OIC chief emphasizes Islamic universities’ role in shaping future

OIC chief emphasizes Islamic universities’ role in shaping future
OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha highlighted the role universities have to play in shaping the future of societies by influencing the development of young people. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 January 2024
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OIC chief emphasizes Islamic universities’ role in shaping future

OIC chief emphasizes Islamic universities’ role in shaping future
  • OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha affirmed the organization’s support for Islamic universities

RIYADH: The first coordination meeting for Islamic universities and affiliated institutions of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation took place in Jeddah on Tuesday.

The OIC operates five affiliated and subsidiary universities in member states: Islamic University of Technology in Bangladesh, International Islamic University in Malaysia, Islamic University in Uganda, Islamic University of Niger and King Faisal University in Chad. These institutions are central to the organization’s higher education initiatives.

OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha highlighted the role universities have to play in shaping the future of societies by influencing the development of young people.

He affirmed the organization’s support for Islamic universities and stressed the importance of participation in their events for fostering constructive interaction between the OIC and higher education.

He also underscored the significance of the Islamic world and emphasized the potential for fruitful cooperation to generate innovative ideas and opportunities for young people.

Taha highlighted key challenges, including poverty, climate change, adapting to technological advancements, addressing labor-market conditions and prioritizing girls’ education.

The coordination meeting aims to foster dialogue and the exchange of experiences in the academic and administrative sectors. It provides a platform for coordination and cooperation between Islamic universities and affiliated institutions.


Red Sea Global, Warner Bros. to release coral reef documentary

Red Sea Global, Warner Bros. to release coral reef documentary
Updated 16 April 2024
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Red Sea Global, Warner Bros. to release coral reef documentary

Red Sea Global, Warner Bros. to release coral reef documentary
  • Viewers will discover the untouched coral reefs along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global has partnered with Warner Bros. Discovery to produce a documentary on climate change and coral reefs.

“Beneath the Surface: The Fight for Corals” will air on the Discovery Channel on Earth Day, April 22, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The documentary will highlight RSG’s environmental efforts, according to a statement from the developer.

Red Sea Global Group CEO John Pagano said the documentary will “aim to spotlight the beauty and vulnerability of these underwater wonders and emphasize the importance of global collaboration in preserving our oceans.”

The film features Saudi Arabian free diver Salma Shaker as she explores the extensive coral research conducted by Red Sea Global and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

Viewers will also discover the untouched coral reefs along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline, showcasing their rich biodiversity and vital role in the environment.

“Beneath the Surface: The Fight for Corals” also extends beyond local waters to coral reefs in Mexico, emphasizing the universal challenges these ecosystems face.

The documentary will highlight the benefits of coral research in the Red Sea for ecosystems globally.

Kerrie McEvoy, head of Factual Channels in Discovery Networks EMEA at Warner Bros Discovery, said: “As a company, we believe in the power of storytelling to entertain and inspire change, and this film exemplifies that commitment.”

The documentary will provide a holistic view of coral reefs worldwide, their importance to the marine ecosystem, as well as conservation efforts. It also features insights from a range of experts.

A trailer of the documentary was screened to attendees at a side event during COP28 in Dubai late last year.
 


Saudi Arabia prepares for inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum

Saudi Arabia prepares for inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum
Updated 16 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia prepares for inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum

Saudi Arabia prepares for inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum
  • Developing Hajj and Umrah services in the Kingdom is a key priority of the Saudi government
  • Forum will showcase initiatives and services aimed at enriching the experience of Umrah performers and visitors

RIYADH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is in the final stages of preparation for the launch of the inaugural Umrah and Ziyarah Forum, scheduled to convene in Madinah on Monday, April 22, for three days.

Under the patronage of Prince Salman bin Sultan, the governor of Madinah region, the forum will be held at the King Salman International Convention Center.

Developing Hajj and Umrah services in the Kingdom is a key priority of the Saudi government and an extension of the country’s historic role in serving Muslims and Islam worldwide.

