Conference Highlights Role of Social Responsibility in Fulfilling Vision 2030

Riyadh- A new discussion session organized by King Salman Youth Center–Riyadh unveiled new opportunities to enhance the social responsibility of companies, empower non-profit organizations to have bigger impact, contribute in growing the non-profit sector, and motivate volunteer work.

It discussed many topics that contribute in fulfilling the “Saudi Vision 2030” concerning the strengthening of social responsibility by encouraging volunteering and motivating people on participating in volunteering activities, which will create more job opportunities.

The discussion session themed “enhancing social responsibility and its role in fulfilling Vision 2030” hosted leading figures specialized in social responsibility.

During the session, Dr. Salim Al-Dini, deputy minister of Saudi Labor and Social Development said his country has 912 non-profit organizations, and that 12 new organizations are being founded every month.

Dini pointed out that the regulations set by the ministry facilitated the foundation of those organizations, after it reduced the paper procedures and number of members required to establish those foundations, and encouraged different social segments on founding non-profit organizations.

He also highlighted the efforts made by the ministry to assimilate those foundations.

The minister said global studies showed that appointing an honorary chairmanship for the foundation from its onset secures a strong and motivating start. Therefore, the ministry adopted the “honorary chairmanship” concept.

He added: “The Ministry of Labor and Social Development will soon launch a map for associations and civil institutions to determine the needs of each region and provide a demographic survey, information, and indications including the number of associations in every region with their fields, founders, members, and work plan.”

He noted that this plan or e-gate do not exist in the Arab world yet.

Dini revealed that the ministry also plans to launch new workshops in cooperation with all sectors, mainly in health, to develop the work of associations, and founding medical and supportive associations.

He explained that the non-profit sector is considered the fourth top sector in the United States. Dini revealed that 92 percent of the associations and civil institutions in the kingdom are sponsored, while the foundations with expressive and professional activities are only 8 percent. Figures show that every citizen in the kingdom has 0.5 association, an average of one association for every 1,000 citizens, which is very low compared to the international average. The non-profit sector’s contribution in the non-oil revenues is only 0.3 percent compared to 1-12 percent in the developed countries, where it is considered a national sector.

Dini said employees of the non-profit sector represent 0.6 percent of the total workforce in the kingdom.

The deputy minister also tackled the enhancement of the non-profit sector in the national transformation plan of Vision 2030. Those enhancements include regulations and incentive legislations, data, information, surveys, and statistics that help in decision making, a supporting and information technology infrastructure, human resources, coordination and integration, social support and volunteering work, financial resources, protection and governance that organize the work of associations and institutions.

During the session which saw a significant participation, he said the ministry aims to raise the contribution of the non-profit sector to 5 percent by 2030. He stressed the ministry’s efforts in pushing toward the fulfillment of this goal and the high numbers it reached.

The deputy minister listed the fields in which the associations and civil institutions operate, including professional, cultural, sports, and medical associations.

Dini explained means to encourage volunteering and to enhance the foundation of companies of social responsibilities, through companies’ logistic support by providing office surfaces, programs of support, volunteering of employees with great skills in social works, social contribution by providing the main services in communities.

Ali al-Matiri, the director of the central communication in the King Khalid Foundation, spoke about the foundation’s experience in enhancing the profit sector to achieve more growth.

Yemeni Researchers Urge Pressure on Insurgency Factions, Halting Iranian Meddling

Brussels- Participating at a symposium on Yemen in Brussels, researchers said Tuesday that the need to pressure insurgency militias in Yemen to renounce Iranian interference is now more than ever integral to resolving the crisis.

Themed as “The New Dimension in the Middle East, Yemen as a case in point,” the international conference held in the Belgian capital was organized by a Brussels-based think tank, called Forum of Wisdom and World Peace. It aims at reaching a better understanding of the conflict raging in Yemen.

Yemeni human rights researcher Bara’ Shiban, said that one-sided ruling of the country is perpetually impossible, calling for rational and national dialogue to prevail in resolving the current conflict.

“The West is focused only on combating terrorism and fighting extremism without having a clear strategy on Yemen,” Shiban regretted.

The researcher sees that a lacking of a long term strategy for a political solution in Yemen will leave behind buds of strife and conflict so that they later re-emerge.

