Teamwork is the key to solving world’s problems, says Saudi envoy

Abdullah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, spoke to Arab News during the UNGA. (Screenshot)
Abdullah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, spoke to Arab News during the UNGA. (Screenshot)
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Updated 23 September 2021

Teamwork is the key to solving world’s problems, says Saudi envoy

Abdullah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, spoke to Arab News during the UNGA. (Screenshot)
  • In an exclusive interview, the Kingdom’s UN ambassador says the key to winning the war on terror lies in addressing the social issues that breed terrorism
  • Abdullah Al-Mouallimi also discusses Saudi Arabia’s approach to climate change, the pandemic, the crisis in Yemen and the Palestinian cause

NEW YORK: World leaders returned to the UN this week for their first in-person meeting in two years, as part of the 76th session of the General Assembly.

“The UN is open for business and we’re back to life,” Abdullah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, told Arab News.

He added that the return of the premiers to UN headquarters in New York City comes amid a heightened awareness of the vital need for international solidarity and “for working together, for caring for each other, because we all know no one is safe until everybody is safe.”

However the leaders face a daunting agenda filled with spiraling crises that will put their commitment to solidarity to the test. Extreme weather events are becoming more common as the planet warms as a result of climate change. Terrorist activity and conflicts are on the rise. And as the pandemic continues to rage, the “vaccine apartheid” that has emerged as wealthy nations stockpile doses is exposing the growing inequality between the world’s rich and poor.

The Arab world is dealing with its own set of crises. More than a year after the devastating explosion at Beirut’s port ripped the capital apart, Lebanon’s economy has collapsed and the country continues to slide ever deeper into darkness — literally, as a result of fuel shortages and power outages.

The situation in Yemen tops the list of the most severe humanitarian crises. The future of Libya remains uncertain as the country prepares for elections that might or might not happen.


Meanwhile the Arabian Gulf region is one of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and Saudi Arabia’s efforts to do something about it have earned the Kingdom the title of a “world champion” in addressing the issue.

In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with Arab News, Al-Mouallimi talked about the Kingdom’s vision for the future, along with its achievements in tackling domestic, regional and global challenges.

According to the latest UN figures, only 4 percent of people in developing countries have been vaccinated, compared with more than 60 percent of people in wealthy nations.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken a leading role to make sure that vaccines are available to countries that do not have them, that the World Health Organization is up to (the task) of meeting the requirements and the demands of the challenge, (and) that all countries are ready and prepared to deal with the situation,” said Al-Mouallimi.

This year’s General Assembly began just days after the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the US. The commemorations were accompanied by a torrent of reflective debates about the so-called “war on terror,” its successes and failures, and the lessons it has taught the world. It is also one of the main topics on the assembly’s agenda.

The role played by Saudi Arabia in countering terrorism is “very prominent and well-noted,” said Al-Mouallimi, who added that many of the victories against terrorists would not have been possible without the Kingdom’s assistance.

But, terrorism has undoubtedly spread and become more complex and sophisticated in the past two decades, which begs the questions: Where did the world go wrong and what will it take to truly win this war?

Al-Mouallimi said the authorities in his country were able to achieve successes in the battle to defeat terrorism because they realized very early on that it is an international challenge as much as it is a local one.

It is also an “intergenerational war,” he added, and the Kingdom is under no illusions that the fight will end any time soon.

“It is going to take a long time and we have practiced patience and perseverance and (have) a long-term vision (for) counterterrorism.”


Saudis also realize, Al-Mouallimi said: “It takes a village, it takes a country, it takes a tribe, it takes a family, to overcome this scourge and this challenge.

“We in Saudi Arabia have not tried to (adopt) a one-solution-fits-all (approach). We did not limit ourselves to a simple military encounter, even though a military solution (sometimes) becomes necessary to deal with acts of terrorism.

“But at the same time we recognize that that (acting) alone is not enough. It takes more of a social approach to the issue, to finding out what are the root causes of terrorism, to finding out the circumstances that lead to the nurturing of terrorist activities in a certain country.”

Al-Mouallimi lamented the fact that authorities around the world often fail to grasp this concept and adopt the opposite approach.

“Many countries in the world have emphasized the military aspect only (and its) short-term victories” he said. “But the terrorists have a tendency to lie low when the pressure is high and to come back up again as soon as you relieve that pressure — and it’s proving almost impossible to maintain military pressure over time.”

