Saudi G20 presidency joins UN meeting on development financing amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Updated 29 May 2020

Saudi G20 presidency joins UN meeting on development financing amid COVID-19 pandemic

  • Heads of states and international organizations, representatives from NGOs and the private sector joined the UN meeting
  • The G20 International Financial Architecture (IFA) working group also held a meeting

DUBAI: Saudi G20 presidency, represented by the Kingdom’s minister of finance, joined the UN meeting titled “Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond,” state news agency SPA reported.
Heads of states and international organizations, representatives from NGOs and the private sector discussed six topics mainly, global liquidity and financial stability, debt vulnerability, private sector creditors engagement, external finance and remittances for inclusive growth, illicit financial flows and recovering better for sustainability and growth.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including in its capacity as the G20 President, remains committed to work with others to address what is, first and foremost, a human tragedy, and its global health, economic and social impacts, including on the most vulnerable,” Mohammed Al-Jadaan said during the meeting.
The minister highlighted the G20’s response to the challenges in the health, economic and social sectors created by the coronavirus pandemic.
“As the president of the G20 in 2020, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia immediately took concrete steps to drive and coordinate international response, with the aim of developing collective actions to address the global challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
The meeting was co-chaired by UN head Secretary-General António Guterres, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 
It launched a collective effort to create proposals which will help overcome challenges in the six areas mentioned earlier, which will be presented during a political forum in July and at the General Assembly in September, SPA added.
Meanwhile, the G20 International Financial Architecture (IFA) working group held an extraordinary meeting to assess the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI).
The initiative, which could provide around $14 billion in immediate and critical liquidity relief through official bilateral creditors for the poorest nations, received 36 applications during the first month.
The DSSI “would help vulnerable countries strengthen their fight against the pandemic. This amount could increase significantly if additional creditors, including multilateral development banks and private sector creditors, join the initiative” Saudi G20 Presidency Policy Lead of the IFA Bandr Alhomaly said.
Experts from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Institute of International Finance, Paris Club Secretariat and various regional development banks joined the meeting.
The group will host another extraordinary meeting on June 23 to further examine the DSSI implementation efforts, ahead of the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in July.


Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

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Updated 12 July 2020

Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

  • Due to pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine

RIYADH: Chinese video platform TikTok is under fire once again, as rumors of the app being a tool used by the Chinese government to spy on users resurface online.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is a video-sharing site similar to the now-defunct Vine, where users share short clips of themselves which can be altered using AI technology.
Lip-syncing along with a track, using filters, and adding special effects give users the chance to create short clips that can be shared and downloaded in several social media platforms.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users downloaded TikTok to watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine. The app has also gained significant popularity in the Middle East with influencers such as Saudi model Roz, UAE-based content creators Khalid and Salama, and Saudi top TikToker iimeeto, who recently celebrated reaching four million followers on the platform.
Rania Mohammed, a fourth year medical student at Dar AlUloom University in Riyadh, said that TikTok was “the only thing keeping her sane” as she struggled with the pressures of school and quarantine.
“As a med school student, my attention span and free time are both severely limited,” she told Arab News. “Taking a 15 minute break to watch silly TikToks has helped me keep motivated. The specific brand of humor on that app is the fastest way to make me laugh.”
Mai Alhumood, a government employee, said that she downloaded the app while she was bored and became “quickly addicted” to the platform’s fun short videos.
“People are so creative on TikTok, and the challenges that keep going viral are so interesting,” she told Arab News.
However, the app has long-suffered from accusations of spying and gathering users’ private information on behalf of the Chinese government, leading to both temporary and permanent bans in countries around the world.
Recently, it was reported that Amazon requested that employees remove the app from their smartphones in an email over “security risks.” The company later retracted its directive.
Saudi cybersecurity expert Abdullah Al-Jaber believed that concerns over the security of TikTok’s collected data stemmed from the app’s country of origin and its rules and regulations.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a ‘threat to the sovereignty and security of the country’ following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.

• Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding ‘illegal content’ such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.

• Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. He said that banning the app would be ‘punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.’

“TikTok collects data in a very similar way to US applications,” he told Arab News. “However the main concern is that the US has regulations and compliance that must be met when collecting customer data, such as GDPR data privacy regulation. In the case of TikTok, we don’t know as much about how the data is being used or stored because we don’t know their regulations.”
Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a “threat to the sovereignty and security of the country” following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.
Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding “illegal content” such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.
Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. In an interview with Gray Television, Trump said that banning the app would be “punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.”
“Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful,” he said.
While Saudi Arabia has yet to announce a ban of any kind of TikTok, local users and followers are trying to practice caution while using the app anyway.
Alhumood considered making videos on the platform, but dismissed the idea and only uses it to follow other people’s videos.
“I have ideas for it, sure, but I’d rather not take the risk. I don’t even have a username or a registered account, and that’s one of the better things about TikTok. I only have the app, but I can still watch all the videos without giving them my private information.”
Mohammed also said that she had no interest in creating videos herself, though she did have a registered account in order to comment on videos and keep track of her favorites.
However Al-Jaber said that, in his opinion, registering an account on TikTok did not necessarily pose more of a risk than using other social media.
“If you use Facebook or Twitter, it’s not much different than using TikTok,” he said.