Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization session concludes in Jeddah

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Hani Al-Moqbel, chairperson of ALESCO’s Executive Council, center, Mohammed Walad Amar, the director general of ALECSO, right, during the conference in Jeddah. (Supplied)
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The two-day session concluded on Wednesday and will be followed on Friday by the organization’s General Conference. (Supplied)
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The two-day session concluded on Wednesday and will be followed on Friday by the organization’s General Conference. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 May 2024

Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization session concludes in Jeddah

  • Organization’s director general tells Arab News about its future plans and how it addresses current events and needs in the Arab world, including the crisis in Gaza
  • Other topics discussed during the 121st session of the organization’s Executive Council include efforts to preserve Arab heritage, the effects of AI, and educational initiatives

JEDDAH: The 121st session of the Executive Council of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization concluded in Jeddah on Wednesday.

During the two-day event, ministers and other representatives from 22 Arab nations discussed important topics, initiatives and proposals related to knowledge sharing, scientific advancement, and innovation within the framework of the work of the organization. It will be followed on Friday by its General Conference.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News on Wednesday, Mohammed Walad Amar, the director general of the organization, said: “The aim of this conference is to approve the organization’s budget for the next two years and to endorse its selected projects based on the proposals and needs of Arab countries, envisioning a real acceleration toward the goals of our Arab nations in the fields of education, culture and information technology, as well as in various areas prioritized by Arab countries in cultural and educational work.”

Addressing the crisis in Gaza, Walad Amar said the organization condemned what is happening there and called for support for Palestinians in the fields of the education and culture.

“The organization sees this aggression not only as an attack on the (Palestinian) people but also as an assault on Arab identity in general, and an assault on the Palestinian educational approach,” he added.

A key aspect of ALECSO’s cultural activities and initiatives, Walad Amar said, is its submissions to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization with the aim of preserving Arab culture and heritage through inclusions on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

“To date, we have successfully accredited the initial submissions concerning the palm tree, Arabic calligraphy, traditional clay architecture, metal engraving and wedding customs,” he said. 

Mohammed Walad Amar, the director general of ALECSO. (AN photo by Nada Hameed)

“Our approach aligns with the Arab strategy, which prioritizes both tangible and intangible cultural heritage, fostering awareness across Arab nations about its significance.”

These efforts are complemented by educational programs, Walad Amar said.

“Given the current landscape, our primary challenge lies in revising curricula to reflect present realities and anticipate future needs,” he added.

ALECSO recently staged the fourth Arab Programming Week at King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language, which was attended by about 250 teachers from Arab countries. The organization has also created a guide for teaching students in Arab primary and secondary schools about artificial intelligence and is developing an Arab charter for the ethical use of AI.

“We recognize the inevitable influence of artificial intelligence and the challenges it presents,” Walad Amar said.

“While embracing its advancements, we prioritize safeguarding the privacy of our Arab nations. Our aim is to harness the positive aspects of AI while avoiding any negative impacts. Achieving this requires strengthening our educational systems to equip our children with the necessary skills and awareness.”

Two topics discussed during the Executive Council session that were described as particularly significant were the establishment of an ALECSO Partnership Forum, which was initiated by the Kingdom, and an Arab Cultural Week within UNESCO, both of which received unanimous approval.

“The Kingdom consistently presents us with positive and constructive initiatives that unite Arab educational and cultural efforts across various scientific fields,” Ahmed Sameer, the assistant secretary-general of the Yemeni National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, told Arab News.

Issam Louhichi, who oversees operations at the National Commission for Education, Science and Culture in Tunisia, told Arab News that a consensus on ideas during the two-day session meant that a number of decisions were quickly agreed.

“It provided an opportunity to practice democracy within our Arab world through voting on resolutions and exchanging successful experiences in various educational, scientific, and cultural fields,” he added. “This Executive Council serves as an opportunity to present proposals from countries, with the aim of including them in the General Conference agenda (on Friday).

“It was an excellent opportunity to discuss the core issue of Palestine by presenting several proposals. Algeria proposed integrating lessons within educational curricula across Arab countries each year to educate youth about the history and justice of this issue.”

“Today, we were presented with a proposal from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding the Arab Cultural Week at UNESCO. This initiative, which involves all Arab countries, including Tunisia, aims to foster collaboration and ensure its success. We will contribute diverse insights and experiences spanning cultural, historical, educational and scientific domains.”

Other topics discussed during the two-day session, which was hosted by the Saudi National Committee for Education, Culture and Science, included the challenges that Arab nations face in the fields of education, culture and science, innovative solutions to those problems, and ways to forge new partnerships that can broaden the horizons of for education and creative thought.

