A historic milestone: Saudi Arabia hosting G20 in 2020

A historic milestone: Saudi Arabia hosting G20 in 2020

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The Saudi government is witnessing a historic milestone, hosting the G20 for the first time in its history under the exceptional circumstances of the global pandemic of COVID-19. In the run-up to the summit, Saudi Arabia has hosted more than 100 meetings and conferences, including ministerial meetings and those of officials and representatives from civil society.
The impact of the pandemic has pushed the global economy into recession this year. Governments across the world have taken multiple actions to slow the spread of the pandemic. Saudi Arabia and the other 19 economies have taken a decision to inject more than $11 trillion into the global economy as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures and guarantee schemes to blunt economic fallout from the pandemic.
Yesterday, I was watching King Salman’s speech during the opening ceremony. He emphasized the critical roles of coordination and collaboration among the G20 members to combat the pandemic and its catastrophic impact on human lives by committing $21 billion to develop and secure the needed treatments and vaccines for this virus.
On the business front, the B20 is an integral part of the G20 process, representing the entire G20 business community. The mission of the B20 was to support the G20 through consolidated representation of interests, concrete policy proposals and expertise. Furthermore, the B20 promotes dialogue among policymakers, civil society and business at an international level.
B20 members have invested considerable preparation and held many workshops over the past months, exchanging ideas and comparing notes virtually, as well as showcasing their competitive advantages.
Other groups include Civil society (C20), Labor (L20), Science (S20), Think tanks (T20), Urban (U20), Women (W20) and Youth (Y20). The outcome of these meetings will be presented today as recommendations during the G20 leaders’ session.
It is worth noting here that the Saudi Vision 2030 corresponds to the priorities of the G20, including achieving macroeconomic stability, sustainable development, women’s empowerment, enhanced human capital and the increased flow of trade and investment.
In my opinion, as the entire world set their watches to the KSA time zone yesterday and today, this is a historic milestone event not only for Saudi Arabia but also worldwide. As we watch the proceedings of this summit, we are witnessing the end of a single or dual power economies and the beginning of multiple super powers, including that of Saudi Arabia. Together, they will spread peace, prosperity and growth for their people on planet earth.

Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

King Salman confident Riyadh G20 summit will deliver ‘significant and decisive results’

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman presides over the Group of Twenty (G20) forum’s 15th Summit meeting on Saturday. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, right, presides over the Group of Twenty (G20) forum’s 15th Summit meeting on Saturday. (SPA)
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Updated 22 November 2020

King Salman confident Riyadh G20 summit will deliver ‘significant and decisive results’

  • Annual leaders’ meeting to address coronavirus crisis among other global issues
  • King Salman said the Riyadh summit is inclusive of the interests of all countries and not just G20 member states

RIYADH: As the Group of Twenty (G20) forum’s 15th meeting got under way on Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, in his opening remarks, expressed confidence in the outcome of the summit, being held virtually for the first time since its founding owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am confident that the Riyadh summit will deliver significant and decisive results, and will lead to the adoption of economic and social policies that will restore hope and reassurance to the people of the world,” he said.

The hope is that the two-day G20 Leaders’ Summit, being held under Saudi Arabia’s presidency, will lay the foundations for a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. The meeting has brought together economies that account for about 85 percent of global GDP to discuss the most challenging socio-economic issues.

“It is unfortunate that we are unable to host you in person in Riyadh, due to the exceptional circumstances that we are all facing this year,” King Salman told other G20 leaders. “Our peoples and economies are still suffering from this shock. However, we will do our best to overcome this crisis through international cooperation.”

The Nov. 21-22 summit, expected to be dominated by the pandemic and its economic repercussions, is not the first meeting of the leaders in Riyadh. In March, just a few weeks after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, King Salman hosted an extraordinary virtual gathering aimed at forging a common strategy to confront the unprecedented challenge.

Leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies attend the virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit on Saturday. (SPA)

“We expressed our commitment during our extraordinary summit to urgently mobilize resources, and we all pledged, at the onset of the crisis, over $21 billion to support the global efforts to combat this pandemic,” King Salman said on Saturday. “We took extraordinary measures to support our economies by injecting over $11 trillion to support individuals and businesses.”

“We also extended our social safety nets to protect those prone to losing their jobs or source of income. To this end, we have provided emergency support to the developing countries, including the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative to the low-income countries.

“This has been an extraordinary year. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented shock that affected the entire world within a short period of time, causing global economic and social losses.”


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

The G20 presidency rotates between member countries, and in December 2019 Saudi Arabia became the first Arab country to assume the role. Each presidency typically concludes with the G20 Leaders’ Summit, a powerful gathering of heads of state that made its debut in 2008.

The normal G20 calendar has been changed due to restrictions put in place across the forum’s membership in response to the pandemic. G20 leaders and ministers have held virtual meetings to coordinate the international response to the crisis and put the global economy on a pathway to recovery.


  • $21 billion: Contribution of G20 member states to fight against COVID-19.

King Salman stressed that the Riyadh summit was inclusive of the interests of all countries and not just G20 member states. “The theme of our presidency is ‘Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All,’” he noted, adding: “Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to adjust our focus rapidly to face its repercussions, the subject areas under this general theme, namely ‘Empowering People,’ ‘Safeguarding the Planet,’ and ‘Shaping New Frontiers,’ remain essential to overcome this global challenge and shape a better future for our people.”

King Salman urged G20 leaders to address the vulnerabilities exposed by COVID-19 while working to protect lives and livelihoods. “Although we are optimistic about the progress made in developing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics tools for COVID-19, we must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples,” he said.

With G20 countries adopting the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the World Trade Organization, which aims to make the multilateral trading system more capable of facing any challenges, King Salman said: “We must continue to support the global economy and reopen our economies and borders to facilitate the mobility of trade and people. We must provide support to the developing countries in a coordinated manner to maintain the development already achieved over the past decades.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, right, presides over the Group of Twenty (G20) forum’s 15th Summit meeting on Saturday. (SPA)

Pointing out that the inaugural leaders’ summit was held in response to the 2008 global financial crisis, King Salman said: “The outcomes achieved are ample proof that the G20 is the most prominent forum for international cooperation and for tackling global crises. Today, we are working together again to face another, deeper global crisis, that has ravaged people and economies.”

Looking to the future, King Salman said: “The G20 is promoting access to opportunities for all, especially women and youth, and building a future that protects our land, our oceans, our natural resources. The leaders of the G20 came together to give hope, to agree on a way forward that ensures we protect the people and build a better future.”

The opening virtual ceremony saw a number of heads of government and heads of state deliver short speeches wishing the summit all success.

Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, praised Saudi Arabia’s Neom city, which he said represents “a greener future” for the world, “If we were in Saudi Arabia today,” he said, “we may have visited the exciting new city of Neom, whose origins I was able to inspect a couple of years ago, built on the sands of fossil fuels but powered by green hydrogen, under an enviable climate and an enviably reliable sun to provide inexhaustible solar energy.”

He added: “That future will only be possible if the world’s leading economies drive forward more ambitious action, more quickly to prevent further catastrophic climate change.”

Members of the Saudi media covering a press conference calle by King Salman in Riyadh on Saturday. (SPA)

Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s prime minister, said the summit is a unique opportunity to establish a collective road map to work for “prosperity, sustainability, equality, and well-being, to work for the benefit of our economies but above all for the benefit of all citizens.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the responsibility and importance of the G20. “The decisions taken at the Riyadh summit will be decisive in not only alleviating the negative impact of the pandemic, but also in meeting the expectations from the G20,” he said.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said that ever since the outset of the coronavirus crisis, the leaders had emphasized the importance of taking care of people’s health and of the economy at the same time. “Time has proven us right,” he said. “We must uphold our firm commitment to work toward economic growth, the freedom of our peoples and the prosperity of the world at large.”

Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s prime minister, said the Riyadh summit will reflect the G20 forum’s commitment to rapidly recover from the crisis, and to find solutions for the major challenges currently facing humanity.

We must stand united in the use of opportunities offered by this crisis to create a new, better normal,” he said. “Italy, as the upcoming 2021 presidency, is determined to build upon the outcomes of the Riyadh summit and to continue promoting the important action of the G20.”


Twitter: @LujainBenGassem

KSrelief chief meets Beninese envoy to Saudi Arabia

Updated 06 May 2021

KSrelief chief meets Beninese envoy to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, met the ambassador of Benin to the Kingdom, Mataero Fadel, in Riyadh on Thursday.

The meeting discussed the development of projects implemented in Benin, and ways to enhance them.

Fadel praised the professional excellence of KSrelief and its service to the needy around the world, especially to groups in Benin, pointing out that the center is a milestone in the field of humanitarian work.

This Ramadan, KSrelief distributed 164 tons of food baskets to thousands of families in Benin, as part of the humanitarian aid provided by the Kingdom, through KSrelief, to friendly countries during the holy month.


Who’s Who: Maram A. Kokandi, general manager of Jeddah’s Park Inn Hotel

Updated 06 May 2021

Who’s Who: Maram A. Kokandi, general manager of Jeddah’s Park Inn Hotel

Maram A. Kokandi has been the general manager of the Jeddah’s Park Inn Hotel since its construction work began in 2017.

The hotel, by Radisson, started operating in Saudi Arabia’s coastal city in September 2020. Kokandi managed the hotel from its construction phase until the time it opened. 

Kokandi obtained a bachelor’s degree in international hospitality management from the Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2015.

Three years earlier, she received a high diploma in international hospitality and international tourism management from the London Metropolitan University, London, UK. In 2010, she attended foundation courses on the same specialties at the Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK.

From August 2015 to February 2017, she served as a senior property consultant at Emaar Middle East, where she provided consultations to clients on property selection based on their needs and budgets. She led a sales team to leverage opportunities and generate new leads. 

For nearly three years and 8 months beginning in April 2011, Kokandi worked as a public relations and marketing manager for the Middle East at the London-based Baha Mar, where she worked on analyzing all sales reports and developing sales strategies to achieve targets.

From April 2008 to September 2010, she was a sales manager at Park Hyatt Hotel, Jeddah, where she was in charge of welcoming and hosting VIP guests.

From March 2007 to March 2008, she served as an area sales manager at Raffles Hotel, Dubai, UAE. For over a year, she worked in Jeddah for the Rosewood Hotels and Resorts as a sales manager.

Two Holy Mosques chief receives Sudanese culture minister

Updated 06 May 2021

Two Holy Mosques chief receives Sudanese culture minister

MAKKAH: Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, the president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, on Wednesday received the Sudanese minister of culture and information, Hamzah Balloul, in Makkah.

During the meeting, Al-Sudais highlighted the determination of the Saudi leadership to provide a safe environment and well-organized service system for worshippers and visitors to the Two Holy Mosques, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

He also noted the strength of relations between Saudi Arabia and Sudan based on common religious and cultural values, as well as similar stances on regional and international issues.

As part of his trip, Balloul went to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah where he performed prayers, and on Tuesday toured the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa in Makkah to witness the various stages of manufacturing the kiswa. He also visited an exhibition on the architecture of the Two Holy Mosques.

