Why is turning to Saudi Arabia for oil so controversial?

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The reasons are many but the British Prime Minister who according to the latest BBC piece of international broadcast, decided to visit some of the Gulf leaders to mainly talk about ending reliance on Russian oil and gas, will discuss energy security and other issues in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates today. But because critics have expressed concerns about the human rights records of these two countries, he pledged to also raise certain human rights issues although fostering some understanding between the Saudis and the West has always been left to the next day.

Let us here have a look at the supply of oil and gas issue that seems at this stage in contradiction with the latest world trend of distancing all advanced economies from fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, the EU leaders appear to be subtly trying to gain and eventually incorporate the aggressed nation within their ranks; it will certainly increase their “Food Power” vis a vis the rest of the world.


Why is turning to Saudi Arabia for oil so controversial?


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying “the widest coalition” is needed to end reliance on Russian oil and gas.

But maintaining close ties with the Gulf kingdom is controversial among critics of its human rights record.

Why is Saudi Arabia so important for oil?

The US, UK and EU have announced that they will buy less Russian oil and gas, because of its invasion of Ukraine. However, prices have rocketed.

Saudi Arabia is the largest producer in the oil cartel Opec and has the spare capacity to help lower prices by increasing supplies.

It means Western countries need its goodwill and to keep on friendly terms with its ruling family.

Read more on the BBC‘s article.

The above-featured image is for illustration and is of the BBC.

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Bahrain wins five excellence awards

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In today’s world that sadly continues on through not exactly a thin patch of worldwide traumas, the Arab League’s Arab Administrative Development Organisation as reported by Gulf Daily News of March 14, 2022, has awarded its Arab Government Excellence to Bahrain. It was 5 government institutions that were rewarded for their unified work as per the vision of the country’s monarch.

Bahrain wins five excellence awards

General view of Bahrain World Trade Centre in Manama, Bahrain, June 20, 2019. Picture taken June 20, 2019. REUTERS/ Hamad I Mohammed
REUTERS

Five Bahraini ministries and government institutions have won awards at a ceremony to honour excellence in governance in the Arab world.

The announcement was made yesterday at a virtual celebration held under the patronage of UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai.

The Arab Government Excellence Award is organised by the Arab League’s Arab Administrative Development Organisation (ARADO), in co-operation with the UAE government.

The Health Ministry won the award for Best Arab Government Project for Developing the Health Sector, the Labour and Social Development Ministry (Best Arab Government Project for Community Development for its “Khatwa” programme for home projects) and the Interior Ministry’s Customs Directorate (Best Arab Government Development Initiative award for its Governance of Economic and Customs Information to Facilitate Trade).

The Information and eGovernment Authority picked up the Best Arab Government Smart App award in recognition of its Tawasul App for the National Suggestion and Complaint system. The Youth and Sports Affairs Ministry was selected for its Elite Project which was chosen as the best Arab government project for empowering the youth.

This achievement comes within the framework of the efforts made by the Bahraini government, led by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Prime Minister, to benefit from the best practices in upgrading the government’s performance to achieve the kingdom’s Economic Vision 2030.

The award aims to promote the culture of institutional excellence among government work teams in Arab countries.

It also seeks to provide positive leadership thinking to adopt the approach of excellence and innovation in a way that enhances the ability of the governments to deal with the tasks assigned to them through continuous development of the work system and its methods.

The top featured image is for illustration and is of The Daily Tribune

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Politics – not Climate Change – is Responsible for Disasters and Conflict

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With the latest news, Energy and Food supply chains being disrupted globally, the IPCC report confirms yet again that politics and not climate change that is responsible for all that is happening.

IPCC report: how politics – not climate change – is responsible for disasters and conflict

By Ilan Kelman, UCL

The latest UN report on the potential impacts of climate change gives a grim verdict, with some effects now deemed unavoidable. But there are also lessons on disasters and violent conflicts which could help save lives and create safer societies regardless of human-caused climate change.

