Red Sea ecosystem’s ‘pristine’ preservation requires global attention, says director of new documentary

Red Sea ecosystem’s ‘pristine’ preservation requires global attention, says director of new documentary
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The documentary, produced by UK-based Ocean Souls Films, focuses on ocean conservation. (Supplied)
Red Sea ecosystem’s ‘pristine’ preservation requires global attention, says director of new documentary
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The documentary, produced by UK-based Ocean Souls Films, focuses on ocean conservation. (Supplied)
Red Sea ecosystem’s ‘pristine’ preservation requires global attention, says director of new documentary
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The documentary, produced by UK-based Ocean Souls Films, focuses on ocean conservation. (Supplied)
Red Sea ecosystem’s ‘pristine’ preservation requires global attention, says director of new documentary
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The documentary, produced by UK-based Ocean Souls Films, focuses on ocean conservation. (Supplied)
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Updated 05 October 2023
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Red Sea ecosystem’s ‘pristine’ preservation requires global attention, says director of new documentary

Red Sea ecosystem’s ‘pristine’ preservation requires global attention, says director of new documentary
  • Red Sea project and NEOM bringing scientists together to provide information as the development of tourism is being planned

LONDON: The Red Sea should be the most pristine sea in the world but its ecosystem also contains ancient endangered species and this should be treated as a global issue, according to the director of a new documentary.

The film, “RED, A sea worth protecting,” highlights the efforts of scientists and conservationists to save endangered species including the dugong, turtles and sharks, listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species.

“The point we are trying to make is that it is a global issue and you can have what is supposed to be the most pristine place in the world, like the Red Sea, which is a very strong sea, (but) you still have problems and it’s important that the governments, officials, policymakers, NGOs and scientists communicate that and do something accordingly,” said Philip Hamilton, the film’s director.




(Supplied)

“It’s one planet, the species migrate and they move (and) the problems of either coral bleaching, temperature rising or acidity is actually a global problem,” he told Arab News on the sidelines of a preview screening in London hosted by the Saudi embassy to the UK.

“So when we look at, for instance, the Red Sea, we should think about how we can protect the migratory species, how we can protect the pollution, moving from one place to another due to currents.”

The documentary, produced by UK-based Ocean Souls Films, focuses on ocean conservation. It starts with an introduction to the history of the Red Sea and its geography, highlighting its exceptional coral formations, mangrove forests and seagrass beds.




Philip Hamilton, director of ‘RED, A sea worth protecting’. (Supplied)

The film moves on to more specific details about the extraordinary, but critically endangered, marine species that make the Red Sea their home and provides an insight into what should be one of the “least concerning” seas in the world.

It follows the inspiring journey of a group of people dedicating their lives to protecting the Red Sea, sharing their frustrations and sacrifices, and their achievements and hopes.

“Even in the most remote places — thousands of kilometers south of the Antarctic Peninsula, you couldn’t possibly imagine that (after testing) certain animals who have never seen humans are infected with metals and microplastics and so on,” said the filmmaker, photographer and author.

The crew began filming the documentary — being presented at major international film festivals and soon to become available on social media channels — during the COVID-19 pandemic, which provided an opportunity to work in locations that would otherwise be crowded or full of tourists.

The Red Sea is a narrow strip of water lying between Africa and Asia, and which connects Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Israel, Eritrea and Djibouti.

Hamilton said that the team worked extensively with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which is doing extensive work via their coral research and development accelerator platform — launched in 2020 during the Kingdom’s presidency of the G20 to fast-track research and development solutions to save the world’s corals.




(Supplied)

“I know they are doing a lot (and) the reality is that they are top in the world in terms of the technology, the know-how, and the people they have,” said Hamilton, who has more than 30 years diving and sailing experience and has documented most marine animals on the planet.

“When you highlight the work of one scientist or one NGO, it’s very important for me that it inspires other people around the world because then you have the leverage effect that you really want,” he said.

“It’s great if you are an inspiration and you do great work in one place, and then you are being copied 100 times around the world and you have a real important effect.




(Supplied)

“I would love to see KAUST or plenty of other organizations be better known, not only by the scientific community, but people need to see all the great work they are doing.”

