Saudi and Italian foreign ministers discuss G20 and coronavirus
“We have to be very creative to move forward” after pandemic, says Princess Lamia of Alwaleed Philanthropies
DUBAI: Alwaleed Philanthropies has been riding the wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and poised to accelerate its ‘creative philanthropy’ strategy as global recovery accelerates, says head of Saudi-based charity is in Riyadh.
Princess Lamia bint Majed Al-Saud, general secretary of the 40-year-old organization created by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, told Arab News the pandemic has been a demanding time for the organization as it faces demands extraordinary resources, but that the time had come to apply the lessons learned from the humanitarian and economic crisis.
“The United Nations has given a very unique name for doing good in the world, which is ‘the creative economy’. So you have to be very creative to move forward after the pandemic – how you are going to reach your beneficiaries, and how you can provide support, and how you can empower and do good in general, ”she said. declared.
His comments came during an interview with “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video interviews with leading decision-makers and thinkers in the Middle East and around the world.
Princess Lamia, seen as a role model for the empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia as part of the reforms of the Vision 2030 strategy, also spoke about the progress made by women in the Kingdom, the place of art and culture on the global philanthropy scene. , and the need to transcend the “clash of civilizations” approach in relations between the Islamic world and its international neighbors.
Alwaleed Philanthropies responded after the virus outbreak last year with a $ 30 million initiative to provide essential medical goods and services to the world’s poorest countries struggling with their response to the pandemic.
This was in addition to Alwaleed Philanthropies’ regular commitment to immunization programs around the world and to its national and international medical and humanitarian assistance program.
“In fact, we have worked in some African countries, we have worked in Iraq, we have worked in Syria, we have worked in Tunisia, we have worked in Yemen. We provided economic support – so, for example in Africa, we collaborated with the World Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) to build small factories to produce masks (and improve) sanitation. It was in favor of the empowerment of women and young people, ”said Princess Lamia.
“I think the pandemic shows the importance of having a house and having a roof over your head. All you need to be COVID-safe is just a room and a roof over your head, and that’s why we’ve worked with Habitat (a United Nations urban organization) in shelters in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.
This was in addition to Alwaleed Philanthropies’ established collaboration with the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
“I would say it was a pretty creative initiative that we covered, and we actually reached over 100 million people around the world,” Princess Lamia said.
Alwaleed Philanthropies works in four main areas – community development, empowerment of women and youth, disaster relief and cultural transition – which, combined, have benefited nearly one billion people worldwide. .
A big learning from the pandemic has been the shift to online and digital philanthropic support, with projects in Myanmar and at home in Saudi Arabia coming online as lockdowns strike.
“Believe it or not, financially or financially it’s a lot easier and maybe that’s why this year we’ve reached more people,” Princess Lamia said.
Some observers fear that the focus on finding and delivering a vaccine against the novel coronavirus may distract attention from other global infectious disease immunization programs such as polio, where Alwaleed Philanthropies has played a role. important role in immunization programs in developing countries.
Princess Lamia said there was only a limited effect. “I agree that at Alwaleed Philanthropies we have transferred some of our funds to COVID-19 due to the urgency of the pandemic, but I don’t think this will have a long-term effect,” he said. she added. “I believe we are in a good position now, having received the COVID vaccine and doing a lot more research. “
She said Prince Alwaleed had changed his contribution to the overall budget “if he deemed it necessary”. Alwaleed Philanthropies works alongside other major global philanthropies such as the Gates Foundation as well as United Nations agencies, but is not in competition with them, she insisted.
“I wouldn’t say compete. I would say we are learning from each other, the methodology of this foundation, or the basic spirit of this foundation. It’s about partnership, and that’s what Prince Alwaleed believes in – partnership, ”she said.
Alwaleed Philanthropies’ international relationships have direct benefits for its work in Saudi Arabia. “Maybe what sets us apart from a national perspective more than any other foundation in Saudi Arabia is that we have the international experience and expertise, and that’s what we’re trying to do. in our projects in Saudi Arabia – transferring the knowledge of what we have been doing outside, “she said.
One example is the Turquoise Mountain initiative, supported by the Prince of Wales of the United Kingdom, which seeks to encourage and promote traditional crafts in various parts of the world, including Saudi Arabia, where some 1,000 artisans, mainly women, are employed in craft workshops producing high-end products. goods, most recently under the Mizwada brand.
“We improve their knowledge. We are taking craftsmanship from a very modest or very humble craft to a luxury brand, ”said Princess Lamia.
Empowering women has been one of the main themes of Alwaleed Philanthropies in the Kingdom, and she believes great strides have been made for women in recent years, with the freedom to drive, the relaxation of laws on guardianship and greater employment opportunities for women.
“I don’t think three or four years ago I would sit and talk with you,” she said, adding that the Western media had not given the Kingdom credit for the big breakthroughs.
The rise of a number of women in the Kingdom – such as Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Ambassador to Washington, and Sarah Al-Suhaimy, President of the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) – is further proof of empowerment of women, Princess Lamia mentioned.
Alwaleed Philanthropies is led by a team of 10 women appointed by Prince Alwaleed, and it has programs to cultivate the skills necessary for women to enter employment in the private and public sectors.
“It has been very clearly announced by the government that we want to support women and that we want to empower women. I think some entities or companies have taken it to the next level by literally getting rid of men, but I think we should empower humans, ”she said.
Much of the work of Alwaleed Philanthropies is the effort to promote a better understanding between the Islamic world and other belief systems, which has been controversially referred to as the “clash of civilizations”.
Highlighting the global clashes after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, Princess Lamia said: “I think this clash is not so easy to resolve. She explained how Prince Alwaleed – a well-known Wall Street investor – was in New York at the time of the tragedy and decided to do something to help ease tensions in the long run.
“This is why we have collaborated with six of the most prominent, I would say the most important universities in the world. We have in fact created centers to research and promote tolerance and understanding, ”she said.
There are now Alwaleed Centers at six of the most prestigious universities in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, as part of what she called a “soft power” initiative to reconcile misunderstandings between people of different faiths around the world.
The other angle is the promotion of art and culture by Alwaleed Philanthropies as a bridge between religions. She has partnered with the Louvre in Paris and the Pergamon Museum in Berlin to showcase works of Islamic art, but with a universal message.
“This is how you raise awareness of how Islamic cultures were – leaning towards art and beauty,” Princess Lamia said.