The main available text of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” is a 35-page Summary for Policy Makers, which by IPCC rules, is approved by member state governments.

IPCC scientists are appointed by member states and these contributing researchers do not produce new science. They summarise the tens of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate change since the previous assessment (the last major IPCC report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerabilities was published in 2014).

The scientists then receive thousands of review comments on drafts requiring textual revisions or responses. In making a series of statements on our understanding of climate change, the report assigns confidence levels such as “low” or “very high” to indicate how certain the authors are of each one.

The current report has been overshadowed by Ukrainian scientists having to leave the approval session to take care of themselves and their families during Russia’s invasion of their country. Nonetheless, around 90 scientists from all inhabited continents and balanced between women and men drafted the document. As frequently occurs, reports emerged of political pushes to remove scientific content which emphasises the political nature of the material.

Disasters and climate change

As an academic who researches disasters and health, I was particularly interested in how the report examined climate change as a cause of disasters, including violent conflicts, and set out actions to avoid them.

The IPCC’s summary entirely avoids the phrase “natural disaster”. This reflects decades of work explaining that disasters are caused by sources of vulnerability – such as unequal and inequitable access to essential services like healthcare or poorly designed or built infrastructure like power plants – rather than by the climate or other environmental influences.

The report states, with high confidence, that “climate change is contributing to humanitarian crises where climate hazards interact with high vulnerability”. In other words, vulnerability must exist before a crisis can emerge. Climate change is not the root cause of disaster. The report explains that places with “poverty, governance challenges and limited access to basic services and resources, violent conflict and high levels of climate-sensitive livelihoods” are more vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Mozambique is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries, according to the Climate Risk Index. fivepointsix / shutterstock

For example, cyclones still lead to disasters in Bangladesh. Nevertheless, the country has substantially reduced deaths and damage through concerted efforts to reduce vulnerabilities. These include building thousands of storm shelters and issuing early warnings by multiple means. These measures have made cyclones less deadly even as the storms have become more intense due to climate change.

Weather disasters which kill more people tend to occur where communities and infrastructure are more vulnerable, according to the report. Heat is rightly highlighted as a major concern, since it causes crops to fail and forces people to halt work. That said, it is surprising that the health impacts of humidity, which can combine with extreme heat to deadly effect, are not mentioned.

The report explains that disaster risk and impacts can be reduced by tackling fundamental issues which cause vulnerability, no matter what the weather and climate do. It places high confidence in risk management, risk sharing, and warning strategies as key tasks for adapting to climate change.

Violent conflict and climate change

As with disasters, the report cannot attribute violent conflict to climate change. With high confidence, the report states that “compared to other socioeconomic factors the influence of climate on conflict is assessed as relatively weak”. This corroborates other research which argues peace and conflict are more determined by social and political factors than by climate or weather.

The authors identify, with high confidence, actions to reduce the “underlying vulnerabilities” which raise the risk of violent conflict. These can be based on research and might include redistributing wealth and resources to make societies more equal and equitable, while providing diverse livelihoods. Adapting to climate change is only part of the solution. Scientific analyses note how development, rather than climate change adaptation only, is the most effective overall.

Conflict in Darfur cannot simply be attributed to climate change. UNAMID / flickr, CC BY-SA

In fact, despite frequent assumptions that climate change caused or was linked to violent conflicts in the past, the summary implies that no single conflict should be attributed to climate change, natural or anthropogenic. This conclusion matches analyses for Darfur in 2003 and Syria in 2011.

Summary of the summary

The IPCC’s press release on the new report was headlined “Climate change: a threat to human wellbeing and health of the planet”. Its stark opening detailed “dangerous and widespread disruption”. Yet its subtitle, “Taking action now can secure our future,” needs emphasising. This is particularly the case for disasters and violent conflicts which, the summary document states with high confidence, are not significantly influenced by human-caused climate change.

Perhaps the press release mentions neither disasters nor violent conflict because they represent comparatively positive news among the bleakness. Ultimately, “taking action now” means applying the science of disasters and conflict for prevention. Then, we save lives and livelihoods, no matter what climate change does.


