A Saudi-led initiative aids the study of climate change’s potential impact on food security

An Ethiopian pastoralist tends to his herd. (Supplied/ILRI)
An Ethiopian pastoralist tends to his herd. (Supplied/ILRI)
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Updated 31 October 2021

A Saudi-led initiative aids the study of climate change’s potential impact on food security

An Ethiopian pastoralist tends to his herd. (Supplied/ILRI)
  • As world leaders gather in Glasgow for COP26, data and technology are being used to prepare for climate shocks 
  • In September Community Jameel announced the creation of the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action

DUBAI: A Saudi-based organization has partnered with leading researchers and humanitarian agencies to harness the power of data and technology in the hope of preventing climate shocks from causing hunger among vulnerable livestock-farming communities.

Community Jameel announced in September the creation of the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action to help tackle the growing threat to such communities from increasingly severe and frequent climate-related disasters.

Its launch coincided with preparations for COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, which begins in Glasgow on Sunday. World leaders will gather in the Scottish city to discuss collective action on carbon emissions, fossil fuels and other efforts to prevent global temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a target set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The new venture combines the expertise of five partners, including the University of Edinburgh, the International Livestock Research Institute, Save the Children, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and Community Jameel.

Rising temperatures mean droughts are becoming more frequent, depriving livestock of reliable water sources and turning once lush pasture into desert. By recording changes at a local level, the observatory aims to help communities adapt and adjust before disaster strikes.

“Community Jameel has for a long time been focused on the question of food security and, particularly, how climate change puts pressure on access to safe and plentiful food,” George Richards, Community Jameel’s director, told Arab News. “But we gradually saw an increase in need and pressure on access to food, as a result of increasing pressures from climate change.”

Community Jameel, an international non-governmental organization, was launched to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues using an approach grounded in evidence, science, data and technology. In 2014, it established an institution at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab, that focuses on developing new technologies and solutions for clean water and food security.

“We went back to our roots and thought about how we can support researchers and scientists who are using data and science effectively to monitor, forecast and give early warnings about outbreaks of hunger, famine and other drivers of malnutrition, particularly where those are the result of climate change,” Richards said.




Ethiopian pastoralists tends their herd. (Supplied/ILRI)

The observatory partnership combines cutting-edge technology and data surveillance to detect the early-warning signs of severe weather events and systemic climate change with community-driven applications and interventions.

The Jameel Observatory is collaborating with agencies that work with farmers to develop and apply digital and analytical tools that can help farmers shape their own food security, nutrition and livelihoods.

Researchers plan to use community-level data along with satellites, drones, weather data and remote sensing to understand, prepare for and mitigate the likely effects of climate shocks.

The observatory’s first project aims to fill the evidence gaps that currently prevent effective forecast-based action to protect livelihoods and nutrition in parts of East Africa.

As climate change takes center stage at COP26, a sharp focus has been placed on the need to be fully prepared for the vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses triggered by the changing climate.

With drylands accounting for about 40 percent of the world’s land mass, many communities are at risk from fluctuating rainfall, drought, rising temperatures and land degradation.

“In a world increasingly impacted by climate change, forecasting the impact of droughts and severe weather on hunger and malnutrition, and acting early to stop lives from being lost, is of urgent importance,” Joanne Grace, head of hunger and livelihoods at humanitarian organization Save the Children, told Arab News.

“Getting it right would be monumental for the health of children for decades to come. The Jameel Observatory aims to help ensure that acting early to prevent food crises becomes the norm rather than the exception.”

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, dryland ecosystems are home to about 25 percent of the global population, contain half of the world’s livestock and 27 percent of its forests, while storing 30 percent of soil organic carbon and supplying about 60 percent of food production.

However, climate change is resulting in longer periods of drought and accelerated desertification in drylands. This is affecting biodiversity and vegetation cover, which in turn reduces soil fertility and undermines food, nutrition and human security.

“Climate change can therefore push already fragile ecosystems and local communities beyond coping capacity, resulting in forced displacement, increased migration, and tensions related to natural resource access and use,” the FAO said in a paper launched at the UN Food Systems Summit in New York in September.




A farmers havests leafy vegetables in a field on the mountain range of Jabel Jais, in Ras Al Khaimah, on January 24, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)

The Jameel Observatory examines the relationship between climate change and health to try to mitigate the threat from rising temperatures as a driver of hunger and famine. The organization has partnered with Aeon, a Riyadh-based think tank, to coordinate and convene researchers in Saudi Arabia and internationally to examine this relationship.

“There is a lot of external research about the risks that accelerating climate change will impose, particularly in places that have climates which are naturally hot and humid, including the Gulf,” Richards said.

