Vision 2030 puts Saudi women in the driver’s seat

Vision 2030 puts Saudi women in the driver’s seat
Saudi Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar speaks at an event. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 March 2021

Vision 2030 puts Saudi women in the driver’s seat

Vision 2030 puts Saudi women in the driver’s seat
  • The new goals set on the horizon are leadership, direction and making an impact on the future

RIYADH: As we mark International Women’s Day, we see the new highs Saudi women have soared to since the launch of Vision 2030 in the Kingdom.
Reforms have changed the narrative surrounding women’s empowerment from inclusivity and equality to notability and distinction. Women’s accomplishments as part of Vision 2030 have set the stage for the further success and achievement of young female leaders in the Kingdom.
The goals of Saudi women are no longer equality or equal opportunity, but rather surpassing their counterparts in ideology, accomplishments and innovation across all sectors. In doing so, they have paved the way for a young and determined generation of future female leaders. These innovative accomplishments are all due to the stepping stones laid out by Vision 2030’s extensive social reforms for women.
Now, Saudi women are ambassadors, general managers, directors of private entities, government spokespersons and more. Their voices are now heard wide and clear across the world.
As of February 2021, women are earning ranks in the Kingdom’s armed forces and holding positions of leadership, including as sergeants commanding teams of soldiers in the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force and Armed Forces Medical Services.
It is simply no longer the aim of Saudi women to hope for inclusivity in society and the workplace. The new goals set on the horizon are leadership, direction and making an impact on the future of the Kingdom, whether through financial growth, social reform, or paving the way for new generations of women to succeed.
Vision 2030’s initiatives and reforms have not only affected the careers of women, but also their social lives — amplifying voices that were not always able to be heard. Legal reforms have been amended by Vision 2030 to ensure the rights of divorced women. An alimony fund was created to support women and their children during court proceedings, and women are now able to enter judicial departments independently without the past restriction of having a guardian present. In the past, judgments meant women had to return back to their homes without any objections, but since Vision 2030, these regulations are a literal thing of the past — a historic blimp in the bright future ahead.
It is no exaggeration to say that when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was appointed in his position in 2017, promises were made and delivered.
Women are involved in the workforce, driving on the roads and are more independent, particularly with the relaxing of the guardianship law last year. Tools such as the sexual harassment law were put in place to ensure their safety, and they found complete support from the government in facilitating their ambitions, including being appointed to high positions.
In July 2020, under a royal decree by King Salman, 13 women were appointed to serve on the Saudi Human Rights Commission, making half of the commission female. This decision gave women a louder voice and a foundation through which to make an impact in the Kingdom.
Women are now a driving force in growing the Kingdom’s alternative economic resources, and over the past decade there has been a surge in the number of female entrepreneurs, business owners and CEOs.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Saudi women are now ambassadors, general managers, directors of private entities, government spokespersons and more.

• As of February 2021, women are earning ranks in the Kingdom’s armed forces and holding positions of leadership.

• An alimony fund was created to support women and their children during court proceedings.

• Women are now able to enter judicial departments independently without the past restriction of having a guardian present.

• In July 2020, under a royal decree by King Salman, 13 women were appointed to serve on the Saudi Human Rights Commission.

