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

Image for Princess Abeer S Alsaud with her grandfather Prince Meshari bin Saud Farharn Al Saud. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 22 November 2019

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

  • 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).
 


Guinness World Records has great expectations for Saudi titles milestone

Updated 25 September 2020

Guinness World Records has great expectations for Saudi titles milestone

  • In MENA region, KSA is second behind UAE for its record-breaking prowess, with 93 GWR titles

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s penchant for breaking world records looks set to see the Kingdom smash through the 100 titles mark in the not-too-distant future, officials have predicted.
Guinness World Records (GWR), which lists incredible human achievements and extremes of nature, has great expectations for the country over the coming months.
The Kingdom has been placed second behind the UAE in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for its record-breaking prowess, with 93 GWR titles under its belt.
GWR’s senior marketing manager in the MENA region, Shaddy Gaad, told Arab News: “We’re very impressed with Saudi record-breaking and we’re really excited — a lot of record-breaking happens on the National Day.
“Over the last few years and with the Saudi Seasons (activity festivals) we’ve seen a big rise in record-breaking in Saudi Arabia and we’re looking forward to seeing this continue.
“Saudi Arabia is on the up and it’s rising very quickly. There were a lot of records broken near the end of last year. We had Riyadh Season and we had AlUla. I think that number’s going to rise up very quickly,” he said.

Largest hot air balloon glow show: The largest hot air balloon glow show consisted of 100 hot air balloons and was achieved by the Royal Commission for AlUla on Jan. 6, 2019.

Gaad added that so far this year there had been a 15 percent increase in the number of new records set by MENA nations.
“This year we received 750 applications from the MENA region, compared to 649 in the first eight months of 2019. From Saudi Arabia, we received 79 applications and we expect it to go up to 100 by the end of the year,” he said.
One of the most notable titles achieved by Saudi Arabia was for the largest mirror building, the Maraya Concert Hall in AlUla. “If you see that building itself, it’s absolutely beautiful. It looks like something out of a movie,” added Gaad.
Jeddah can boast the world’s largest burger restaurant, with I’m Hungry covering 2,860 square meters, the equivalent of 11 tennis courts according to its marketing team.
The Red Sea port city also has the world’s tallest unsupported flagpole, while AlUla plays host to the largest hot air balloon glow show, and Saudi influencer Hussain Sallam (known as S7S) holds the record for the largest serving of sayadieh (1,334 kilograms of the seasoned fish and rice dish).

Largest human awareness ribbon: The largest human awareness ribbon consisted of 8,264 participants and was achieved by Saudi women at an event organized by 10KSA in Riyadh on Dec. 12, 2015.

Stunt driver Terry Grant completed the largest loop-the-loop in a car during Riyadh Season on Nov. 25, and the MDL Beast Festival in the Saudi capital on Dec. 21 won the tallest stage title.
However, similar to most organizations, WGR has had to adapt to working around safety restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We moved a lot of things online. To view the growth in the number of applications, we launched this online record-breaking; what happened is it’s a dedicated brand and content division, focused on helping brands and businesses break records as part of their marketing campaign, and all of it is done over the internet.
“It wasn’t difficult; record-breaking and evidence provision is generally done online. It wasn’t difficult for us; the only thing was that people just had to get used to it, but it was a seamless process,” said Gaad.

Largest burger restaurant: The largest burger restaurant covers an area of 2,860 square meters and the title was achieved by I’m Hungry in Jeddah on Dec. 12, 2019.

The new division runs over content such as live-streaming, online pledges, online albums, video relays, and video chains.
One of them happened in Saudi Arabia, with the most viewers for an Iftar YouTube live stream, when 183,544 people tuned in to enjoy popular YouTubers such as “The Saudi Reporters” and comedian Omar Hussein.
“These influencers got together on YouTube, live, and for an hour they were sharing their stories about Ramadan traditions and Saudi traditions. They broke their fast and shared this moment with their fans. That video ended up trending as No. 1 in Saudi and the region.
“If anything, this pandemic has taught us to adapt to situations. I think people are now more flexible with the idea of doing online records as much as they’re doing offline records,” Gaad added.
He pointed out that the online application process for the GWR was simple and that titles were granted based on whether the record was measurable (longest, largest, heaviest, etc.), breakable, standardizable, or verifiable, and if it was made up of one variable.

SOME OF THE RECORDS BROKEN IN SAUDI ARABIA

• Tallest flagpole: The tallest unsupported flagpole measures 171 meters (561 feet) and was erected by Jeddah Municipality and Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI) in Jeddah on Sept. 23, 2014.

• Largest drinking water storage facility: The largest drinking water storage facility is the Briman Strategic Water Reservoir, in Jeddah, with a total capacity of 2,062,500 cubic meters, verified on Nov. 17, 2014. Fun fact: The volume of this facility could fill up six skyscrapers the size of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

• Largest burger restaurant: The largest burger restaurant covers an area of 2,860 square meters and the title was achieved by I’m Hungry in Jeddah on Dec. 12, 2019.

• Largest hot air balloon glow show: The largest hot air balloon glow show consisted of 100 hot air balloons and was achieved by the Royal Commission for AlUla on Jan. 6, 2019.

• The Largest Serving of sayadieh: The largest serving of sayadieh was 1,334 kg achieved by Hussain Sallam in Jeddah on Sept. 14, 2019.

• Darkest man-made substance: The darkest man-made substance is a black material made of gold nanoparticles and called dark chameleon dimers, which absorbs more than 99 percent of visible light over the whole visible range. The material was made by scientists from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), in a joint collaboration between Prof. Yu Han and Prof. Andrea Fratalocchi.

• Largest water desalination company: The largest water desalination company is Saline Water Conversion Corp. (Saudi Arabia) which produces 4,600,000 cubic meters a day as verified on June 4, 2016. •Largest Tele-ICU command center: The largest Tele-ICU command center consisted of 796 beds and was achieved by Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Group in Riyadh and verified on July 31, 2019.

• Tallest stage (temporary): The tallest stage (temporary) measured 38 meters in height and was achieved by MDL Beast Fest in Riyadh on Dec. 21, 2019.

• Most consecutive wins in AFC champions league: The most consecutive wins of the AFC champions league are two achieved by Al Ittihad FC (Saudi Arabia) in 2004-2005.

• Largest human awareness ribbon: The largest human awareness ribbon consisted of 8,264 participants and was achieved by Saudi women at an event organized by 10KSA in Riyadh on Dec. 12, 2015.