“What they call the rise of the ‘wet-bulb temperature,’ which is the combined measure of heat and humidity, could make parts of the Gulf uninhabitable in a few years. But there is very little research that is actually done by or with researchers in Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”

That is why the initiative has also brought together researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, MIT, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, the Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab, and Imperial College in London to untangle the relationship between health and climate change in the GCC area. Their findings are expected in April 2022.

In parallel, Community Jameel will be co-hosting an event in the Saudi Pavilion at COP26 in partnership with Aeon, at which researchers will present some of their interim findings. Along with the Jameel Observatory, it will also welcome representatives of organizations from Nairobi, the UK and the US, in collaboration with Cooking Sections, an arts duo based in London who were nominated for the 2021 Turner Prize.

“Their arts practice is focused on the question of food and sustainability,” Richards said. “So Community Jameel, Cooking Sections and Michelin Star chefs are coming together to co-curate a culinary gastronomic experience to emphasize the importance of sustainable food systems, which is at the core of what the Jameel Observatory is trying to do in terms of leveraging data to make food systems more efficient and mitigate the risks of outbreaks of famine and hunger.”




Rising temperatures mean droughts are becoming more frequent, depriving livestock of reliable water sources and turning once lush pasture into desert. (AFP/File Photo)

Richards also highlighted the opening season of Hayy Jameel, Art Jameel’s new hub in Jeddah that is due to open on Dec. 6, which will have a strong focus on questions relating to food.

“There is something so fundamental to the way that human society tends to construct itself around food, that even the most basic act of community is centered around breaking bread or the joint meal together,” he said.

“And, as we face greater challenges, whether it’s from the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change, there is an ever-greater need for humanity to lock hands and work together to tackle those challenges.

“For us, it’s really in our name. We are all about community and we feel that food is at the heart of that community. So making sure that people everywhere have access to safe and plentiful food is really at our core.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Saudi sports minister follows up on preparations of Kingdom’s F1 race

Saudi sports minister follows up on preparations of Kingdom’s F1 race
Updated 03 December 2021

Saudi sports minister follows up on preparations of Kingdom’s F1 race

Saudi sports minister follows up on preparations of Kingdom’s F1 race
  • The minister said that the Kingdom is proud of the work made by the hands of Saudi citizens, as well as Saudi companies

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal was briefed on the latest developments of the Formula One Grand Prix which will be hosted by Jeddah Corniche from Dec. 3 to 5, state news agency SPA reported.
“We have the privilege of hosting this huge sporting event, which represents a dream for all motorsport lovers, and this event would not have been witnessed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia without the grace of Allah Almighty and then the support and follow-up of the Crown Prince. We promise everyone better hosting to achieve the goals of the Kingdom's Vision 2030,” he said.
The minister added that the Kingdom is proud of the work made by the hands of Saudi citizens, as well as Saudi companies.
On Sunday, Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, advisor to King Salman, was briefed on the latest preparations for the Saudi Formula One race.
Al-Faisal listened to an explanation by Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal about the 27-turn, 6,175-meter-long circuit, the second-longest track in F1 history. 
Prince Khalid, who is the president of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, confirmed the completion of the preparations for hosting the F1 race.


Frankly Speaking: France has a lot to learn from Saudi Arabia on combating terror financing, says Senate member Nathalie Goulet

Frankly Speaking: France has a lot to learn from Saudi Arabia on combating terror financing, says Senate member Nathalie Goulet
Updated 03 December 2021

Frankly Speaking: France has a lot to learn from Saudi Arabia on combating terror financing, says Senate member Nathalie Goulet

Frankly Speaking: France has a lot to learn from Saudi Arabia on combating terror financing, says Senate member Nathalie Goulet
  • Leading French politician and foreign affairs expert makes the comments as President Macron embarks on Saudi visit
  • Gulet gives her views on “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video interviews with regional and international policymakers

DUBAI: France and the rest of Europe can learn from Saudi Arabia’s approach to combating the financing of terrorism, a leading French politician and foreign affairs expert has told Arab News.

Nathalie Goulet, a member of the Senate of France and the country’s commission on foreign affairs and defense, said: “Saudi Arabia has its own place on the subject of fighting financing of terrorism, and they do it very seriously. It is matching international standards on the subject.”

Goulet, who recently returned from a visit to the Kingdom for meetings with senior policymakers about the campaign to halt terrorism finance, highlighted Saudi initiatives with Etidal, the center for combating extremist ideology, as well as actions by the Saudi Central Bank, and financial intelligence services.

“In Europe and especially in France there has sometimes been a kind of bad habit to link Saudi Arabia with the financing of terrorism and we have to break this image and what is now purely fake news,” she added.

