charged with coordinating and regulating international air travel.

Saudi Arabia also hosts and finances the permanent headquarters for the ICAO’s Cooperative Aviation Security Program for the Middle East.

The final sessions of GAS discussed the next generation of airports and building aviation capabilities. Delegates focused on how smart technology and its interaction with passengers is reshaping the airport model of the future, resulting in unique investment opportunities. 

The summit also highlighted opportunities for growth in skills training, with regional and global demand increasing for aviation professionals such as pilots, air traffic controllers, engineers, technicians, network and revenue managers.

Speaking at the conference to Arab News, president of the Saudi Academy of Civil Aviation (SACA), Fahad Al-Harbi, said there had been a surge in women training in interpersonal skills, aviation security, and air traffic control. In the last year SACA has witnessed a 72 percent increase in female trainees from 172 in 2017 to 295 in 2018. 

Al-Harbi said SACA was founded in 1962 as one of GACA’s main subsidiaries to train air traffic controllers within Saudi Arabia.

“Today we have five different schools: Fire and rescue, air traffic control, air navigation systems, aviation security, and airport operation and safety.

“Three years back we decided to set a target of bringing an international experience to our local market. An internationally approved and accredited curriculum certified by the ICAO or the International Air Transport Association (IATA) means students on our major programs won’t need to be recertified with an international body. Last year we trained about 9,000 students both male and female.”

Transport ministers from 15 countries joined 140 senior civil aviation officials, government representatives and experts for the Riyadh summit, during which three air service agreements were signed between Saudi Arabia and Cyprus, Chad, and Georgia. In addition, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Kingdom and Argentina for the two countries to enter into air transport cooperation.


Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

Updated 28 February 2020

Organization of Islamic Cooperation to adopt Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam

  • OIC secretary-general notes that the organization continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups

JEDDAH: Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen announced on Wednesday that the OIC will adopt the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) after it is revised in accordance with international human-rights standards. The foreign ministers of the OIC member states are expected to approve the CDHRI at their meeting in Niamey, Niger in April.

 Al-Othaimeen was speaking at the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), held in Geneva on Wednesday, where he highlighted some of the efforts the OIC has made to fight racism and xenophobia — including Islamophobia — claiming that they are the result of “intellectual and political resistance to cultural pluralism.”

He said the OIC, in cooperation with its partners, has prepared “a comprehensive and consensual approach to address incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion.”

Al-Othaimeen’s speech, which was delivered on his behalf by OIC Geneva Permanent Representative Nassima Baghli, stressed that terrorism, including religious extremism, is a major source of concern for the international community. He pointed out that the OIC continues to condemn the ideological rhetoric adopted by terrorist groups and has established the Sawt Al-Hikma (Voice of Wisdom) Center, which focuses on addressing the ideological rhetoric of extremists.

His speech also reviewed the most common human-rights violations suffered by Muslims, referring to the detailed documentation from the UN’s own human rights bodies and the OIC of discrimination and violence against the Rohingya Muslims.

Al-Othaimeen explained that America’s actions in Palestine in recent months required the OIC to stress that any peace initiative between Israel and Palestine must be consistent with legitimate rights, foremost among which is the right to self-determination.

He also stressed the OIC’s support for Kashmiris in their pursuit of their legitimate right to self-determination in accordance with international resolutions and highlighted the OIC’s condemnation of Armenia’s continued occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions bordering Azerbaijan.