Saudi, UAE donations ‘continue to save people from hunger,’ says World Food Programme GCC representative

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Updated 31 October 2022

Saudi, UAE donations ‘continue to save people from hunger,’ says World Food Programme GCC representative

Saudi, UAE donations ‘continue to save people from hunger,’ says World Food Programme GCC representative
  • Mageed Yahia acknowledges impact of Gulf contributions in the context of Yemen during appearance on “Frankly Speaking”
  • He says the WFP needs “an additional $9 billion because our projection for 2022 alone is $24 billion”

DUBAI: Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have been praised by the World Food Programme’s regional representative for contributions “that have saved lives and continue to save lives, by making possible the distribution of nutritious food to children, mothers, lactating mothers and expectant mothers.”

Appearing on “Frankly Speaking,” Arab News’ weekly current affairs talk show, Mageed Yahia, WFP representative to the GCC region, cited war-torn Yemen as an example where Saudi Arabia and the UAE “came together to rescue our programs” in 2018 and prevent starvation.

“The biggest impact of that contribution, which was ($1) billion to the UN agencies operating in Yemen, was averting famine. And that was really impactful in that since then the contribution from the Saudis has continued, and continues until now. Again, the impact of that is saving lives.”

Yahia’s comments appear to contradict those made by WFP Executive Director David Beasley during his recent visit to Iceland, where he publicly scolded the Gulf states and China for “not stepping up” in the fight against the global food crisis.

‘Reaching zero hunger by 2030 is possible,’ says WFP regional representative Mageed Yahia, ‘if all the world pulls together.’ (AN Photo)

Claiming that the “Gulf states with massive oil profits right now” are “not stepping up,” Beasley was quoted by the UN’s official website as telling Icelandic TV: “Iceland is not a big country but it is punching above its weight. It is a great role model for other countries to follow.”

Beasley’s characterization of the two Gulf countries also flies in the face of the WFP’s own summary of 2021 global contributions (as of June 21, 2022), which show Saudi Arabia and the UAE as the seventh and 12th biggest donors, respectively. In fact, on a per capita basis, the two states come out as the WFP’s top two donors globally.

As recently as November last year, the WFP welcomed “a timely and generous contribution” of $16.8 million from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) to assist Syrian refugees in Jordan and to support nutrition programs for women and children in Pakistan.

The Saudi contribution was made as the WFP struggled to secure funds to continue support to some 465,000 vulnerable refugees in Jordan — most of them from Syria — and assist more than 66,000 of the most vulnerable children and women in Pakistan.

Yahia acknowledged the manifold benefits of Gulf aid to Yemen through the WFP. “The impact of that is that we’re keeping people alive there,” he said.

“The Saudi contribution helps us, of course, in this life-saving agenda, but also in the nutrition agenda when giving specialized nutritious food to children, to mothers, lactating mothers and pregnant mothers. Because if you don’t do that today, tomorrow you will have a negative effect of that, (in terms of) school-feeding that we are providing.

He added: “We are providing school meals both in the north and in the south. And that’s a development activity that we’re doing. It is important what the Saudis and the Emiratis are doing with us in Yemen to help keep people alive, saving their lives and (allowing the continuation of education).

“This is something very important for the children there.”

Asked how many lives have possibly felt the impact of the joint Saudi-UAE aid support, Yahia said: “We’re talking about 40 million people in Yemen. That’s maybe half of the population, or more than half of the population.”

Global food prices rose rapidly earlier this year as the war in Ukraine disrupted the supply and distribution of grain and fertilizer. This followed hot on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had exposed the vulnerability of global supply chains.

As a result, many observers have concluded that it is highly unlikely the UN will achieve its Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating hunger by the end of the decade. Yahia still holds out hope.

“The good news first is that reaching zero hunger in 2030 is possible. It’s something doable if all the world comes together. If there is the political will, we can do it. But we have been going in reverse for the last five years,” he said.

“We saw good progress in 2015 when the number of hungry people decreased, but then it started to increase. Conflict is the main driver of hunger around the world. Now we see it in Yemen, we see it in Syria, in Afghanistan, in South Sudan and in the Sahel.

“Second is the climate. Food production, to a large extent, depends on climate. So if there is any change there, then food production is a problem. You have the situation now in the Horn of Africa, where in Somalia around 3 to 4 million people are displaced because of drought.”

