Saudi presidency focuses on global long-term issues beyond the pandemic

Saudi presidency focuses on global long-term issues beyond the pandemic
King Salman explained the concept of the circular carbon economy, which aims to reduce, reuse, recycle and remove carbon from industrial processes and energy production. (Photo/Social media)
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Updated 23 November 2020

Saudi presidency focuses on global long-term issues beyond the pandemic

Saudi presidency focuses on global long-term issues beyond the pandemic
  • Summit addresses major issues such as the future of education and climate change

RIYADH: The second day of the G20 summit focused on education and safeguarding the planet — issues critical to humanity — which could easily have been forgotten in the middle of a health and economic crisis.

However, the Saudi presidency ensured that the G20 looked beyond the immediate economic and health challenges, true to the theme of “Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All.”
Day 1 had focused on the G20 ensuring access to coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines for all and access to finance for the poorest nations. This included supporting the ACT accelerator and GAVI as well as a quest for strengthening multilateral efforts, and the WHO went toward the first.
The debt service suspension initiative had 73 countries which qualified for it, and 46 of these have so far availed themselves of this. These are some of the most pressing issues the world faces, because COVID-19 has thrown the global economy into a recession not seen since the Second World World. The fiscal and monetary stimulus packages totaling $11 trillion so far would not have been possible without the coordination efforts of the G20, which has had to focus on the economic necessities of the time.




The summit focused on education and safeguarding the planet. (Photo/Basheer Saleh)

However, it was crucial that the G20 addressed other issues defining the future of humanity. To that end, Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh gave a briefing on the future of educational continuity in times of crisis, during which he highlighted the importance of education during the pandemic and lockdowns.
Al-Sheikh explained the Saudi model, in which the curriculum went online using a learning management system. He admitted that reliable online education, while a big opportunity for the future of education, may not be that easy to achieve for poorer countries and poorer segments of the population. Nonetheless, he praised the educational groups within the G20 for focusing on the future of education for the whole world. Education proves once more that cooperation at the G20 is vital during and after the pandemic.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The G20 highlighted once more the importance of multilateralism and working together.

• The $11 trillion worth of stimulus fiscal and monetary stimulus packages also necessitated close cooperation at the G20 level.

• The collaboration on the ACT accelerator and GAVI would not have been possible to that degree without the G20.

• The focus on education is important to GCC, the whole Arab world, and many developing countries.

• Climate change and the environment are especially important to a major energy producer like Saudi Arabia.

If there ever was one issue requiring global cooperation and which is taking us well into the 22nd century, it is the environment and climate change. It was the big global topic before the pandemic struck and was somewhat on the backburner after that.
The side event, “Safeguarding the Planet — the Circular Carbon Economy Approach,” was important in that context: King Salman was joined on the virtual stage by leaders from the world’s most populous countries, as well as Japan, Australia, the US and Italy, which holds next year’s G20 presidency.
The king stressed that it was critical to safeguard the planet and that “we must create the conditions conducive of robust, inclusive, balanced and sustainable economies.” He explained the concept of the circular carbon economy, which aims to reduce, reuse, recycle and remove carbon from industrial processes and energy production.
The leaders may have their own views on how to safeguard the planet, however they needed to work together to do so. In the words of China’s President Xi Jinping they needed to “work together for a clean and beautiful world.” The final communique endorsed the circular carbon economy.

What it means for the world
The G20 highlighted once more the importance of multilateralism and working together. There is no way that the multilateral lending agencies could have achieved the debt service suspension initiative without the support of the global heavyweights of the G20.
The $11 trillion worth of stimulus fiscal and monetary stimulus packages also necessitated close cooperation at the G20 level.
The collaboration on the ACT accelerator and GAVI would also not have been possible to that degree without the G20. This holds especially true with regard to future support and funding of the WHO.
It is to the credit of the Saudi presidency that it did not let its theme of “Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All” be derailed by the pandemic, which could have happened all too easily. Instead, the G20 addressed other major issues such as the future of education and climate change.