The forum will showcase initiatives and services aimed at enriching the experience of Umrah performers and visitors from within and outside the Kingdom. It is part of achieving the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, aiming to enable a larger number of Umrah performers to visit Makkah and Madinah and have the best experience they can.

The forum is held in partnership with the Pilgrim Experience Program, one of the programs of Vision 2030.

The event will include dialogue sessions, discussion groups, interactive workshops and an exhibition displaying the latest advancements in the sector.

It will feature participation from government officials and private sector stakeholders, including travel agencies, pilgrimage and tourism companies, and innovators spanning the insurance, healthcare, transportation, and technology industries.

The forum will address opportunities in the Umrah and tourism sectors, and will focus on the quality of projects, services, and products.

Participants in the general sessions and accompanying workshops of the Umrah and Ziyarah Forum will showcase their experiences, services and products. During the forum, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah will announce new opportunities and innovative work domains.

Moreover, several partnerships and agreements will be signed to enhance services in Makkah, Madinah, and various Islamic, historical, archaeological, and other cultural sites.


Eastern Province, Qassim, Riyadh brace for heavy downpours, hailstorms

Eastern Province, Qassim, Riyadh brace for heavy downpours, hailstorms
Updated 16 April 2024
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Eastern Province, Qassim, Riyadh brace for heavy downpours, hailstorms

Eastern Province, Qassim, Riyadh brace for heavy downpours, hailstorms
  • NCM forecast heavy rains, high-speed winds, hail storms in these regions on Tuesday
  • Schools closed, online classes in parts of Kingdom due to inclement weather

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will receive more rainfall on Tuesday with the Eastern Province, Al-Qassim region and the capital Riyadh and its outskirts likely to witness heavy rains, accompanied by high-speed winds, hail and subsequent lack of visibility, according to the forecast of the National Center of Meteorology.

The NCM forecast for Tuesday said: “There will be high speed wind, sandstorms followed by heavy rain and hailstorm in Qassim, Riyadh, Eastern Province, Northern Border region and Hail.

“Eastern Province, Qassim and Riyadh will record low temperatures, and there is a possibility of flash floods in these areas,” it added.

Hussein Al-Qahtani, spokesperson of the NCM, called for utmost caution and vigilance due to the weather fluctuations in these regions.

“Manifa in the Eastern Province exceeded 42 mm of rain within an hour, and the chances of rain continue in the affected areas. We call on everyone to be careful and monitor weather information across the center, given the weather fluctuations affecting the areas in the Kingdom,” said Al-Qahtani.

Following inclement weather, education authorities in several parts of Saudi Arabia suspended in-person classes on Tuesday and ordered schooling to be shifted online.

The suspension was announced for classes in the Eastern Province, Al-Qasim and Unaizah in central Saudi Arabia and Hafr Al-Batin in the Kingdom’s northeast.

A similar measure was taken for schools in some governorates in the Riyadh region including Wadi Al-Dawasir, Afif, Dawadmi, Al-Aflaj, Al-Zulfi, Shaqra, Al-Ghat and Al-Majma’ah, based on forecast issued by the NCM, to ensure safety of students and staff.

According to the NCM forecast Najran, Jazan, and Aseer regions will experience high speed wind and moderate rainfall.

Cities in the Eastern Province were lashed by heavy-to-torrential rains on Monday while the NCM forecast rainy weather to continue in the region, accompanied by strong winds, low-visibility, hailstorms, thunderstorms and flash flood.

Amid unstable weather in the Gulf region, rainy low pressure hit Oman earlier this week, and the UAE on Monday, causing floods, and it could extend further afield.

The Saudi Civil Defense and the traffic authorities have warned motorists of the risk of cars skidding during rainfall, and advised residents to be careful while going out.

The General Directorate of Saudi Civil Defense warned people to be cautious of potential dangers as the NCM has forecast the poor weather conditions to continue.

The directorate said on Tuesday that forecasts from the NCM indicate heavy to moderate rains across the Kingdom.

“The Civil Defense calls on everyone to take caution and adhere to its instructions as we see the weather in the Eastern Province. Your cooperation is needed. Your safety is our goal,” it said.