He believes that the world must come together and address the root causes of terrorism, on the national and international levels, “such as marginalization, foreign occupation, oppression and exclusion.” These are the kind of things that “lead to people feeling desperate, and that feeling creates the momentum for terrorism,” he added. “We need to take away such root causes and such feelings in order to be more successful.”

Another issue where international solidarity is required, and which is perhaps the most important single issue for millions of Muslims and other people around the world, is the Palestinian question. The recent war on Gaza, and the emergency meeting of the General Assembly that followed, focused attention on the cause and the urgent need for action to address it.

Al-Mouallimi has urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to make Palestine his priority in the coming year. He also called for the world to “exercise leadership and solidarity” in support of the rights of the Palestinian people, and believes his message was received loud and clear.

He said that three years of political “turbulence” in Israel rendered authorities there “almost inept to deal with the issue of peace and stability in the region.” Israeli provocations in Jerusalem and its aggression in Gaza have made it clear Palestine has become “a political football” for various Israeli parties and individuals but, he added, the situation is “slightly different” now.

“We have a new government, albeit a one vote-majority government, which renders it unstable,” he said. “But nevertheless we have a new government and, hopefully, we have a new vision among the major countries of the world, including the US, that this situation cannot be allowed to continue, and that there has to be a solution along the parameters of the Arab peace initiative.”


In Yemen, a political stalemate and continuing violence continue to plunge the country deeper into what is now recognized as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Al-Mouallimi echoed the call by Hans Grundberg, who last month was appointed the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, for a return to efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement to the conflict. This has not been discussed since 2016.

“The previous international envoys have gone back and forth between a comprehensive solution and what they call ‘confidence-building measures,’” said Al-Mouallimi. “Unfortunately there was no confidence to build and hence these measures did not do much. Ultimately (the UN envoys) wasted a lot of time trying to go for piecemeal solutions: The Hodeidah Agreement for example, the localized ceasefires in certain places, and so on.

“This is proving to be ineffective, and it takes time and diverts attention from the major issue, which is the fact that there is illegitimate control over the government, the capital and other major cities in Yemen by an illegitimate force.

“So we need to go back to the direction of trying to find a comprehensive solution, (which) can only be a political solution that addresses all of the issues at the same time. I hope the new envoy is going to be able to do so.”

Returning to the issue of climate change, Al-Mouallimi said that Saudi Arabia is emerging as a world leader in tackling the issue.

At a moment in time the UN has described as a “code red” for humanity, the Kingdom this year announced plans to launch a Saudi Green Initiative, and a Middle East Green Initiative.

In a recent interview with Arab News, General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid praised the plans and said “the Saudi leadership is becoming an international champion in the field of addressing climate change.”

Al-Mouallimi said that action Saudi authorities are taking to address climate issues is driven by “a sense of responsibility.”

“We are a leading country in the world,” he said. “We recognize the imminent danger (to) life that is posed by climate change. And although we are an oil-producing country, we nevertheless recognize our overall responsibility toward the world and we believe that we have a mission (to) protect the environment.

“We want to do that at the forefront of nations, and we are.”

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization
Updated 16 October 2021

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Alaa Abdulaal has been the vice president of strategy and governance at the Digital Cooperation Organization since September 2021.

The organization, a global multilateral entity that aims at increasing social prosperity through accelerating the growth of the digital economy, was established by a group of countries that share an interest in collaborating to realize their collective digital potential. These countries are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, and Pakistan.

Prior to joining the organization, Abdulaal had served for more than a year as the director of IT strategy and governance at the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services. For over nine years, beginning in 2011, she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a database unit leader, technical operation strategist, and a strategic planning and development manager.

In the latter role she established key performance metrics, designed reporting solutions, and promoted the use of structured information to drive enhanced business performance. She also led critical communication development and business reporting.

In 2015, she spent eight months as a research intern at Riva Modeling Systems in Toronto, where she demonstrated a strong interest and aptitude for user experience.

Before that, she worked for more than four years as a database administrator at the Saudi Exchange Market. There, she helped enhance the database’s performance and security. Her job responsibilities also included evaluating the proposed auditing systems and developing the availability process from scratch with the IT service management project consultants. Moreover, she created availability dashboards for Tadawul production services.

