TheFace: Princess Abeer S. Al-Saud, pioneer in international development and peacebuilding

Image for Princess Abeer S Alsaud with her grandfather Prince Meshari bin Saud Farharn Al Saud. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 22 November 2019

TheFace: Princess Abeer S. Al-Saud, pioneer in international development and peacebuilding

  • Princess Abeer is the founder and chairwoman of Talga, an NGO, a think tank and bookstore specializing in development books
  • She spearheaded a peace-building unit in Saudi Arabia by training more than 80 Saudi professionals from 16 ministries

I was raised in a family that encourages intellectual pursuit and a love for culture and arts. Most notably, I have a very close relationship with my grandfather, Prince Meshari bin Saud bin Nasser bin Farhan Al-Saud, who is one of the most influential people in my life.

Ever since I was a child, I spent a lot of time listening attentively to the stories my grandfather passionately recounted. He mostly spoke about the history and ancient glory of Diriyah, the hometown of my ancestors and his birthplace, Saudi Arabia.

To my grandfather, our history, identity and culture are our most valuable treasures. The regular intergenerational dialogue between us made me recognize the importance of appreciating the past while at the same time looking forward to the future and also understand the importance of adapting to modernity instead of adopting it, and this, in my opinion, is what makes the Kingdom’s approach to modernity and the future unique.

My close relationship with my grandfather planted the seeds to my never-ending pursuit of knowledge in a wide range of topics. I was always fascinated by one of his personal endeavors in life, which led him to have a very profound and rare collection of letters, pictures and books in his personal archives.

After graduating from high school, I took a gap year to explore and pursue my passions and took a journey of self-discovery to Southeast Asia.

While touring the Mekong Delta from Saigon to the remote island of Phu Quoc, I witnessed true poverty in floating villages. However, where there was poverty, there were also vast untouched opportunities — the local villagers were unknowingly entrepreneurs; they were skilled craftsmen building handicrafts and the region was abundant with untapped resources and inactivated industries.

With proper training, a system would be established and the villagers could catalyze economic growth by exporting products and beautifying local services. I understood that poverty is not the only challenge standing in the face of progress and socioeconomic improvement, but one of many related problems.

My visit to Vietnam catalyzed my interest in sustainable development. I became interested in creating innovative, culturally relevant sustainable solutions. At first, I wanted to understand how to create sustainable socioeconomic growth, how public-private partnerships worked and how multilaterals impact the developing world. I had a lot of questions but few answers.

I came to understand that poverty, lack of financial support and minimal adequate mentorship stand in the way of progression. In developed countries, consumerism that is not balanced with production prevents sustainable progress. Achieving truly sustainable socioeconomic progress anywhere is more complex than applying small projects or initiatives. Our shared efforts to bring good to our societies and contribute to development is best achieved through a system of moral responsibility, which I believe is the building block for anything that is truly sustainable. 

To apply a comprehensive model for sustainable goals we must adopt moral responsibility as the main infrastructure, apply an integrated approach and promote inclusive communities.  

An integrated approach that covers development aspects with all its dimensions — from social needs and cultural beliefs to moral conceptions and modern-day demands — is essential for harvesting a fertile soil. This will ensure that our objectives, which will be achieved by establishing positively inclusive communities, will thrive and bloom as long as the essential elements were present when the seeds were planted.

I have a bachelor’s degree in life sciences with a focus on Neuroaesthetics from a joined program from Al-Faisal University/University College London (UCL).

My undergraduate work is why my interests are combined with aesthetics, literature, architecture and art. I collect Indochina art.

I am also currently a part-time master’s student at SOAS studying international development.

Aside from academia, I love sailing and horses.

I am currently a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) seconded peace-building advisor to Ambassador Mohammed Al-Jaber. I have been working on peace-building since 2016 at the GCC Secretariat. I have been the technical lead for the GCC-UK Manama Summit and was a member of the communique drafting committee. I also managed technical bilateral relations with European countries and was the lead on the GCC-UK Strategic Partnership, working on all areas of cooperation from security and defence, to trade and investment, cultures and art, where during my posting I successfully created an ecosystem for proper usage of development funds in the GCC region by encouraging the participation and adherence to international benchmarks of development. I also endorsed the UN Security Council’s “Call of Action to End Modern Slavery,” which Saudi Arabia is among the few countries to have endorsed.

As part of my current job as a peace-building policy and advocacy lead, I spearheaded and led a nationwide stabilization initiative that aims to establish the ecosystem of this field to Saudi civil servants at a national level through building the capacities of more than 80 local development professionals from 16 ministries. Seventy percent of the participants were youths and 40 percent were women — achieving UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. This is done through educational workshops with development agencies like the US Agency for International Development, the UK’s Department for International Development, Germany’s Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, the UN Development Programme and Japan International Cooperation Agency.