Dr. Maliha Hashmi, executive director for the health and wellbeing sector of the NEOM megacity project, is a young female health leader in the region. She said that Vision 2030 has created the opportunity for women to build new roles and transform older expectations in a positive way.
“Through Vision 2030, social acceptance, and most of all, the continuous support of the government, we’ll see a balanced leadership, in both the private and public sectors, represented by both men and women. Plus, I’m very optimistic that we’ll witness in the near future more women in ministerial and international representation,” she said.
“Under the visionary leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has taken a giant step forward in empowering its women. While the world knows and talks about women drivers on Saudi roads, there’s more to this socio-economic and cultural change than meets the eye,” Hashmi, a Harvard doctorate degree holder, told Arab News.
“More high-tech startups can now be owned by women. There are now female diplomats in the GCC. I am super excited that this started in Saudi Arabia with Princess Reema bint Bandar as the first Saudi female ambassador. I am also honored to represent NEOM as one of its leading female executives. I hope this passion within me for this amazing project is contagious and is an encouragement for other young women to join, and that I can serve as a great role model for them.”
Vision 2030 has changed the dynamic of the Kingdom and not only opened it to the world, but also to many Saudis.
Women from the Kingdom are now seen traveling around the world and exploring new cultures without the obligatory presence of a male guardian, due to a decree allowing women to obtain their own passports and travel over the age of 21 without a male guardian.
Vision 2030 gave women the right to drive, planting the seeds that led to the emergence of the first professional female racing driver, Reema Al-Juffali. The reforms also created equal opportunity in science, and pushed women scientists into the limelight, such as Nouf Al-Numair, a “DNA decoder” who researches the early detection of emerging diseases through gene mutation. This is only a glimpse into the world of achievements female leaders in Saudi Arabia have created as a result of empowerment in the Kingdom.
It is evident that the fast changes led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have also had a global impact. For the second year in a row, the “Women, Business and the Law 2021” report by the World Bank Group listed Saudi Arabia as one of the top countries for economic inclusion and women’s reform.
One woman who has benefited from the changes is Noura Al-Dossary. Orphaned at a young age and divorced with one daughter, Al-Dossary was in a predicament. Her sister and her brother-in-law helped her, but she soon realized she had to support both herself and her daughter financially.
“Vision 2030 opened doors for me that I thought were bolted shut,” she told Arab News. Coming from a conservative background, and with limited education, she ventured into various workplaces, and soon found work at a small college. However, she was unsatisfied with the pay, the work atmosphere and the lack of insurance and benefits. But an opportunity soon presented itself in a laundry department at a five-star hotel.
She was attentive to detail, eager to learn and grateful for the opportunity. “I was exposed to a different world. I met people from diverse nationalities, mixed with the opposite gender and quickly learned English on the job — something I never dreamed of.”
Al-Dossary’s workplace enrolled her in courses to not only further her career, but also her character. “I felt invested in it,” she said, a sentiment that many Saudi women share. “People tell me: ‘Oh, but you work in laundry.’ But let me tell you something: I’m proud of myself.”
There are many women like Al-Dossary who have succeeded in their own right. They may not appear in the headlines, but they are a vital part of Saudi society.
“I’m able to financially support my family, have insurance and benefits, and I bought a home,” said Al-Dossary. “None of this would have been possible without Vision 2030. I am independent and I finally found the support I needed to realize my dreams.”

Saudi Arabia's heritage treasures
The five historic sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List tell a story of universal importance

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Virtual panel: Future of AlUla depends on sustainable growth model

Virtual panel: Future of AlUla depends on sustainable growth model
Updated 13 min 8 sec ago

Virtual panel: Future of AlUla depends on sustainable growth model

Virtual panel: Future of AlUla depends on sustainable growth model
  • First AlUla “Crossroads” panel concludes that Saudi Arabia’s accelerated aims to diversify the economy must marry the nation’s heritage with sustainable business models
  • The Crossroads panel sought to address how the Kingdom could achieve its divergent goals of decarbonizing and diversifying the economy

Saudi Arabia’s economy has long been defined by fossil fuels. However, the Gulf nation, which has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, has made the decisive step towards a sustainable future. In a bid to diversify its economy, Saudi Arabia is placing increased emphasis on integrated sustainability — which incorporates social, economic, and environmental dimensions and is grounded in principles of a circular economy — is at the forefront of all major developments in the Kingdom.

This includes AlUla, the ancient valley in Saudi Arabia’s Madinah region that covers a landmass of over 22,500 square meters and is being transformed into an “open-air museum” to showcase its 200,000 years of human history to the world under the Journey Through Time Masterplan, the vision for AlUla unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the board of directors of the Royal Commission for AlUla.

