NCVC, ARGAS to scatter 100m seeds in Empty Quarter

NCVC and ARGAS collaborate to scatter 1M seeds in several project sites spanning over 12 square kilometers at the Empty Quarter desert. (Supplied)
NCVC and ARGAS collaborate to scatter 1M seeds in several project sites spanning over 12 square kilometers at the Empty Quarter desert. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 November 2023
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NCVC, ARGAS to scatter 100m seeds in Empty Quarter

NCVC, ARGAS to scatter 100m seeds in Empty Quarter
  • This initiative is an effort to enhance greenery in different regions of the Kingdom

JEDDAH: The Saudi National Center for Vegetation Cover, in collaboration with the Arabian Geophysical and Surveying Co., launched an initiative on Saturday to scatter 100 million seeds in the Empty Quarter desert.

The center posted on X: “Within the #National_Afforestation_Programme, the Center launches an initiative to scatter 100 million pastoral and wild seeds in the Rub al-Khali desert, with the support and participation of @argas in order to achieve the goals of the #Saudi_Green_Initiative.”

Additionally, 10,000 local seedlings will be planted as part of the National Afforestation Program, contributing to the goals of the Saudi Green Initiative to plant 10 billion trees.

ARGAS will offer all the necessary support for the seed scattering process.

This initiative is an effort to enhance greenery in different regions of the Kingdom.

Earlier, the NCVC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture, launched the National Afforestation Program at the ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh.

The program seeks to raise societal awareness regarding the importance of afforestation, environmental conservation, and the preservation of natural resources, ultimately leading to a sustainable green environment.

The NCVC is currently working on developing, monitoring, and protecting vegetation sites, rehabilitating degraded areas, detecting encroachments, combating desertification, and supervising pastures, forests, and national parks.

 

 


Saudi Arabia restricts Umrah permits to Hajj permit holders

Saudi Arabia restricts Umrah permits to Hajj permit holders
Updated 9 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia restricts Umrah permits to Hajj permit holders

Saudi Arabia restricts Umrah permits to Hajj permit holders
  • New regulation aims to manage influx during peak pilgrimage period from May 24 to June 26
  • The ministry stated that Umrah permits will not be issued to individuals without a confirmed Hajj permit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that starting May 24 until June 26, Umrah permits will only be issued to those with a confirmed Hajj permit.
The directive was issued by the ministry to facilitate Hajj pilgrims arriving in Saudi Arabia from around the world, ensuring their pilgrimage at the Grand Mosque in Makkah is conducted with ease and comfort.
The ministry stated that Umrah permits will not be issued to individuals without a confirmed Hajj permit.
This measure aims to manage the influx of pilgrims in the holy city during the busy Hajj season, ensuring a smooth experience for all pilgrims.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah posted on X: “Defying Hajj regulations will result in severe and unwavering penalties. A fine of SR10,000 ($2,666) will be imposed on individuals caught in Makkah and the holy sites without a Hajj permit, applicable to citizens, residents, and visitors. The fine will double for repeat offenders, and resident violators face deportation and a ban from entering Saudi Arabia.”
Earlier, the Ministry of Interior announced penalties for those who violated Hajj regulations and instructions, such as those found without a permit in Makkah, the central region, the holy sites, the Haramain train station in Rusayfah, security control centers, sorting centers, and temporary security control centers. These will be effective from June 2 to June 20.
Any citizens, residents or visitors caught within the specified restricted areas without a Hajj permit will be fined SR10,000. In addition, residents face deportation to their home country and a ban from entering the Kingdom for a stipulated period.
Emphasizing the importance of adherence to Hajj regulations and instructions, the ministry stressed that the fine would be doubled for repeat offenders.
Transporting individuals without a permit is a serious offense, with penalties of up to six months in prison and a fine of up to SR50,000. The fine will increase proportionately with the number of people carried. The means of transportation will be seized and expatriate transporters will face deportation and a ban from re-entering the Kingdom for a specified period.
Members of the public are urged to report anyone breaking the rules by calling (911) in Makkah, Riyadh and the Eastern Province, and (999) in the remaining regions.
One of the five pillars of Islam, this year’s Hajj is expected to run from June 14 to June 19.


Pilgrim mobility innovation contest concludes in Makkah

Pilgrim mobility innovation contest concludes in Makkah
Updated 52 min 38 sec ago
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Pilgrim mobility innovation contest concludes in Makkah

Pilgrim mobility innovation contest concludes in Makkah
  • Event aimed to enhance pilgrim services in innovative ways, focusing on assisting people with disabilities in completing Hajj rituals like Tawaf and Sa’i

RIYADH: The General Authority for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, along with Umm Al-Qura University and Wadi Makkah Co., recently concluded the pilgrim-mobility enhancement challenge at the university’s headquarters in Makkah.

