Perception at odds with reality of generous Saudi humanitarian support for Ukraine

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KSrelief has funded humanitarian support in Poland, aiding the millions of refugees fleeing Ukraine. (SPA)
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Ukrainians cross the border from Ukraine to Poland at the Korczowa-Krakovets border crossing on Feb. 26, 2022, as Russian forces invade their country. (AFP)
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Young girls and other refugees from Ukraine wait for the bus after they crossed Ukrainian-Polish border in Medyka, southeastern Poland on April 8, 2022. (AFP)
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Refugees from Ukraine's Odessa arrive at a railway station in Przemysl, southeastern Poland, on April 6, 2022. (AFP file photo)
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KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah visiting Poland’s Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, which is supporting refugees in Warsaw. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 August 2022

Perception at odds with reality of generous Saudi humanitarian support for Ukraine

  • Kingdom’s track record belies lack of recognition of its donations for displaced Ukrainian refugees
  • A $10 million aid package has just been signed off by the UNHCR, WHO and Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief 

JEDDAH: The perception that Saudi Arabia is not helping Ukrainians affected by the war with Russia is completely at odds with the reality. 

The firmness of the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting refugees and resolving the conflict has been evident since the outbreak of hostilities. Aid pledges have been matched by donations that are already making a big difference.

A $10 million Saudi humanitarian package for war-displaced Ukrainians has just been signed off by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization and Saudi Arabia’s leading humanitarian aid agency.

About half of the $10 million grant has been allocated for distribution through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief).

In April, King Salman directed KSrelief to provide this amount of support for immediate assistance and give “urgent medical and shelter aid” to Ukrainian refugees, giving priority to those arriving in Poland.




KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah visiting Poland’s Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, which is supporting refugees in Warsaw. (Supplied)

Delivering on the Kingdom’s promise during his ongoing visit to Poland, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, adviser at the Royal Court and supervisor general of KSrelief, also discussed the humanitarian situation with Polish, UNHCR and WHO officials, according to a Saudi Press Agency report.

It said Al-Rabeeah visited several health establishments and facilities, taking time to speak to some Ukrainian refugees who had fled to Warsaw from their war-torn country.

“Thank you very much, and thanks to the center for helping us. The situation is as you can see,” a Ukrainian resident of a refugee center told Al-Arabiya news channel.

“All of us came from Ukraine, and we were in a very bad way. Thanks to you, our situation has improved. Thanks a lot, and we wish peace to the whole world.”  

At the Poland-Ukraine border, Al-Rabeeah lauded the collaboration between the WHO, KSrelief, and the Polish government. “We highly appreciate the partnership with the WHO. Our work together has made great support to refugees and those in need here and elsewhere,” he said in a video released by WHO Poland.

KSrelief has donated funds to support the critical response efforts for Ukrainians in Poland, with the delivery of emergency medical supplies and equipment benefiting more than 1 million people in need.

The Kingdom’s support for Ukrainian refugees is an extension of its well-known humanitarian efforts in more than 85 countries, yet several reports have hinted that Saudi Arabia has picked sides in the conflict because of its ties to Russia as a fellow OEPC+ member.

Despite the political and humanitarian initiatives taken by the Kingdom, urging all parties to come to the negotiating table to resolve the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy, the Kingdom’s efforts have been viewed with skepticism in some quarters.

A March report by the Wilson Center, a US government-linked public policy think tank, claimed that Saudi Arabia “has decided to side with Russia” and “chose Putin over Biden,” accusing the Kingdom of playing political games to keep oil prices high.

The remarks came despite the Kingdom’s repeated offers to both mediate between the warring parties and increase oil production along with neighboring Gulf countries.




Millions of Ukrainian refugees suddenly left their country in February after Russian troops invaded. (AFP)

The differences between the Western and Arab positions on the question of how to end the war have not stopped either side from addressing the humanitarian emergency.

For its part, Saudi Arabia has reiterated that though ending the ongoing war in Ukraine is no easy feat, the Kingdom has treated the issue just as any ongoing crisis in the region, stressing that human suffering is the same in all conflicts and that violence is not the solution.

In March, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Kingdom was ready to exert all efforts to mediate between the two nations.