At the core of the masterplan, which was unveiled on April 7, is integrated sustainability, the subject of the first panel staged by the Royal Commission of AlUla’s as part of its “Crossroads: Intellectual Panel Program.”

READ MORE

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), unveiled The Journey Through Time this month, the latest development rooted in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 blueprint for the nation’s future. Click here for more.

Aptly titled “At the Crossroads: People and Planet: Can AlUla Unlock a Sustainable Future?” Moderated by Dr. Maliha Hashmi, executive director of health, wellbeing and biotech at NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s planned cross-border city in the Tabuk region, panelists included businessman and entrepreneur Alejandro Agag; former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi; architect and leader in sustainable design William McDonough; James Hardcastle, director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Green List; Carlos Duarte, a biological oceanographer; and Gérard Mestrallet, executive chairman of Afalula, the French agency for Alula Development.

The panel sought to address how the Kingdom could achieve its divergent goals of decarbonizing and diversifying the economy, creating a wider scope of employment opportunities, and bolstering Saudi Arabia’s social and economic contribution to the global community in the most efficient and sustainable way possible. For example, the Kingdom has recently taken initial steps to reduce Saudi Arabia’s emissions by planting 10 billion trees and generating half its energy from renewables by 2030.

“They all have relationships that interact, and the important thing is to see this whole set of issues as a kind of ecosystems and organisms,” said McDonough, adding: “Everything kind of affects everything else and the benefits are tremendous. The recognition of multiplier effects is a key part of it, we find the economics work really beautifully and soon as you start to realize there are benefits coming from lots of directions.”

Sustainability is a vital part of any business, declared Agag, the CEO of Formula E, the single-seater motorsport championship that only uses electric cars. His business and entertainment model continues to prioritize sustainability.

“I think now the difficulty is not to make sustainability and business compatible, the difficulty is to do a business without having a sustainability angle in your business,” he said. “When we started Formula E 10 years ago and launched the first race in Beijing in 2014, everybody thought that Formula E would crash and burn.”

He added: “All the motorsport world had this consensus. My old-time partner and at the time CEO of Formula 1 Bernie Ecclestone told me that an electrical championship would never make it to the first race. But we did.”

Agag explained how the championship now has support from world’s major manufacturers. It has strong revenues, big sponsors, and continuous growth — all because it promotes electric cars. “And we did it at a time in 2014 when electric cars were not as available as now,” added Agag.

How does a nation push social and economic sustainability, particularly in respect to resurrecting ancient sites such as AlUla? Renzi, who contributed greatly to the revitalization of the sites of Pompei and Matera in Italy, transforming them into vibrant cultural and touristic destinations, agreed with Agag, stating that it is “impossible to do business without sustainability.”

He said: “The same is true for culture and tourism,” adding: “Pompei and Matera are very exciting examples. Pompei was one of the most amazing places around the world but in the last 20 to 50 years, Italy lost the momentum to invest in a new narrative for Pompei. Our government decided to involve the EU and Pompei pre-pandemic achieved its maximum number of visitors.”

The same is true for Matera, a rocky outcrop in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy, which now houses museums such as the Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario, he continued.

“Matera became the capital of culture in Europe after a long period in which people thought of Matera as a place of ruin and disaster,” explained Renzi.

“What is the strategy? What is the secret?” posed Renzi. “In my view it is exactly what has been decided by the Royal Commission for AlUla: Use a great place, one of the capitals of the past, and transform it into a place for the future.”

READ MORE

AlUla, the ancient valley in Saudi Arabia’s Madinah region, home to 200,000 years of still largely unexplored human history, continues to play a central role in the Kingdom’s tourism strategy. In a bid to pave the way for the area’s future growth, the Royal Commission of AlUla (RCU) has announced that it will embark on its future projects by adhering to sustainable practices. More here.

