AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s internationally recognized government, political parties and journalists have expressed support for invitations sent by the Gulf Cooperation Council to warring factions in Yemen for comprehensive talks in Riyadh to agree to a peace deal to end the conflict.
Yemenis have demanded that the Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militia and the Yemeni government comply with GCC-brokered peace efforts to find a solution to the war.
Nayef Al-Hajraf, the GCC’s secretary-general, said on Thursday that the Gulf bloc would host consultations between Yemeni parties at the end of this month in Riyadh to find a settlement.
The office of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi welcomed the GCC’s “sincere” offer to host the talks, adding that it would back all peace plans that are based on three references: the GCC’s peace initiative in 2011, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference and UN Security Council Resolution 2216.
“The presidency also called on all Yemeni components to effectively and positively participate in the upcoming consultations, and to combine all efforts to get Yemen out of its crisis, end the suffering of its people and start building the future of its generations,” Hadi’s office said in a statement carried by the official news agency SABA.
The pro-independence Southern Transitional Council also on Saturday backed the GCC’s call for talks, calling for the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, reforming state’s bodies, addressing the crumbling economy and rescuing the falling currency.
The STC said it praised “the efforts and activities of the GCC to achieve peace, security and stability in the south and Yemen.”
Yemeni politicians and journalists, meanwhile, have urged the country’s warring parties to seriously take part in the conference in Riyadh to help address the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Abdul Kareem Al-Medi, a Yemeni journalist, said the GCC invitation has revived hopes to end the war and the humanitarian crisis caused by the Houthi military takeover of power in late 2014.
“We pray that the consultations succeed in coming up with a comprehensive vision between the various parties that responded to the invitation,” Al-Medi said on Twitter.
Omar Al-Murshed, a Yemeni media consultant, described the planned talks as “the last chance” for reaching a peace deal to end the suffering of Yemenis.
Riyadh Al-Dubai, a Yemeni human rights activist, called upon the Yemenis to “sincerely and effectively” take part in the conference, put aside their differences and personal interests and to work on ending the suffering of 30 million Yemenis who have been impacted by the war.
“Accepting this initiative and having sincere intentions before participating in it may be the lifeline that may pull Yemen out of the clutches of the war that has impacted all Yemenis,” he said on Twitter.
Anger in West Bank after man, 58, is shot on his way home from morning prayers
Updated 6 sec ago
RAMALLAH, West Bank: There was growing outrage in the occupied West Bank on Friday after Israeli troops killed another unarmed Palestinian man.
Saleh Sawafta, 58, was returning from dawn prayers at a mosque near his home in Tubas when he was shot in the head. Doctors fought to save his life, but Sawafta died from “critical wounds.”
The victim, who had been preparing for his daughter’s wedding next week — was not involved in previous clashes with Israeli forces and was not a target for arrest.
His death brought the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli army since the beginning of the year to 135.
Hundreds of people attended Sawafta’s funeral on Friday afternoon as anger spread in the city.
Tubas Governor Maj. Gen. Younis Al-Assi accused the Israeli army of using “excessive and unjustified force” against Palestinian citizens, and of shooting to kill.
He told Arab News that the Israeli army’s policy of killing, wounding and arresting Palestinian citizens was the main contributor to the “industry of terrorism,” and influenced young people to seek revenge for the deaths and assaults.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said that the armed forces of the Israeli occupation would continue their “terrorism” unless the international community stopped displaying double standards over international law.
“As long as they can act with impunity, the crime continues in the absence of punishment. Children, women and the elderly are victims of the terror of the occupation in every city, village and camp,” the prime minister said.
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Sawafta’s killing was “part of a series of daily crimes committed by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinian citizens,” and said the army was acting on instructions from Israeli politicians.
Bahrain’s ambassador to the UK visits Oxford Center for Islamic Studies
Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa saw his country’s pavilion at the center and reviewed research in a number of fields
Updated 19 August 2022
LONDON: Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the Bahraini ambassador to the UK, visited his country’s pavilion at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, the Bahrain News Agency reported.
He also met the founder and director of the center, Farhan Ahmad Nizami, and reviewed its research into history, economics, arts and social science in the Islamic world. The envoy highlighted the role the center plays in bringing together elite scholars and researchers.
Nizami congratulated the ambassador on his recent appointment as the Dean of the Arab Diplomatic Corps.
The center is a registered educational charity that describes itself as being dedicated to the study of all aspects of Islamic culture and civilization, and of contemporary Muslim societies.
An online resource offers Middle East education systems a chance to build back better
Teachers in international schools in the Gulf have struggled amid fee freezes and school closures during the pandemic
Financial planning, online learning tools may help schools evaluate curricula, organize staff structure and create long-term plans
Updated 16 min 5 sec ago
DUBAI: Educators across the Middle East and North Africa region are benefiting from a newly launched tool that aims to help them after three years of school-fee freezes and stagnation of education spending owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
UK-based training provider Skills Network launched the Curriculum Led Financial Planning Tool to offer financial planning assistance to international schools throughout the region, which have been particularly hard hit by the fee freeze.