“Unfortunately, the situation in Yemen remains very complicated. But compared to two years ago, some improvement can be noticed in some areas like Ma’rib and Aden,” Shiban told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“In order to normalize security and economic conditions, provide efficient public services to Yemenis, and run a sustainable solution, there is no other option but to uphold a comprehensive political solution,” said Shiban.

“I think it is necessary to refer to the outcomes of national dialogue, and everyone must participate in the transition process,” he added.

Speaking on Yemeni-based political influence, Shiban said that the basic problem stems from not pressuring the key insurgency party led by Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“Saleh in my view is a key obstruction for the political process, if not removed from the scene, will impede the next phase,” Shiban added.

Jamal Abdullah, from the Middle East Centre, Saint Antony’s College, Oxford University said that the conflict started in March 2015 when the Iran-backed Houthis began attacking the border of Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah said that the Saudi-led coalition argues that its right of intervention is based on the article 52 of the UN Charter that gives the country a right to defend its border.

Secondly, the legitimate president of Yemen called on the Saudi government and other Gulf countries to protect the country from foreign interference.

Referring to calls for dialogue between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Iran, he said that the Saudi leaders do not trust Iranian leaders, but added that Turkey could play a role of a guarantor if such a dialogue takes place.

He stressed that the new Saudi Arabia has become “very dynamic” under the new leadership.

On the other hand, Mustafa Aljabzi, a researcher and political advisor, said a National Dialogue should be followed by a constitution and then a referendum.

He noted that 2 million Yemenis are living in Saudi Arabia who send around USD six billion to their home country that contributes to Yemen’s economic development.

MWL Conference in London: Islamic Scripture Promotes Tolerance, Coexistence

London- Intellectuals, religious preachers and a number of politicians, who attended the “Tolerance in Islam” conference organized by the Muslim World League (MWL), requested exposing corrupt self-styled interpretations on the Al Wala’ Wal Bara'(loyalty and disavowal) creed.

Terrorist extremists have misinterpreted the widely-adopted rule, and exploited it for means of rallying support among Muslim communities.

The MWL organized the conference at London University, in the United Kingdom, on May 16– a number of Islamic leaders, thinkers and diplomats took part.

A concluding statement said Islamic scripture, and historical anecdotes retrieved from the Prophetic biography, show that practices upheld by extremist terrorists do not coincide with Islamic values.

Prophet Muhammad had throughout his journey preached about values such as honesty, tolerance, mercy, coexistence, righteousness and benevolence. Justice towards Muslims and non-Muslims is a notion anchored into Islam—extremists have encroached on Muslim values, and have adopted self-tailored beliefs.

The statement also called for spreading the culture of understanding at such desperate times, as well as promoting concepts of positive communication among followers of different religions in order to serve humanitarian work and preserve human dignity and rights.

All the more, the conference’s final statement recognized efforts spent by Muslims residing in the UK on promoting true Islamic beliefs and value system. Praising their cultural contributions and all-inclusive engagement with other members of society.

Condemning the phenomenon of Islamophobia, the conference denounces false principles promoted under lacking knowledge of true Islamic tradition and values. Islam’s reality is that it endorses civilizational creativity, calls for objectivity, and the elimination of prejudices. Islam must be recognized through its origins and principles, and not the actions of those following a self-styled religion.

The statement called on religious and educational institutions to promote a culture of cooperation and compassion, and to promote religious values that establish tolerance and coexistence.

Calling on Muslim communities in non-Muslim countries to exercise their right to religious expression in peaceful and legal means, and warning against being persuaded by those who preach hate, the conference demanded that Muslims remain committed to upholding local order in countries they reside in.

More so, all Muslims were warned of being persuaded into extremist ideology which would compromise their religious moderation and national awareness.

Addressing the conference’s audience, MWL Secretary General Sheikh Dr. Muhammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa stressed MWL keenness to promote the culture of peace and tolerance.

He also backed the usage of constructive dialogue based on understanding among various components and a moderate approach.

Issa pointed out that tolerance is one of the high values of Islam and that is confirmed by many texts of legitimacy as seen in the biography of the Prophet as it is at the forefront of Islamic moral values in all areas of life.

He also confirmed that Islamic high values conflict completely with extremism. This should clarify the clear difference between what the real tolerant Islam promotes as opposed to what extremism is adopting.