Saudi Arabia has sent millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for Ukrainians forced to stay in evacuation centers in Poland. (AFP photo)

In May, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the crisis.

Less than a week later, Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during the latter’s visit to Riyadh, where he underscored the importance of reaching a political solution to achieve security and stability for all involved.

Though scant details on Lavrov’s visit and meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council ministers were released, the trip was still misinterpreted as evidence of Saudi Arabia’s support for Russia, even though the Kingdom and other Gulf states had opted to stay neutral, treating the war in Ukraine in “a fair context” and providing aid to the needy.

In June, Prince Faisal bin Farhan clarified the Kingdom’s position further: “Our stance as Gulf countries regarding the Russian-Ukrainian crisis is unified,” he said on June 1 during a speech at the opening of the 152nd session of the Ministerial Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council.




Millions of Ukrainians were forced to leave their country since February after Russian troops invaded. (AFP photo)

“Today we had two fruitful meetings with the Russian and Ukrainian ministers, during which we stated our unified stance regarding the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and its negative consequences, namely the food security of the affected countries and the world.”

Saudi Arabia’s decision to remain neutral and prioritize humanitarian engagement during the war also ought to be viewed in the context of public opinion. In a recent Arab News-YouGov poll, of the more than 1,000 Saudis who were asked for their opinion, 14 percent blamed US President Joe Biden for the conflict while 21 percent blamed NATO.

While a high number of Saudi respondents expressed skepticism about NATO’s involvement with the conflict, 41 percent of Saudis said they did not know or were not sure who was to blame.

Throughout the conflict, more than 40 countries, organizations, and individual donors have made pledges and commitments, some of which have made their way to the 6.3 million refugees fleeing Ukraine as well as those who remained. But there is a striking gap between pledged and delivered support.




In this April 9, 2022, photo, Ukrainian refugees fleeing war stay at a gymnasium in Tijuana, Mexico as they await permission to enter the US. (AFP)

Thus far, most Western governments have given priority to military assistance over humanitarian aid.

According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, the US has pledged $23.8 billion in military aid, the highest amount to date, but has allocated a comparatively modest $8.9 billion to humanitarian assistance.

According to the center, that number has since increased but by a relatively small percentage. Similarly, the EU pledged $12.3 billion in military aid but just $1.4 billion has been siphoned for humanitarian response and aid packages.

Since the outbreak of the conflict, Western and Arab governments have been under no illusion that the need for a resolution of the conflict is no less pressing than addressing the humanitarian emergency.

Last month, President Biden visited Jeddah and met with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The two sides discussed several topics of concern, including energy, security and the crisis in Ukraine.




King Salman bin Abdulaziz meets with US President Joe Biden, witnessed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US State Secretary Antony Blinken at al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on July 15, 2022. (SPA)

Soon after Biden left the Kingdom, Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, spoke to CNBC to set the record straight. “We have said from the very beginning, we supported the UN General Assembly Resolution and the inadmissibility abuse of force, about the sovereignty of nations and respect for that,” he said.

“We have called for a peaceful resolution to this; stop the fighting and get to the negotiating table and work out your differences peacefully.

“The concern that we have is that escalation on one side leads to escalation on the other side and before you know it, things are more likely to spin out of control and we all pay the price.”

For good measure, Al-Jubeir said: “We’ve reached out to both Russia and Ukraine. We’ve urged them to move towards a ceasefire settlement and their conflict peacefully. We continue to be engaged with them as are a number of other countries, and our hope is that they will be able to recognize that it’s better to argue across the table from each other than fight across the battlefield, because of the unintended consequences of war and conflict.”

Meanwhile, when it comes to humanitarian giving, Saudi Arabia’s pledges continue to be matched by its actions.

On Friday, accompanied by Saad Al-Saleh, the Saudi ambassador to Poland, KSrelief’s Al-Rabeeah visited the UNHCR’s warehouse facilities in Rzeszow in Poland. They jointly inspected the aid already provided as part of the Kingdom’s $10 million grant to support Ukrainian refugees.

 

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Riyadh prepares for opening of 14 top international restaurant brands

Updated 04 October 2022

Riyadh prepares for opening of 14 top international restaurant brands

  • The new fine-dining establishments, which include five with Michelin-starred restaurants in other countries, are due to open in December

RIYADH: More than a dozen renowned international restaurant brands are set to open in Riyadh by the end of the year, including several with establishments in other countries that have earned a coveted Michelin star.