The one-week event, which started on May 12, aimed to enhance pilgrim services in innovative ways, focusing on assisting people with disabilities in completing Hajj rituals like Tawaf and Sa’i.

It featured four categories: Manual wheelchairs, electric vehicles, golf carts and trailers, alongside an open section for creative mobility ideas.

With 50 teams and 190 participants, the challenge also involved 19 mentors, 10 judges and 118 mentoring sessions.

During the closing ceremony, attended by Umm Al-Qura University President Dr. Moaddi bin Mohammed Aal Madhhab, and the CEO of the general authority, Ghazi bin Dhafer Al-Shahrani, an exhibition showcased contributions and innovative ideas from organizing bodies and participating teams.

Dr. Ammar Attar, adviser to the general authority, highlighted the importance of forging quality partnerships, citing Umm Al-Qura University as a pioneer in Hajj and Umrah sciences and technologies. He lauded the joint initiative to enhance Tawaf and Sa’i mobility as a significant outcome of this collaboration.

Dr. Ali Al-Shaeri, CEO of Wadi Makkah Co., praised the challenge’s success and impact, highlighting its role in the university’s broader innovation program to enhance the pilgrim experience through effective partnership with the general authority.

Majed Al-Fuwaiz, secretary-general of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, applauded the challenge for fostering innovation to create a safe and appealing working environment meeting both local and international safety standards for those serving pilgrims.

The ceremony concluded with the honoring of the winners: Masari team claimed first place for their development of a smart path system for electric carts; Maseer team secured second place with AI-powered carts designed for ergonomic comfort; Naqiloon team earned third place for their Tawaf trailers tailored for specific location needs; Tarrayath team took fourth place for their sensor-based device safeguarding pilgrims in the Grand Mosque; and Mu’een team clinched fifth place with an app connecting pilgrims to cart drivers within the Two Holy Mosques.

Targeting postgraduate students, university students, faculty members, international students and entrepreneurs, the challenge aimed to enhance the mobility experience for Tawaf and Sa’i.

Participants delved deeper into the challenge through field visits and interactions with service providers, leading to the practical application of their ideas.


Riyadh show connects global innovators with Saudi Arabia’s food and beverage sector

Riyadh show connects global innovators with Saudi Arabia’s food and beverage sector
Updated 20 May 2024
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Riyadh show connects global innovators with Saudi Arabia’s food and beverage sector

Riyadh show connects global innovators with Saudi Arabia’s food and beverage sector
  • Show features 1,000 exhibitors presenting 100,000 product innovations from 97 countries

RIYADH: The second Saudi Food Show, the Kingdom’s largest food and beverage sourcing event, will begin Tuesday at the Riyadh Front.

This year’s show, which will run until May 23, is sponsored by Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al-Khorayef in collaboration with the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones, or MODON.

It features 1,000 exhibitors presenting 100,000 product innovations from 97 countries, including newcomers and returning successes like Top Table Saudi and Youth X Saudi in expanded formats.

The first day, curated by MODON, emphasizes technology’s role in enhancing food production efficiency in Saudi Arabia, alongside investments in human capital for competitiveness in the F&B sector and fintech’s financial support role.

Ali Al-Omeir, MODON’s vice president of business development, underscored their focus on localizing the F&B industry to bolster food security in Saudi Arabia, aligning with the National Strategy for Industry and Saudi Vision 2030.

Over the second and third days, over 90 leaders from public and private sectors, including ministries, food investors, retailers, innovators, and food service providers, will share insights on maximizing opportunities in the Saudi F&B market, fostering success for businesses in the Kingdom through keynote addresses, panels, and workshops.

The event will introduce Saudifoodpreneur, a workshop series for F&B entrepreneurs. Led by industry experts and successful entrepreneurs, these workshops and business support clinics will guide startups through navigating Saudi Arabia’s dynamic F&B landscape, equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the vibrant market.


KSrelief health projects help vulnerable worldwide

KSrelief health projects help vulnerable worldwide
Updated 20 May 2024
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KSrelief health projects help vulnerable worldwide

KSrelief health projects help vulnerable worldwide

RIYADH: Saudi aid agency KSrelief recently completed voluntary medical projects in Port Sudan, Sudan, providing neurosurgery and spine surgery for children and adults.

The program involved 15 volunteers performing 28 surgeries, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.

In Yemen, KSrelief concluded a similar initiative, performing heart surgery and catheterization on children and adults.

Throughout the campaign, 23 volunteers conducted 25 open-heart surgeries, 166 adult catheterizations and 57 pediatric catheterizations.

These efforts represent Saudi Arabia’s support, through KSrelief, to needy communities worldwide, SPA stated.