The conference called for the promotion of noble moral values, the need to cooperate in addressing ethical, environmental and family challenges and the promotion of cooperation for sustainable and mutually beneficial progress.

The participants and attending audiences praised the great efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Muslim World League spent on explaining and clarifying the reality of Islam to the world, and confronting extremist ideas.

Cairo Symposium Promotes Muslim-Christian Coexistence

Pope Francis greets Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb (R), Egyptian Imam of al-Azhar Mosque at the Vatican, May 23, 2016. © Osservatore Romano / Reuters

Cairo- Officials, experts and clerics partaking in the international meeting in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday reaffirmed that excommunicating other religions contradicts the principals of forgiveness promoted by faith and international conventions. Extremism was conceded to be the greatest threat to coexistence.

The head Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb, called on religious institutions in the East and West to act against Islamophobia, telling faith leaders at a Cairo conference that Islam “is not the reason for wars.”

“Exonerating religions from terrorism no longer suffices in the face of these barbaric challenges,” Tayyeb said.

Tayyeb called for dispelling “the lingering mistrust and tensions between religious leaders that are no longer justified, for if there is no peace between the proponents of religions first, the proponents cannot give it to the people.”

Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II called for “fighting extremist thought with enlightened thought.”

“Egypt and the region have suffered from extremist thought resulting from a mistaken understanding of religion that has led to terrorism,” he said.

The “Freedom and Citizenship” conference is hosted by Al-Azhar, one of the leading Muslim authorities based in Cairo.

Arab League Secretary-General confirmed that the region is undergoing tragic events as a result of misinterpreting holy scripture and exploiting the misreading to justify bloodshed by extremist groups. Extremism has hindered social values of patriotism and coexistence, he added.

The activities of the two-day conference ‘Freedom and Citizenship’ kicked off on Tuesday and are sponsored by Al-Azhar, Council of Elders of Muslims, and under the auspices of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Representing delegations of over 50 countries are partaking in the event.

The conference, including Muslim muftis and Christian clergy such as Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi, is to issue a closing statement today.

ISIS, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq, views Christians as enemies who should either be killed or subjugated.

In Egypt, the group’s affiliate called for war on the Coptic minority after bombing a church in December 2016, killing 29 people.

Tayyeb, who represents a more moderate and traditional form of Islam, argues that groups like ISIS have perverted the religion.

Opinion: Do the Astana Talks Aim For a Truce or Syria’s Surrender?

There has been quick and intense diplomatic activity concerning a solution for Syria since the fall of Aleppo. Several agreements have been signed and the political process has been divided into three stages. The location and dates for the negotiations have also been decided; they will take place on the 23rd of January in the city of Astana in order to negotiate consolidating the truce in Aleppo and a ceasefire across Syria. On the 27th of February, they will meet in Geneva to hold negotiations for a peaceful solution.

The Iranians, Turks and Russians have agreed to act as guarantors of the ceasefire. The Iranians have refused to include Saudi Arabia in the Astana negotiations, according to a statement made by the Iranian Defence Minister. Meanwhile, the Russians regarded the participation of the Saudis as essential, but they did not clarify to which stage of the roadmap.

The conference that will take place in Astana, the Kazakhstani capital does not have international consensus or legitimacy! International parties that are interested in the Syrian crisis such as Germany and France have doubts about it, and the role of the United Nations seems to be limited. The Iranians, Turks and Russians have decided to meet in Astana and bring fighters from the Assad regime and the Syrian armed opposition to the table of preliminary arrangements in this city which is considered to be associated with the Russians.

The organisers say that they will hand over the file to the United Nations so that a political solution can be negotiated in Geneva five weeks after the conference. Is the function of the Astana conference to force Turkey and the Syrian opposition forces to surrender, like Saddam did when he signed a document admitting defeat in a tent in Safwan after the Kuwait war? Or does the Astana conference aim to decide on the arrangements for a truce and a primary reconciliation that precedes negotiations? The matter is quite suspicious.

Preventing others from participating in or even attending the Astana conference increases these suspicions. Turkey is in a weak position and may not be able to, on its own, confront the Russians, Iranians and the Assad regime when the arrangements for the truce are imposed. It will be difficult for Turkey to be the guarantor of Syrian armed factions with different orientations.

