JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Sunday held a preparatory meeting for the 48th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, which is due to take place in Islamabad in March.
Held at the OIC’s headquarters in Jeddah, the inaugural session saw the handover of the chair from Niger to Pakistan.
OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha reviewed major developments that had taken place in some member states and also the meeting’s main agenda items.
He addressed the situation in Palestine, Afghanistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Mali, the Sahel Region and Lake Chad Basin, and other African countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Muslim communities and minorities in nonmember states.
Taha underlined the need to overcome the challenges faced by member states to ensure peace, stability, and development and to achieve the aspirations of their people.
He also stressed the need to strengthen OIC capacities in the areas of peace, preventive diplomacy and mediation, counterterrorism and combating Islamophobia, along with response efforts to COVID-19 challenges.
RIYADH: The Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen, SDRPY, signed on Sunday a contract to rehabilitate the Heijat Al-Abed Road that connects Taiz governorate with other Yemeni provinces.
SDRPY said that the road, which is 3,000 sq m above sea level and extends 8.7 km, has a “vital” importance to nearly 4,000,000 beneficiaries.
With the road lacking basic traffic safety elements such as Jersey barriers, the project aims to repair damages and partial collapses to increase traffic safety and reduce accidents.
The project is set to provide 210 job opportunities, as the road serves several economic and educational sectors.
SDRPY has executed a total of 204 development projects and initiatives in Yemeni governorates in seven basic sectors, including education and health.
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia can retain its role as the leading exporter of oil in the world while pursuing an ambitious strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change, one of the Kingdom’s leading environmental policymakers has told Arab News.
Dr. Osama Faqeeha, deputy minister for environment, water and agriculture, said that the issue for the Kingdom and the world was to deal with polluting emissions from hydrocarbon production, while exploring other uses for oil products and renewable alternatives.
“I think we don’t see the problem in the hydrocarbons; we see the problem in the emissions,” he said, pointing out that “petrochemicals, plastic, medical supplies, clothing and other things are made from hydrocarbons; the emissions are the issue — namely, CO2 emissions.”
Faqeeha, who is closely involved in implementing the measures of the Saudi Green Initiative unveiled last year, was appearing on Frankly Speaking, the series of video interviews with leading policymakers and business people.
He also spoke of the ambitious plan to plant 10 billion trees in the Kingdom, the campaign to protect its environmental eco-system and biodiversity, and efforts to improve the air quality in the capital Riyadh and other big cities.
Faqeeha said that the environmental campaign launched in the SGI was part of a comprehensive strategy to tackle the challenges of climate change and global warming.
“In this situation, Saudi Arabia has launched the Circular Carbon Economy approach, which is really to treat CO2 like any other waste, by basically taking it and recycling it in various ways.
“We have to realize that there is no single approach that can single-handedly address the global climate change challenge.
“We need renewable energy, we need the Circular Carbon Economy, we need recycling, we need to stop this deforestation, preserve habitats, reduce marine plastics. We have to focus on all of this,” he said.
The plan to plant 10 billion trees in Saudi Arabia over the coming decades, a striking feature of the SGI, is acknowledged as a challenge given the Kingdom’s desert climate and relatively low level of rainfall.
“Definitely this is a very challenging, ambitious target. As His Royal Highness the Crown Prince (Mohammed bin Salman) announced, the time frame will be over the next few decades. Our focus really is on environmental sustainability. We intend to achieve this target with due consideration for environmental sustainability.
“To achieve this, first of all we will focus on using native plant species in the Kingdom. Believe it or not, there are more than 2,000 documented species of flora in the Kingdom that have adapted to the dry and arid climate in Saudi Arabia.
“So, really these plants thrived in this environment and (fully) adapted to it,” he said.
The tree planting program — already under way — would focus on four main areas: Restoring natural flora in mountains and valleys; an “urban greening” program for the big cities; plantation in agricultural areas to support food production and rural communities; and tree planting along major highways to counter sand encroachment and enhance the experience of travelers.
Renewable water sources would also be used in the tree-planting program, to avoid endangering precious groundwater. Treated wastewater and rain harvesting were among the techniques available to environmental policymakers, as well as greater use of maritime resources.
“Saudi Arabia has thousands of kilometers of coastline on the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea. There are two species of native mangrove trees that grow in sea water, so we intend to focus on those species as well,” he said.
One issue that has provoked debate in the Kingdom is the traditional practice of cutting natural wood to make campfires, held responsible for some of the desertification the SGI is pledged to eliminate.
“Local people enjoy picnics and the outdoors, they like to light wood fires for family gatherings, and these are local traditions that we really cherish. However, it came at a high expense of the local vegetation.”