Hamilton called on the global community to increase collaboration and implement more marine protected areas. There was a need to replicate what happened in the Galapagos, Malpelo, Cocos and Coiba, he said, “where four countries got together and united to protect their own different individual zones and created one large corridor for species to migrate and be protected” throughout the migratory year.

“I think that’s what we need going forward,” he said. “We need countries to cooperate and go and act together.”




(Supplied)

Hamilton was speaking with particular reference to the UAE’s hosting of the UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28, which will be held in November. The UAE will be the second consecutive Arab country to stage the annual global gathering, after Egypt held it last year in the resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, which also lies on the Red Sea.

“We need to protect certain species before it’s too late,” Hamilton said, calling for more integrated planning. “I would expect not only this film to inspire solutions, but for instance, if you want to further develop your tourism, have a look at what could be causing certain problems to certain species, so when you grow, you do it properly.”

Hamilton said Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Project and NEOM were bringing scientists together to provide information as the development of tourism was being planned.

Territorial waters extended to a limit of 12 nautical miles, he said. After that, areas were considered exclusive economic zones but there was a lack of sufficient marine protection laws protecting them.

“When we think about nature, we need to think about no borders, no frontiers, no passports, no visas, no religion, no race. We need to think about the animals and ecosystems in a totally different way.

“But from there to implementing high seas policies and (doing this) worldwide, it is very, very hard (and) that’s a little bit frustrating,” he said.


Saudi Arabia to attend 10th UN anti-corruption convention in Atlanta on Monday

Saudi Arabia to attend 10th UN anti-corruption convention in Atlanta on Monday
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Saudi Arabia to attend 10th UN anti-corruption convention in Atlanta on Monday

Saudi Arabia to attend 10th UN anti-corruption convention in Atlanta on Monday

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will participate in the 10th Conference of the States Parties (COSP10) to the UN Convention against Corruption on Monday in Atlanta, US, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

The delegation will be headed by the President of the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha), Mazin Al-Kahmous, and will comprise members from various ministries, including the interior, foreign affairs, justice, the Presidency of State Security, and the Bureau of Experts at the Council of Ministers. 

Officials, experts, and anti-corruption specialists representing States Parties and international organizations will discuss integrity protection and anti-corruption efforts, as well as advancing commitments, policy priorities, monitoring implementation, and sharing expertise.
 
The agenda will cover asset recovery, fostering international cooperation, and adopting resolutions benefiting relevant areas. The Kingdom will propose studying methodologies and indicators for measuring corruption rates and the effectiveness of anti-corruption frameworks.
 
Alongside the conference, Saudi Arabia will host an exhibition highlighting its local and international anti-corruption initiatives and will organize a high-level event entitled “Nazaha’s Global Initiative for Measuring Corruption,” featuring participation from international organizations specialized in transparency, integrity protection, anti-corruption, COSP representatives, and civil society institutions.
 
The conference holds significant importance among forums dedicated to combating corruption and promoting integrity and transparency, with over 180 countries being parties to the convention.


AlUla to set majestic stage for Drone Champions League Super Final

AlUla to set majestic stage for Drone Champions League Super Final
Updated 09 December 2023
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AlUla to set majestic stage for Drone Champions League Super Final

AlUla to set majestic stage for Drone Champions League Super Final
  • The Kingdom’s historic city will be first in GCC to host a major DCL event

JEDDAH: The Drone Champions League — billed as the “world championship for professional drone racing” — will hold its first Super Final in the heart of AlUla’s Old Town on Dec. 20.

AlUla will be the first location in the GCC to host a major DCL event, and although no physical drones will be flying there, the league said in a statement: “It will be a chance for drone sports enthusiasts to enjoy the stunning and diverse landscapes of AlUla, varying between golden canyons, lush green oasis or spectacular geological marvels.”

The league’s organizers describe it as a “global pioneer in professional virtual and real-life drone racing. With a mission to combine cutting-edge technology and stunning locations, it has created a one-of-a-kind racing series that has captivated millions around the world.”