Ilan Kelman, Professor of Disasters and Health, UCL

Read the original article.

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Qatar’s sports eyes post-2022 horizon

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Published by The Peninsula on how an emirate of the Gulf region does have a vision but how after it has since the early 1990s heavily invested in promoting its image through sports, it is getting ready to facing other challenges. Not only has it fought hard to win support for its 2022 World Cup hosting, it is now trying to further use its soft power to perhaps conquer the world. But would Qatar’s sports sector eying post-2022 horizon keep it alive and well? And if Qatar can silence critics with a strong tournament, an Olympic bid could be next; why not?

Qatar’s sports sector eyes post-2022 horizon

Doha: Interest around development of sports in Qatar has soared globally in the runup to FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the sector has become the focus of global investors. With $6.5bn budgeted for the event, what opportunities does the wealthiest Gulf state offer after the much-awaited football celebration? 

The Investment Promotion Agency Qatar (IPA Qatar) delves into the growth prospects of the sports industry and showcases the multi-sectoral opportunities on offer.
Qatar’s Booming Sports Industry.

Over the last decade, the Middle East has hosted several key tournaments — Asian Football Confederation Cup, World Men’s Handball Championship and IAAF World Athletics Championships among others. This has helped establish the region as a global sporting destination.  A PwC survey shows that the sports industry in the Middle East is expected to grow 8.7 percent in three to five years, while the expected growth of global sports business is not expected to exceed 3 percent in the same period. With Qatar hosting more than 50 international events in 2021, the survey points out that the sports industry in the Middle East is expected to fully recover from the pandemic in 2022. 

The region’s sports industry has untapped potential. The first FIFA World Cup to be held in the Arab region is a catalysing force for unlocking that potential and “propelling the beautiful game”.  Qatar has pursued a bold development strategy and is at the vanguard of countries with advanced sports infrastructure. In the “Ranking of Sports Cities 2020” by Burson Cohn & Wolfe, which evaluates the performance of cities in hosting sporting events based on digital landscape analysis, sports media, and international federations surveys, Doha has made it to the top 50 global cities and the first in the Arab World. Similarly, the “Global Sports Impact (GSI) Nations Index” by the Sports Market Intelligence’s company Sportcal ranked Qatar first in GCC and among the top 20 worldwide. 

Ripple Effect 

With an average growth of 4.5 percent over 11 years, between 2010 to 2020, Qatar’s GDP has grown steadily since it was awarded the right to host the World Cup in 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). With economic diversification, the sports industry is poised for further growth. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has identified 83 commercial and investment opportunities for the private sector until 2023, spanning event management and promotion, sport development, venue construction, sporting goods and equipment, sports commercialisation, sports tourism, and venue operations. 

Esports Adds Momentum 

While the pandemic has challenged economies, it has spotlighted the indispensability of technology integration and digital transformation. Sports is no exception. The global Esports market is expected to grow with a CAGR (2019 to 2024) of +8.7% to reach $218.7 billion in 2024. In the Middle East, Esports represents a natural fit for the region, where the majority of the population is young and internet-savvy. 

It also holds promising growth potential as governments continue to invest in sport and digital transformation as a way to diversify their economies. A recent PwC survey shows that Saudi Arabia ranks among the top 20 countries for games revenue at $716m, with the UAE generating $313m and Egypt $287m.

Qatar has a strong starting point with advanced ICT and adaptability, ranked 8th in the Global Competitiveness Index’s “ICT Adoption” pillar.  With the world’s 1st commercially available 5G network and with 99 percent internet penetration, the country continues to support investors to unfold opportunities through its licensing platforms such as Qatar Financial Centre and Qatar Sports Tech. 

Sports healthcare to drive more opportunities

The global sports medicine and physiotherapy market was estimated at $8.2bn in 2020 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 8.83 percent to reach $14.9bn by 2027. Qatar boasts futuristic sports medicine facilities. It is home to Aspetar – Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital – which is the first such facility in the region and is accredited by FIFA as a sports medicine centre of excellence. 