As the tastes of Saudis develop, the Kingdom is increasingly becoming a focus for major dining brands, which are contributing to the development of the tourism and entertainment sectors in the country as well as the national economy. During Riyadh Season celebrations, for example, residents and visitors to the capital have spent more than SR6 billion ($1.6 billion), according to the General Entertainment Authority.

Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan, who chairs the board of directors at Yakoon, a leading company in the hospitality industry, said that 14 international restaurant brands are due open in the capital in December. Five of them have establishments elsewhere in the world that have been awarded a Michelin star, an honor considered by many to represent the pinnacle of fine dining.

The new restaurants in Riyadh will include L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, La Cantine du Faubourg, Sass Cafe and MusicHall. Renowned in Europe and elsewhere, they are considered to be among the most luxurious and distinguished in the world. In the Kingdom, they will be located in areas such as The Boulevard, Al-Bujairi in Diriyah, and King Abdullah Financial District.

“Bringing these restaurants to the Kingdom is in line with the development we are witnessing in the tourism and entertainment sectors,” Prince Saud told Arab News.

“We expect this category of restaurants in the food and nutrition sector to contribute positively to the tourist’s journey and the entertainment experience of the citizen and resident.”

He said his team’s investment aims reflect the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, including the development of the Kingdom as a global tourism destination. Part of this involves the comprehensive development of the entertainment sector and the promotion of a luxurious lifestyle, he added, and as part of its efforts to establish itself as a global destination, Riyadh will continue to enhance its image by embracing fine-dining brands.

“We aim to create an exceptional experience in the tourist’s journey or the experience of the citizen and resident in the food sector in the Kingdom, and bringing international restaurants to Riyadh and other cities of the Kingdom will contribute to enhancing the region’s touristic position,” Prince Saud said.


Who’s Who: Abdullah Al-Assaf, co-founder and chairman, OCEANX Consulting Firm

Updated 04 October 2022

Who’s Who: Abdullah Al-Assaf, co-founder and chairman, OCEANX Consulting Firm

Abdullah Al-Assaf is the co-founder and chairman of OCEANX, a Saudi consulting firm that provides consultative services to the government and private sectors through a selection of experts and competencies.

With over 14 years of experience, Al-Assaf has significantly contributed to the entrepreneurship sector. His specialties include financial engineering, developing financial models, redesigning financial plans and creating governance systems for various government and private entities.

He is also an approved valuer of economic facilities by the Saudi Authority for Accredited Valuers, also known as Taqeem.

During his early years, he established small manufacturing plants and cafes in 2005. While completing his university studies, he began working part-time as a business developer for a real estate company in 2006.

He worked as a financial business developer for the Badir Program for Technology Incubators from 2011 to 2012, following his bachelor’s and master’s programs.

In 2012, Al-Assaf was a vice president of finance at Gulf Furnishing Group. Subsequently, he co-founded OCEANX, and established the International Senbar Group, where he is currently a Chairman.

In 2014, Al-Assaf established Aram Investment Holding, affiliated with several manufacturing, wholesale and retail companies. Additionally, he co-founded VEST Investment Co., VoM Cloud Accounting Platform, and Fuel for Funding.

Moreover, Al-Assaf gave workshops on topics related to entrepreneurship and financial management in collaboration with public universities, including King Saud University, Taibah University, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, and chambers of commerce, such as the Riyadh, Al-Ahsa, and Abha chambers.

He holds a master’s degree in international business and finance from De Montfort University, UK, a bachelor’s degree in finance from Qassim University, and diplomas in investment and management, finance and business strategy.


Saudi minister lauds workplace safety, health advances as major industry conference opens

Updated 04 October 2022

Saudi minister lauds workplace safety, health advances as major industry conference opens

  • The three-day conference is the Saudi sector’s most important annual event providing delegates with the chance to share information and experiences about the latest industry practices and technology trends on local, regional, and international levels

RIYADH: Saudi occupational safety and health legislation had helped slash the cost to businesses of work-related injuries, the Kingdom’s human resources minister said.

And as a major industry conference opened in the Kingdom, Ahmed Al-Rajhi highlighted efficiency improvements brought about through the implementation of new workplace rules, regulations, procedures, and initiatives.