What can we draw from 200,000 years of human history at AlUla to reimagine sustainability, challenge conventional wisdom, and draw inspiration from ancient ingenuity? Moreover, Hashmi posed, how does Saudi Arabia bring communities on board and balance the interests of protecting natural landscapes against urbanization and the needs of growing communities?

Hardcastle agreed that business cannot be done today without a sustainable approach.

“You cannot do nature conservation and protection without communities from that place,” he said. “With IUCN we’ve set up alongside our global members 160 countries and 20,000 scientists who have come together and discussed what makes nature conservation effective, especially in areas like Sharaan, AlUla, and other places in Saudi Arabia.

“The overwhelming response is that the places that are effective are where you have had full engagement from the outset with the communities who live and breathe the air who do not see these places as wild but see them as part of their heritage.”

As Saudi Arabia moves into its next chapter of growth, what this panel underlined was the crucial balance that must be struck between maintaining the country’s heritage and ancient past, using its local communities and employing sustainable practices in all areas of business and development.


Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases
Updated 22 April 2021

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,055 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 1,086 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • The highest number of cases were recorded in Riyadh with 468

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 11 new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 6,869.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,055 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 409,093 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 9,776 remain active and 1,182 in critical condition.

According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 468, followed by Makkah with 206, the Eastern Province with 166, Madinah recorded 41, and Asir confirmed 35 cases.
The ministry also announced that 1,086 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 392,448.
The ministry renewed its call on the public to adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 144 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.07 million.


King Salman calls for global approach to tackling climate change

King Salman speaking at the virtual summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
King Salman speaking at the virtual summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
Updated 24 min 27 sec ago

King Salman calls for global approach to tackling climate change

King Salman speaking at the virtual summit. (Photo: Bandar Galoud)
  • King tells world leaders that climate change does not recognize national borders
  • King outlines Saudi Arabia's shift to clean and renewable energy

NEW YORK: Boosting international cooperation is the “optimal solution” to tackling climate change, King Salman told a summit of world leaders on Thursday.

The king said global warming threatens lives on our planet and that the challenges “recognize no national borders.”

“The objective is sustainable development, and in order to achieve this, there must be a comprehensive methodology that takes into account the different developments and circumstances that exist around the world,” King Salman said during the Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by the US.

He said the Kingdom had launched packages of strategies and regulations with the aim of producing 50 percent of the Kingdom’s energy needs by 2030 using clean, renewable sources.

“Enhancing the level of international cooperation is the optimal solution to meeting the challenges of climate change,” the king said.

“During our G20 presidency last year we advocated the need to adopt a notion of a circular carbon economy launching two international initiatives to curb land degradation and to protect coral reefs.”

He added that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently announced two new initiatives: the Green Saudi Initiative and the Green Middle East Initiative. The initiatives aim to reduce carbon emissions in the region by more than 10 percent of  current global contributions.

“These initiatives also aim at planting 50 billion trees in the region,” he said.

The Kingdom, he added, would work with its partners to achieve these goals by hosting forums for both initiatives later this year.

“Finally we would like to affirm our keenness and commitment to cooperation to combat climate change in order to create a better environment for future generations, wishing success for our efforts to protect our planet,” he said.

Earlier at the summit, President Joe Biden’s pledged to cut US fossil fuel emissions up to 52 percent by 2030

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin also made commitments to reduce emissions.

“Meeting this moment is about more than preserving our planet,” Biden said. “It’s about providing a better future for all of us.”

Some 40 leaders are taking part in the two-day event.


New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador

New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador
Updated 22 April 2021

New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador

New envoy to Sweden Einas Al-Shahwan becomes Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador

RIYADH: Einas Al-Shahwan, the Kingdom’s ambassador-designate to Sweden, has become Saudi Arabia’s 3rd female ambassador.
During a virtual meeting with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Al-Shahwan was among a number of newly appointed ambassadors taking their oath.