Nathalie Goulet noted that the Muslim Brotherhood was still playing a significant role in terrorism funding in Europe.

Goulet, speaking just before a visit to the Kingdom by French President Emmanuel Macron, gave her views on “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video interviews with prominent regional and international policymakers and businesspeople.

In a wide-ranging interview, she also spoke of the rising threat from the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in terrorism finance, the volatile relationship between France and Algeria, and the reforms in Saudi Arabia under the Vision 2030 strategy.

On terror funding, she contrasted the practice among the Muslim community in France, where zakat donations are made in cash and therefore harder to control, with the situation in the Kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia put in place a system to prevent any collection of zakat by cash. Everything is by banking transfer to a special NGO and that is very useful, very clever, and also very, very safe.

“On collecting zakat, Saudi Arabia can be an example for us because we are absolutely unable to track the money and, at the same time of course, most of the zakat is giving (money) for good purposes. But sometimes it’s not and we try to ban cash as much as possible. Saudi Arabia is giving us an excellent example,” she said.

Frank Kane hosts Frankly Speaking: Watch more episodes.

She noted that the Muslim Brotherhood was still playing a significant role in terrorism funding in Europe and pointed out the organization’s influence in the Islamic community and within humanitarian organizations.

“First of all, they have a lot of humanitarian actions but then they use the same money to sponsor terrorism all over Europe. We have to ban those people, definitely. Austria already banned the Muslim Brotherhood from Austria; Germany is on the way. France – not yet – but I am pushing them a lot,” she added.

Goulet hit out specifically at the role of the Islamic Relief organization, which she alleged had been aiding terrorism finance, supported the terror-designated Hamas organization in Palestine, and claimed its executives had been responsible for spreading anti-Semitic messages on social media.

“So, what we have to do is track the money and then try to ban any financing for those people. We have to check and have strong investigations into how they collect money and what they are doing with this money, and we have to stop any terror financing absolutely,” she said.

Statement by Islamic Relief Worldwide

Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) categorically denies funding terrorism and also denies any support for Hamas. As a registered charity regulated by the Charity Commission of England and Wales, IRW is independently audited on behalf of governments, UN bodies, and other significant institutional donors several times a year. Between 2009 and 2019, the organization underwent over 500 internal and external audits which found no evidence of using funds for anything other than saving lives and contributing to the global humanitarian agenda in line with the important humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

We have stringent checks in place to ensure that money only goes to where it is needed – helping the most vulnerable. We routinely screen all trustees, senior management, staff, volunteers, partners, and contractors to ensure they have no links to proscribed groups or entities of any kind.

IRW rejects and condemns terrorism and believes that all forms of discrimination – including anti-Semitism – are unacceptable. Regrettably, there have been historic cases of individuals falling short of our values, but these have been dealt with firmly and swiftly, and the individuals involved are no longer with the organization. Following these past incidents, the Charity Commission of England and Wales conducted a fact-finding review last year which concluded that we had responded thoroughly and appropriately. In addition, an independent review was conducted by the former UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC, which found that the organization was not institutionally anti-Semitic.


You can find a link to the Independent Commission report here.

You can find the Charity Commission’s statement on the completion of its fact-finding review here.

The Kingdom’s resolve in tackling the funding of terrorism was an example of the positive changes taking place in the country under the Vision 2030 reform plan, which was having a profound effect on life in Saudi Arabia.

“When you see the difference on the streets, the way that the youth is happy in the country, and when you see the development, it is clear that something has happened. And it’s the Vision 2030 of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman which has brought it about and will bring such a lot of hope in the country,” Goulet added.

On French foreign policy toward Muslim countries, she thought that the issue was complicated by France’s colonial history. “It’s always very emotional,” she said.

With regard to Algeria, France’s former colony, relations with which have been strained owing to comments made by Macron, and some visa issues, Goulet expected the situation to improve, adding that “links with Algeria are very strong.”

On Lebanon, a country Macron has visited several times in attempts to help it through its intensifying crisis, she said the Lebanese people should look to a new political generation to repatriate the proceeds of corruption held in overseas havens, rather than seeking financial bailouts from countries such as France.

However, she spoke out against French policy in Lebanon with regard to Hezbollah. “The government for the last 15 years has been treating Hezbollah in a very strange way – like there is a political Hezbollah and a military Hezbollah, and we have to ban the military Hezbollah to discuss with the political Hezbollah.

“But the reality is that there is just one Hezbollah. Just as there is one Hamas, there is one Hezbollah, there is not one military and one political. It’s the same terrorist group,” she said.
Goulet was also critical of attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims within France. A recent Arab News survey with YouGov showed that 64 percent of French people had a negative impression of the minority groups.

