Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia sets example on combating terror financing, says French Senate member Nathalie Goulet

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Updated 27 January 2022

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia sets example on combating terror financing, says French Senate member Nathalie Goulet

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia sets example on combating terror financing, says French 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.

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.”

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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 organisation 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.

What Madame Goulet has said to Arab News about Islamic Relief supporting Hamad and ‘sponsoring terrorism all over Europe’ is completely untrue. It is also untrue that out board was ‘dismissed for anti-Semitism’ and that out organisation ‘works against European standards’ – in fact we are a trusted partner of the European Community Humanitarian Organisation (ECHO) and we elected a new board in 2020 as part of a long-planned change to our governance model. The EU funds Islamic Relief Germany received last year amount to €118,477 and not €700,000 as Mme Goulet claims, while Islamic Relief’s total income was £149 million and not £60 million.

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 organisation. 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 organisation 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.

 


Saudi and British ministers discuss developing cooperation

Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji holds talks with UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly. (SPA)
Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji holds talks with UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly. (SPA)
Updated 46 min 26 sec ago

Saudi and British ministers discuss developing cooperation

Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji holds talks with UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly. (SPA)

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji held talks with British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly, via video conference.
During the meeting, they reviewed aspects of cooperation between the two kingdoms and ways to enhance and develop them in all fields, in addition to discussing regional and international developments and the importance of strengthening joint coordination.
Cleverly also held a phone call with the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, to discuss developments in the Yemeni crisis and the efforts made to establish security and peace in Yemen, and the region in general.
The call comes a day after Cleverly and Al-Jaber met in person on the sidelines of a UK-hosted conference on Yemen, with senior representatives from the UAE, Oman, the US and the UN.

 


137,000 Saudis benefit from tourism sector human capital development initiative

Ministry of Tourism celebrates training 137,000 Saudi men and women as part of the tourism human capital development program during 2021. (Ministry of Tourism)
Ministry of Tourism celebrates training 137,000 Saudi men and women as part of the tourism human capital development program during 2021. (Ministry of Tourism)
Updated 28 January 2022

137,000 Saudis benefit from tourism sector human capital development initiative

Ministry of Tourism celebrates training 137,000 Saudi men and women as part of the tourism human capital development program during 2021. (Ministry of Tourism)
  • The initiative helped 2,614 Saudis to gain professional qualifications and enhance their leadership skills
  • The Ministry of Tourism will launch more quality training and education programs this year

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism hosted an event on Wednesday to celebrate its Your Future is Tourism education and training initiative, as part of its human capital development strategy for the tourism sector.
The participants included leaders from the public and private sectors, along with some of the initiative’s beneficiaries, who shared their stories to help motivate and inspire the young people who will be the future leaders of the sector in the Kingdom.
The initiative, launched by the ministry last year, has so far benefited about 137,000 employees and job seekers, and helped 2,614 Saudis to gain professional qualifications and enhance their leadership skills. About 226,000 people have registered with the digital educational platform since launch.
“We have a strategic goal in the Ministry of Tourism, which is to attract the largest number of Saudi men and women to work in the tourism sector and qualify them in the best possible way,” said Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb.
“Yesterday, we celebrated the success of the Your Future is Tourism initiative in 2021, and about 137,000 Saudis benefited from it, but the future will be much better and more beautiful,” he added in a message posted on Twitter on Thursday.

Mohammed Bushnag, the deputy minister for human capital at the Ministry of Tourism, said that the ministry is working to develop the capabilities of local human capital in the sector, and that investing in future generations contributes to the development of competency and diverse skills within the tourism industry, which is a major provider of jobs worldwide. He also stressed the importance of motivating employees and job seekers to take advantage of the quality training and education programs that the ministry will launch this year.
The Saudi cabinet recently approved plans for establishing a global tourism academy, in cooperation with the World Tourism Organization, that will provide professional academic programs that support those working in the local and international tourism sectors, and develop national competencies to compete globally.


Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties

Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties
Updated 28 January 2022

Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties

Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties

RIYADH: Saudi Heritage Commission CEO Dr. Jasser Al-Harbash on Thursday met Italian Cultural Attache in Saudi Arabia Tommaso Claudi in Riyadh.

