Saudi National Parks Program will benefit environment, communities and tourism, organizers say

The planting of more wild trees will be carried out by staff from the center, along with workers from environmental associations and organizations. The program will be implemented in phases. (Supplied)
The planting of more wild trees will be carried out by staff from the center, along with workers from environmental associations and organizations. The program will be implemented in phases. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 January 2022

Saudi National Parks Program will benefit environment, communities and tourism, organizers say

The planting of more wild trees will be carried out by staff from the center, along with workers from environmental associations and organizations. The program will be implemented in phases. (Supplied)
  • The program, launched this month, includes plans to establish 100 national parks within five years and showcase the Kingdom’s natural splendor and treasures

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia’s recently launched National Parks Program will benefit the environment and local communities, and provide a boost to sustainable tourism and by attracting local and foreign visitors, according to the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification.

The program, unveiled by the center this month, includes plans to establish and enhance 100 national parks within five years and showcase the Kingdom’s natural splendor and treasures. It also includes the planting of 50 million trees as part of the Saudi Green Initiative.
Abdul Rahman Al-Dakhil, a spokesman for the center, said that the program will help to achieve the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification project and the Saudi Green Initiative.
He added that the center will promote and develop the parks program by supporting afforestation efforts and sustainable ecotourism initiatives, while helping to protect the environment in partnership with governmental organizations.
“The program will be implemented in phases, whereby the first phase will target 100 national parks and turn them into sustainable landmarks, followed by other phases and goals,” Al-Dakhil told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The program, unveiled by the center this month, includes plans to establish and enhance 100 national parks within five years and showcase the Kingdom’s natural splendor and treasures. It also includes the planting of 50 million trees as part of the Saudi Green Initiative.

• Some areas of land allocated for the development of national parks have special historical, cultural, geological or archaeological significance. The project includes some of the most important sites in the Kingdom, including the Edge of the World, which is located northwest of Riyadh and was formed about 180 million years ago, and the ancient Muawiyah Dam, also known as Saysad Dam.

“Achieving tourism and environmental balance is one of the most important criteria while developing any park.”
The planting of more wild trees will be be carried out by staff from the center, along with workers from environmental associations and organizations.
Some areas of land allocated for the development of national parks have special historical, cultural, geological or archaeological significance. The project includes some of the most important sites in the Kingdom, including the Edge of the World, which is located northwest of Riyadh and was formed about 180 million years ago, and the ancient Muawiyah Dam, also known as Saysad Dam.
Abdulrahman Alsoqeer, chairman of the Environmental Green Horizons Society, said that the Kingdom is experiencing an environmental renaissance, focused on preserving vegetation and expanding afforestation efforts, that is attracting global attention. The National Parks Program is part of this green renaissance, he added.
“Allocating lands for national parks is an important primary step in protecting the vast areas of government lands that are scattered and untapped, and converting them into vast vegetation reserves,” Alsoqeer told Arab News.
He said that there are a number of benefits to establishing and maintaining national parks, including the restoration of vegetation cover that has deteriorated drastically in the recent decades. It can also improve the quality of life by reducing the intensity of dust storms, improving the climate, and enhancing the visual landscape with the addition of more greenery.
In addition, a number of products can be derived from the plants cultivated in the parks, including honey provided by bees that will thrive among the wild plants.
Local communities in the vicinity of the parks will also benefit from increased employment and investment opportunities, enhanced biodiversity, the protection of endangered plant and animal species, and the enhancement of ecotourism and recreation options.


Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud receives honorary doctorate from Marymount University

Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud received an honorary doctorate from Marymount University in Virginia last Friday. (Supplied)
Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud received an honorary doctorate from Marymount University in Virginia last Friday. (Supplied)
Updated 19 sec ago

Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud receives honorary doctorate from Marymount University

Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud received an honorary doctorate from Marymount University in Virginia last Friday. (Supplied)
  • She has a career working toward the empowerment of women

RIYADH: Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, received an honorary doctorate from Marymount University in Virginia last Friday in honor of her work empowering women across sectors in the Kingdom and globally.

The president of Marymount University, Dr. Irma Becerra, presented Princess Reema with the honorary degree — her first — at the commencement ceremony.

The Saudi ambassador gave the commencement address for the College of Health and Education graduates at the university.

In her address, she congratulated the graduates and thanked the university for hosting Saudi students throughout the years.

Princess Reema, who graduated from George Washington University with a degree in museum studies, has an extensive career working towards the empowerment of women in both the private and public sectors.