The minister of human resources and social development’s comments came as the fifth international Conference on Occupational Safety and Health got underway on Monday at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center. The gathering is running in tandem with the fourth Arab Conference on Occupational Safety and Health under the theme, Upgrade and Safety. 

Ahmed Al-Rajhi, Minister of Human Resources (center), Abdullah Abu Thunain, Deputy Minister of Human Resources (left) and Fayez Ali Al-Mutairi, Director-General of the Arab Labor Organization, during the opening of the Fifth International Conference on Occupational Safety and Health, which began in Riyadh on Monday. (Supplied)

Al-Rajhi said: “I commend the private sector’s compliance with occupational safety and health legislation, as well as initiatives that reflect the genuine concern for providing safe, healthy, and sustainable working environments that upgrade the Saudi labor market.”

He praised Saudi government legislation, procedures, and initiatives aimed at improving working conditions and promoting occupational safety and health in the business sector.

“These steps have had a positive impact on reducing the costs of work injuries and enhancing the efficiency of facilities,” the minister added.

The three-day conference is the Saudi sector’s most important annual event providing delegates with the chance to share information and experiences about the latest industry practices and technology trends on local, regional, and international levels. 

Abdullah Abu Thunain, Deputy Minister of Human Resources, speaking in the first session of the Fifth International Conference on Occupational Safety and Health, which began in Riyadh on Monday. (Supplied)

Specialist working papers, certified training sessions, and interactive simulators form part of the conference events, and it was announced that a number of occupational safety and health training programs would be launched in collaboration with Makkah’s Umm Al-Qura University.

A conference statement also revealed that a training and rehabilitation program for certified occupational safety and health supervisors in the construction and building sector would be organized in collaboration with the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, in addition to training programs for workers’ accident and injury investigators.

The project will aim to organize the recording and investigation of workplace accidents and injuries, while putting initiatives in place for high-risk occupations.

Sattam Alharbi, deputy minister of human resources and social development for the control and development of the work environment, said the exhibition sought to meet the ministry’s goals of analyzing and exchanging Arab and global occupational safety and health experiences and best practices.

He added that while looking to promote a workplace culture of occupational safety and health by highlighting the latest technical advancements, the Kingdom was also engaged in encouraging research into prevention and helping to strengthen sector cooperation in developing the Saudi labor market.


Saudi healthcare facility honored at Patient Safety Conference

Updated 03 October 2022

Saudi healthcare facility honored at Patient Safety Conference

  • Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City takes platinum award at event in Dubai
  • Prize is ‘a culmination of tireless work,’ Prince Faisal bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz says

JEDDAH: A specialist healthcare services facility in the Saudi capital was honored at the Patient Safety Conference 2022, which ended in Dubai over the weekend.

Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City was presented with a platinum award in the Global Quality and Safety Initiative category after competing with 71 other medical projects in 16 countries across the Middle East.

It was recognized for its high-quality standards that guarantee the safety of surgical and medical procedures provided to patients.

Prince Faisal bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, secretary-general of the Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Foundation, said: “This award is a culmination of tireless work … to implement the highest quality standards and the best international applicable methods.

“The city’s vision aims to create an exceptional healing and working environment, whether for patients or for the workforce. By this, it contributes to the development of everything that would positively reflect on the growth of programs and the development of medical care, which in turn helps in providing advanced services to the community.”

The prince also praised the Ministry of Health for working with the nonprofit sector and enabling it to better serve the community, and said he hoped the award would motivate other institutions in different sectors to innovate and develop positive working environments.

According to its website, the three-day conference and exhibition aims to highlight key issues in the healthcare field and support the training and education of workers to enhance medical care around the region and globally.

Tom Coleman, event director, said: “Never before has access to healthcare affected so many people, and these kinds of events, bringing together key actors in the sector from decision-makers to caregivers, is critical for us to continue working to bring better healthcare to all.”

He added: “Whether we are speaking to hospital workers or aid workers out in the midst of humanitarian crises, the issues we are addressing, such as patient safety and infection control, remain pivotal, whatever and wherever.”

