Saudi Arabia: Kingdom of Humanity

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At the Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum held last February, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described Saudi Arabia as one of the most important countries in the world in the provision of humanitarian assistance, fulfilling the requirements of humanitarian operations and reducing poverty, hunger and infectious diseases. Saudi Arabia provides financial aid to many countries without discrimination. It has become one of the top ten countries in the world in providing assistance in the form of humanitarian and charitable grants and soft loans to boost development in developing countries.

In 2014, Saudi Arabia became the world’s first humanitarian aid provider in terms of its gross national income, with official development assistance amounting to SR 54 billion ($14.5 billion) to 78 countries around the globe. The total amount of humanitarian aid reached SR122.44 billion ($32.65 billion).

There is nothing new in the humanitarian role of Saudi Arabia. It has been a pattern and a deep-rooted belief in its foreign policy since the country was founded by the late King Abdul Aziz and has continued to the present day under the leadership of King Salman, during which it has taken a more organized form. However, in spite of the stated volume of humanitarian spending and such great generosity, it is surprising that these facts and figures are not highlighted in the media at the international level, i.e. through the international reports of the United Nations. This negligence has had a negative impact on the image of Saudi Arabia and serves hostile countries, organizations and media. It also heavily influences an important tool of Saudi foreign policy, i.e. soft power. I can sum up what has to be done in two points:

First of all, documentation. Registration and documentation of humanitarian contributions at the local level is not enough. Instead, it must be in accordance with international standards of registration and documentation of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (DAC-OECD), the United Nations Financial Tracking Service (UNFTS), and the principles of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). Hence, the Saudi Aid Platform was launched by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center last February to register and document Saudi aid in accordance with international standards. It is of utmost importance in highlighting Saudi Arabia’s efforts at the international level as well as in reserving its rights to provide aid the same way as major donor countries do. Therefore, the center has collected humanitarian aid data from the establishment of the Kingdom to the present date and has reclassified it according to international standards and displayed it on the platform.

Secondly, highlighting of the humanitarian and relief role in the media. This is not the job of the United Nations, but rather the responsibility of the donor state, which is responsible for highlighting, registering, and documenting the aid provided at the international level after its approval. Highlighting such efforts can be accomplished by publishing these reports in different local and international media or in different social media applications. Moreover, communication with civil society and international organizations and providing them with documented information on aid and humanitarian and relief activities will contribute to the creation of a positive image in world public opinion.

I believe that the launching of the Center for Government Communication will undoubtedly contribute to the raising of the efficiency of the media in this regard. I may add one more point, which is to seek membership in the international committees concerned with development aid aiming to highlight its role as a major international donor and to participate in the formulation of the international humanitarian agenda.

Finally, hostile media campaigns aimed at distorting, questioning and undervaluing the humanitarian efforts of Saudi Arabia do not worry me. They can be silenced by facts, figures, statistics, data and documents. Saudi Arabia will remain the Kingdom of Humanity, its aid is unceasing and its humanitarian efforts have never stopped for more than seven decades.

— Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh. He can be contacted at Ibrahim.othaimin@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alothaimin


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