Inaugural FESCIOF forum in Riyadh aims to spur cross-cultural dialogue on the future of science, culture and education

Special Inaugural FESCIOF forum in Riyadh aims to spur cross-cultural dialogue on the future of science, culture and education
The inaugural Future of Education, Science and Culture International Organizations Forum in Riyadh seeks to establish cooperation among numerous bodies across multiple fields of interest. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 08 March 2023

Inaugural FESCIOF forum in Riyadh aims to spur cross-cultural dialogue on the future of science, culture and education

Inaugural FESCIOF forum in Riyadh aims to spur cross-cultural dialogue on the future of science, culture and education
  • FESCIOF aims to build a global platform to consolidate and enhance the work of international organizations
  • Attended by UNESCO, ALECSO and ISESCO, the forum’s theme is “Together for impact in the 21st century”

RIYADH: In this time of intense and accelerating global change, factors such as the climate, the world economy, government policies, and new technologies are fundamentally altering the ways in which human beings live, think, collaborate and do business.

The inaugural Future of Education, Science and Culture International Organizations Forum, or FESCIOF, which brings together global organizations at Riyadh’s King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center on March 8 and 9 under the theme “Together for impact in the 21st century,” aims to establish a shared vision for this process of change and to identify opportunities for cooperation.

The event “establishes a broad international cooperation platform that will strengthen relations between international and multilateral organizations in various fields of influence,” Hani Al-Mogbil, chairman of the executive council of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, told Arab News.

His organization is one of the organizers of the forum, along with the Saudi National Commission for Education, Culture and Science; the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; and UNESCO.

“The unprecedented broad participation in the conference’s activities will contribute to the development of joint initiatives that have a tangible impact in shaping a promising future for the sectors of education, culture and science,” Al-Mogbil said.

“Cooperation between active parties will also contribute to identifying new paths that enhance impact and enable finding solutions, in light of the recent changes taking place in the sectors of education, culture and science, and the accompanying challenges such as lack of funding and changing geopolitical conditions.”

Those involved in the forum include UNESCO and the Arab League. (Supplied)

It will “take advantage of future opportunities to develop the work of international organizations,” he added.

According to the organizers of the forum, international and multilateral organizations must constantly evolve to deliver on complex mandates in times of economic, social and political change, which means dialogue and cooperation are all the more important.

Progress in technology provides an unprecedented opportunity for organizations involved in the fields of education, science and culture to connect on issues of best practice and to collaborate more closely within the wider ecosystem, increasing their effects on economic progress and the overall quality of life for all.

While many multilateral organizations have contributed greatly to progress, peace and the improvement of living standards all over the world since their inception, forum organizers said there are opportunities to expand member support, increase access to funding, and to adapt to a changing geopolitical landscape.


• The Future of Education, Science and Culture International Organizations Forum is taking place at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Riyadh, March 8-9.

• Participants include representatives of 100 multilateral bodies, including the UN Development Program, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

• Eminent speakers include Frederic Laloux, the influential author of “Reinventing Organizations,” and Costanza Farina, director of the UNESCO regional bureau in Beirut.

The forum is an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to expand its involvement with multilateral organizations, including those involved in staging the event. The Kingdom was a founding member of UNESCO in 1946 and has been a member of its Islamic world equivalent since 1982.

The equivalent organization that works under the umbrella of the Arab League to develop and coordinate activities related to education, culture and science, is based in Tunis. Established by Article 3 of the Arab Cultural Unity Charter and was launched in Cairo on July 25, 1970. In December 2022, Prince Badr bin Abdullah, the Saudi minister of culture, and Mohammed Ould Amar, the organization’s director general, signed a memorandum of understanding for the enhancement of cultural cooperation, including the protection of UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites.

Al-Mogbil said this week’s forum is significant because it represents the first-ever collective dialogue between its organizers.

“It will provide opportunities for fruitful and sustainable partnerships between all parties to the modern system and contribute to linking the current system to a larger system with its active parties,” he said.