Contributions by Gulf states were praised by World Food Programme regional representative for averting famine, and safeguarding children and mothers in Yemen. (AN Photo)

Yahia took pains to explain a conundrum of the global food crisis: “In many cases, hunger is not the result of scarcity but rather a matter of affordability. Food is available everywhere. The world produces more than is consumed. But some communities, 800 million people, cannot afford this food.”

According to the regional director, in countries of the Middle East and North Africa that are largely reliant on imports of food and fertilizers — particularly in such crisis-hit nations as Lebanon, Syria and Yemen — the spiraling cost of these commodities has increased rates of hunger and malnutrition.

“You look at the currency devaluation in Lebanon. It’s huge. You look at inflation — food price inflation there is huge,” Yahia said. “Lebanon in itself depends to a large extent on food imports. At the same time, Lebanon is a host to 1 million Syrian refugees. So all these things are coming together.”

In the case of Yemen, the distribution of aid is also routinely disrupted by the Iran-backed Houthi militia, which controls swathes of the country, including the capital, Sanaa. Yahia says that gaining access to vulnerable populations is half the battle.

“Like in any conflict, one of the major issues that we face when we work in conflict areas is access to the population,” he said. “And that, of course, takes maybe 50 percent of our efforts to negotiate access to this population.

“Second is the number of people that depend on our food assistance. And now because of funding, because of prolonged conflict, we are taking really tough decisions in Yemen by reducing our rations.”

He warned that the reduction in the amount of food the WFP is able to distribute in Yemen is also the result of a decline in the amount of financial assistance provided by donor countries, combined with the sheer scale of need in multiple crisis zones across the globe.

With multiple overlapping crises blighting vast areas of the developing world, WFP is short of the funding required to support existing projects Yahia told Katie Jensen on Frankly Speaking. (AN Photo)

“It’s mainly due to the protracted nature of the crisis, but also of crises coming up in different parts of the world that may be competing with the situation in Yemen,” Yahia said. “But, at the end of the day, we need to keep Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, all these places in the headlines so that people do not forget about the situation there.”

One way the WFP aims to address supply chain disruptions, mitigate shortages of funding, and improve the accessibility and affordability of food is to encourage production closer to the point of need.

“You have 80 percent of the food in Africa produced by smallholder farmers, but unfortunately some of them end up as beneficiaries of our assistance,” he said. “Why? Because of losses that they make, because they don’t have access to markets. There is no logistics supply chain and storage facilities are not adequate. So more than half of their harvest is lost.”

In order to support local farmers, the WFP counts on donor countries. However, according to Yahia, with multiple overlapping crises blighting vast swathes of the developing world, the agency is short of the funding required to support existing projects.

“We need an additional $9 billion because our projection for 2022 alone is $24 billion,” he said. “So far we have raised around $9 billion. We know we will not be able to reach our projected requirements, but if we don’t get it, then next year, with the availability crisis looming, we will need more than that.

Yahia added: “In the short term, you need to help these communities. You need to save their lives. Unfortunately, because of the conflicts, because of climate, which is a real threat to full food security because of the economy, this number continues to grow.”




Iran ex-president, former PM call for political change

Iran ex-president, former PM call for political change
Updated 36 min 59 sec ago

Iran ex-president, former PM call for political change

Iran ex-president, former PM call for political change
  • Khatami hopes the use of ‘non-violent civil methods’ can ‘force the governing system to change its approach and accept reforms’

TEHRAN: Iran’s former president Mohammad Khatami and former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi have both called for political changes amid the protests triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.
As the 44th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution approaches, one of the country’s main opposition figures, Mousavi, called on Saturday for the “fundamental transformation” of a political system he said was facing a crisis of legitimacy.
And on Sunday Khatami, the leader of the reformist movement, in a statement said: “What is evident today is widespread discontent.”
Khatami said he hoped that the use of “non-violent civil methods” can “force the governing system to change its approach and accept reforms.”
In a statement carried by local media, Mousavi said: “Iran and Iranians need and are ready for a fundamental transformation whose outline is drawn by the pure ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement.”
He was referring to the main slogan chanted in demonstrations sparked by the death on September 16 of Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd.
She had been arrested three days earlier by the morality police in Tehran for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s dress code for women.
Mousavi, 80, said the protest movement began in the context of “interdependent crises” and proposed holding a “free and healthy referendum on the need to change or draft a new constitution.”
He called the current system’s structure “unsustainable.”
An unsuccessful presidential candidate in 2009, Mousavi alleged large-scale fraud in favor of populist incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, leading to mass protests.
He has been under house arrest without charge in Tehran for 12 years, along with his wife Zahra Rahnavard.
A close confidant of the Islamic republic’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mousavi was prime minister from 1981 to 1989.
“People have the right to make fundamental revisions in order to overcome crises and pave the way for freedom, justice, democracy and development,” Mousavi said in his statement.
“The refusal to take the smallest step toward realizing the rights of citizens as defined in the constitution... has discouraged the community from carrying out reforms.”
Khatami, 79, made similar remarks, warning that “there is no sign of the ruling system’s desire for reform and avoiding the mistakes of the past and present.”
President from 1997 to 2005 before being forced into silence, Khatami said he regretted that Iran’s population was “disappointed with Reformism as well as with the ruling system.”