Abdulaal received a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2006 from King Saud University, where she graduated with first class honors. In 2014, she obtained a master’s degree, majoring in applied computing, with the highest GPA result.

She is a certified strategic business planner and a professional business process manager.

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

RIYADH: Saudi air defenses intercepted a Houthi drone aimed at Jazan, the Arab coalition said early Saturday.

The Houthis consistently target civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom using explosive drones.

The Kingdom has labeled Houthi attempts to target civilians as war crimes.

Earlier this month, attacks on Abha and Jazan airports in southern Saudi Arabia sparked widespread condemnation of the militia’s tactics of targeting civilian sites.

The Arab coalition has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthis, after the militia seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

Saudi Arabia as repeatedly said the only way to a peaceful Yemen is through dialogue, and has called on the Houthis to end the fighting. The Riyadh Initiative, which was launch by the Kingdom in March, includes a nationwide ceasefire and a plan to reopen Sanaa airport. The plan has been rejected by the Houthis.

Fighting in Marib province has claimed thousands of lives, among both government and Houthi forces. The resource-rich region has been heavily contested as the militia seek to strengthen their control of northern Yemen.

The Arab coalition said on Friday that ten military vehicles were destroyed and over 180 Houthis killed in operations it carried out in Abedia, a district in Marib that has been under siege since Sept. 23.

The Houthi action in Abedia has hindered the movement of civilians and impeded humanitarian aid flows, including medical supplies, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said earlier this week.

The war, which has now lasted for seven years, has cost thousands of Yemenis their lives and has forced many more to depend on humanitarian assistance.

Saudi relief agency, KSrelief, has poured billions of dollars worth of aid into Yemen and has hundreds of projects focusing on food and health.

Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials

Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials
rince Faisal bin Farha
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials

Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with US National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk, the director of Middle East and North Africa affairs at the US National Security Council, Ambassador Barbara Leaf, and the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yale Lambert on the sidelines of his visit to Washington, DC.

During the meeting, they reviewed Saudi-US relations and opportunities to enhance them in all fields. Joint efforts to lay the foundations for peace, security and stability in the Middle East and the wider world were also discussed.

The Kingdom’s efforts and initiatives to reach a political solution in Yemen in a way that supports the development and stability of the Yemeni people was also discussed during the meeting, in addition to the most prominent developments regarding the Iranian nuclear agenda.


Saudi campaigners are highlighting the risks of breast cancer — and not only for women

Saudi campaigners are highlighting the risks of breast cancer — and not only for women
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi campaigners are highlighting the risks of breast cancer — and not only for women

Saudi campaigners are highlighting the risks of breast cancer — and not only for women
  • While cases among males are rare, the illness follows the same path as in women