The Drone Champions League Super Final will be held in AlUla Old Town on Dec. 20 and will converge ‘technology, athleticism, and AlUla’s vision for sports and adventure.’ (Supplied)

The DCL has rapidly gained popularity since its launch in 2016. Originally rooted in physical drone racing, DCL has evolved into a predominantly virtual format, blending hi-tec drones with the immersive world of gaming.

The annual DCL Drone Prix season features 10 teams. The competition reaches its climax with the top six teams engaging in split finals employing an elimination-style format, culminating in the DCL Super Final.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The annual DCL Drone Prix season features 10 teams.

• The league is exploring a return to real-life drone racing alongside virtual events.

The DCL has staged races in iconic locations worldwide, from the historic streets of Paris to the frozen landscapes of Norway, providing visual spectacles for the audience and challenging courses for the pilots.

“The convergence of technology, athleticism, and AlUla’s vision for sports and adventure will make this Super Final a truly exceptional and unforgettable experience,” the statement said.

Margarete Schramboeck, Aramco Digital board member

The idea to stage the Super Final in AlUla came from Margarete Schramboeck, Austria’s former minister of economy and digital affairs and a board member of Aramco Digital. Recognizing the popularity of esports in contemporary youth culture, Schramboeck felt that Saudi Arabia, more than any other nation, exemplifies this trend.

“When the DCL team approached me, presenting their world-class drone racing league and its capabilities, I immediately saw the potential for Saudi Arabia … I envisioned it as something truly exceptional,” she told Arab News.

Drones and gaming play such an important role for our next generation — they are part of digital transformation and contribute to Saudi Vision 2030.

Margarete Schramboeck, Aramco Digital board member

Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih provided immediate support for the idea when it was presented to him at the French-Saudi Business Forum earlier this year, she added, and put her in touch with Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla.

“I was so happy my idea was supported by both. I want to thank them for making it possible,” Schramboeck added.

Markus Stampfer, DCL owner

With over 50 million viewers around the world in 2023, the DCL’s appearance in AlUla will attract attention from across the globe for the UNESCO World Heritage site, giving the tech-savvy younger generation the opportunity to delve into AlUla’s cultural heritage through their passion for gaming.

“Drones and gaming play such an important role for our next generation — they are part of digital transformation and contribute to Saudi Vision 2030. I only want to do projects which provide a clear value-add to the Kingdom on multiple levels,” Schramboeck said.

By choosing AlUla, we aim to bring the essence of this extraordinary location to a global audience, shining a spotlight on its cultural and historical importance.

Markus Stampfer, DCL owner

DCL owner Markus Stampfer told Arab News in an exclusive interview: “Our roots lie in physical drone racing and engineering, but, over time, we’ve evolved into a globally accessible esports title. This transformation aligns with the trend of Tourism 3.0, where cities and regions are visualized and digitized.

“This shift has allowed a young audience to be digitally close to World Heritage sites such as the remarkable example in AlUla,” he added. “We’ve achieved our development milestones during the past years to drive this transformation and are proud to be making DCL a global sensation.”

Stampfer also revealed that the league is exploring a return to real-life drone racing alongside virtual events. Several cities have already signed on for this initiative, and there are plans to introduce physical drone racing in Saudi Arabia in 2024.

“This marks a significant step toward achieving the ultimate goal of a hybrid global racing series, seamlessly integrating both digital and real-life experiences,” he said.

Why AlUla?
AlUla has been at the forefront of sustainable development in the Kingdom through its prestigious sports and adventure offerings, hosting numerous events including the AlUla Camel Cup, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup, the Saudi Tour, and, more recently, AlUla Desert Blaze.

AlUla Old Town was recognized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as one of the world’s Best Tourism Villages in 2022.

Stampfer emphasized that AlUla’s unique backdrop aligns perfectly with DCL’s vision: “It is a special honor to be in a place that is a World Heritage site, offering a unique backdrop that showcases the historical significance of the region. The league places great importance on cultural resonance and AlUla fits perfectly with our vision for creating a memorable and impactful event.

“By choosing AlUla, we aim to bring the essence of this extraordinary location to a global audience, shining a spotlight on its cultural and historical importance,” he added.