In Lebanon, KSrelief-funded ambulance services by the Subul Al Salam Social Association in the Miniyeh district completed 64 missions in one week.

The ambulance service transported patients to and from hospitals and provided emergency services to accident victims in the district.

The project aims to bolster ambulance services in refugee areas and host communities in Lebanon.


Frankly Speaking: Saudi Human Rights Commission chief outlines mandate, ambitions

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Human Rights Commission chief outlines mandate, ambitions
Updated 20 May 2024
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Frankly Speaking: Saudi Human Rights Commission chief outlines mandate, ambitions

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Human Rights Commission chief outlines mandate, ambitions
  • Hala Al-Tuwaijri cites “rapid advances, huge transformation” in women’s empowerment, particularly in the labor force
  • Describes “humbling responsibility” of handling human rights file, highlighting need for judicial reform

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is undergoing a “huge transformation” in relation to women’s empowerment thanks to comprehensive reforms to legal, civil, and social rights, Hala Al-Tuwaijri, the first woman to lead the the country’s Human Rights Commission, has said.

The Kingdom has seen rapid advances in the representation of women in positions of leadership, from Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, the first female Saudi ambassador to the US, to Sara Al-Suhaimi, the first female chair of Tadawul, the Saudi stock exchange.

Indeed, Al-Tuwaijri’s own appointment as president of the Human Rights Commission with the rank of minister back in September 2022 is proof in itself of the tectonic changes underway in Saudi Arabia.

“Those are examples of women who made it to the top. (But) that’s basically the tip of the iceberg,” Al-Tuwaijri told Katie Jensen, host of the Arab News current affairs program “Frankly Speaking.”

“What has actually happened in Saudi Arabia is a huge transformation, especially when it comes to the issue of women’s empowerment.”

Hala Al-Tuwaijri, president of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission, said: “Yes, unfortunately, there is bias not only against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but generally against people from this region.” (AN photo)

In a freewheeling interview, Al-Tuwaijri discussed the progress she has witnessed since assuming office and addressed the criticisms of Western nations that scrutinize the authenticity of Saudi Arabia’s advancements in human rights.

Nowhere is the transformation in the rights of Saudi women more obvious than in the workplace. Thanks to a slew of reforms and new legal protections, women now make up a significant portion of the labor force at every level.

“The approach was comprehensive,” said Al-Tuwaijri. “We basically expanded all the legal, civil, social rights and looked at legislation, procedures and everything that was actually obstructing women’s progress was actually moved away.

“The biggest achievement, I think, is how women’s empowerment has changed the face of the country. Now you see women everywhere working in every field. The pipelines for women to join the labor force were all unclogged and therefore you see women joining the labor force.

“And this was translated in the data about women’s empowerment and especially women’s participation in the workforce.”

Perhaps the best examples of this transformation are the Saudi women making strides in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine — career paths that have traditionally been dominated by men.

Saudi scientist Rayyanah Barnawi (R) became the first Saudi female astronaut to go to space. With her in the picture is fellow Saudi astronaut Ali Alqarni. (@Astro_Rayyanah/File))

“I would use the cliche ‘the sky’s the limit,’ but after (first Saudi female astronaut) Rayyanah Barnawi went to space, I think that metaphor does not describe the ambition of Saudi women,” said Al-Tuwaijri.

“I think that Saudi women have proved to be efficient and to be up to the positions that they’ve taken.”

Since 2016, the Kingdom has implemented a raft of reforms designed to empower women, from the lifting of the ban on driving and the relaxation of the male guardianship law to measures to combat violence against women and girls.

Although it is a challenging role, Al-Tuwaijri says her appointment to lead the Human Rights Commission reflects how seriously the Kingdom takes its obligations and its commitment to the shared values of the international community.

“This task of handling the human rights file anywhere in the world is a huge responsibility, a humbling one,” she said. “And also, it comes with a package of knowing you’re doing good for the people and for mankind in general. It has its own lofty values and principles as well.

“In Saudi Arabia, it’s no different. I come to work every day knowing that, yes, I’m doing my job on the one hand. But also, I know that this job includes the promotion and protection, the rights of people living in Saudi Arabia and also contributing to the international community and the new trends and approaches to human rights.

“So, the task is not a simple one. It’s not a straightforward one. It’s not that you have a goal and you have to accomplish it at a certain period of time. No, it’s ongoing. It’s dynamic. And it’s always changing, requiring a lot of exposure, communication with others.”

In a September 2023 interview with US broadcaster Fox News, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman admitted to being “ashamed” of the Kingdom’s laws after a retired teacher was sentenced to death for a critical post on social media.

“Shamefully, it’s true. It’s something I don’t like,” the crown prince told Fox News, highlighting his government’s efforts to reform and modernize the judiciary.