“I think it’s a fact unfortunately and it’s because of the major political leaders surfing on the wave of populism right now. It’s something which will help them collect votes,” she added, referring to the presidential elections in France next year.

“We also have the yellow vests (movement) and street agitation, along with conspiracy theories, and everything is boiling in the same pan to produce something that smells very bad.”

Goulet, who is a member of the Centrist Union political grouping in the French Senate, was disparaging of the presidential prospects of Eric Zemmour, the rightwing populist who recently gained ground in opinion polls.

She said: “I think these things will collapse soon. It was just like a small fire. His campaign will collapse. That is not France, I mean that cannot be France. I mean this guy is a pure populist. He has no team and I hope he will run out of money soon and then will disappear in the trash because he doesn’t deserve anything else but trash.”

The politician expressed hope that relations between France and Britain – under increasing strain since Brexit and the arrival of the government of Boris Johnson – could improve but noted that the “misunderstandings” in Anglo-French affairs went all the way back to French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte.

With regard to the latest flashpoint – the migration of refugees across the English Channel – Goulet said the situation was “unbearable,” but pointed out that higher levels of social benefits were available to refugees in the UK compared to France and other EU countries.

“I know for sure that Britain attracts emigrants because it’s easier for them to live there and have some subsidies and help. So, maybe one of the keys is for Britain to be more restrictive regarding migrants so it doesn’t look so attractive – maybe.”


Cybersecurity conference a hit with young Saudi programmers

Cybersecurity conference a hit with young Saudi programmers
Updated 03 December 2021

Cybersecurity conference a hit with young Saudi programmers

Cybersecurity conference a hit with young Saudi programmers
  • Children from across the country met to exchange ideas and experiences and to enter competitions

RIYADH: The three-day @hack conference, a cybersecurity event held in Riyadh, attracted adults and children alike. Kids from across the country met to exchange ideas and experiences and to enter competitions.

Faisal Al-Qahtani, an 11-year-old who enjoys coding games, told Arab News: “I started programming when I was nine. I watched some tutorials online to improve my coding skills, and now I use software like Unity, Visual Studio, Blender, Audacity, and many other programs.

“I think this conference should not be limited to cybersecurity. I met new people, and I learned more about programming,” Al-Qahttani said.

Another 11-year-old, Abdulaziz Al-Odan, said he came to @hack to learn more about programming and to meet like-minded enthusiasts. “I heard that there are a lot of competitions here, like Catch the Flag and Bug Bounty,” he said. “But I was lacking a team, so I came here to meet people and now I have completed my team.”

Al-Odan first discovered his talent for coding through Satr — a free Arabic platform for learning programming languages. “I created an account on the platform and learned about Java scripts, and now I have my own scripts,” Al-Odan said.

Ayedh Al-Qahttani, 14, told Arab News that he became interested in hacking when his Sony account was hacked a year ago, which caused him huge problems.

“The hacker who took (control of) my Sony account used social-engineering techniques. I went straight to YouTube to learn about hacking, and I believe that researching is important to develop skills,” he said.

He praised the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones for creating the @hack event. “They gave us this beautiful opportunity to attend such a conference. I learned from many people, and I got to meet my team. I hope we see @hack next year,” he added.


OIC chief, Russian envoy discuss ways to strengthen ties

OIC chief, Russian envoy discuss ways to strengthen ties
Updated 03 December 2021

OIC chief, Russian envoy discuss ways to strengthen ties

OIC chief, Russian envoy discuss ways to strengthen ties

JEDDAH: The secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Hissein Brahim Taha, received the permanent representative of Russia to the OIC, Ramazan Abdulatipov, in Jeddah on Thursday.

Both parties valued the ties that connect the Islamic world and Russia and explored more ways to strengthen fruitful dialogue and cooperation between the organization and the Russian Federation in various fields.

Earlier, Taha met a number of foreign envoys to Saudi Arabia. They congratulated the new OIC chief on taking office last month and discussed their countries’ relations with the organization. 


Saudi authority holds workshops to combat corruption

Saudi authority holds workshops to combat corruption
Updated 03 December 2021

Saudi authority holds workshops to combat corruption

Saudi authority holds workshops to combat corruption

RIYADH: The Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority, in cooperation with various government agencies, organized several workshops and awareness programs between Nov. 28 and Dec. 2, with the participation of a number of specialists.

Workshops were held in the ministries of defense, interior, and foreign affairs, in addition to the Saudi Electronic University.

This series of workshops, awareness programs and initiatives, in cooperation with the General Bureau for Auditing, seek to protect integrity, combat corruption and enhance the principle of transparency in work environments.