Countdown on to World Government Summit 2023 in Dubai

Countdown on to World Government Summit 2023 in Dubai
Updated 05 February 2023

Countdown on to World Government Summit 2023 in Dubai

Countdown on to World Government Summit 2023 in Dubai
  • State leaders, heads of UN, IMF, WHO among participants
  • Event, themed ‘Shaping Future Governments,’ runs from Feb. 13-15

DUBAI: Twenty state leaders, more than 250 government ministers and the heads of some of the world’s most important organizations will take part in the 2023 World Government Summit, which opens in Dubai later this month.

Under the heading of “Shaping Future Governments,” the event will encompass six main themes: accelerating development and governance, the future of societies and healthcare, exploring frontiers, governing economic resilience and connectivity, global city design and sustainability, and prioritizing learning and work, Emirates News Agency reported.

UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs Mohammad bin Abdullah Al-Gergawi said the participants would include the presidents of Egypt, Turkiye, Senegal, Paraguay and Azerbaijan, as well as about 10,000 government officials, thought leaders and global experts.

The summit, which runs from Feb. 13-15, will also feature 22 international forums on topics such as climate and industry technology, food system transformation, global health, government services, women in government and government media, the report said.

Leaders from the World Economic Forum, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council will also take part in the sessions.

The secretary-general of the United Nations and president of the World Bank will deliver speeches.

Other key figures include representatives of Bridgewater Associates, Guggenheim Partners, Rakuten and Siemens Energy, and Nobel Prize-winning scientists Esther Duflo and Dr. Roger Kornberg.

About 80 bilateral agreements are expected to be signed during the conference.


Turkiye says no concrete evidence of threat to foreigners after Daesh suspects detained

Turkiye says no concrete evidence of threat to foreigners after Daesh suspects detained
Updated 38 min 25 sec ago

Turkiye says no concrete evidence of threat to foreigners after Daesh suspects detained

Turkiye says no concrete evidence of threat to foreigners after Daesh suspects detained
  • Several Western states warned of a heightened risk of attacks to diplomatic missions in Turkiye

ISTANBUL: Turkish police said they had not found evidence of any concrete threat to foreigners after detaining 15 Daesh suspects accused of targeting consulates and non-Muslim houses of worship, state media reported on Sunday.
Last week, several European consulates in Istanbul were shut citing “security reasons” and several Western states warned citizens of a heightened risk of attacks to diplomatic missions and non-Muslim places of worship in Turkiye, following a series of far-right Qur'an-burning protests in Europe in recent weeks.
State-run Anadolu Agency cited an Istanbul police statement saying the 15 suspects had “received instructions for acts targeting consulates of Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as Christian and Jewish places of worship.”
While the suspects’ ties to the extremist group were confirmed, no concrete threats toward foreigners were found, the statement said.
Ankara summoned nine ambassadors to criticize the coordinated closure of the European consulates and Turkish officials later said the Western nations had not shared information to back up their claims of a security threat.
Turkiye suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an, was burned.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated on Saturday Turkiye’s frustration with what it says is Sweden’s inaction toward entities Ankara accuses of terrorist activity.
Turkiye, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement in June last year aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their NATO bids, with the Nordic states pledging to take a harder line primarily against local members of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

There is no ‘silver bullet to defeat extremism,’ says Whispered in Gaza creator Joseph Braude on Hamas oppression of enclave’s civilians

There is no ‘silver bullet to defeat extremism,’ says Whispered in Gaza creator Joseph Braude on Hamas oppression of enclave’s civilians
Updated 55 min 57 sec ago