What it means for GCC
It was important for the Arab world that one of their own, Saudi Arabia, the only Arab member of the G20 and one of only three Muslim majority countries in the club of the world’s most powerful nations, hosted the summit. In the words of King Salman: “Due to its unique stature regionally and internationally, and its unique location which interconnects three continents and lies at the intersection of emerging and developed markets, the Kingdom will continue to play a key role within the G20 to achieve global cooperation and find solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.”
The focus on education is important to GCC, the whole Arab world, and many developing countries, because they have huge and growing young populations. If education cannot be provided on a sustained basis, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the world risks losing a generation.
Climate change and the environment are the defining global issues. They are especially important to a major energy producer such as Saudi Arabia, which has to address the conundrum of uninterrupted energy supplies to the world to ensure economic stability while safeguarding the planet. To that end, it was important that the Kingdom could present its approach on the circular carbon economy.
It was a testament to the G20 presidency of Saudi Arabia that the leaders’ declaration was unanimously accepted, which is never a given at these gatherings.


Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud

Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud
Updated 25 January 2021

Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud

Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud
  • At 16 Shihana Alazzaz fought in the courts for her family's inheritance
  • She says she hopes her success can be seen by other women as motivation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s stance on women and their place in society remains firmly under the spotlight – with many questioning if anything has changed - that’s despite the countless female engineers, managers and boardroom directors that the Kingdom so proudly boasts of.

Still not convinced?

Then consider Shihana Alazzaz, the general counsel and Secretary-General to the board at the Public Investment Fund PIF – you might recognize her.

She was the woman sitting across from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he addressed a historic meeting on Sunday night.

Women’s status in Saudi society has been on the up since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, enabling them to pursue professions and positions of power they had only previously dreamt of – and Alazzaz’s story acts as a beacon of this achievement.

Impressed by her  credentials, many took to social media to voice their appreciation of her presence at the otherwise male-dominated table.

Twitter user @ibrahimaljallal described her as “An excellent model for Saudi women. Her competitiveness at work is the same as any man.”

Alazzaz first joined PIF as the head of transactions in the legal division in 2017.

She is now a member of the management committee at PIF, as well as other executive committees in the fund.

Alazzaz also chairs and serves on several boards and board committees of PIF portfolio companies. 

Her rise to success was not an easy one.

Her father’s death in 2002 saw her in the Saudi courts at just 16-years-old where - filled with grief – she fought for her family’s inheritance.

Armed with a handwritten note by her father, she fought long and hard to fulfill her father’s final wishes - that their guardian be her mother’s brother.

Despite her hardships, she refused to be a victim, instead choosing to chase her goals, pursue her education and make her life a success.

With her mother’s support she travelled to the UK, where she achieved her bachelor’s degree in law at Durham University.

Years later in 2019 the Kingdom’s guardianship laws saw a major overhaul as part of the ongoing Vision 2030.

The changes allowed Saudi women over 21 to be allowed to apply for passports and travel freely without the permission of a male guardian.

Other changes issued in the decrees permitted women to register a marriage, divorce, or child’s birth and to be issued official family documents – and most relevantly to Alazzaz – women were equally allowed to be their children’s guardian.

Alazzaz continued with her studies and achieved her license to practice law at the Supreme Court of New York and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice.

This in itself was major achievement as women lawyers were only allowed to be granted a license to practice from 2013 by the Ministry of Justice.

Non-conformity seems to have run in her family.

Her father, Saleh Alazzaz, chose an equally unconventional career path for a Saudi, as a photographer and author – both fields previously deemed taboo in the Kingdom - having dropped out of college where he was studying engineering.

He was diagnosed with cancer when he was 40-years-old – previously seen as a healthy man - his illness shocked the family – his death 18 months later left them devastated.

Saleh was celebrated for originality, his keen eye and passion - some of his most acclaimed pieces were conceived when he was ill.

Prior to joining PIF, Alazzaz was a practicing lawyer for nine years at various international law firms where she gained exposure to legal advisory services, transactions, and litigation across multiple sectors.

She has received recognition for her work locally, regionally and internationally.

She made Forbes Middle East’s 100 Most Powerful Women of 2020, and received multiple awards including Finance Monthly Deal Maker Awards 2016, and the Women in Business Law award presented by the International Financial Law Review (IFLR).

In an interview with KRCL RadioActive in 2017 Shihana said, “My role is to ensure that I’m not the only one. And to ensure that I encourage a lot of other females to pursue this convoluted path.”

 “I think we’ve accomplished quite a lot in a very short period of time,” she added.