Saudi Arabia committed to global efforts to combat COVID-19: Foreign minister

During a speech at a virtual special session of the UN General Assembly focused on the global response to COVID-19, Prince Faisal praised the UN’s efforts to fight the virus. (Screenshot/SPA)
During a speech at a virtual special session of the UN General Assembly focused on the global response to COVID-19, Prince Faisal praised the UN’s efforts to fight the virus. (Screenshot/SPA)
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Updated 04 December 2020

Saudi Arabia committed to global efforts to combat COVID-19: Foreign minister

During a speech at a virtual special session of the UN General Assembly focused on the global response to COVID-19, Prince Faisal praised the UN’s efforts to fight the virus. (Screenshot/SPA)
  • Prince Faisal bin Farhan highlighted Kingdom’s efforts to combat COVID-19 pandemic during G20 presidency
  • Minister spoke at virtual special session of UNGA focused on global response to pandemic

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is committed to collective action and cooperation with other countries to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told the UN on Friday.

During a speech at a virtual special session of the UN General Assembly focused on the global response to COVID-19, Prince Faisal praised the UN’s efforts to fight the virus.

“This year has been an exceptional one by any standards, during which the world faced an unprecedented common challenge represented by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, a pandemic that swept our world and claimed the lives of nearly a million and a half people in less than a year, and affected 54 million people around the world,” the prince said.

“It did not differentiate between man or woman, or between old and young, and (it) has inflicted severe economic, health and human damage on the world, causing the cessation of all ways and aspects of life, and our peoples and countries are still suffering from the negative effects it caused and still causes,” he added.

Prince Faisal said that, despite scientific and technological progress, the pandemic had revealed the “weakness and fragility of the global system in the face of a virus that cannot be seen with the naked eye,” and which acted as “an alarm that reminds us to work together side by side to overcome our narrow differences and interests,” he said.

“We must work to coordinate a unified international response that enables us to combat this (pandemic) and its health and humanitarian threats, restore global financial and economic stability, and set plans in place to achieve strong, sustainable, balanced and comprehensive growth that prevents an economic recession similar to the Great Depression,” he added.

The foreign minister highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic during its G20 presidency, including holding an exceptional summit in March during which Saudi Arabia pledged $500 million toward fighting the virus.

He also cited a number of practical measures taken by G20 members, including pumping $11 trillion into the global economy to protect jobs and lives and to ensure continued economic recovery as well as contributing more than $21 billion to support global efforts.

Prince Faisal also said the G20 launched an initiative this year to postpone $14 billion of debt repayments for the least developed countries, until the middle of next year, meaning they could use the money instead to finance their health systems amid the crisis.

Speaking about a working vaccine against COVID-19, the prince stressed the importance of ensuring that all countries have access to a vaccine, and that it is affordable for all people, without discrimination.


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.