Al-Harbash praised the ongoing cultural cooperation between the Kingdom and Italy, and reviewed with Claudi the results of the Italian mission’s archaeological excavations in the Kingdom.

They discussed areas of heritage cooperation and ways to enhance them, and touched on scientific archaeological teams and their pivotal role in archaeological discoveries in the Kingdom. 


How a culture of recycling can reduce waste generation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
Updated 28 January 2022

How a culture of recycling can reduce waste generation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
  • Culture of consumerism in GCC countries has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable
  • “Circular economy” opens up huge opportunities for Saudis to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste they generate

Rawan Radwan JEDDAH: As is the case in many other parts of the world, a combination of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion has not only increased personal consumption across the Middle East but is also generating colossal amounts of waste.

Five Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait — rank in the top 10 worldwide in terms of per capita generation of solid waste.

Thanks to their oil wealth, consumer spending in these countries has grown over recent decades to become a key driver of domestic economies. But as in many advanced countries, a culture of consumerism has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable and extremely harmful to the environment.

Saudi Arabia alone produces about 15 million tons of garbage a year, 95 percent of which ends up as landfill, polluting the soil and releasing greenhouse gases, including methane, into the atmosphere for decades.

What is not buried often ends up as litter on city streets, in the form of discarded polythene bags, fast-food containers, plastic bottles and empty soda cans.

Between the start of 2020 and the first half of 2021, Saudi Arabia recycled only 5 percent of its total waste, including plastic, metal and paper.

To reduce waste generation, protect fragile ecosystems and make the most of reusable materials, Saudi Arabia can rely on the “circular economy” concept, a closed-loop system that involves the 3-R approach: Reduce, reuse and recycle.

The leading agent of change in this effort is the Saudi Investment Recycling Company, which was established in 2017 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund.

FASTFACTS

* Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade.

* Only 12 percent of plastic is incinerated worldwide.

SIRC seeks to divert 85 percent of hazardous industrial waste, 100 percent of solid waste, and 60 percent of construction and demolition waste away from landfills by 2035. The only types of waste not covered by its remit is that created by the military and nuclear energy, both of which are handled by specialist organizations.

The circular economy model opens up huge opportunities, whether in terms of products, energy creation or services, which can make a major contribution to the diversification of the Saudi economy away from oil and its derivatives, in line with the aims of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms strategy.

Saudi Arabia aims to invest almost SR24 billion ($6.4 billion) in the recycling of waste by 2035 as it attempts to switch to a more sustainable waste-management system. It will invest about SR1.3 billion in construction and demolition waste, and about SR900 million in industrial waste. Investments in municipal solid waste will exceed SR20 billion, while investments in other types of waste will amount to more than SR1.6 billion.

There are several ways to create value in a circular economy. One of them is “waste-to-energy,” which involves drying and incinerating garbage, raw sewage and industrial sludge to power steam turbines.

Volunteers in Saudi Arabia removing waste from beaches to stop its flow back to the waters. (Supplied/World Clean Up Day)

Burning waste produces carbon dioxide but leaving it to decompose in landfill sites results in 20 to 40 times the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions, in the form of methane, over a period of many years.

Unsurprisingly, the circular economy approach is catching on. In 2020, when Saudi Arabia held the presidency of the G20, the Kingdom proposed to allies the concept of a circular carbon economy as a means of mitigating the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere.

But a circular economy model cannot succeed without the active involvement of big companies, small-business entrepreneurs and the general public.

Experts say that the construction of recycling facilities in the Kingdom is only part of the solution; it must go hand in hand with efforts to instill in the Saudi population a culture of household recycling and responsible consumption.

“We have to invest in the infrastructure but, equally, we have to provide education and create outreach programs,” Ziyad Al-Shiha, the CEO of SIRC, told Arab News in October. “Once we achieve 25-35 percent recycling, we can say to the public: ‘Look, this is your effort and this is the result that we’re bringing back to you.’”

TIMELINE OF SAUDI ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS

2016: Launch of Saudi Vision 2030.

2017: National Renewable Energy Program announced.