There is no ‘silver bullet to defeat extremism,’ says Whispered in Gaza creator Joseph Braude on Hamas oppression of enclave’s civilians

There is no ‘silver bullet to defeat extremism,’ says Whispered in Gaza creator Joseph Braude on Hamas oppression of enclave’s civilians
  • Iran’s obsession with dominance both at home and in the region endangers many globally, says Braude
  • Braude spoke with “Frankly Speaking” following the release of a series of stories from the Gaza Strip

LONDON: As Hamas maintains a tight communication blockade across the Gaza Strip, people under the authoritarian rule of the Iran-sponsored militia feel desperate for a platform to share their ordeal. 

“There have been a lot of attempts by Gazans on their own, acting with great courage, to contact the outside world through social media and so on, that have come to nothing because Hamas suppresses them. So, we wanted to find a creative way to build a platform for them. And we found a way to do it using technology and animation and so on,” Joseph Braude, president of the US-based Center for Peace Communications, said on Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking.” 

In January, CPC released a number of accounts describing life in Gaza under Hamas rule. The 25-story series, entitled “Whispered in Gaza,” was published on multiple media outlets in at least five languages — Arabic, English, French, Farsi and Spanish.

Members of the Hamas security forces show their skills in a drill held during a graduation ceremony in Gaza City on October 31, 2022. (AFP)

Appearing on the flagship current affairs talk show, Braude said: “The nature of the incidents that are being described is very widespread in Gaza. The stories of flight by sea, the stories of racketeering and the shaking down of small-time merchants by Hamas, and so on.

“So, these are widespread phenomena and what you are seeing, including the opinions that are being described, are wholly in line with the findings of all of those polls and journalists and human rights investigators that do their work.”

The diverse accounts detail the various oppression and repression techniques employed by Hamas to stifle anyone who challenges the status quo, raising concerns about going on record or speaking with foreign media and organizations. 

“Some of the speakers, by their own accounts, as you see in the video, previously were jailed by Hamas for doing exactly what they were doing when they spoke to us: trying to tell their stories to the outside world,” Braude told “Frankly Speaking” host Katie Jensen. 

Joseph Braude, president of the US-based Center for Peace Communications (CPC), appears on Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking” talk show. (Screenshot)

He added: “We committed to them that we would not show their faces and that we would technologically alter their voices so that there would be a measure of anonymity provided to them. 

“So, on the one hand, the stories are being told without their faces shown, which they might have done in the past. On the other hand, they are reaching a much larger audience because the tragedy of this communications blockade by Hamas is that they’ve been successful in taking down content that Gazans attempt to put up.

“But here, we have built a substantial distribution channel on four continents, and the material is everywhere. It proliferates and it is impossible to take it down, even though Hamas has tried.”  

CPC shared a tweet on Jan. 24 stating that days after the series’ launch, “it was swarmed by pro-Hamas accounts” attacking the project. In the Twitter thread, CPC wrote that a user accused one of the Gazan speakers “of being an intelligence officer.”

Supporters of the Palestinian Hamas movement demonstrate in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on October 21, 2022, against Israel. (AFP)

Braude said that this Twitter attack “shows that Hamas doesn’t want these voices to be heard,” accusing the movement of “attempting to globalize” their “repression of free expression” and “suppress global free expression.” 

He highlighted that the real danger, which affects many beyond Gaza’s borders, is posed by Iran and its proxies, including Hamas. 

Hamas has been supported by the Iranian regime since the 1990s, when 418 leading Hamas figures were deported to Lebanon by Israel and started cooperating with the Iran-backed Hezbollah, according to the Washington Institute. 

“Everybody is in danger from these groups,” Braude said. “They are persecuted and the first victims are the people who live under their rule.

A Palestinian youth collects plastic and iron from a landfill in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, on January 17, 2022. (AFP)

“I don’t even really know how to describe a situation that is so broad,” he continued, underlining that many people are “endangered” by “Iran’s attempts to maintain its dominance both of its own country and of large portions of the region.”

Braude added: “That is why you are seeing it in Iran, (and) you are seeing it in Gaza now: People want something different. They want a better future. They want security as well and stability.” 

With over 80 percent of people in the coastal strip living below the poverty line and 64 percent currently food insecure, as per figures from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, an increasing number of Gazans drown at sea fleeing the conflict-ridden territory in the quest for better lives.