This may explain why Russia and Iran want Turkey to attend Astana on its own. Turkey’s sole condition was that the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia that enjoys the west’s backing, would not be allowed to attend. This is because Turkey believes that this group wants to establish a Kurdish zone in Syria, near Turkey’s borders. The three countries also agreed on excluding ISIS and Al-Nusra Front from the conference. Other factions were not invited but neither were there announcements about them being excluded. They have been ignored for the meantime.

The Astana conference aims to consolidate a ceasefire across Syria. The Syrian regime is interested in this right now because it wants to redeploy its forces and is trying to administratively control the country which it lost control of during the last five years of war. The ceasefire does not serve the opposition in any way because most passages are now closed and are targeted individually by the Syrian regime’s alliance which is supported by Iranian and Russian forces, Hezbollah militias and other sectarian Shiite militias that are under the command of the Iranian revolutionary guards.

It seems that the goal of the Russians and Iranians is to drag the armed Syrian opposition to a slow negotiating project while enjoying the freedom to move and breach the ceasefire in areas of their choice in order to put pressure on armed groups and force them to accept their conditions.

The Assad regime’s alliance is rearranging its position on the ground, and Russian troops have been assigned with the task of having a presence in areas close to Turkey, including Aleppo. Iran and its militias are stationed in Daraa, near the Jordanian border, in areas on the border with Iraq and in the surroundings of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

There are about 20 days left till the Astana negotiations. They are important because they will clarify further the Russian role and reveal whether it still conforms with the Iranian one or leans towards a moderate political one in order to achieve a solution that is acceptable to all. The conference will also reveal Turkey’s position after it changed its recent stances and show whether it has decided to end its relationship with the Syrian revolution and acknowledge the Assad regime or if it is leading the Syrian operation alongside the majority of the Syrian people.

Kurdish PM: Managing Mosul Will be Harder Than Liberating it

The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani yesterday warned that managing Mosul will be more difficult than the ongoing operation to free it.

In a speech that he made at a conference on tolerance and coexistence which began in Erbil yesterday, Barzani said that “Liberating Mosul is easier than the next stage of the battle”, and pointed out that “We must be wary of the real dangers that will exist after the city has been liberated”.

The Kurdish media network Rudaw quoted Barzani as saying “A political agreement is needed between the government and people of all ethnic and religious groups in Mosul for how to deal with the situation after liberation”. He continued by saying that “Liberating Mosul is certainly a lot easier than running it afterwards, but unfortunately a serious intention is not seen for this reality yet. On the contrary there is evasion of responsibility which would make the threats after ISIS not less serious than when Mosul was under ISIS.”

Barzani added that “An agreement is needed based on the political, social, geographic and demographic reality of the region of Mosul and its vicinities as the only guarantee of stability and peace for its people. It will also prevent an engulfing fire that internal and regional powers are trying to ignite. We should all be careful and know that this is a serious and real threat.”

On the other hand, Barzani pointed out that “the successful coexistence experiment in the Kurdistan region has become a subject of the world’s admiration” and added that “our culture and spirit of coexistence has prompted countries around the world to support us”. He continued by saying “We have a great responsibility to promote coexistence in the face of terrorist ideology”.

Diplomats Relay France’s Decision to Reschedule Peace International Conference

France

Paris- France’s ministry for foreign affairs decided to postpone the international conference for restoring peace to the Middle East that was meant to take place on the December 21, diplomatic source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

French President Francois is reportedly planning to hold a meeting of foreign ministers from nearly two dozen countries in Paris Dec. 21, in an effort to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. France held a similar conference in June; Israeli and Palestinian representatives were not invited to that gathering.

Reasons given for France’s delay were exclusive to a busy agenda withholding participating ministers from attending, added to prior holiday engagements.

Arguably, the same sources noted that a concealed reason stands behind rescheduling the conference. Mixed with United State idleness, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had relayed his frank and far from diplomatic refusal to attend the conference to Hollande.

Netanyahu also said that his government is prepared to go into direct negotiations with President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas if the international conference was to be cancelled.

“Netanyahu told Hollande if there were not an international conference in Paris, the prime minister would meet with Abbas for direct talks without preconditions….Israel will not take part in the international conference, which won’t contribute to bringing peace,” a Wednesday statement by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said.

With that, Netanyahu has directed a straight blow to the conference finishing off France’s desire to invite about fifty regional and international foreign minister, and re-open the file on the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, giving a front slot on the international agenda.