The last permitted fee increase in some Arab Gulf countries was allowed during the 2019-2020 academic year.
Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority announced in March that international schools would not be allowed to raise tuition fees for 2022, further adding pressure to schools in the UAE’s commercial capital.
Last year, hundreds of private schools in Saudi Arabia also cut their fees by half during the first semester of the new academic year to help mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19.
Regional schools, especially those with smaller accounting teams, will greatly benefit from the new tools available to them, according to Natasha Ridge, executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al-Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in the UAE emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah.
“It can help them think about how to save money or streamline costs, opportunities for fundraising and, overall, how to manage the school’s finances more sustainably,” she told Arab News.
The CLFP tool will help MENA schools to cope with a difficult economic environment.
The cloud-based global school resource provides users with 24/7 access from anywhere in the world, eliminating the use of traditional electronic spreadsheets for financial planning.
Developed in partnership with leading school groups in the UK, the tool offers educators a collection of resources, templates and methodologies designed to “support financial planning and manage staffing through efficient and strategic systems,” providing schools with “expert support through challenging financial times.”
“There’s a huge demand for financial planning tools in the MENA region, with the quality of education determined by stable finances, so the CLFP is a natural fit,” said Christopher Brown, School and Sixth Forms manager at the Skills Network.
“The international school fee freezes implemented by the KHDA back in March 2022 have pushed budgetary resources to the fore for education leaders in the Middle East, with our CLFP tool holding potential for significant financial improvement for educators in this region.”
The tool offers a range of benefits for educational institutions, including benchmarking finances, detailed workforce planning, which enables institutions to deploy staff efficiently, and curriculum and subject modeling.
Schools will also be able to develop an integrated curriculum planning strategy based on the measurement of current curriculum, staffing structure and finances to create a three-to-five-year plan based on data.
Such a move aims to enable educators to develop the best curriculum for their pupils with the funding they have available.
The pandemic saw schools all over the globe enter a period of financial instability. In the Gulf, between January 2020 and January 2022, more than 40 of the UAE’s international schools opened, but at least another 40 closed. “Equally, enrollment cycles have become less predictable post-pandemic, so this has made financial planning difficult for schools,” Brown told Arab News.
“Although there is optimistic recovery in some MENA countries, there is still much to be done to ensure financial stability and economic growth.
“There are now new pressures to include mandatory teaching hours in Arabic and well-being and sustainability, as well as continued investment in virtual reality and technology. Financial resource and workforce planning will continue to be a top priority for MENA schools in the years to come.”
Established in Yorkshire in 2009, the Skills Network is one of the leading providers of online learning in the UK, having grown into a significant supplier of technology-based learning solutions.
Serving the corporate, public and educational sectors, it claims to create high-quality learning experiences across a wide range of subject areas, with over 1.6 million learners using its learning portal, EQUAL, on a regular basis.
The Skills Network says its online distance-learning courses, staff-training programs and apprenticeship programs have helped businesses such as G4S, Thomson Reuters and the Trades Union Congress reach their training and development goals.
Such tools are vital in today’s world. According to a UN policy brief released in August 2020, the pandemic caused unprecedented disruption to education systems around the world, affecting almost 1.6 billion students in more than 190 countries.
In the MENA region alone, the health crisis was responsible for shutting down learning facilities for almost 100 million students aged between 5 and 17.
As a result, governments in the region, such as those of the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, have increasingly been promoting a hybrid model of online and in-class education, with the Kingdom opening up its national education portal Ain to more than 6 million users and providing 30,000 devices for students in need at the time.
As far as the Middle East is concerned, the Skills Network says its team of experts is working on developing a more efficient educational system for the region.
Although still in the early stages of rolling its tool out to MENA schools, the team has already taken on board over 100 schools internationally in recent months.
“Over time, we have uncovered a demand from schools looking to identify specific subject and lesson costs across their curriculum,” Brown said.
“We have worked with our existing partners to develop the tool and provide further analytical insight to make targeted change, driven by the quality of teaching with students — providing better learner outcomes.”
The financial planning tool can be used in countries such as the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In the UK, it has provided average savings of £163,000 ($193,228) per secondary school annually.
“So, it’s a proven and robust asset to any international school across the globe,” Brown said. “Ultimately, students will benefit from an optimized teacher workforce and budget that can support high-quality education delivery.”
According to Ridge, of the Ras Al-Khaimah think tank, the situation is only getting worse for schools as many MENA countries experience high inflation owing to soaring food and fuel prices.