“We are doing our best … we have already changed tens of laws in Saudi Arabia, and the list has more than 1,000 items. In the cabinet they have only 150 lawyers, so I’m trying to prioritize the change day by day.”

He added: “But we are not happy with that. We are ashamed of that. But (under) the jury system, you have to follow the laws and I cannot tell a judge (to) do that and ignore the law, because … that’s against the rule of law. But do we have bad laws? Yes. We are changing that, yes.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was interviewed by Fox News’ chief political correspondent Bret Baier on Sept. 21, 2023. (AN Files)

Asked about these comments, Al-Tuwaijri said the crown prince respects the authority of the Kingdom’s judiciary, but that reforms are necessary — measures that the Human Rights Commission is on board with.

“Yes, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince stated that. And I think it’s a verbal affirmation of the big initiatives that are taking place in terms of the transformation in the judicial system,” said Al-Tuwaijri.

“Three laws have been issued recently, all of them controlling the lives of people in a positive way — where by controlling we mean there is more clarity in terms of the judiciary and predictability, of course.

“The fact that all of this is taking place while we are also progressing, putting forward initiatives, is more like fixing a plane while you’re flying. And this is precisely what His Royal Highness the Crown Prince indicated.

“But in the same interview you have mentioned, he also showed so much respect for the judiciary. And I think every country that respects itself and its status has to also respect the judiciary.”

The Human Rights Commission is participating in this reform process “so the human rights lens is always applied when it comes to issuing a new law or reviewing one or giving advice on a certain procedure,” said Al-Tuwaijri.

“We have to make sure also that everything that’s happening in this journey of legal transformation is actually aligned with the human rights commitment.”

Although its reform agenda is driven by a broader domestic transformation plan under Vision 2030, the Kingdom engages with international agencies and human rights groups to ascertain where improvements can be made — provided they are based on fact rather than hearsay.

Highlights of the speech of Saudi HRC chief Hala Altuwaijri during Global Labor Market Conference, with the topic “Women in the Labor Market”. (X: @HRCSaudi_EN)

“In our mandate, we engage with all kinds of parties, whether it’s state, government organizations or non-government organizations,” said Al-Tuwaijri. “But the basis of this kind of engagement is cooperation, dialogue and constructive efforts.

“We do engage with all of these entities as long as the objective is to have a constructive dialogue that actually is on equal footing and, at the same time, understands the differences between us. This is basically how we function.”

She added: “And of course, we do monitor what the media addresses in terms of human rights issues, that includes everything. So, it depends on our relationship with these entities. We engage directly in cooperation and dialogue.

“And if we find that the reports are not based on facts but just meritless, hearsay or so, then we just focus on working on the ground and trying to continue our strategy and reach our goals and consider that (report) as one of so many reports that are actually politicizing human rights and not really engaging in a cooperative manner.”

In January, the UN held the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, where Al-Tuwaijri emphasized Saudi Arabia’s determination to achieve the highest global standards in promoting and protecting human rights.

Illustration on Saudi Arabia's participation in the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva in January 2024. (X: @HRCSaudi_EN)

Despite the significant strides Saudi Arabia has made, several Western commentators have characterized this commitment as a PR stunt. Al-Tuwaijri brushed aside the criticism, pointing to the Kingdom’s positive record.

The Universal Periodic Review “covers a period where there were, on the ground, more than 100 reforms, and those reforms (have been) published,” she said. “They are supported with evidence, with data, and that is an actual manifestation of the reforms.

“Yes, some people would always criticize and some people would be cynical about what happens. But we keep open in terms of cooperation with states, government organizations, non-government organizations about addressing these issues and discussing areas of improvement.

“And for people who doubt, (who say) that it’s a stunt or that we’re not telling the truth, I invite them to come and visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and meet actually with men and women from the Saudi community and listen to how much they have actually benefited from all of these improvements and changes and developments that happened on the ground.”

Asked whether the negative perception of Saudi Arabia among international rights organizations is influenced by political bias or unrealistic expectations, Al-Tuwaijri pointed to the positive feedback the Kingdom has also received.

 

 

“There were more than 135 comments given to the Saudi delegation in Geneva last January. And what was astonishing is that all 135 comments were introduced by acknowledgement of the improvement,” she said.

“It is obvious that compared to the previous report, there is great improvement that was acknowledged by the international community.”

She added: “Yes, unfortunately, there is bias not only against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but generally against people from this region. But we try to overlook the negative implications of that bias and try to see the good in these approaches or reports or criticism and see what we can take from them.”

Al-Tuwaijri acknowledged that changing such attitudes would be a gradual process, but one possible to implement through continuous engagement with friends and critics alike.

“The purpose is to make people see for themselves what is happening in Saudi Arabia,” she said. “Because the narrative is never complete, actually, without people witnessing it with their own eyes.”