WFP welcomes funding from KSrelief to combat malnutrition in Sudan and South Sudan

WFP welcomes funding from KSrelief to combat malnutrition in Sudan and South Sudan
Updated 16 April 2024
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WFP welcomes funding from KSrelief to combat malnutrition in Sudan and South Sudan

WFP welcomes funding from KSrelief to combat malnutrition in Sudan and South Sudan
  • The funding will benefit over 35,000 children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers affected by conflict, economic instability, and climate-related disasters

RIYADH: The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has signed two agreements worth a total of US$1.4 million with Saudi Arabia.

These agreements aim to provide treatment and prevention measures for malnutrition in Sudan and South Sudan.

The funding will benefit over 35,000 children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers affected by conflict, economic instability, and climate-related disasters. Specifically, it will aid nearly 29,000 individuals in Sudan and close to 6,000 individuals in South Sudan.

Michael Dunford, WFP's Regional Director for the East Africa region, emphasized the importance of this funding, especially given the dire situation unfolding in Sudan, which is on the brink of becoming one of the world's largest hunger crises. He stressed the urgency of addressing malnutrition to prevent needless deaths and mitigate the long-term consequences of childhood malnutrition.

The agreements were formalized during a pledging conference for the Sudan crisis in Paris, where WFP's Executive Director, Cindy McCain, and Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, Royal Court Advisor and Supervisor General of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief), signed the documents.

Dr. Abdullah Al Moallem, Director of KSRelief's Health and Environmental Aid Department, reaffirmed their commitment to supporting vulnerable populations in Sudan and South Sudan. He highlighted the importance of these projects in providing emergency nutritional aid to children and pregnant or lactating women, which will ultimately contribute to combating famine and malnutrition in both countries.

In Sudan, nearly 4.9 million children under five and pregnant or breastfeeding women face acute malnutrition—a 22% increase from the previous year. South Sudan is also grappling with high malnutrition rates, with approximately 1.6 million children and 870,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women expected to be malnourished this year.


Saudi FM says Pakistan visit to reap ‘significant benefits’ amid push for strategic, commercial partnership

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad. (@KSAMOFA)
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad. (@KSAMOFA)
Updated 16 April 2024
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Saudi FM says Pakistan visit to reap ‘significant benefits’ amid push for strategic, commercial partnership

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad. (@KSAMOFA)
  • Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan is in Pakistan to discuss bilateral economic cooperation, investments
  • Prince Faisal's visit comes a week after Saudi crown prince reaffirmed commitment to expedite $5 billion Pakistan investments

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Tuesday described his ongoing visit to Pakistan to discuss investments as “very, very positive” and said Islamabad's focus on results and overcoming hurdles would deliver “significant benefits.”

Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals. His trip comes a little over a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Makkah and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite investments worth $5 billion.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.

“We were extremely impressed by the very, very proactive attitude that we saw in our meetings, especially with the [Special] Investment [Facilitation] Council,” Prince Faisal said at joint press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar. He was referring to a Pakistani civil-military council set up last year to oversee and fast-track all foreign investments.

“I feel very, very confident that the results of this visit and the results of the work being done between the two respective teams, with this attitude, with this approach of a focus on results, focus on overcoming hurdles, will deliver significant benefits,” the Saudi official added. 

He said there was a “significant opportunity” for the Kingdom to increase its investments in Pakistan, adding that his engagements with Pakistani leaders had laid the groundwork for "significant and important work to be done" in the months ahead:

“There is a lot of untapped potential that is clear to everyone. It just needs to be tapped … And here, working together, we will do what we can with our colleagues in the government of Pakistan to make that happen.”

Pakistani foreign minister Dar said both sides had held comprehensive discussions covering various aspects of Pak-Saudi cooperation.

“We discussed ways and means to transform our fraternal cordial relations into a mutually beneficial strategic and economic partnership,” Dar said. “We greatly appreciate the keen interest of the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in enhancing investments in Pakistan.”