Boasting some of the world’s finest sports infrastructure Qatar has cemented its position as a global sports destination. 

New sports legacy 

Hosting the FIFA World Cup has helped Qatar draw investment. The country has introduced measures that will not only deliver an unparalleled World Cup experience but create opportunities. The mega projects — from a railway and airport expansion to construction projects worth $200bn will boost business and draw investment in 2022 and beyond. 

With over a million fans travelling to the country, tourism and hospitality will benefit immensely from preparation for sporting events. Describing Qatar’s economy post-World Cup 2022, Nasser Al Khater, CEO of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, said, “The country’s focus will shift from infrastructure development to tourism and will likely go in the direction of Russia post-World Cup 2018”. The tournament added $14bn to the Russian economy, and the benefits are still being felt. 

Qatar is poised to spur development. The country’s vision and futuristic infrastructure have not only accelerated the development of sports industry, but also bolstered growth potential of different sectors.

Tackling corruption is focus for MENA in 2022

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The MENA countries where socio-political monopolization is fundamentally due to low levels of democracy and obscure political transparency have generated over the years Corruption. All attempts to strengthen business integrity and fight corruption were in vain. Chatham House‘s post on the subject of Tackling corruption is the focus for MENA in 2022 is worth going through. Here it is.


Integrity is central to the development of competitive and open economies in which growth and opportunities are sustainably and equitably distributed.

To tackle corruption in the MENA region, the international community must prioritize accountability over stability.

Tackling entrenched corruption will be a key focus of the political discourse in the Middle East and North Africa in 2022. International policymakers will look to anti-corruption as a framework that can be used to help stabilize conflict countries, support economic reform, or to pressure adversarial regimes. Pressure to deal with corruption also stems from popular anger in countries that suffer from poor governance as corruption can have very serious – even fatal – consequences, as the deadly hospital fires Iraq suffered last year illustrate.

Corruption can have very serious – even fatal – consequences, as the deadly hospital fires Iraq suffered last year illustrate


Across the region, anti-corruption processes are meant to signal accountability. However, they can also be weaponized by elites to consolidate power and target opponents, particularly in countries where the political system itself is built on politically sanctioned corruption. This makes anti-corruption efforts unlikely to succeed. These dynamics highlight the need for international policymakers to develop strategies that promote accountability and transparency over the long term instead of prioritizing political expediency.

Anti-corruption efforts not what they appear

At first glance, anti-corruption processes underway across the Middle East and North Africa appear to suggest that states in the region are serious about combatting graft. In Libya, a recent wave of arrests by the attorney general has seen two sitting ministers, a former deputy prime minister and a former head of a state-owned investment vehicle detained on charges of corruption. In Iraq, the commission of integrity and the prime minister’s special committee have arrested dozens of former and current officials on charges of corruption.

Across the GCC, governments are seeking to double down on their economic diversification plans. Against the rising tide of nationalism and populism, anti-corruption efforts will feature as part of a good governance agenda that serves a domestic audience by targeting elites and patronage networks. The UAE is the GCC’s most nimble economic player and leads the pack in efforts to stamp out corruption. In Lebanon, political competition and initiatives by members of the judiciary have resulted in investigations of alleged corrupt practices by the heads of major state institutions such as the central bank.

The case of Lebanon has clearly illustrated that appeasing elites does not deliver stability, and countries such as Iraq and Libya could potentially face a similar fate.

But appearances can be deceiving. In none of these countries have anti-corruption efforts led to meaningful change. In Libya, past efforts have petered out and officials have all too rarely faced trial, let alone been convicted. There is little to suggest this round will be any different as the government is unlikely to support the attorney general’s cause. In Iraq, this year’s top story will be the protracted government formation process following last year’s elections – a process rife with politically sanctioned corruption as the usual cast of characters come together to negotiate their share of power and money. Despite the 2019 October revolution that called for reform of Iraq’s ethno-sectarian political system (muhassasa), not much has changed.