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Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability

Updated 02 October 2022

Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability

  • Expert emphasizes the importance of teaching coffee farming to the next generation

JAZAN: The second day of the Saudi Coffee Sustainability Forum welcomed some of the Kingdom’s experts in medicine, research and agriculture to shed light on Saudi Arabia’s expanding coffee industry.

Organized by the Ministry of Culture and held at the Grand Millennium Jazan, the second day of the forum took a deeper look into joint cooperation in the agricultural sector as well as the positive and negative effects of caffeine.

During the first session, the panelists highlighted ways to promote research cooperation on a global basis and the current obstacles faced within the local coffee industry limiting international progress.

The speakers highlighted the important role the government and research agencies can play in the coffee sector. They also covered the specifics of farming coffee such as the types of beans, climate conditions, and the growing customer demand.

Bandar Al-Fifi, director of the National Coffee Component Food and Agriculture Organization, said: “Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide, and the average daily consumption of coffee is increasing year after year. The consumption of coffee (is) increasing worldwide and with it so is this demand.”

He stressed that this increase in consumption requires a rise in production to meet demand. He emphasized the importance of teaching the next generation about farming to secure growth for the industry.

Industry leaders need to teach “the importance of applying good practices of farming techniques, and strategies to protect the coffee from diseases and pests, in addition to knowing the varieties that must be grown in order to achieve high productivity and reduce crop losses,” he stressed.

During the same session, Radi Al-Faridi, deputy director general of the National Research and Development Center for Sustainable Agriculture, discussed the importance of cooperation of all authorities in agricultural integration.

“The definition of agricultural sustainability includes all environmental, social and economic aspects,” Al- Faridi said.

“Currently coffee is considered the second-largest traded commodity in the world after oil, with the global coffee market value reaching $102 billion in 2020. It is expected that the coffee market will continue to grow to reach a rate of 4.28 percent during the period 2022-2026, as we find that the expansion in the coffee market increases so will the pressure on coffee supply chains,” he said.

The second session of​​ the Saudi Coffee Sustainability Forum welcomed a panel of medical specialists to highlight their research on the effects associated with the consumption of caffeine.

Dr. Amzaina Al-Naimi kicked off the final session of the forum, discussing a scientific paper on the effects of caffeine on mental health.

She highlighted the way caffeine contributes to the improvement of physical and cognitive performance of individuals. Al-Naimi said that a moderate (40 mg) to medium (300 mg) consumption of caffeine was a healthy way to improve alertness.

Rania Bogis, standards and regulations specialist of the Saudi Food and Drug Association, highlighted the various components in the different types of coffee that are present in the Kingdom and the safety measures and the proper storing methods that will prevent them from producing any harmful or poisonous elements.

“Supportive dates should be written on all products, the type of beans must be written, the types of roasting included even the types of grinding,” Bogis stressed.

“For instant Arabic coffee, it must be written on the packaging and the mix label, the additives must also always be clearly written as an additive,” she said.

The forum concluded on Sunday afternoon, with the Ministry of Culture highlighting 10 achievements the gathering accomplished.

The forum was designed to examine the challenges related to Saudi coffee in the value chain, the insight of farmers, obstacles they are facing as well as the ways to support and spark the entrepreneurship industry contributing to Saudi coffee on an international scale.

Closing the forum, Raed Alsufyani, the director of data management at the Ministry of Culture, highlighted 10 concepts discussed during the two-day event that will contribute to the sector.

1. Considering the accession of Saudi Arabia to the International Coffee Organization to exchange experiences.

2- Cooperating with international organizations related to research and promoting the field of scientific research for coffee.

3- Holding a special annual forum to discuss the advantages, aspirations and achievements of coffee.

4- Studying the launch of specialized indicators in cooperation with stakeholders to monitor support for the industry in this sector.

5- A day dedicated to celebrating coffee in the Kingdom.

6- Enhancing the role of farmers to improve production and sector sustainability.

7- Supporting the innovation and entrepreneurship industry to support the value and sustainability of Saudi coffee.

8. The presence of potential in the Kingdom to be in the first place for the manufacture and trade of coffee with unique specifications, including the coffee fruit and its strategic location.

9- The consideration of establishing an electronic magazine for Saudi coffee.

10 - Allocating an annual award for the best efforts, in all its diversity and in the media and culture, to contribute to the Saudi coffee sector.