The top 5 lessons from the Osaka G20 summit

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Updated 01 January 2020

The top 5 lessons from the Osaka G20 summit

  • Global trade, geopolitics and climate change were the weighty issues discussed in the Osaka G20 summit's public sessions
  • Intex Osaka, where the G20 leaders met, was easily secured thanks to its location on a man-made island in Osaka Bay

OSAKA: A G20 summit is a big thing. Big in terms of both organizational demands and the impact it can have on the international perception of the country that stages it. Japan understood that at the Osaka summit which has just ended, and Saudi Arabia will become increasingly aware of it in the months leading up to the Riyadh G20 next year.
The event is the only permanent arena for the leaders of the biggest economic and political powers to exchange face-to-face views, but it has no permanent locus. This is why it takes over the life of the country and the city that hosts it. Osaka was consumed with the event for the past couple of days, quite apart from the various meetings that were held in preparation for it.

Here are the top five lessons I learned from attending the summit in Japan.

1) The G20 is a serious forum for global decision-making. Sure, a lot of the event is about public relations and image — the fine details of the “family photo” were endlessly chewed over in the city itself and in the Twitterverse. But that was not the real meat of the G20. Vital issues such as global trade, geopolitics and climate change were the big topics, and they were the focus at the public sessions and, we can be sure, even more so at the private but more candid bilaterals. There will be genuine impact from the deliberations at Osaka.

2) But the PR is important too. The body language of the leaders, their reaction to their peers, and the little personal characteristics they exhibit tell us a lot about changing global relationships. Perhaps the most striking image to come out of the event was the handshake between Theresa May, Britain’s outgoing prime minister, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, while Donald Trump’s cosy little chat with Putin will have repercussions back home in the US. As for the politics of the “family photo,” well we all know how difficult families can be.

3) Osaka was a good venue. The International Exhibition Center, or Intex Osaka, where the leaders met and the media deliberated, was easily secured due to its location: on a man-made island in Osaka Bay. While not pleasing to the eye, it could almost have been purpose-built. Public transport in Japan is excellent and cheap, compensating for the lack of taxi access. The police and other security personnel were welcoming and helpful, even when their English was limited. Riyadh is going to have to up its game to better Osaka.

4) The press team that supported the Japanese G20 president were among the most efficient I’ve encountered. For such a big event, it would have been easy to let things slip, to miss timings, to forget individual journalists’ requests. This never happened to me. The quality of attributable briefing about the leaders’ confidential bilateral discussions was as high as you could expect.

5) Japan is well on its way to becoming a truly cashless society. I do not think I have ever visited a country before without folding some of its money in my wallet, even if just for use in emergencies. But I did not use an ATM once in Osaka. Credit and payment cards were accepted everywhere for every conceivable product or service. In fact, I never saw anybody pay with cash during the three days I was there.

Finally, one small moan: the weather at this time of year in Japan. Coming from London, I can take cold and wet; living in the Middle East, I can take hot and dry. But it’s hard to endure hot and wet, as it mostly was in Osaka. I doubt Riyadh will have that problem.

Frank Kane is an award-winning journalist based in Dubai. Twitter: @frankkanedubai

Saudi diving enthusiasts go overboard again … with a raft of essential safety precautions

The Red Sea — one of the most beautiful seas for diving — will greatly encourage local tourism, says diving instructor Lujain Shugdar. She wants to have divers from abroad visit SaudiArabia. (Supplied)
Updated 05 July 2020

Saudi diving enthusiasts go overboard again … with a raft of essential safety precautions

  • Before starting the trip, divers will be briefed on the hygienic and safety measures and social distancing rules, with a full explanation on how to use sanitizers and face masks

JEDDAH: It’s almost business as usual again for many across Saudi Arabia after the lifting of lockdown — and divers are more excited than ever to be back at sea. Divers in the Kingdom are following the safety precautions issued by the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Health and the General Directorate of Border Guard.
Lujain Shugdar, diving instructor at Jeddah’s Natlus Divers and two international organizations — the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and SNSI — and who has taught more than 150 students, said that the group had been on six diving trips since the lifting of lockdown.
Although international flights are yet to resume to the Kingdom, with the abundance of beautiful coral reefs along the Red Sea, Shugdar said that she wanted diving to be one of the main tourist activities in Saudi Arabia.
“The Red Sea is one of the most beautiful seas in the world for diving; it will greatly encourage tourism in the Kingdom. I want to encourage tourism in the Kingdom — whether for locals to enjoy or have divers from abroad visit us (later on),” she said.

With more than 30 years of service, Natlus offers many different activities such as free-diving, technical diving and recreational diving.
Shugdar said that Natlus were following the directives of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Health to comply with full safety standards.
She explained that as directed by the authorities, the number of divers and people on a diving boat was half its normal capacity.
“We sanitize the boat and equipment before people board it. We also make sure all safety devices are working, and we add additional oxygen cylinders on board in case there is a need to use it. It’s usually one cylinder, but now we will add one regular cylinder and another big cylinder on the boat.”
“Before starting the trip, divers will be briefed on the hygienic and safety measures and social distancing rules, with a full explanation on how to use sanitizers and face masks. There will also be gloves and they will be changeable; a closed waste bin will also be available on board,” she said.
One can sense her feeling of relief and excitement after months away from the sea. When the authorities announced the return of diving and watersports activities, Shugdar immediately booked a diving trip.
“The sea is where you relieve stress from your personal and work life. It has a huge impact on one’s happiness and well-being. I’m so excited about this decision, and of course will follow all safety precautions to ensure our health and the health of the divers with us on board,” she said.
Saudi diver, Mishael Abdulaziz, 29, said that diving was one of the least likely sport activities to transmit COVID-19 as equipment was not usually shared.
“We don’t usually share equipment. Equipment is only shared during the very rare event of an out-of-air emergency,” she told Arab News.
“An out-of-air emergency is when one of the divers runs out of air unexpectedly due to poor planning or inattentiveness to the pressure gauge or air supply. In this instance, a buddy will share his or her air with the out-of-air diver.”
Even though dive centers thoroughly clean their equipment, many divers are encouraged to buy their own regulators as opposed to renting them to further avoid transmission.

Saudi-based Captain Issam Kalasina, King Abdullah Economic City’s (KAEC) Bay La Sun Marina Watersports and Yacht Club operations manager, said that they were very happy with the return of the activity, but there was a need to exercise caution.
Kalasina, who has been in the diving business for 42 years, told Arab News: “We are very happy to come back and resume the activity — with a certain limit.
“Only half the capacity is allowed on board at the moment to avoid social distancing issues and to ensure all safety precautions are being met on board. The number of passengers has been limited to half,  captain and crew included,” he said.
Kalasina said that following the safety precautions required by the pandemic, captains were assigned to have on board gloves, masks, gel sanitizers and liquid sanitizers.
“The gel sanitizer is for the hands, and the liquid sanitizer is for objects on the boat,” he said.
“The boat is completely sanitized and rinsed before we accept passengers on board; it is then sanitized and rinsed again after the trip is over.”