Saudi Arabia, which is pushing ahead with its Vision 2030 targets, has an anti-corruption agenda but will face challenges in connecting its legal framework and process, led by the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha), with realities on the ground. Many sectors suffer from a lack of transparency when it comes to decision-making, yet the importance of personal and social connections (wasta) remains high in Saudi society.

Weaponizing anti-corruption processes

The darker side of the anti-corruption drive is the weaponization of such processes, whereby corruption allegations can be used to settle political scores, especially by those who are politically dominant. In Lebanon, this can be seen in the growing standoff between the governor of the central bank and Hezbollah and its allies, who see him as a political opponent.

The darker side of the anti-corruption drive is the weaponization of such processes, whereby corruption allegations can be used to settle political scores.

In Iran, under pressure from US-imposed sanctions, President Ebrahim Raisi will continue to promote anti-corruption measures to demonstrate good governance and accountability to help distract from the economic pain of sanctions. However, these efforts will by no means root out entrenched corruption. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and various parastatal entities have used predatory sanctions-busting strategies to ensure their economic survival, while crowding out the private sector. Without meaningful reform of the economic system, the government will likely see more protests and unrest.   

The scale of the challenge facing the international community

There is no doubt that these problems will be difficult to tackle. Corruption stretches far beyond the upper levels of government. Where corruption has become politically sanctioned, such as in Iraq, the elite has shifted its focus away from formal government roles, such as cabinet ministers, who are now by design independent and technocratic, but weak. Instead, the key to state power has become the almost 1,000 senior civil servants under the special grades scheme, who do the elite’s bidding in government ministries and agencies without any transparency or accountability. They may not be the minister in charge, but these director generals and deputies make the decisions when it comes to government contracts and procurement, helping to generate huge sums of money for those whose interests they serve.

Any successful anti-corruption strategy must go beyond sanctions on individuals to address the core of the problem – the economic system of governance.  

The international community have opportunities to address some of these entrenched problems this year. But its record to date is mixed. In Libya, the international community’s credibility on corruption has been greatly damaged by it prioritizing stability over accountability. A long-awaited audit of the Central Bank of Libya drew ‘no conclusion or determination’ over ‘any fraud or misappropriation’, while a UN report into allegations of vote-buying at the UN-created Libyan Political Dialogue Forum that selected the current government has not been made public. These developments have only strengthened the impression that Libyan officials enjoy impunity. As the Libyan political process is reshaped in 2022, measures to ensure accountability and transparency must take a much more prominent place in the architecture of international efforts.

Lebanon is perhaps the greatest test of the international community’s commitment to tackling widespread graft. In need of an economic rescue plan to reverse the severe depreciation of its currency and decline in GDP and foreign reserves, there is hope that a deal with the IMF and international assistance could materialize this year. The IMF and international bodies like the EU insist that any aid will come with conditionality regarding reforms, but there are fears they may soften their stance. They must hold firm. If their current position softens, this will damage both Lebanon and the credibility of the international community.

The international community must prioritize the legitimate grievances of MENA citizens, rather than pleas by entrenched elites to help maintain ‘stability’. The case of Lebanon has clearly illustrated that appeasing elites does not deliver stability, and countries such as Iraq and Libya could potentially face a similar fate.

Any successful anti-corruption strategy must go beyond sanctions on individuals to address the core of the problem – the economic system of governance. 

The image above is of Image — A man checks electrical wires in Baghdad, 13 September 2017. For years Iraqis have denounced the bad management and financial negligence that have stifled the country and let its infrastructure fall apart. Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images.

Authors:

Tim Eaton, Senior Research Fellow, Dr Lina Khatib, Director, Dr Renad Mansour, Senior Research Fellow, Project Director, Iraq Initiative and Dr Sanam Vakil, Deputy Director and Senior Research Fellow, all of Middle East and North Africa Programme.