The oaths were taken in front of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)

The ceremony was also attended by Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister.

Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan became the first female ambassador when she was named the Saudi envoy to the US in 2019. 
In Oct. 2020, Amal Al-Mouallami was appointed as Saudi ambassador to Norway.

Below is a complete list of the new appointments:

The ambassador-designate to the Republic of Portugal, Prince Saud bin Abdul Mohsen bin Abdulaziz;
the ambassador-designate to Sweden Einas bint Ahmed Al-Shahwan;
the ambassador-designate to the Sultanate of Oman, Abdullah bin Saud Al-Anzi;
the ambassador-designate to the Czech Republic, Abdullah bin Mutaab Al-Rasheed;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Korea, Sami bin Muhammad Al-Sadhan;
the ambassador-designate to Turkmenistan, Saeed bin Othman Suwaied;
the ambassador-designate to the United Republic of the Comoros, Atallah bin Zayed bin Zayed;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Tajikistan Walid bin Abdulrahman al-Rashidan;
the ambassador-designate to the Kyrgyz Republic Ibrahim bin Radi Al-Radi;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Albania, Faisal bin Ghazi Hafzi;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Kenya Khalid bin Abdullah Al Salman;
the ambassador-designate to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Faisal bin Talq Al-Baqami;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Cuba Faisal bin Falah Al-Harbi;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Chad Amer Bin Ali Al-Shahri;
the ambassador-designate to the Republic of Burkina Faso Fahd bin Abdulrahman Al-Dossary.

The oaths were taken in front of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season
Updated 22 April 2021

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season

Saudi Cruise partners with MSC Cruises for winter season
  • The two companies are aiming to host 170,000 cruise guests this winter

JEDDAH: Saudi Cruise Co., owned by the Public Investment Fund, signed a joint agreement on Wednesday with MSC Cruises to launch its trips in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf during the upcoming winter season.
The announcement came during a meeting between Fawaz Farooqui, interim CEO of the Red Sea Cruise Co., and Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, in Riyadh to sign the framework agreement to mark the start of the new partnership.
The two companies are aiming to host 170,000 cruise guests this winter.
Under the agreement, the MSC Magnifica will sail in the Red Sea from Jeddah on several seven-day trips from Nov. 13 through March 26. These trips will offer passengers access to a selection of ports and destinations on the coasts of the Red Sea. A weekly stopover will be included at Al-Wajh Port, which will connect passengers with AlUla, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The city of Jeddah is preparing for the first Formula 1 race hosted by the Kingdom on Dec. 5. These trips will provide an opportunity for some passengers of the MSC Magnifica to enjoy this global sports event in conjunction with their trips aboard the cruise.
MSC Magnifica will visit Dammam on a weekly basis from Dec. 2 through March 24, as part of its winter program in the Arabian Gulf. This trip will allow passengers to visit the Al-Ahsa Oasis, another UNESCO World Heritage site in the Kingdom, in addition to many exciting destinations and attractions in the region.
Farooqui said his company is keen to establish a long-term partnership, which will increase the number of cruises coming to Saudi Arabia in the future.
“The Kingdom has a lot to offer to its visitors, and the new cooperation will open the doors for travelers from all over the world to be among the first to have the opportunity to explore the rich Saudi heritage and hospitality,” he said.
Farooqui also said these trips will diversify the Saudi economy and increase the country’s GDP. In addition, the cruises will provide employment opportunities in the fields of port business, tourism and entertainment in the selected destinations to nearby communities.
By the year 2035, the company aims to create 50,000 direct and indirect job opportunities through the newly established cruise sector.
Vago said he wants his company to place Saudi Arabia on the global cruise map and make it a major tourist destination.
“We look forward to providing new experiences for tourists from within and outside the Kingdom, enabling them to discover the beauty of untouched islands, the picturesque beaches along the Saudi coasts, in addition to the historical and heritage sites scattered in many tourist destinations,” he said.