Meanwhile, high-profile Hamas leaders lead luxurious lives abroad and retreat to ritzy hotels in Beirut and Istanbul, where they also own profitable real estate businesses, AFP reported last month. 

Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking” talk show host Katie Jenson. (Screenshot)

Concurring that the lavish lifestyle Hamas leaders enjoy has stirred resentment among Gazans, Braude pointed out that Hamas’ growing image problem due to economic disparities has emerged in several of the recorded testimonies. 

“While the majority of Gazans are denied access to the aid and support that comes in from multiple sources in the world, the Hamas leadership and their families and the small circle of elites that surround them are living in the lap of luxury,” he said. 

“So, yeah, it’s not bad to live in Gaza if you are a stalwart of Hamas, particularly at the leadership level.” 

Emphasizing the importance of the world joining forces to put an end to these injustices, Braude said he hoped the 25 testimonies would start “a new conversation” by introducing policymakers and world leaders to “a new way of thinking about the realities, more and greater understanding of what people want in Gaza, how people feel about those who control their Strip.” 

He argued that such creative endeavors have the potential to empower many Gazans, eventually and hopefully enabling “the educational conditions to improve (and) information to travel more freely.”

Braude urged the world “not to wait until the ongoing military stalemate is resolved” and to instead “find answers now, to find steps that can be taken now” and harness “the tools that the 21st century has brought to the world,” as he sees “no end in sight” to the current dire situation in Gaza. 

“And so, we hope we’re starting a new conversation,” he said. 

However, Israeli forces have been for decades committing systematic human rights violations against Palestinians, including minors, according to Amnesty International, which pointed out on June 17, 2022, that “some 170 Palestinians currently imprisoned were arrested when they were children.”

Amnesty International also condemned Israel for the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11, 2022. 

Asked if he condemned Israel’s human rights violations, Braude responded: “There are quite a few people in this series who say, forthrightly, that they were in favor of the first and the second intifadas, but fault Hamas for going on to start wars with Israel that it could not win and then hide in bunkers and leave civilians to suffer the casualties.” 

Citing one of the testimonies by a man who refused to let Hamas dictate how he resists the Israeli occupation, Braude said: “Hamas — by launching wars, provoking reactions that cause civilian casualties but…do not advance the Palestinian cause — is forcing people to go by its playbook.” 

He also said he believed it was possible to ignite real action by starting a conversation, stressing that “nonviolent expression is ultimately the most powerful tool that humanity has in order to advance justice, peace and the well-being of all peoples.” 

Nevertheless, Braude pointed out that there were “no immediate solutions for the tragedy that is being portrayed here, and we are under no illusions about that.

“We are not suggesting that there is any sort of a silver bullet to defeat extremism, to end stale forms of thinking and so on,” he continued. “I think that at most we achieve a ripple effect that, as I’ve said, affects the vocabulary of the discussion, that stimulates new forms of creative thinking by multiple parties and elements within, without and so on.” 

Braude told “Frankly Speaking” that “Whispered in Gaza” was “only the beginning of an ongoing project.” 

He said: “Whenever we launch an initiative … we take time and we look at what it achieved. We try to draw lessons and to innovate, always to build on successes and learn from whatever lessons emerged. So that is what we are looking at right now. And, of course, we are going to do more.”

Russia’s Lavrov visits Baghdad to discuss bilateral relations, energy cooperation: Iraqi statement

Russia’s Lavrov visits Baghdad to discuss bilateral relations, energy cooperation: Iraqi statement
Updated 05 February 2023

Russia’s Lavrov visits Baghdad to discuss bilateral relations, energy cooperation: Iraqi statement

Russia’s Lavrov visits Baghdad to discuss bilateral relations, energy cooperation: Iraqi statement
  • Visit will focus on encouraging investment opportunities between two countries, particularly energy sector

BAGHDAD: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will arrive in Baghdad on Sunday to discuss boosting bilateral relations and energy cooperation, Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.
Lavrov, who is leading a delegation that includes oil and gas companies’ representatives, is scheduled to meet his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein on Monday, Ahmed Al-Sahhaf said in a statement.
Sahhaf said the visit will focus on “strategic relations with Russia and to encourage investment opportunities, especially in relating to energy sectors.”
The Russian foreign minister will also meet on Monday Iraqi top officials, including Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani, President Abdul Latif Rashid and parliament speaker, Sahhaf said.