Arab world must tackle ‘deficits’ to create own vision: International experts

The FIKR17 conference was held in Saudi Arabia for the first time this week. (Arab Thought Foundation)
Updated 07 December 2019

Arab world must tackle ‘deficits’ to create own vision: International experts

  • Dr. Henry Awit, director of the Arab Thought Foundation, stressed that the unity of the Arab world was vital in order to shape a new vision
  • He added that Dhahran’s King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) was a world-renowned cultural center which sponsored innovation, adopted a modernist approach and embraced creativity

DHAHRAN: The Arab world needs to resolve many of its shortfalls in order to “develop its own vision” for the future, an influential regional conference has been told.
Hussain Haqqani, director of the south and central Asia Hudson Institute think tank, said gender gaps, institutional and knowledge deficits were among vital issues that the region had to tackle.
“The Arab region must develop its own vision and the only way to do so is by overcoming its many deficits,” he told Arab News at the FIKR17 conference, being staged in Saudi Arabia for the first time.
Haqqani was among a gathering of international and political relations experts taking part in a discussion session titled, “Today’s world ... Tomorrow’s world: The transformations, challenges and visions.”
Other participants in the seminar, held in Dhahran, included Naoki Tanaka, president of the Center for International Public Policy Studies, and Frederic Charillon, professor in international relations at ESSEC Business School.
“The region has a huge deficit in terms of knowledge,” Haqqani said. “There are about 400 million people whose language is Arabic but there are fewer books written in Arabic every year than (those) written every year in Greek, which is the language of 11 or 12 million people.
“Also, fewer books are translated from other languages into Arabic every year than are translated into Danish, which is the language of only 5 million people in Denmark.”
The former Pakistani ambassador to the US added that gender gap was also one of the deficits faced by the Arab world. “Half the society is women. A society that is excluding women will be behind any society that is including women.”
Institutional deficit, or the lack of functioning institutions, he said, was another challenge, particularly for the poorer Arab countries.
“The global trade in goods and services has only five percent of input from the Arab world, whereas China has 15 percent and India has 13 percent,” Haqqani added. “There’s no reason why the Arab world cannot improve its productivity … when you have the economic means and the intellectual means you will be able to have your own vision.”
Haqqani noted that societies were living in what he described as a “revolutionary state” where interconnectedness did not necessarily mean connection. “Everybody can communicate with one another, but everybody does not necessarily understand each other.”
Decision-makers and influencers played a vital role when it came to directing societies. According to Haqqani, their power was in helping consumers to process overwhelming information and analyze it logically, and in trying to maintain society’s stability.
“It is important to try and keep the equilibrium to keep societies stable as soon as possible, instead of allowing too much dispersal of views and ideas,” he said, while pointing out that although social media connected people, it also allowed them to disrupt. “One wrong idea can go and travel very fast. Fake news can travel very fast, so influencers and decision-makers have to assert themselves in a way in which societies find their equilibrium again.”
Earlier in the same conference, Dr. Henry Awit, director of the Arab Thought Foundation, stressed that the unity of the Arab world was vital in order to shape a new vision.
Awit told Arab News that Dhahran’s King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) was a world-renowned cultural center which sponsored innovation, adopted a modernist approach and embraced creativity.
He noted that the conference was “about outlining a new Arab vision, and we are today in the Kingdom that started the vision that invites to develop, invites to improve and invites to renew.”
The aim of the Arab Thought Foundation, he added, was “to spread knowledge and serve Arab societies and their development, hence we are open to everything that contributes to our purpose and aim.”


Saudi Ministry of Culture launches platform for scholarship applications

Updated 20 January 2020

Saudi Ministry of Culture launches platform for scholarship applications

  • The scholarship program is open to those who wish to obtain a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. degree in various cultural and arts fields
  • The courses provided by the program include music, theater, visual arts

RIYADH: The Ministry of Culture has launched a website for applications from students who wish to join the Culture Scholarship Program. From Sunday, applications can be made at https://engage.moc.gov.sa/scholarships on three tracks: Self-financed students, pre-accepted students and the new students. The website features the application forms, benefits and general conditions for each track, as well as a list of relevant educational institutions.
The scholarship program is open to those who wish to obtain a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. degree in various cultural and arts fields from the world’s most prominent educational institutions.
The courses provided by the program include music, theater, visual arts (drawing, sculpture, art theory, calligraphy, art history, photography and cinematography) filmmaking, literature and linguistics, archaeology, culinary arts, design, architecture and libraries and museums.
The program offers several advantages for both self-financed students and pre-accepted students. Scholarships cover all tuition fees, financial support, living expenses, health care and return flights to the scholarship’s location for both the student and their companion.
Students in these two tracks are offered guidance and assessment programs to check their academic development during the program, as well as getting support in other aspects needed for their advancement. After their graduation, students in these two tracks can also join training programs abroad for a maximum of two years.
The program offers several advantages to new students who have not yet received acceptance. The program helps them to get the qualifications they need to be accepted by universities by offering assistance in overcoming obstacles such as language proficiency and interpersonal skills.
The program supports the students by organizing training workshops to develop their talents and skills. It introduces them to specialized experts in the field related to their scholarships. The program saves students time and effort and supports them throughout the whole registration process, by helping them write their resumes and complete their portfolios professionally.
The scholarship program is an educational first in Saudi Arabia, and is part of a Ministry of Culture initiative to develop national cadres specialized in cultural and arts fields so as to develop the sector and meet the increasing requirements of the labor market.