About 100 organizations are to take part in the forum at King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center. (Supplied)

Through the forum, the organizers hope to build a globally trusted and recognized, collaborative, multi-partner platform that will begin the conversation and develop an early-stage road map that sets milestones to consolidate the efforts of international organizations across the ecosystem and seize future opportunities.

Such a platform, they said, will connect the legacy ecosystem with new players, encourage communication through open channels and enable dialogue among all key stakeholders, identify new paths for cooperation that can strengthen the effects, and enable solutions through new partnerships, while committing to an ongoing mechanism for sustainable partnerships resulting from the forum.

The event brings together about 100 multilateral organizations and more than 65 prominent speakers, including high-level representatives from the UN Development Program, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

It has also attracted experts in business management from prestigious academic institutions including the Harvard Business School, the London Business School and the Brookings Institution, as well as representatives from the private sector and banking industry, including Google, the World Bank, Visa, and the Islamic Development Bank.

Eminent speakers include Renee Mauborgne, professor of strategy at the INSEAD business school in France and co-author of global bestsellers “Blue Ocean Strategy” and “Blue Ocean Shift;” Frederic Laloux, author of one the most influential management books of the last decade, “Reinventing Organizations;” and Costanza Farina, UNESCO’s representative to Lebanon and Syria.

The forum’s four sub-themes are “Re-imaging the future of international organizations,” “Driving a future-forward ecosystem,” “Enabling investment and knowledge sharing,” and “Empowering mutual opportunities for collaboration.”

Under the theme of designing the future of international organizations, the forum will explore internal and external challenges and opportunities faced by multilateral bodies, such as the changing landscape for international development and humanitarian aid.

On the issue of a future-forward ecosystem, participants will discuss ways to build agility and digital capacity in multilateral programs and explore how to leverage new communication channels, while taking into account environmental factors.

Hani Al-Mogbil. (Supplied)

In terms of enabling investment and knowledge sharing, the forum will discuss ways to capitalize on new solutions, including public-private partnerships, while sessions on empowering mutual opportunities for collaboration will examine the role of new players in enabling future solutions.

Organizers said the forum aims to provide opportunities for dialogue between a broad range of specialists from nongovernmental and financial organizations, with the goal of fostering greater effects through collaboration between international organizations.

Sessions will focus on topics that include: Identifying new ways to measure progress in efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals; youth and inclusion in the sectors of education, science, technology and culture; enhancing digital connectivity; the future of digital; innovation in international organizations; and investment and financial solutions.

Additionally, there will be discussions of successful case studies on digital capacity building in international organizations, as well as workshops and breakout sessions during which participants can find practical tools and resources to apply to their own work.

The forum is one of several major events hosted in Riyadh in recent months, which have included the second edition of the LEAP tech conference, and the International Conference and Exhibition for Science.

These events, and others, have brought together key decision makers, specialists, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector with the aim of fostering cooperation, innovation, sustainability and cross-cultural dialogue across key global sectors.

Saudi minister of foreign affairs meets French counterpart

Saudi minister of foreign affairs meets French counterpart
Updated 8 sec ago

Saudi minister of foreign affairs meets French counterpart

Saudi minister of foreign affairs meets French counterpart

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan met his French counterpart Catherine Colonna on Thursday, on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition against Daesh in Riyadh.

They reviewed the strong relations between the Kingdom and France, and ways to enhance ties in various fields.

The two ministers also discussed the latest developments in the international arena and addressed prominent topics at the ministerial meeting.

The undersecretary of the Saudi Foreign Ministry for political affairs, Ambassador Saud Al-Sati, also attended the meeting.