Saudi team competes in world’s largest pre-college science fair

Updated 06 May 2021

Saudi team competes in world’s largest pre-college science fair

JEDDAH: Some of Saudi Arabia’s most talented students are taking part in one of the world’s biggest scientific competitions, the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF 2021).
Backed in the remotely held US-based competition by the King Abdul Aziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba), 30 Saudi students are competing alongside 1,800 others from more than 75 countries.
To prepare and hone their skills ahead of the competition, the Saudi students took part in a training camp in Riyadh, where they are now competing in the event, which ends on Thursday.
The team is taking part in research projects in the fields of energy, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, viruses, environmental security, aquaculture and desert farming.
Several students previously took part in the 11th National Olympics for Scientific Creativity, one of 19 different programs provided by Mawhiba each year to talented students across the Kingdom.
Training was delivered by a selection of Saudi and US experts from various disciplines.
The six-day camp included a training workshop on delivery skills in partnership with the Al-Elqa Training Center in Riyadh, to prepare members of the Saudi team for ISEF 2021 and hone their presentation abilities.
During ISEF 2021, the Saudi students are presenting their scientific projects to members of a jury committee for judging.
Members of the scientific committee and jury hold a series of individual interviews with students to review and provide scientific support to projects.
Within the Saudi student group, 21 male and nine female students went through training before reaching the competition.
They were selected as part of a larger group from 51,000 students across the Kingdom after their work was reviewed. About 150 of the students then took part in the Ibdaa 2021 fair. The 35 winners were honored by Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal last March, after which the top 30 projects were selected to represent the Kingdom at ISEF.
Saudi Arabia, represented by Mawhiba, is taking part in ISEF 2021 as a major sponsor and will also present a special award for the best projects involved in the field of energy. It is the 15th year in a row that outstanding Saudi students are taking part in the international science fair.
Saudi students have so far won a total of 48 grand prizes and 27 special prizes in the competition. These included eight awards in 2020, including five grand prizes and three special prizes. Mawhiba also provides special international awards in the competition. So far, 79 prizes have been awarded by Mawhiba to 97 students from 20 countries. ISEF is the world’s largest pre-college science fair, first taking place in 1950.

Saudi mosque restoration project’s success highlighted during Ramadan

Updated 06 May 2021

Saudi mosque restoration project’s success highlighted during Ramadan

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s project aims to preserve the element of ancient construction and its components

JEDDAH: The Arabian Peninsula is home to rich architecture and religious history that includes a great number of ancient mosques from the beginning of the Islamic era.
Saudi Arabia has the privilege of taking care of the Two Holy Mosques, an honor that has been carried and inherited for decades starting with the founding king, the late King Abdul Aziz.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a project in 2018 that aims to revive more than 130 historic mosques around the Kingdom as mosques are being renovated in several regions.
The project aims to restore and rehabilitate these mosques, taking into consideration preserving the element of ancient construction and its components.
These mosques have formed different historic architectural patterns that vary according to cultural, geographical, and topographical conditions. This includes the Jomaa’ and the Qiblatain mosques, built by the Prophet Muhammad, and others that were built by his companions and followers such as the Salman Al-Farsi Mosque and the Mosque of Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq.
The then-Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) counted nearly 1,300 historic mosques in various regions of the Kingdom.
“Historical mosques of Saudi Arabia date back to different periods of time, including the early period of Prophet Muhammad more than 1,400 years ago, the early Islamic era, and the various Islamic states, including the Umayyad, Abbasid and Mamluk states, until the era of the Saudi state,” Sultan Al-Saleh, cultural heritage consultant and director of the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, told Arab News.
“In the Hijaz region, historical mosques are distinguished with their white limestone construction, especially in Jeddah city. On the other hand, the rest of western region cities’ historic mosques are built from stone and mud.”
Mosques on the western coast are characterized by the Roshan pattern as a coastal architectural style, which features elaborate wooden bay windows that front many of the surviving houses. Mosques in the Tihama area, from Taif down to Jizan city, are influenced by the Tuhami style that features stone, straw, and tree branches. In the Sarawat Mountains, building materials were based on stones due to their mountainous nature, he noted.
In Asir, mosques were made of mud protected by stones of horizontal cut. Riyadh, Qassim, and Hail regions focused on clay as a basic building material, while the coastal area of the Eastern Province relied on mud and limestone.
The Jawatha Mosque in Al-Hofuf is 1,435 years old and was established during the 7th Hijri year by the Abd Qais tribe. That is where the second Friday prayer in Islam was performed after it was first performed at Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Madinah.