“For schools, this will be difficult, especially in the private sector where parents will also have less money to spend,” she said.
“I believe that the situation requires government support to help schools manage in this difficult time. It could get worse if left to market forces, but some intervention on the part of the government might help.”
She believes lower-income countries will benefit more from the new tools, although all stand to take advantage, and the assistance could not come at a better time.
“Such a heavy reliance on private, for-profit education means that market threats from increasing costs could lead to school closures, especially at the lower end of the market, which would hurt the poorest students,” Ridge said.
The Skills Network’s Brown says international schools in the MENA region are experiencing massive enrollment demand from local students and families. According to him, the international school learner profile has evolved over the years and become more localized than ever before.
Looking to the future, Brown said: “With the ongoing shift in learner profile comes new challenges and pressures on curriculum delivery and financial resources.
“It is of critical importance that schools in the MENA region are equipped with the technology required to meet these evolving needs.”
Aid workers face ‘alarming’ levels of incitement, violence in Yemen: UN humanitarian envoy
Gressly said that aid workers in Yemen — more than 95 percent of whom are Yemenis – work to ensure that 12.6 million people receive humanitarian assistance
In first half of 2022, one aid worker was killed, two injured, seven kidnapped and nine detained.
Updated 19 August 2022
LONDON: Attacks on aid workers in Yemen have increased at an “alarming” rate, the country’s UN humanitarian coordinator said on Friday.
David Gressly marked World Humanitarian Day on Aug. 19 by highlighting the “extremely challenging” environment that aid workers face in war-torn Yemen, especially amid Houthi attempts to control food aid distribution.
In a statement, Gressly said that aid workers in Yemen — more than 95 percent of whom are Yemenis – work to ensure that 12.6 million people receive humanitarian assistance or protection support every month.
But in the first half of 2022, one aid worker was killed, two injured, seven kidnapped and nine detained.
Gressly also pointed out 27 incidents of threat and intimidation between January and June, compared with 17 such incidents recorded in the whole of 2021.
He added that there were also 28 carjacking incidents recorded in the first six months of the year, 17 more than in 2021, and 27 attacks on aid organizations’ premises and facilities — including the looting of humanitarian supplies and other assets.
Gressly also highlighted how aid workers have been targets of disinformation and incitement in recent months, including “false allegations that they corrupt Yemeni values, including the morals of young women.”
He added: “Such baseless allegations jeopardize the safety and security of humanitarian workers, especially Yemeni female aid workers at a time when women and girls are experiencing increased levels of violence and a rollback of their rights in many parts of the globe.
“Violence and threats against humanitarian workers undermines the delivery of aid, further jeopardizing the lives of those most in need,” he said.
“Aid workers in Yemen deserve to be celebrated for their selfless dedication.”
While the UN-brokered ceasefire between the Houthis and the Arab Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen has provided relief to civilians since going into effect in April and deserves full backing, the humanitarian crisis is as dire as ever.
More than 23 million people need some form of humanitarian assistance or protection, according to Gressly.
The number of people facing food insecurity is projected to increase to 19 million by December. The malnutrition rate among women and children is among the highest in the world and a third of the 4.3 million internally displaced people in Yemen continue to live under extreme conditions, his statement said.
Without the tireless commitment of humanitarians in Yemen, the situation would be far worse, Gressly added.
“Aid workers in Yemen remain unwavering in their mission. These selfless women and men continue to step up to every day, providing millions of people in need with food and cash, health services and clean water, protection and emergency education.
“We should all do everything we can to protect them and support their critical work.”
US says ‘concerned’ by Israeli closure of Palestinian NGOs
Six of the Palestinian organizations were labeled last October as terrorist organizations by Israel
The NGOs have all denied any links to the PFLP, which many western nations have designated a terrorist group
Updated 19 August 2022
WASHINGTON: Washington said Thursday it was “concerned” by the Israeli government’s forced closure of several Palestinian NGOs operating in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli military announced earlier in the day that it had conducted overnight raids of seven organizations in Ramallah, the West Bank city where the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters are located.
Six of the Palestinian organizations were labeled last October as terrorist organizations by Israel for their alleged links to the leftist militant group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), though Israeli officials have not publicly shared any evidence of the links.
The NGOs have all denied any links to the PFLP, which many western nations have designated a terrorist group.
“We are concerned about the Israeli security forces’ closure of the six offices of the Palestinian NGOs in and around Ramallah today,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price at a press briefing.
“We have not changed our position or approach to these organizations,” said Price, though he noted that Washington does not fund any of them.
“We have seen nothing in recent months to change (our position)” he added.
US officials have reached out to their Israeli counterparts “at the senior level” to obtain additional information, which Israel has promised to provide, according to Price.
The seventh organization raided by Israel on Thursday, the Union of Health Work Committees, was banned by Israel from working in the West Bank in 2020.