Qassim police arrest man over alleged drugs offenses

Qassim police arrest man over alleged drugs offenses
Updated 12 min 27 sec ago

Qassim police arrest man over alleged drugs offenses

Qassim police arrest man over alleged drugs offenses
  • He was also found to be in possession of firearms, live ammunition, mobile phones, and large sums of money

RASS: Police officers in Rass governorate in the Qassim region have arrested a man for allegedly attempting to sell hashish, amphetamines, and narcotic tablets.

He was also found to be in possession of firearms, live ammunition, mobile phones, and large sums of money. His case has been referred to legal authorities.

Anyone with information concerning drug smuggling or trafficking can report it by calling 911 in Makkah, Riyadh, and eastern regions of Saudi Arabia, and 999 in the rest of the Kingdom.

European film festival underway at Riyadh’s Sahara Mall 

European film festival underway at Riyadh’s Sahara Mall 
Updated 20 min 23 sec ago

European film festival underway at Riyadh’s Sahara Mall 

European film festival underway at Riyadh’s Sahara Mall 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s second European Film Festival is being held at VOX Cinemas Sahara Mall in Riyadh, with the screening of 16 films from different countries.

The festival, running until June 14, includes Oscar-nominee “Quiet Girl,” “I am Zlatan” by Jens Sjogren, telling the story of Swedish football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and “Sugar and Stars” by Riadh Belaiche, which will be screened for the first time in the Arab world at the festival. 

The event is held in cooperation with the embassies of the EU member states and Arabia Pictures Entertainment.

Patrick Simonnet, EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said: “We are keen to be part of the growing cultural scene of Saudi Arabia through various events that foster cultural exchange and engage Europeans and Saudis on aspects of mutual interest such as film in this instance. 

“People-to-people engagement is an important pillar of the EU’s strategic partnership with the Gulf.”

Abdulelah Al-Ahmary, founder of Arabia Pictures Entertainment, said it was keen to make the festival “a special cinematic experience for all the film buffs in Saudi Arabia.”

The festival will also give European and Saudi filmmakers the chance to swap ideas and knowledge at dedicated side events.

Guests will include directors Nuno Beato, Sebastien Tulard and Isabel Fernandez from Portugal, France and Spain respectively, who will meet the audiences and run an open conversation with filmmakers and film enthusiasts.

All screenings and side events will take place at VOX Cinemas Sahara Mall.  The full festival list has films from Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Saudi princess honored for UN-Habitat support

Saudi princess honored for UN-Habitat support
Updated 27 min 46 sec ago

Saudi princess honored for UN-Habitat support

Saudi princess honored for UN-Habitat support
  • UN-Habitat celebrated the reappointment of Princess Lamia bint Majed Al-Saud as its goodwill ambassador for the Arab region for a second term earlier this year

NAIROBI: The UN Human Settlements Programme, known as UN-Habitat, commemorated four years of cooperation with Princess Lamia bint Majed Al-Saud on Thursday.

It came at a discussion on advancing sustainable urbanization regionally, and on successful resource mobilization.

Earlier this year the UN-Habitat celebrated the reappointment of the princess as its goodwill ambassador for the Arab region for a second term.

The ceremony took place during the second session of the UN-Habitat Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, where the princess participated in a side event discussing peace, development and humanitarian action in Yemen. The princess also engaged in a number of bilateral meetings, discussing future areas of cooperation.

“Being here today with our partner UN-Habitat will support our efforts to address issues around urbanization and its implications on societies, economies and environments,” the princess said. “We promise to continue building bridges for a more compassionate, tolerant and accepting future along with our key partners.”

The princess has supported UN-Habitat achieve a number of milestones, specifically through advocating for key urban areas through attending high-level events and highlighting key topics relevant to urbanization. She aims to mobilize resources and has supported important projects in the region, spanning Iraq, Palestine, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Tunisia.

Princess Lamia “has successfully contributed to the resource mobilization and support, through AlWaleed Philanthropies, of crucial projects in the region, targeting COVID-19 response, housing for the most vulnerable groups and waste management,” Rania Hedeya, UN-Habitat regional representative for the Arab Region, said. “Her support enables UN-Habitat to reach various audiences and bring attention to urbanization topics in the regional and international agendas.”