From 2007 to 2015, she was CEO of Alfa International Co. Ltd. — Harvey Nichols Riyadh, a multi-brand luxury retail company. During her time in this position, she commissioned the study “Obstacles for Women in the Workplace.” The study set the tone for female inclusion in retail and resulted in the opening of the first workplace nursery.

In 2013, she founded Alf Khair, a social enterprise aimed at elevating the professional capital of Saudi women through a curriculum developed to enable financial self-sufficiency.

In 2016, Princess Reema left the private sector to begin a career in public service as vice president of women’s affairs at the Saudi General Sports Authority, where she developed policies and programs that benefited women and children throughout Saudi Arabia.

In 2018, she was also appointed president of the Mass Participation Federation, making her the first woman to lead a multi-sports federation in the Kingdom, a role she occupied until her appointment as Saudi ambassador to the US.


Lights, cameras, action… and more besides, at the Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Expo

Lights, cameras, action… and more besides, at the Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Expo
Updated 39 min 37 sec ago

Lights, cameras, action… and more besides, at the Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Expo

Lights, cameras, action… and more besides, at the Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Expo
  • Developers and manufacturers in the entertainment sector are showcasing innovative, cutting-edge products and services during the event in Riyadh
  • It is taking place alongside the Saudi Light and Sound Expo, the first dedicated event in the Kingdom for professional lighting and audio equipment

RIYADH: The Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Expo and Summit began in Riyadh on Monday, alongside the Saudi Light and Sound Expo, the first dedicated event in the Kingdom for professional lighting and audio equipment.

The three-day dual event at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center showcases thousands of cutting-edge products and solutions for the entertainment sector, and offers professionals in the leisure and entertainment sector the chance to discover new products, learn about the most exciting innovations in the sector, network and do business with vendors.

The international exhibitors are presenting a wide range of products and services, including thrill rides, playground equipment, arcade machines, food and beverage equipment, professional lighting rigs, sound systems, event technology, security tools, and marketing solutions.

Attendees can experience a variety of fun events and activities while engaging with local, regional and global entertainment communities at the Amusement Services International pavilion during the expo, where the line-up includes virtual reality experiences, the latest video and arcade games, and carnival attractions, to name but a few.

Among the technology on show is the 3Motion simulator, which uses hydraulic actuators with precise control to deliver the same dynamic feedback you would get when driving a real racing car. Meanwhile SODIKART, a leader in the karting industry, presents its latest products and services, including a kart simulator.

Matt Wells, the CEO of Frontgrid, which owns ParadropVR, a virtual reality flying experience, told Arab News: “I am very happy to be here having a great time at the SEA summit and looking forward to working with the people here.”

In March, Frontgrid announced an exclusive distribution partnership with ASI to support the continued growth and success of ParadropVR. ASI is now Frontgrid’s distributor across the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, and in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.

Marloes Knippenberg, the CEO of lifestyle operator Kerten Hospitality is appearing as a panelist at the summit.

“The world has really changed; consumer behavior has changed a lot,” he told Arab News. “More than 60 percent of the Saudi population is under 35 and the expectations from them as consumers has really changed.

“When you look at this conference, at the perfect timing, I think never was there so much conversation like today, with a lot more opportunity for the hospitality sector in the entertainment segment. There are a lot more expectations and I am looking forward to it.”

The SEA and SLS expos were expected to attract more than 10,000 visitors. In addition to the exhibitors showcasing business opportunities, entertainment options, innovations, and technology, there are also sessions to discuss trends and future visions within the industry, and networking events.

The inaugural SLS Expo, meanwhile, offers businesses and developers the chance to show off their products and services through specially staged laser, light and sound shows.

RS Research and Strategy will share insights from its Voice of The Market research, conducted on behalf of the expo, to offer a deeper understanding of the factors that can help generate opportunities, or create challenges, for those considering entering the light and sound or entertainment markets.

Saudi Arabia has embarked in recent years on a rapid transformation that is not only economic in nature but also cultural, by identifying travel, tourism and entertainment as priority sectors as part of the nation’s Vision 2030 economic diversification initiative.

The General Entertainment Authority was founded in 2016 to organize, develop and lead the entertainment sector in the country, triggering a transformation and the introduction of a wide range of exciting entertainment options. Since then, the sector has grown exponentially in the Kingdom, helping to improve the quality of life of residents and contributing to economic development by creating investment opportunities and thousands of jobs.