2018: Launch of the National Environment Strategy.

2019: Saudi Arabia joins International Solar Alliance.

2020: Launch of Environmental Fund.

March 27, 2021: Launch of Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative.

Sept. 16, 2021: Farasan Islands added to UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia announces goal of Net Zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2060.

Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia joins Global Methane Pledge.

Progress has already been made in fostering environmentally conscious behavior at the community level. Saudi highways are better maintained now than before. Even in cities, drains are no longer clogged with cigarette butts, tissue paper, paper cups and discarded food packaging.

In part, such improvements are as a result of the introduction of penalties; the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing can now impose fines of $133 on anyone caught littering or spitting in a public place.

But concern about the environment and public interest in recycling and reducing household waste have also increased markedly, thanks to campaigns conducted by civil society groups.

One such group, Mawakeb Alajer, has worked for 17 years to encourage community-level recycling in Jeddah by providing sorting facilities where the public can drop off a wide range of recyclables, from scrap paper and waste plastic to unwanted furniture and even old wedding dresses.

“As a second-hand shop, we encourage people to give away what they don’t need to charity, which helps protect the environment by reducing waste,” Sara Alfadl, a spokesperson for Mawakeb Alajer, told Arab News.

“We believe that everyone plays a part in the community and we’re providing a service everyone can benefit from. We sort out everything we receive. This takes a lot of time, requires a lot of manpower and is hard. Thankfully, most of the items we receive, whether clothes or recyclable waste, are in good condition.”

In cooperation with local businesses, truckloads of recyclable materials are brought to Mawakeb Alajer’s facility where they are sorted and then sold, donated, or sent to be reused, recycled or repurposed. In the process, the group is helping to gradually change public attitudes.

“Awareness is still in its infancy but spreading nonetheless,” Alfadl said.

Schools have begun to play an important part in shaping attitudes among the next generation, by adopting “environmental literacy” projects that give pupils the chance to learn by participating in school-based recycling schemes and science projects.

Saudi mayor honors British expat, Neil Walker, for 27 years of beach cleaning and who inspired creative environmental initiatives in Alkhobar. (Supplied)

For their part, many Saudi businesses are adjusting to the circular economy model, in line with the Kingdom’s pursuit of sustainable-development goals.

Mona Alothman, the co-founder of Naqaa, a local provider of business-to-business environmental-sustainability solutions, said that many companies are now integrating recycling and waste reduction into their business models.

“It’s not just a phase,” she told Arab News. “Many Saudi companies are adopting ingenious ways to reduce, reuse and recycle their office supplies and better manage their waste, among other things.

“A lot has changed in recent years. Regulations have become stricter in order to adhere to international standards. Our company’s core ethos revolves around sustainability, and recycling is one part of the picture.

“Companies today are not only applying our recommended solutions to office waste but also initiating campaigns to promote and encourage people to be more conscious of how they throw away their trash.”

This multi-pronged approach, encompassing education, charity schemes, stricter rules and penalties, is encouraging the Kingdom’s business establishments to adopt eco-friendly practices and communities to think more about the effects of lifestyle on the environment.

Alfadl and her colleagues at Mawakeb Alajer believe there is a lot that Saudis can do to encourage their employers, neighbors and local authorities to implement more environmentally responsible practices in homes and workplaces.

“I believe that recycling will pick up fast here in Saudi Arabia,” Alfadl said. “With growing awareness, what was once a project or short-term initiative has become a necessity.

“Our approach was always bottom-up. When employees join the sustainability drive with their actions, it won’t be long before others do the same and create a community of people who follow the same approach.”


Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen
Updated 27 January 2022

Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen

RIYADH: The Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance in Yemen dismantled 3,640 Houthi mines in the third week of January.

This figure includes 2,994 anti-tank mines, 505 unexploded ordinances and 141 other explosive devices.

The project is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia to help ease the suffering of the Yemeni people.

The demining took place in Marib, Aden, Jouf, Shabwa, Taiz, Hodeidah, Lahij, Sanaa, Al-Bayda, Al-Dhale and Saada.

A total of 311,658 mines have been cleared since the start of the project.