The UN Habitat Assembly is the UN’s highest-level legislative body on sustainable urbanization and human settlements, comprised of 193 member states. The assembly convenes every four years by UN-Habitat and provides a platform for member states and stakeholders to share their views and adopt guidelines and recommendations to progress toward achieving sustainable urban development.

Energy supply is not a political issue, Hungarian FM Peter Szijjarto tells Arab News

Energy supply is not a political issue, Hungarian FM Peter Szijjarto tells Arab News
Updated 33 min 19 sec ago

Energy supply is not a political issue, Hungarian FM Peter Szijjarto tells Arab News

Energy supply is not a political issue, Hungarian FM Peter Szijjarto tells Arab News
  • Budapest’s top diplomat claims “failed” EU sanctions are “much more harmful to European countries than to Russia itself”
  • Minister hails “respect-based” Saudi-Hungary ties during visit to Riyadh for anti-terrorism conference 

RIYADH: Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s minister of foreign affairs and trade, has criticized EU sanctions targeting Russia over the war in Ukraine, claiming they have damaged European economies while failing to end the conflict.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Ministerial Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, held in Riyadh on Thursday, Szijjarto hit out at European critics who accuse Budapest of failing to boycott Russian energy.

“Energy supply is a physical issue, not a political issue,” he said. “It’s impossible to heat or cool down the houses and the flats with ideologies or with political statements.”

Citing Hungary’s geographical proximity to Russia and the current pipelines available to European nations, Szijjarto said his country had little option but to continue sourcing oil and gas from Russia to meet its demands.

“If you look at the infrastructure map of central Europe, when it comes to energy, you will see that because of the physical nature of the infrastructure, Russia is inevitable for us and is extremely important for us, from the perspective of a safe supply of energy,” he said.

“If we cut the Russian resources, then the remaining infrastructure does not have enough capacity to supply us with enough gas and oil.

“So my question, always, to these European colleagues, who are super hypocritical and are (leveling) allegations (against) us, (is) whether they would replace the Russian deliveries with gas and oil, even putting into consideration the lack of infrastructure. If there is no pipeline, how on earth will they deliver gas or oil to us?”

The war in Ukraine has put immense strain on Eastern European nations, which opened their doors to millions of Ukrainian refugees after Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February last year.

Another impact of the conflict and the Western sanctions that followed was a sharp rise in the price of energy, food and other commodities — inflationary pressures that have been keenly felt across Europe.

“These sanctions make no sense,” Szijjarto said. “They are much more harmful to the European countries than to Russia itself. They have been introduced with the goal of pushing Russia to its knees, economically speaking, thus making Russia unable to continue the war.

“That was a year ago. What happens now? We are now discussing the 11th package of sanctions, while the first 10 packages have failed, totally failed.

“Russia, definitely they are facing some economic challenges, but I’m pretty sure that we Europeans are faced with more serious economic challenges than them. And, on the other hand, we are not closer to peace either.”

Szijjarto welcomed Saudi offers of mediation between Russia and Ukraine, saying the conflict could be ended only through diplomatic means. He also lauded the Kingdom’s efforts to stabilize world energy prices.

“For us, the most important goal regarding the war in Ukraine is to create peace as soon as possible. It’s very obvious that this war does not have a solution on the battleground. This war only has a solution at the negotiating table,” he said.

“Diplomacy must take over, because if diplomacy cannot take over, then the war will last longer. The longer the war lasts, the more people will die. And we don’t want that. We want peace as soon as possible.

“Therefore, we absolutely appreciate the mediating efforts and the stabilizing role played, for example, by Saudi Arabia, because stability, forecastability in this regard, are reliable partners … (and) have a highly increased significance.

“We hope that mediation efforts put forward, for example, by the Saudi authorities, will be successful in the future and we ask you to continue to do so. The more mediation efforts there are, the more peace plans are being brought forward, the bigger the chance that peace will come.”