The SEA expo, which was launched four years ago, is the only trade show in the country dedicated to the flourishing leisure and entertainment sectors.

“Saudi Arabia is leading the way in encouraging collaboration and action by thinking big,” said Sarkis Kahwajian, SEA Expo’s event director. “This will lead to a strong and sustainable future for the entertainment and amusement industry.

“Saudi Arabia is developing its tourism destinations, which represent great opportunities, especially since the Kingdom’s wealth of spectacular landscapes and cultural heritage is still unknown to the international traveler.”

Yael Coifman, a senior partner at Leisure Development Partners and the president of the Europe and Middle East division of the Themed Entertainment Association, said: “The goals proposed as part of the entertainment strategy for KSA are inspiring and visionary.

“We think there is real potential in this market and although some of the members are already involved in the planning, there are opportunities for many others to influence and help shape the future of the entertainment industry in the Middle East, bringing global knowledge to the region.”

One example of the ways in which the entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia is evolving was the decision by the government in 2018 to end a 30-year ban on cinemas. By the end of 2021, 45 movie theaters had opened in the country and screened more than 1,000 films. In addition, the Red Sea International Film Festival was launched in 2019 and the inaugural event took place in December last year.

It is expected that by 2030 there will be 350 cinemas and 2,500 movie screens in Saudi Arabia, and the industry will be worth about $1 billion.

The development and expansion of the entertainment sector in the Kingdom has spawned an ambitious construction pipeline of movie theaters, theme parks and sports-related infrastructure, along with the hosting of live mega events.

In addition, the great success of Saudi Seasons — an annual series of festivals across the country featuring concerts, motor racing, pop-up restaurants, auto shows and other forms of entertainment — have shown the huge demand in the sector.

The GEA has pledged to invest up to $64 billion by 2028 to develop the Kingdom’s domestic entertainment sector.

In terms of tourism, Saudi authorities plan to welcome more than 100 million visitors each year by 2030, and to this end have implemented numerous related initiatives, including an electronic visa system for citizens of 49 countries.


Saudi ministry creates ‘skill development’ strategy to enhance Saudization

Abdullah Abuthnain speaking at the opening session of the conference. (HRDF)
Abdullah Abuthnain speaking at the opening session of the conference. (HRDF)
Updated 56 min 53 sec ago

Saudi ministry creates ‘skill development’ strategy to enhance Saudization

Abdullah Abuthnain speaking at the opening session of the conference. (HRDF)
  • The ministry has established a “forecasting of supply and demand” unit within the human capacity development program, which will provide researchers with data, information and insights into labor market trends

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development is focusing on a skills strategy to improve professional standards for workers and those entering the labor market, according to Abdullah Abuthnain, the vice minister.

Abuthnain said that the strategy will benefit more than 200 professions, with skills councils establishing employment standards, as well as on-the-job training programs, in important economic sectors.

The vice minister made his comments during the inaugural Scientific Conference for Labor Market Research, Studies and Indicators, organized by the National Labor Observatory, an affiliate of the Human Resources Development Fund, in collaboration with Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University.

Academics and professionals gathered in Riyadh on Tuesday for the First Scientific Conference for Labor Market Research, Studies, and Indicators organized by Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University.  (Supplied/HRDF)

During the opening session of the two-day conference in Riyadh on Tuesday, Abuthnain said that Saudi Arabia’s labor market is presently in “a phase of big reforms,” including eight strategic labor market themes and 25 development initiatives.

The ministry has established a “forecasting of supply and demand” unit within the human capacity development program, which will provide researchers with data, information and insights into labor market trends.

The unit identifies opportunities and challenges facing the labor market by issuing specialized reports showing future trends, he said, adding that the unit will primarily assist educational institutions in designing educational and training programs.

Abuthnain expressed optimism about the Kingdom’s labor market, which has seen “positive developments in its indicators and gains,” noting that more than 2 million Saudis now work in the private sector, “the highest figure historically speaking.”

Mohammad Aalmughaiseb, Director of Research and Studies Department at the National Labor Observatory (NLO), Dr. Abdullah Abuthnain, Vice Minister of Human Resources and Social Development for Labor, Dr. Ahmed Al-Ameri, President of Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University, Dr. Lilac Al-Safadi, President of Saudi Electronic University and Dr. Enas Al-Issa, Director of Noura University. (Supplied/ HRDF)

Economic participation has reached 51 percent, while economic participation of Saudi women has also reached 35 percent, “the highest figure historically.”