So far I planned and executed two intensive, five-day Saudi-US workshops on stabilization and a three-day intensive Saudi-UK workshop on peace-building that was attended by more than 80 people from within 16 ministries across Saudi Arabia. In addition, I have delivered a training of trainers deep-dive workshop on stabilization with the US and the UK, where a key Saudi cadre was selected to train Saudis in the future, hence localizing and sustaining the knowledge.

I am also a member of the C2 and W20 2020 drafting committee and actively involved in the civil society sector. 

Aside from professional work, and driven by the desire to make communities, countries and environments better, I founded Talga. It is a non-governmental organization, a creative think tank and an independent bookstore specializing in development. Talga is the local name for the resilient Fiscus Vasta tree located in the Emirate of Asir region. It lived for more than 1,500 years under harsh conditions, representing one of our main values: To encourage our community to thrive and not merely survive. Its objective is to create a platform for development where different programs are designed to encourage the vibrant Saudi youth to take on impactful initiatives in their communities, planting seeds of fruitful gardens. We also have the ambition to serve the ecosystem of the third sector in the Kingdom. This is done by partnerships and improving the performance of the already existing providers and introducing a new innovative and integrated approach to development.

In my work, and through Talga, we aspire to maximize our contributions to achieving sustainable impact and address the growing complex challenges we face by encouraging philanthropies, NGOs, corporations and governments to bridge the wide gap between innovation experts and thinkers, to achieve practical solutions. Imagine how much more would be achieved if the enormous potential was unlocked and if each one of us acted now upon our diverse personal interests. Yes, we will face challenges, but Saudis’ resilience towards betterment always prevails, and with that, I want to quote Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “The young Saudis’ ambition is like Mount Twaiq, and it’s unbreakable unless it’s leveled to the ground.”

I want to emphasize the importance of the butterfly effect and aspiring to do an impactful initiative regardless of the number of people you will reach. Changing the life of one person has a ripple effect on impacting the world.

I want to conclude with a Qu’ranic verse that reads: “That man can have nothing but what he strives for; That (the fruit of) his striving will soon come in sight.” (verses 39 and 40 from Surat An-Najm).

Saudi FM’s visit part of ‘concerted efforts’ to close investment deals — Pakistani envoy to Riyadh

Updated 17 April 2024

Saudi FM’s visit part of ‘concerted efforts’ to close investment deals — Pakistani envoy to Riyadh

  • Ahmed Farooq says size and rank of Saudi delegation showed “keenness” of economic engagement plans with Pakistan
  • Saudi delegation briefed about Pakistani legal, procedural, administrative reforms undertaken to facilitate investments

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud’s visit to Pakistan this week is part of “concerted efforts” to close investment deals that have been under discussion between the two nations in recent years and also discuss new areas of cooperation, Islamabad’s envoy to Riyadh Ahmed Farooq has said. 

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 came 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.

Speaking to Arab News on Tuesday, Ambassador Farooq said during Sharif’s recent meeting with the Saudi crown prince, it was decided that the Kingdom would expand its collaboration with Pakistan across various sectors. Both countries also agreed on a roadmap for expediting investments from Saudi Arabia into strategic sectors of the Pakistan economy.

“Guided by this clear direction of the leadership, the economic teams of the two countries are now in advance talks to finalize partnership proposals in diverse sectors such as energy, renewables, connectivity, mining, agriculture, information technology, construction, human resource development and export and strategic investments,” Farooq said.

“Concerted efforts are underway to close the deals that have remained under discussion in recent years, while identifying new areas of cooperation.”

It was as part of such efforts that Prince Faisal visited Pakistan, the ambassador added, accompanied by a team of top officials across Saudi ministries. 

“The size and rank of the visiting delegation showed the keenness with which the Kingdom is pursuing economic engagement plans with Pakistan,” Farooq said. 

Among key highlights of the visit, apart from bilateral meetings between the economic teams, was a special interactive session organized by the newly established Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), set up last year to oversee all foreign investments in Pakistan. 

“Several short, medium, and long-term projects were discussed in the dedicated sector-wise breakout sessions,” the envoy said. “The Saudi delegation was also briefed about the specific legal, procedural and administrative reforms undertaken by Pakistan in recent months to attract and facilitate foreign investments in key sectors of the economy.”

'Bedrock of support'

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. A $3 billion ongoing 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.

“For Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has remained a bedrock of support,” Farooq told Arab News when asked about cooperation between the two nations.

“The kingdom has always supported Pakistan and provided much needed economic support and assistance. Kingdom has also played a critical role in helping us with international financial institutions.