The conference was also to allow for the two-state solution sought by Israel, to remain a viable option.

Another factor that prompted suspending the conference, is the notable indifference projected by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who spent Friday and Saturday in Paris. Kerry was participating at the meeting of states supporting the Syrian opposition.

The U.S. Secretary advised France to walk away from the initiative, at least for the time being, especially that the U.S. Obama administration is coming to an end and that the new administration is still undergoing transition of power.

France has decided to postpone its international peace conference aimed at resuming talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA envoy to France said that France informed the Palestinians that the peace conference has been postponed until January 2017.

The PA envoy countered the heresy down politics ally, saying that the conference was postponed since there was not sufficient time to prepare in such a way that ensures its success, and that the postponement was unrelated to Israel’s refusal to participate.

British FCO Denies Link to Damascus Workshop

A British official said yesterday that the British Government does not support a workshop organised by the British Syrian Society about “the current situation in Syria”. The official added that the workshop that is currently being held in Damascus does not represent the British government’s views. This renunciation came at a time when the Syrian regime’s media is trying to conceal the workshops’ course of events. The workshop aims to whitewash the regime’s image in the west.

In a statement that he made yesterday, the UK Special Representative for Syria Gareth Bayley said: “We strongly advise people not to participate in events of this kind for security reasons due to the grave situation in Syria and because the event risks being manipulated for the purpose of the Syrian regime’s propaganda”. Bayley continued by saying that “The British-Syrian Society Conference is held at a location not far from Assad’s prisons, where many political prisoners are detained.”

Although the workshop organised by the British Syrian Society in Damascus aims to whitewash the image of Assad’s regime internationally, it was held in Damascus, away from the media and shrouded in extreme secrecy. Syrian state media in Damascus did not mention any details of the workshop and the private Syrian newspaper Al-Watan published a brief news story about the beginning of the workshop on Sunday in which it cited the British newspaper the Guardian.

King Salman Receives Turkish Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Economy

Riyadh- The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz received at Al-Yamamah Palace on Thursday Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu and Turkish Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci.

During the meeting, they reviewed bilateral relations and prospects of cooperation between the two countries in various fields.

Earlier, King Salman received Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his accompanying delegation –they discussed potential joint cooperation and regional and international developments.

The two meetings were attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior; Minister of State and Cabinet Member Dr. Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban; and Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir.

Moreover, under the patronage of King Salman, the 4th Saudi International Nanotechnology Conference will be launched on October 25.

For three consecutive days, the conference will tackle manufacturing of nano-materials, solar cells, energy applications, environmental and medical applications, nano-electronics and nano-photonics.

The forum aims to showcase scientific and practical ideas in the field of nanotechnology in addition to presenting latest innovations in this domain. The conference will witness the attendance of international scientists, decision-makers, businessmen, figures that have contributed to developing this sector, companies working in the nanotechnology field, trainers, trainees, regional and international agencies and companies.

13 Killed in Fresh Fighting Between Government Forces and Militants in Sirte

Three members of the Libyan government of national accord’s forces and ten ISIS fighters were killed in Sirte yesterday after renewed fighting in the coastal city, according to military and medical sources.

In a statement, government forces said that “Our troops continue to advance towards ISIS’ last strongholds inside Sirte, and they are targeting a group of ISIS fighters with heavy artillery in district No. 3 which is located in eastern Sirte (450 km east of Tripoli)”.

In another statement, the office of government forces said that they were able to foil three attempted car bombings before they reached their targets.

A field hospital run by government forces announced that three pro-government fighters were killed in Sirte yesterday, while government troops reported that at least ten members of the extremist organisation ISIS were killed.

Libyan government forces launched operation Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (“Solid Structure”) on the 12th of March to regain Sirte from the extremist organisation ISIS which has controlled it since June 2015.

According to medical sources, more than 450 pro-government fighters have been killed and some 2,500 have been wounded since the operation began. There are no statistics about the number of ISIS fighters that have been killed.

The fall of Sirte will be a painful blow to ISIS which is experiencing a series of setbacks in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for the Secretary General of the Arab League Mahmoud Afifi yesterday revealed that a tripartite meeting on coordination will be held in Cairo on October the 25th between Arab League representatives, the African Union and the United Nations in an effort to address the crisis in Libya.