Turki Al-Jawini, director-general of HRDF, said that the fund had redesigned support programs with a focus on the impact assessment and analysis of big data; their relevance to the needs of beneficiaries; the possibility of measuring their reach, impact and efficiency; and the application of a governance model that enables the fund to adjust the design of the program to suit changing market needs.

“We at HRDF will work to develop and implement labor market policies by creating a sustainable national workforce, developing human cadres’ skills, providing them with knowledge and qualifications, and aligning them with labor market and job needs,” he said.

“We will use a strategy that prioritizes the beneficiary in the design and delivery of works and services and modernizes the human resources system by utilizing visions and sketching future labor market directions.”

Al-Jawini said that the HRDF strategy focused on three main objectives: Reducing the gap between education outcomes and labor market needs, increasing the efficiency of matching supply and demand, and enabling sustainable employment for groups facing labor market challenges.

Among the most significant problems for graduates is understanding labor market needs, linking labor market requirements with their skills, having the necessary experience, and possessing the most in-demand soft skills.

Direct coaching and mentoring for leaders comes within the framework of programs that support and empower women in the labor market, he said.

About 1,000 female leaders benefited from the programs, which helped find jobs for more than 65,000 women in private sector companies. Around 3,500 Saudi mothers benefited from Qurrah, a program that supports child care.

Al-Jawini said that about 51,000 Saudi women employees benefited from Wusool, a program that supports transport for female workers. About 7,000 job-seekers were employed in 2021, thanks to the Tamheer program, which offers female workers on-the-job training.

Mishaal Aledwani, professor of administration and educational planning at Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University, said that Saudi universities are undergoing substantial change as a result of external developments, as well as advances in technology and knowledge development.

The Saudi labor market needs skilled graduates who can work efficiently. Saudi universities face challenges maintaining their status and excellence, both locally and internationally, through the use of innovative learning methods and the provision of training programs for students, Aledwani said.

According to the former dean of the faculty of social sciences, Saudi universities’ performance in adapting graduates to the needs of the labor market is “average.”

Aledwani said that his research had revealed that one of the most significant challenges facing universities is inadequate training and qualification of students before they enter the labor market.

This includes poor coordination between universities and employers to determine the skills graduates need.

Zaid Al-Khumishi, educational supervisor at the Saudi Ministry of Education, discussed the application of artificial intelligence in human resource professional development to suit the needs of the Saudi labor market.

Al-Khumishi has worked in the education industry for almost two decades, recruiting specialists in electronic technology to build training programs employing artificial intelligence.

He suggested designing artificial intelligence-based training programs that meet the needs of the Saudi labor market and workers “by conducting a comprehensive survey of those needs and setting priorities for them to build training programs that meet those needs.”


KSrelief chief meets with CEPI CEO in Riyadh to discuss epidemic, pandemic preparedness

KSrelief chief meets with CEPI CEO in Riyadh to discuss epidemic, pandemic preparedness
Updated 17 May 2022

KSrelief chief meets with CEPI CEO in Riyadh to discuss epidemic, pandemic preparedness

KSrelief chief meets with CEPI CEO in Riyadh to discuss epidemic, pandemic preparedness
  • Dr. Hatchett praised the support offered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by KSrelief, to help CEPI develop COVID-19 vaccines

RIYADH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) chief Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah met with CEO of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) Dr. Richard Hatchett in Riyadh on Tuesday.

During the meeting, both sides discussed means to enhance cooperation related to providing suitable vaccines to combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic along with other contagious diseases.

They also discussed the need to support needy countries with weaker health sectors, study mechanisms to support CEPI to transfer the technology of manufacturing vaccines, as well as benefiting from Saudi Arabia's logistic and humanitarian role in this regard.

Dr. Hatchett praised the support offered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by KSrelief, to help CEPI develop COVID-19 vaccines and offer them to the needy, referring to the solid strategic relations between the two sides.

CEPI is a foundation that takes donations from public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations, to finance independent research projects to develop vaccines against emerging infectious diseases.


Saudi deputy defense minister to discuss Yemen truce on Washington visit

Saudi deputy defense minister to discuss Yemen truce on Washington visit
Updated 17 May 2022

Saudi deputy defense minister to discuss Yemen truce on Washington visit

Saudi deputy defense minister to discuss Yemen truce on Washington visit

WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia's Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman will discuss a truce in Yemen and the Ukraine crisis with White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during a visit to Washington on Tuesday, the National Security Council said.
He will also meet with senior defense and State Department officials.