The ministerial meeting, for which Szijjarto was in Riyadh, attracted the top diplomats of several countries, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Daesh, as ISIS is also known, seized vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014 before the coalition was able to finally dislodge its fighters from their final holdouts in 2019.

The group’s members and sympathizers were also responsible for several mass casualty attacks in Europe and elsewhere, prompting governments to overhaul their security policies and revamp screening protocols for migrants and refugees.

But analysts are now concerned the world’s focus on the war in Ukraine risks diverting attention away from the ongoing threat posed by Islamic extremism.

“Hungary is pretty concerned about the growing threat of terror, because this threat usually causes additional flows, (such as) massive migration to Europe. Such flows constitute a pretty serious risk (to) security as well,” Szijjarto said.

“Since we in Europe are now faced with the challenge posed by the war in Ukraine, another type of security challenge would be unmanageable for us. Therefore, it is of crucial importance for us Europeans that the threat of terror is decreased. And without defeating ISIS, without pushing back ISIS, it’s impossible to (reduce) the threat of terror.”

Szijjarto said he appreciated the Kingdom’s efforts to keep the issue of terrorism at the top of the international agenda and cautioned against complacency.

“We appreciate the role of Saudi Arabia a lot when it comes to the fight against terror, when it comes to the fight against ISIS. And we are really thankful to the Saudi Arabian authorities for organizing the meeting of the anti-ISIS coalition, because we do believe that the efforts of this coalition should now be reinforced on many occasions.

“Whenever ISIS is getting stronger, the flows of migration are getting stronger. And whenever there are more people involved in the flows of migration, the more terrorists are having the chance to come to Europe. An increased threat of terror here usually ends up in an increased threat of terror in Europe.”

In January 2020, Szijjarto said Hungarian companies were well positioned to play a role in Vision 2030 — the Kingdom’s economic diversification and social reform agenda — particularly in the areas of agriculture, housing and electronics.

Asked about progress in the Saudi-Hungary relationship since then, the minister said the decks had been cleared for an expansion of trade and investment.

“The technologies that Hungarian companies and universities and research institutions have basically worked on are very useful from the perspective of the development of the Saudi economy as well,” he said.

“You have made huge efforts here in Saudi Arabia to upgrade infrastructure, but for future development, Hungarian companies are at our disposal as well.

“Saudi Arabia and Hungary enjoy trust-based, respect-based political cooperation without any kind of open issues. Therefore, it’s up to the companies to find a way to each other.

“So, what the two governments can do is pave the way to ensure the necessary legal and financial circumstances and insurances, which we have done. So it’s now up to the companies to take the most possible profit out of this good political cooperation.”

Also high on the international agenda is the crisis in Sudan, where the military and a paramilitary group have been locked in combat since April 15. The conflict has displaced more than 1 million people and triggered a humanitarian emergency.

Saudi Arabia and its US allies have taken the lead in mediation efforts, hosting representatives from both parties for ceasefire talks in the Kingdom’s coastal city of Jeddah.

Szijjarto said a solution had to be found quickly to avoid a fresh wave of migration to Europe, adding that the EU had a role to play in supporting Sudan’s neighbors, which are now home to hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

“We understand that the countries in the neighborhood are now faced with a tremendous challenge posed by the huge number of refugees,” Szijjarto said.

“Therefore, we urge the EU to transfer an increased volume of financial support and assistance to these countries in the neighborhood in order to be able to take care of the refugees, not to lose stability, not to bear too much burden, financially speaking, and not to come to a situation in which the neighboring countries become kind of transit countries. And then the flow of refugees will transform into a flow of migrants. And (after that), it would be a totally irregular set of developments.”

Under the circumstances, he said, “we are interested in stability as soon as possible, we are interested in the people who had to flee to be able to return as soon as possible and for the whole neighborhood to become more stable.”