First human rights dialogue between EU and Saudi Arabia held 

First human rights dialogue between EU and Saudi Arabia held 
The dialogue included planned judicial reforms and acknowledged the changes recently introduced in the kafala system. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 September 2021

First human rights dialogue between EU and Saudi Arabia held 

First human rights dialogue between EU and Saudi Arabia held 
  • Saudi reforms welcomed; future talks scheduled for 2022

RIYADH: The EU welcomed reforms taking place in Saudi Arabia, and noted that “significant steps” have been made to advance women’s rights in the Kingdom.
The appreciation came in a press release by the EU External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic service, on Tuesday, following dialogue between Saudi Arabia and the EU in Brussels on Monday on a wide range of topics.
EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore led the EU delegation, while the Saudi delegation was led by the Saudi Human Rights Commission president, Awwad Saleh Al-Awwad. Representatives from EU member states also attended as observers.
Gilmore tweeted: “I co-chaired, with Al-Awwad, the first ever Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Saudi Arabia. A very big agenda. Engagement matters.”
A spokesman for the Saudi Human Rights Commission told Arab News: “Al-Awwad highlighted the most prominent reforms achieved in the Kingdom in human rights, pointing to the short period during which they were achieved, and stated that the most important factor that contributed to achieving these reforms is the presence of a political will represented in the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
The EAS press release added: “The EU welcomed the reforms that are taking place in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the socio-economic domain, and significant steps have been taken to advance women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.”

FASTFACT

The appreciation came in a press release by the EU External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic service, on Tuesday, following dialogue between Saudi Arabia and the EU in Brussels on a wide range of topics.

The EU encouraged Saudi authorities to work towards achieving women’s full enjoyment of all human rights.
The dialogue included planned judicial reforms and acknowledged the changes recently introduced in the kafala (sponsorship) system, including the reforms of labor laws that came into effect in March 2020. The EU’s ambassador in Riyadh, Patrick Simonnet, told Arab News: “We were very pleased to host the first EU-KSA Human Rights Dialogue. We had been preparing this dialogue, which is unique for our bilateral relations, for some time and we were satisfied to see that the meeting was successful.”
The envoy added: “This is the first human rights dialogue that the Kingdom (held) with an international partner and we are excited that it was held with the EU. We have discussed a series of issues related to human rights, including the recent reforms for women’s empowerment, labor rights as well as the upcoming reforms in the penal code. We also explained the work of the EU in the field of human rights and we hope that we will be able to coordinate actions with Saudi Arabia in international fora.
“This dialogue has built upon the excellent relations we have established locally with the human rights commission, especially under the leadership of Dr. Al-Awwad. We are looking forward to more fruitful and comprehensive cooperation with the Kingdom on human rights,” Simonnet said.
Saad bin Mohammed Al-Arifi, the head of the Saudi mission to the EU, welcomed the discussions, pointing to the efforts made by the two sides in this context, adding he hoped this dialogue would support solid relations between the Kingdom and the EU.
The rights commission outlined that the two sides also reviewed reforms achieved in freedom of expression and association, the rule of law, religious freedom, the right to work, and means of cooperation between the two sides within the framework of the UN.
The co-chairs agreed to convene the following Human Rights Dialogue in 2022 in Saudi Arabia.


KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
Updated 59 min 24 sec ago

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
  • The men praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection

CAIRO: Egypt’s Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad and her Saudi counterpart Abdulrahman Al-Fadley discussed environmental cooperation between their two countries.

They praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection, with Fouad saying the environment is a priority for Egypt’s leadership.

She also welcomed cooperation with Saudi Arabia in terms of converting waste into energy.

The two sides discussed cooperation in the fields of coastal management, marine policies, environmental monitoring, management of chemicals and hazardous waste, and integration of environmental knowledge into educational curricula.

Al-Fadley expressed his aspiration to cooperate with Egypt in the field of water desalination and reusing extracted salt.

The two sides agreed to focus on cooperating to preserve the Red Sea, with Fouad noting its richness in coral reefs and marine life.


Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
Updated 56 min 58 sec ago

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
  • Prince Khalid: “We have a very young population. They want a different world”
  • “I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices”

LONDON: The Saudi ambassador to Britain has praised the wide-ranging modernization efforts carried out by the Kingdom’s leadership.

“In the last five years the pace has been huge — 1,000 laws have been altered or removed,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan told The Times.

“There is a misconception about Saudi that we never change, but going back 100 years it’s been dramatic. My grandfather went to work on horseback, my father flew fast fighter jets, and my cousin went into space.”

Prince Khalid said the way the Kingdom legislates for women is also changing. “Just before I was posted here (in the UK), I went back for two days and I called one of my sisters and said, ‘Let’s go for a coffee. Shall I come and pick you up?’ and she said, ‘No, I’ve got my car.’ It brought a real smile to my face,” he said.

“Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable for her to have a job, let alone drive. We are still a very conservative society but we have a very young population. They want a different world.”

The ambassador, who attended the prestigious Eton College before Oxford University and Sandhurst, said: “I feel very Saudi, but I was brought up in the West.” 

His links to Britain are strong, not only through being educated in the UK but also through his English wife Lucy Cuthbert, a niece of the duke of Northumberland.

Prince Khalid has seen some of the modernization he witnessed in Britain appearing in his homeland, including mobile phones, which he said have made a huge difference to Saudi society.

“We have one of the highest percentages of phones per capita in the world, nearly three phones per person,” he added.

“The young are all over Instagram. In my generation, there wasn’t much entertainment at home so we had to go abroad. Now the young want to go to shops and cinemas, and there has been an explosion of events,” he said.

“There are women-only sections but no enforced separation. I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices.”

He told The Times that his sister said she “discovered there wasn’t a glass ceiling — it was more of a soft tent and she could push it out.”

The ambassador said 34 percent of the Saudi workforce is made up of women, dramatically leaping from 18 percent in 2016.

“We have had our first graduation for women in the army, there are women in government, in the police, we are training female judges, we have an equal opportunities and equal pay law,” he added.

Prince Khalid also detailed the rapid expansion of the Saudi tourism industry, including the giga-projects being planned. 

“In 2019 we launched our tourist visa online. We issued 440,000 visas before the pandemic started, 60,000 to the UK,” he said.

“We are developing resorts with a Red Sea project and NEOM, a new futuristic city. Saudi Arabia is the size of Western Europe. We also have 330 heritage sites.” These giga-projects are part of $7 trillion of investment under the Vision 2030 reform plan.

The Kingdom is expected to participate in the UN Climate Change conference, also known as Cop26, in Glasgow later this month. 

“We decided to move away from fossil fuels in 2016. We don’t want to be an oil provider but an energy provider,” said Prince Khalid. “We have committed to producing 50 percent of our energy by renewable sources by 2030.”


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.