The Pakistani minister said Islamabad was committed to providing Saudi investors with full support, relevant safeguards and a conducive environment for investment.

 

PAKISTAN-SAUDI INVESTMENT CONFERENCE

Earlier, the Saudi foreign minister held meetings with top civilian leadership including the prime minister, president and foreign minister to discuss economic opportunities and also co-chaired an investment conference. He is also expected to meet the army chief before departing for Riyadh.

“We aim to transform our traditionally fraternal ties into a strategic and economic partnership,” Dar said as he addressed a Pakistan-Saudi Arabia Investment Conference in Islamabad, held under the umbrella of SIFC.

“Your investments are not just financial commitments but are crucial in nurturing a deeply valued partnership,” Dar told the visiting dignitary.

Pakistan was blessed with fertile agricultural lands, minerals and a large and dynamic population, complemented by a flourishing IT sector and abundant prospects for renewable energy creation, the foreign minister added.

He said Pakistan’s fertile lands and a vast network of water resources presented numerous investment opportunities in agri-tech and food processing, with the South Asian nation having the potential to become the region’s food basket.

“Our mining sector is marked by untapped potential especially in the expansive Tethyan belt known for its abundant deposits of copper, gold and other valuable minerals,” Dar said. “The strategic advancements in these areas are highlighted by projects such as Riko Diq copper [and gold] project which exemplifies our commitment to leveraging our natural resources for mutual benefit.”

On Sunday, Pakistani state media reported Saudi Arabia was likely to invest $1 billion in the mine project in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, one of the world’s largest underdeveloped copper-gold areas.

The foreign minister said Pakistan’s goal was to transform the country into a hub of economic activity, and innovation and create an attractive environment for global investors like Saudi Arabia.

“Investing in Pakistan is not merely a placement of capital. It would actually be instrumental toward forging a partnership that promises mutual prosperity and progress,” he concluded.

“Your engagement and investment in Pakistan will be handled with utmost respect and institutionalized commitment from our side, ensuring that together we achieve remarkable success.”

 

MEETINGS WITH PM AND PRESIDENT

Prince Faisal also met Pakistani PM Sharif on Tuesday who said the Saudi official’s visit would herald a "new era" of strategic and commercial partnerships between the two long-time allies.

“The visit is the beginning of a new era of strategic and commercial partnership between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia,” Sharif was quoted as saying in a statement from his office after he met Prince Faisal. “Pakistan wants to further promote cooperation in the fields of trade and investment between the two countries.”

The PM said Pakistan was taking steps to promote foreign investment and make partnerships “mutually beneficial” for allies, adding that Islamabad was grateful to the Saudi leadership for increasing investment.

Informing the Saudi delegation about the wide potential of investment in Pakistan, Sharif briefed them about the Special Investment Facilitation Council and measures the body was taking to promote investment.

Sharif also invited the Saudi crown prince to Islamabad.

“The people of Pakistan are looking forward to the visit of His Highness the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to Pakistan,” the PM’s office said.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prince Faisal also met on Tuesday and reiterated the two nations’ resolve to build a strong partnership and promote mutually beneficial economic cooperation.

Zardari said Pakistan was working to transform its long-standing and decades-old relationship with Riyadh into a “long-term strategic and economic partnership.”

The two sides also discussed regional dynamics and recent developments in the Middle East and called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and an end to Israeli air and ground offensives there.

INVESTMENT PUSH

In a statement shared with media on Monday, the Pakistan information ministry said the Saudi delegation would consult with Pakistani officials “on the next stages of investment and implementation issues.”

Saudi Arabia’s planned investment in the Reko Diq gold and copper mining project would be discussed during the visit, the ministry said, adding that Riyadh was also interested in investing in agriculture, trade, energy, minerals, IT, transport and other sectors in Pakistan:

“As a result of this visit, Pakistan’s export capacity will increase, joint ventures will be launched and new opportunities will be paved.”

Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages. Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, is currently in Washington to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and discuss a new bailout program. The last loan deal expires this month.

Saudi Arabia has often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid in the past, regularly providing it oil on deferred payments and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.