The new environmental law has imposed severe penalties on such practices, but Faqeeha said that there were incentives for alternatives to wood fires so that these traditions would not be affected.
The World Health Organisation has criticized Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East for low standards of air quality, but Faqeeha took issue with some of the WHO findings.
“I’d like to highlight a distinction between air pollution and degraded air quality. Sometimes you have a degraded air quality not because it’s polluted by human activities. The WHO uses particulate matters as the main parameters to measure air quality,” he said.
“That’s a very good parameter for (places such as) Europe and the US, where you have extensive vegetation cover, and the main source of particulate matters are power plants, factories and other human activities. We call such particulate matters anthropogenic particulate matter or PM.
“Here in Saudi Arabia and in the region as a whole, particulate matters are dominated by natural causes, mainly coming from dust storms. Definitely air quality becomes degraded during dust storms — no one claims that it is healthy to go outdoors and inhale dusty weather.
So, that’s really what they (WHO) are referring to. It is degraded air quality because of the natural particulate matters emanating from dust storms.”
The ministry was working on comprehensive measure to reduce dust storms and improve air quality, Faqeeha said.
At the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow last year, some experts warned that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries would suffer more than other parts of the world from the health effects of global warming, including extreme heat, diseases and air pollution.
Faqeeha acknowledged this was an issue that policymakers were confronting. “Definitely, climate change and global warming is a major global challenge that we are taking very seriously.
“In terms of the outlook for temperature, there are very few studies. In the entire region we don’t have a climate center for climate studies and that’s why the Crown Prince announced the creation of the Regional Center for Climate Studies here, which will be championed by the National Center for Meteorology in Saudi Arabia. Its job is to do national and regional studies on the mid- and long-term outlook for climate change,” he said.
One big focus of Saudi environmental strategy, he added, is the push to reverse the trend to land degradation and desertification, a major contributor to the generation of polluting greenhouse gas emissions that costs around trillions of dollars globally.
“Land degradation is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gases. In fact, land degradation is the cause of about more than 50 percent of biodiversity loss, which is a large contribution. Also, it has a huge impact on agricultural lands and food security,” Faqeeha said.
Measures to reverse land degradation were a major achievement of the G20 summit under Saudi Arabia’s presidency in 2020.
Faqeeha also outlined the Kingdom’s new strategy toward waste management, which he views as an area ripe for private sector involvement and foreign investment.
“Private sector participation is an important enabler to achieve the objectives of the national environmental strategy,” he said.
“We have many international companies that are coming, who feel the regulatory environment now is highly conducive to their participation.”
RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center has inked deals worth $15 million with the World Health Organization to support Yemen’s health sector.
The agreements were signed on Sunday by KSrelief General Supervisor Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari.
The deals are being implemented as part of the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan.
Under the first agreement, the Yemeni health sector will be strengthened with basic and life-saving health equipment. This includes new laboratory tools and medicines to treat infectious diseases, KSrelief said.
That agreement will benefit 1.27 million individuals in several Yemeni governorates, with a total value of $11.2 million.
The first agreement signed by #KSrelief and @WHO aims to strengthen health systems in #Yemen and provide essential and life-saving medical equipment pic.twitter.com/pSnOubop31
The second agreement includes the provision of five oxygen stations and the logistical means to transport gas, train hospital workers, and for station maintenance, with the aim of “increasing the readiness of health facilities (and) sustaining health services” in the governorates of Shabwa, Marib, Abyan and Hadramout.
It will benefit 41,738 people at a cost of $1 million.
The second agreement signed by #KSrelief and @WHO seeks to provide five oxygen stations (phase II), support logistics, and train hospital staff. pic.twitter.com/TT5ZvqeVCw
The third agreement will support the logistics services linked to the COVID-19 vaccine for 10 percent of the Yemeni population, with the aim of increasing awareness about the vaccine and boosting uptake.
With a total value of $2.8 million, the final agreement is expected to support 886,341 people in Yemen’s governorates, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The third agreement signed by #KSrelief and @WHO focuses on supporting COVID-19 vaccine logistics for 10% of the population of #Yemen. pic.twitter.com/aX8xb5U2JN
Al-Rabeeah praised the partnership between Saudi Arabia and WHO to address human suffering wherever it occurred.
He said KSrelief has carried out several initiatives with the UN body in the past few years for the benefit of Yemenis. These programs have had a great impact in addressing many diseases and pandemics, he said, the latest of which was COVID-19. He also praised the joint work in addressing the cholera epidemic in the country.
Al-Mandhari said that the Kingdom, represented by KSrelief, has supported UN programs around the world.
“Through these agreements signed today, we have opened a new chapter for the partnership between us, and we hope for this partnership to continue and extend in Yemen, and the region and beyond,” he said.