In Asir, mosques were made of mud protected by stones of horizontal cut. Riyadh, Qassim, and Hail regions focused on clay as a basic building material, while the coastal area of the Eastern Province relied on mud and limestone.

It is also known that a number of prophet companions have been buried in the same area.
Nahid Al-Surani, former maintenance director-general of King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals, said that what is known to be the “Old mosque” or “Saudi camp mosque” dates back to the year 1939 and is located at the university’s campus long before the university was established.
“The mosque was built when the late King of Saudi Arabia Abdul Aziz visited Dhahran to inaugurate the first oil shipment,” he said. “The old mosque was built by Yemeni labor who brought shale stones from the Alkhobar sea to use in constructing the walls and the two minarets.”
The original building is still in the same form it was built, but the expansion was done using today’s building materials, he added.
“The mosque is well taken care of and was renovated many times, and has lost some part of its original design in the first renovation,” Al-Surani noted. “Its tall wooden windows were replaced with smaller ones to be air-conditioned, and are still used today for Taraweeh prayer, Fridays, and also for Eid.” Some of the old mosques accommodate 5,000 worshippers, such as King Saud Mosque in Jeddah, while others are smaller such as the Al-Mald Mosque in Al-Baha that accommodates nearly 30 worshippers.
According to Al-Saleh, restoration of some historic mosques included expansion to increase capacity. Such was the case for the Mansaf Mosque in the Zulfi governorate, which used to be limited to only 87 worshippers but now accommodates more than 150 people.
“The Crown Prince Project to Develop Historical Mosques was based on restoring historical mosques and reviving all forms of life, including practicing prayers, as well as the social roles that used to take part in the building,” Al-Saleh said. 
“It is important to mention that the restoration process differs from one mosque to another according to its geographical location and the building materials used in its construction.”
When carrying out the restoration process, the materials of the mosque must be taken into consideration, he said. The authenticity of the mosque and its historical style must be preserved accordingly while adding new materials that do not correspond to the nature of the mosque should not be used.
According to the developments of the project, the restoration process of 30 historical mosques in various regions of the Kingdom has been completed. The Al-Duwaihra Mosque in Diriyah and the historic Al-Hanafi Mosque in Al-Balad, Jeddah are among some of the completed mosques.
Although mosques are the meeting point for worshippers throughout the year, many feel a greater sense of care during Ramadan due to the sanctity and spirituality of the holy month. Ramadan is a time when mosques host extra social functions, such as holding iftar tables, memorizing the Qur’an, attending Islamic lectures, and so on.
“All the newly opened and revived historic mosques were significantly highlighted in the updated report of the crown prince project to spread the news about its availability to receive worshippers during the month of Ramadan,” Al-Saleh said.
“These mosques embody the attention and care paid by the Saudi government in preserving such national cultural heritage and monuments, especially the historic mosques, which are a fundamental pillar of our Islamic cultural heritage.”
Abdul Aziz Hanash, a researcher architect and urban designer, who is enthusiastic about historic buildings, told Arab News about the most ancient mosque in Riyadh city at Qasr Al-Hukm Palace.
The Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the city and has undergone many expansions, he said. The mosque is directly connected from the first floor to Qasr Al-Hukm Palace via two bridges across Assafah Square.
“The importance of this mosque comes from its rich history and role within the surrounding environment,” Hanash said. “It was the venue where scholars and teachers meet for religious activities. It was rebuilt as part of the Qasr Al-Hukm Development Program, where the Royal Commission for Riyadh City rebuilt the mosque to accommodate around 17,000 worshippers.”
Other restored mosques that have been recently rehabilitated as part of crown prince’s project include the Al-Twaim Mosque in Al-Twaim city, Riyadh, the Jarir Al-Bajali Mosque in Taif governorate, the Abu Bakr Mosque in Al-Hofuf, Al-Ahsa governorate, and the Al-Atawlah Heritage Mosque, which is nearly 40 kilometers from Al-Baha governorate and one of the oldest mosques in the area.