Saudi authorities thwart drug smuggling operations

Updated 20 June 2024

Saudi authorities thwart drug smuggling operations

Arab News RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s drug control authority seized large quantities of narcotics and arrested several people involved in smuggling following a number of operations across the Kingdom, reported Saudi Press Agency.

Border guards in Asir province thwarted an attempt to smuggle 123 kg of hashish and 89,355 narcotic tablets, while in Jazan four Ethiopian nationals were arrested for trafficking 75 kg of qat.

In Riyadh, the General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested two Pakistani residents attempting to sell 26 kg of methamphetamine.

Saudi security authorities are urging people to report any activities related to drug smuggling or promotion by calling 911 in the Makkah, Riyadh and Eastern Province regions, and 999 in the rest of the Kingdom.

Alternatively, information can be emailed to [email protected]. All reports are treated in confidence.

The art of playing the drums — a popular part of Najran cultural heritage

Updated 20 June 2024

The art of playing the drums — a popular part of Najran cultural heritage

RIYADH: Drumming is an important and popular part of cultural heritage in Najran, especially during holidays and special occasions.

The art of playing the drums is considered one of the most famous and creative Najran dances and is the only one in which all vocal and movement arts are included. 

Drummers begin collectively in a single straight row as they move in harmony to the beat of drums and tambourines while chanting. 

The dancers then divide into two rows, one beating tambourines and the other the drums. At the same time, they chant poetic verses with a range of melodies and rhythms.

Najran’s cultural dancers once again enthralled families and visitors during this year’s Eid Al-Adha celebrations, treating them to an exhilarating performance.

AI-enhanced visual medical service proved useful during Hajj

Updated 20 June 2024

AI-enhanced visual medical service proved useful during Hajj

  • The service uses a high-tech capsule to conduct the necessary medical examinations within six minutes for each individual

RIYADH: A high-tech visual medical service trialed by the Saudi Ministry of Interior on security personnel during this year’s Hajj season proved successful, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The service uses a capsule enhanced with artificial intelligence and modern communication technology to conduct medical examinations in the workplace, completing each one within six minutes.

A report from the ministry’s General Administration of Medical Services said the capsule enabled 26 physiological measurements, the most important of which were height and weight, body and muscle mass, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen levels, energy requirements, heart rate, and heart rate variability.

Each person’s health status data is analyzed by the built-in AI system, followed by a remote medical consultation with a doctor. Any necessary medications are then prescribed via the Wasfaty system.

The service reduces the need for hospital or health care center visits and provides a safe, private environment for conducting workplace health examinations and medical consultations.

Personnel currently covered by the service are from the Ministry of Interior and the Presidency of State Security.

Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

Updated 19 June 2024

Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

RIYADH: Saudi Railways on Wednesday hailed the success of the Mashaer Train operation at this year’s Hajj season, saying the metro service had transported more than 2.2 million passengers between the nine stations in Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, operating 2,206 trips.

More than 29,000 worshippers were transported on the first day of the pilgrimage, while more than 292,000 pilgrims were carried from Mina to Arafat, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Mashaer Train then transported over 305,000 people during the pilgrimage from Arafat to Muzdalifah, and more than 383,000 worshippers from Muzdalifah to Mina.

During the days of Tashreeq, the train carried more than 1.2 million pilgrims from stations Mina 1, Mina 2, and Muzdalifah 3 to Mina 3 station (Jamarat), which offered easy access to the Jamarat Bridge.

Bashar Al-Malik, CEO of SAR, said that the success of the operating plan was built on unlimited support for the railway sector from the Saudi leadership.

Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

Updated 20 June 2024

Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

  • Saudi organizers deliver their first progress report to event bureau chiefs in Paris

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on target to deliver an Expo 2030 “by the world, for the world,” organizers have told event chiefs in Paris in their first progress report since Riyadh was chosen as host city.

Abdulaziz Alghannam, director general of the Riyadh Expo 2030 office at the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, led the Saudi delegation at the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions in the French capital.

Efforts were fully underway for Expo registration and preparation for creating the legal framework to enable international participation in the event, he told the bureau.

Riyadh was chosen to host the event at the bureau’s last general assembly in November 2023. The expo will take place  from Oct. 1, 2030 to March 31, 2031, when the Saudi capital will host 197 countries and 29 international organizations.

The theme – “The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow” – encapsulates Saudi Arabia’s commitment to using the Expo to accelerate progress toward the planned sustainable development goals. The event will focus on harnessing science and innovation for a better future.

Preparations are underway at the highest levels, including infrastructure development, legislative and financial measures, the master plan for the Expo site, and legacy plans.