RIYADH: The Saudi Armed Forces continued a joint exercise with US forces to train and plan for the management of crises resulting from weapons of mass destruction, the Kingdom’s defense ministry said on Sunday.
Several government agencies also participated in the “Prevention Shield-3” exercise, which began several days ago.
Col. Bader bin Saad Al-Theban, the spokesman for the exercise, said that the first phase of the drill was successfully carried out under the supervision of the general supervisor of the exercise, Maj. Gen. Khalid bin Saeed Abu Qais.
He said several seminars, workshops and lectures were held on protection from weapons of mass destruction, and commanders and staff were trained in planning to manage crises.
Al-Theban added that the second phase of the exercise started on Sunday and a number of tasks and practical hypotheses have been implemented, such as warning, disinfection, reconnaissance, exposure to a ballistic missile attack loaded with a chemical agent, pollution of surrounding areas and casualties, which requires rapid intervention.
He thanked all the participants in the exercise from the US forces, branches of the Saudi armed forces, the Ministry of Health, Civil Defense and the Saudi Red Crescent for their efforts to make the exercise a success.
Meanwhile, the Royal Saudi Naval Forces launched a mixed bilateral naval exercise with their Egyptian counterparts at King Faisal Naval Base in the Western Fleet.
Rear Admiral Yahya bin Mohammed Al-Asiri, the commander of the Western Fleet, said that the “Morjan 17” exercise aims to strengthen relations and joint cooperation, and raise the level of combat readiness and preparedness between both countries’ naval forces.
It also aims to unify operational concepts between the two sides to confront regional threats, and exchange expertise in methods and ways of implementing naval missions. It also contributes to developing unit crews in naval wars and special forces missions to protect the maritime safety, regional and international waterways and freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, he added.
The exercise is an extension of a series of previous joint exercises between the two countries, and includes many maneuvers that enhance maritime security measures in the region.
JEDDAH: The Saudi General Authority for Statistics is preparing to carry out the country’s fifth housing and population census, including the use of satellite imagery to help ensure more comprehensive coverage of the Kingdom’s regions.
The census plays a key role in achieving the goals for the country’s economic and social transformation, as outlined in Vision 2030.
A preliminary estimate of the Saudi population as of mid-2020 was 35,013,414. The previous census processes took place in 1974, 1992, 2004, and 2010.
The last survey showed that the country’s population was 27,136,977, with more than 6,915,000 people in the Makkah region, the highest of the country’s 13 administrative regions.
GASTAT said it had prepared a plan for its upcoming census after a comprehensive study of the requirements of its beneficiaries from government agencies, and based on global best practices and standards for population census models used in G20 countries as well as by members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
A preliminary estimate of the Saudi population as of mid-2020 was 35,013,414.
The authority said that modern technology would be used for the first time in conducting its census operations, including the use of satellite imagery to help ensure more comprehensive coverage of the Kingdom’s regions, identifying unregistered dwellings at national addresses, and developing a data collection mechanism to include digital self-enumeration, a new method of collecting data through the authority’s publicly accessible portal, as well as updating the census form to assist decision-makers, according to international best practices.
GASTAT said it was fully committed to the highest levels of privacy, confidentiality, and protection for the data of those included in the census, and any personal information related to their identities. It also undertook not to share any collected information with or disclose it to any third party.
Last September, GASTAT carried out a pilot census covering seven Saudi cities in Tabuk, AlUla, Makkah, Asir, Diriyah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province. It was meant to test the form along with the working tools to be used in the general population and housing census.
Self-enumeration, electronically filling out questionnaires, and other statistical methods were also applied before the final census work, which is expected to begin in a few months.
GASTAT recently started working on a 40-day electronic business statistics survey, which aims to provide accurate statistical data and indicators on establishments that carry out various economic activities in Saudi Arabia.
It said the survey was done in coordination with government bodies and that the questionnaires were based on specific statistical criteria to assure accurate statistical data and indicators.
The pilot census also included the numbering of buildings, along with their components of housing units and households, in addition to counting the population and individuals in labor camps and public housing, and identifying their demographic, social, and economic characteristics, to obtain accurate and timely results.
GASTAT said it was the only official statistical reference for statistical data and information in the Kingdom.
It added that it implemented all statistical work and technical supervision of the sector, which included an ecosystem of statistical centers and units established in the administrative structures of government agencies and several private sector institutions.
Most countries conduct a comprehensive census of their population, housing, and establishments every 10 years to provide accurate and detailed data about the population and its distribution according to their place of residence, their social and economic characteristics, such as the educational level and educational qualifications obtained, the economic status of individuals, the professions practiced by workers, the type of economic sector to which they belong, and the economic activity of the entities in which they work.