RIYADH: Breast cancer has long been known as one of the greatest health risks for women, with incidence rates of up to 30 percent in Saudi Arabia, according to some studies.
However, less well known is that men can also fall victim to the disease.
While cases among males are rare, the illness follows the same path as in women, with cells in the breast growing abnormally, dividing rapidly and then spreading to lymph nodes and other parts of the body, often with devastating consequences.
The risks of the disease to both women and men are being highlighted during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is observed every October as part of an international health campaign.
Global events include walks and runs, and the lighting of city landmarks in pink — the color used by campaigners worldwide to highlight their stand against breast cancer. Joining the campaign, major buildings in Riyadh have been illuminated in pink every night, while other cities across the Kingdom have also taken part in activities to raise awareness.
Thirty female cyclists rode around the streets of Jeddah dressed in pink to highlight the importance of early detection and treatment of the illness, and to offer support to survivors. The initiative was organized by Al-Murjan investment group in cooperation with the Saudi Ministry of Health and the Brave Cyclist club.
The Saudi government and private sector also will launch a series of initiatives, including educational exhibitions, lectures, mall drives, sports activities and mammogram screenings to promote awareness of the disease.
Arab News, the leading English daily in the region, has placed a pink ribbon on its masthead to highlight the important role that screening plays in combating the devastating disease.
According to a World Health Organization 2018 report, the incidence of breast cancer among females in Saudi Arabia stands at almost 30 percent. The illness is more common among over-40s, the health ministry said.
Early detection of breast cancer can significantly improve chances of recovery in both women and men, experts say.
Dr. Osama Halaweh, a hematologist and medical oncologist at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare, told Arab News: “Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, but it does occur in men as well, though rarely. But awareness of the possibility is important. Since there is no screening for breast cancer in men, it is usually detected at a later stage when the lymph nodes are involved.”
Dr. Amer Mahmood, associate professor and molecular biologist at the College of Medicine in King Saud University, said: “Breast cancer is rare in men and usually happens in those over 60, but can occasionally affect younger men. About one in every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the US is found in a man.”
Common symptoms of breast cancer in men a lump or swelling in the breast, irritation or dimpling of the skin, nipple discharge or pain in the nipple area, he added.
Mahmood said that early diagnosis dramatically improves the chances of a cure. Treatment typically involves surgery to remove the breast tissue. Other treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, also may be recommended.
While the exact cause of breast cancer in men is not known, several factors increase the likelihood of developing the disease, he said.
Some men inherit abnormal, or mutated, genes from their parents, putting them at a greater risk of developing breast and prostate cancers. Other conditions that increase the level of oestrogen in the body will also add to the breast cancer risk.
However, male breast cancer is often overlooked. In 2009, the advocacy groups Out of the Shadow of Pink, A Man’s Pink, and the Brandon Greening Foundation for Breast Cancer in Men joined forces to have the third week of October labeled Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week.
Studies in Europe and the US have shown that one in eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.
Halaweh said that the illness in women can be hereditary in about 5 percent of cases, so genetic testing is important to determine personal and family risk.
“Currently, there is not sufficient knowledge on the causes of breast cancer, but there is knowledge of risk factors that increase the possibility of developing the disease. So prevention and early detection remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control,” he added.
Advances in breast cancer management include systemic therapies in which drugs are used to target cancer cells wherever they may be in the body. These approaches include chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, targeted drugs and immunotherapy.
Mahmood said that cancer is a universal public health problem and a leading cause of death worldwide, claiming an estimated 9.6 million lives in 2018.
Breast cancer is by far the most prevalent form, followed by lung cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer. In absolute numbers, cancers in Islamic countries caused 1.02 million deaths in 2012, accounting for 17.4 percent of the total deaths in low and middle-income countries and 12 percent of the global cancer deaths, he added.
A balanced diet, and losing weight in cases of obesity may help to lower risk. Increased body weight is linked with a higher risk of breast cancer after menopause.
Studies have shown that moderate to vigorous physical activity can reduce breast cancer risk, Mahmood said.
The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week, preferably spread throughout the week.

Saudi businesses think pink for October breast cancer awareness campaign

Saudi businesses think pink for October breast cancer awareness campaign
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi businesses think pink for October breast cancer awareness campaign

Saudi businesses think pink for October breast cancer awareness campaign

JEDDAH: Saudi businesses have joined the annual October drive to think pink with increasingly innovative ways to help raise awareness about breast cancer.
Every year the pink ribbon symbol is used around the world to represent solidarity with breast cancer sufferers and show charity support for the health movement.
The condition is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Saudi women, and the annual global awareness campaign highlights not only the challenges and threats posed by the disease but also new research on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
And whether offering a free checkup or a unique October product, Saudi firms have been at the forefront of the monthlong pink link push in the Kingdom.
Shaimaa Waleed, owner and founder of Jeddah-based Woow ice cream shop, has created a special edition of pink ice cream to mark the occasion.
She said: “I learned that one-out-of-eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and I wanted to remind women that they need to get checked as part of the awareness campaign for early detection.
“So, I came up with a marshmallow-flavored pink ice cream with marshmallow pieces in it, only served this month.”
Waleed added that the cause was close to her heart as a friend had died from the disease, and she advised every woman to get a checkup. “You are precious and your health matters to us, and because you are half of the society, get the early examination, it may be a reason to save your life.”
Jeddah-based Ward and Balloon filled its shop window display with pink flowers and has been offering discounts on everything it sells that is pink to support the cause.
Shatha Abdulhaleem, the business’ founder, told Arab News: “This awareness campaign hits close to home. I have some women in my family who were diagnosed with cancer, and I think it is very important to remind people of the matter using my business too.”
Meanwhile, Fighters, an all-women’s gym, has illuminated its machines with pink lights and pink equipment to celebrate survivors and support fighters of the disease. The gym is also offering big discounts for new female members.
Moayyad Al-Tayyeb, the gym’s owner, said: “One of the causes of breast cancer is obesity. In my gym we support and encourage all our clients to have a healthy lifestyle and a better future.”