 

 


Saudi authority showcases AI advancement at Singapore conference

Saudi authority showcases AI advancement at Singapore conference
Updated 09 December 2023
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Saudi authority showcases AI advancement at Singapore conference

Saudi authority showcases AI advancement at Singapore conference
  • Areeb Al-Owisheq, the AI adviser representing the authority, took part in a workshop titled “Arabic Language Models: Challenges and Opportunities”

RIYADH: The Saudi Data and AI Authority participated in the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing in Singapore, highlighting its groundbreaking advancements in large-language-model development.

Areeb Al-Owisheq, the AI adviser representing the authority, took part in a workshop titled “Arabic Language Models: Challenges and Opportunities” during the five-day conference, which runs until Dec. 10.

She showcased the authority’s ambitious initiatives, including the construction of expansive language models, the curation of extensive Arabic datasets, and the development of linguistic models tailored for the Arabic language.

Al-Owisheq underscored the pivotal role of safety considerations in the development of these AI models and noted that “large language models are sophisticated deep-learning constructs trained on vast datasets. Natural Language Processing, a pivotal aspect of artificial intelligence, empowers computers to comprehend, generate, and process human language, allowing effective querying of data using natural language text or speech.”

SDAIA’s participation in the conference reflects its commitment to showcasing Saudi Arabia’s advancements in data and artificial intelligence. The authority aims to position itself as a global leader in these cutting-edge technologies.

These efforts align with SDAIA’S initiatives to transfer, localize, and generate knowledge in the field of artificial intelligence, and to integrate it into the Kingdom’s digital transformation endeavors outlined in Saudi Vision 2030.

SDAIA also unveiled the Sawtak (Your Voice) system during the event. Sawtak employs generative AI techniques to convert speech into text, and, the authority says, “boasts unparalleled precision in recognizing various local dialects and surpassing existing applications in the market.”


Saudi aid agency signs global volunteer program

The agreement was signed by Aqeel Al-Ghamdi and Ziyad bin Abdullah Al-Suwaidan in Riyadh. (SPA)
The agreement was signed by Aqeel Al-Ghamdi and Ziyad bin Abdullah Al-Suwaidan in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 35 min 21 sec ago
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Saudi aid agency signs global volunteer program

The agreement was signed by Aqeel Al-Ghamdi and Ziyad bin Abdullah Al-Suwaidan in Riyadh. (SPA)
  • The agreement is to achieve the goals of Saudi Vision 2030

RIYADH: Saudi aid agency KSrelief has signed a joint cooperation agreement with the Al-Ramdi Association in Dammam to implement volunteer programs outside the Kingdom.

The agreement was signed at the KSrelief headquarters in Riyadh, by its assistant supervisor general director for planning and development Aqeel Al-Ghamdi and Ziyad bin Abdullah Al-Suwaidan, chairman of Al-Ramdi’s board of directors.

The agreement is part of KSrelief’s efforts to support volunteer programs in a number of countries around the world, and to achieve the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, which calls for integration between various national authorities.

 

 


Riyadh conference to focus on digital innovation

Riyadh conference to focus on digital innovation
Updated 09 December 2023
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Riyadh conference to focus on digital innovation

Riyadh conference to focus on digital innovation
  • Event organized by the Saudi Saline Water Conversion Corp

RIYADH: The second Operational Excellence Conference, OPEXKSA, will begin on Dec. 12 in Riyadh, covering “global leadership in operational excellence.”

Organized by the Saudi Saline Water Conversion Corp., the two-day conference emphasizes the role of digital transformation in achieving operational excellence in business, serving as a key platform for knowledge exchange.

The conference will highlight the significance of artificial intelligence, the fourth industrial revolution, sustainability and data in business performance.

It will cover 10 key sectors aligned with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, including Hajj services, water, industry, mining, transportation, logistics, communications, energy, education and digital health. OPEXKSA will also address justice, finance, real estate, agriculture, research, development, innovation, human resources and social development.

Visitors will learn how to tackle challenges in today’s competitive environment through agile business development.

Sessions and workshops held at OPEXKSA will highlight digital transformation as a key pillar for growth and development.

OPEXKSA is hosting more than 100 speakers and will feature international consulting firms, along with government, private and nonprofit entities.