“Even today, the Kingdom has a central role in the future economic plans of Pakistan. The new government in Pakistan has a strong desire to attract Saudi investment – both from the public and private sectors – to usher in a new era of economic growth and development.”

Farooq said the Saudi leadership was also keen on seizing this opportunity and further enhancing economic, political and security cooperation with Pakistan.

He said there were many areas for future collaboration including energy, renewables, IT, mining, agriculture, construction, and human resource development and export.

Asked about how investment between the two nations could be further enhanced, Farooq said Pakistan had created SIFC to act as a one window operation to facilitate Saudi and other foreign investments. 

“It is tailor made for this purpose,” he added. “We are developing a lot of projects across all sectors of the economy in which the Saudi public and private sector can invest. 

The Kingdom has shown great keenness and desire to work with Pakistan and realize these projects. I am confident that we will soon see a lot of investment going from Saudi Arabia into Pakistan.”

Saudi deputy defence minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

Updated 17 April 2024

Saudi deputy defence minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

  • Al-Otaibi’s visit comes after Saudi foreign minister was in Islamabad on two-day visit to discuss investments 
  • Pakistan maintains close military ties and provides extensive arms and training to Saudi armed forces 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Assistant Defence Minister Talal Bin Abdullah Bin Turki Al-Otaibi is in Pakistan on a two-day visit to finalize defense-related bilateral projects, the Pakistani defence ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Al-Otaibi’s visit comes on the heels of a two-day visit to Islamabad by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals.

“Saudi Assistant Defense Minister arrived in Pakistan on a two-day visit,” a Pakistani defence ministry statement said, adding that bilateral projects in defence-related fields would be finalized during the visit. 

Photos and videos released by the defence ministry showed Al-Otaibi arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday night and being received by Pakistani military and government officials and Saudi diplomats, including the ambassador to Islamabad. 

Pakistan maintains close military ties with Saudi Arabia, providing extensive support, arms, and training to the Saudi armed forces. 

Since the 1970s, Pakistani soldiers have been stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect the Kingdom and Pakistan has also been providing training to Saudi soldiers and pilots. The two nations also regularly carry out multidimensional joint ventures and defence exercises. 

Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee

Updated 17 April 2024

Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee

  • As the bank celebrates its 50th anniversary, the meetings will have the theme ‘Taking Pride in Our Past and Shaping Our Future: Authenticity, Solidarity and Prosperity’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will host the annual meetings and golden jubilee celebrations of the Islamic Development Bank Group in Riyadh between April 27 and 30, under the patronage of King Salman.

This year’s meetings will take place under the theme “Taking Pride in Our Past and Shaping Our Future: Authenticity, Solidarity and Prosperity,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The bank describes itself as a pivotal platform for development dialogue, and said it is celebrating 50 years of fostering social and economic growth among its members. As a leading multilateral development bank, it said it expects the event to attract significant international and regional attention.

Participants will include economic, planning and finance ministers from the 57 member countries of the bank, along with representatives of international and regional financial agencies and organizations, Islamic banks, the private sector, development finance institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and chambers of commerce and industry.

Organizers said the annual gathering serves as a vital forum for the enhancement of economic ties and expansion of cooperation among participants. Its agenda includes forums, seminars and meetings on a range of topics, with particularly notable events including the Governors’ Round Table, the 18th IDB Global Forum on Islamic Finance, and the IDB Group Private Sector Forum.

Topics for discussion will include the role of small and medium enterprises in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 development and diversification agenda, strategies for the financing of efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, the leveraging of Islamic finance for the development of resilient infrastructure, and the establishment of the Arab Coordination Group Forum.

The Future Vision Symposium and the General Assembly of the Union of Consultants in Islamic Countries will also take place during the event.

Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation

Updated 17 April 2024

Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation

  • Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a two-day official visit, the main aim of which was to enhance economic cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, held talks in Islamabad on Tuesday with the chief of staff of the Pakistan Army, Gen. Asim Munir.

They discussed ways to enhance the “strong cooperation” between their nations in several fields, including ways to work together to improve security and strategic cooperation in ways that contribute to international peace and security.

Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a two-day official visit, the main aim of which was to enhance economic cooperation. He also met President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar.

The prince was leading a high-level Saudi delegation that included Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadhli, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al-Khorayef, and senior officials from the ministries of energy and investment, and the Public Investment Fund.

Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir

Updated 17 April 2024

Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received two separate calls from UAE president Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Qatar’s emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Saudi Press Agency said early Wednesday.

The calls discussed the recent military escalation in the region and its repercussions on safety and security, in addition to the latest developments in Gaza.

They also underscored the importance of exerting efforts to prevent the situation from worsening and to spare the region the dangers of this escalation, the SPA added.