Congratulations Dubai and UAE: Host of Expo2020.

dubai fireworks

Dubai was today selected as the host city for Expo2020 winning against Sao Paolo, Izmir and Yekatrinburg. The decision was taken during a meeting in Paris in which 163 countries participated.

Our congratulations to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, and we wish them success with this venture.

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“Best discussion on human rights I have participated in for a long time” – Baroness Helena Kennedy on the OxGAPS Forum.

Baroness Kennedy, a leading human rights campaigner and Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford. She was a keynote speaker at the OxGAPS symposium on 16 November at Oxford University.

Baroness Kennedy, a leading human rights campaigner and Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford. She was a keynote speaker at the OxGAPS symposium on 16 November at Oxford University.

Issues related to human rights, the rule of law, recent political developments in the Middle East and prospects for change, demographic challenges, historical perspectives and the role of outside actors were some of the topics discussed in the Symposium with the theme “New and Old Challenges in the Arab Countries of the Gulf and the Levant” which was held at Oxford University on 16 November 2013. The Symposium was jointly organised by OxGAPS Forum and the John Smith Memorial Trust and was attended by around one hundred participants, including many from the region itself.

“This has been the best discussion on human rights I have participated in for a long time” said Baroness Helena Kennedy, renowned human rights barrister and campaigner, and Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford, at the end of the second panel of the symposium which focused on the theme “Human Rights and the Rule of law – a tangled tale”.

Speaking as a guest speaker on the panel Baroness Kennedy  said that human rights and the rule of law were intertwined. The rule of law was fundamental to any successful society and nobody should be above the law. It was however meaningless without respect for human rights. She spoke about the origins of the declaration of human rights from the first discussions held by international lawyers and judges after World War II in order to find a way to inject a sense of justice and humanity into all legal systems.

She provided a brief historical overview of progress made on this front during the 20th century and following the challenges presented by 9/11, emphasizing that human rights is learned through experience, through learning stories and learning what it means to have universal values.

She concluded saying:

“Rule of law is meaningless without human rights. It is one coin and you can’t have one without other as they are entangled in each other. One cannot deliver rule of law without respecting human rights; human rights should be high on national and global agendas as the only way to attain peace and justice.”

The panel was Chaired by OxGAPS co-ordinator, Dennis Sammut and included Melkar al Khoury from Lebanon; Sarah al Sharji from Oman, Maimuna al Suleimanli from Oman; Mona Hejres from Lebanon and Adi Khair from Jordan.

A full report of the Symposium proceedings will be available shortly.

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Oxford to host symposium on “Old and New Challenges in the Arab countries of the Gulf and the Levant”.

oxford-skyline_1010001cdAround fifty young politicians, government officials, civil society activists and journalists from Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon will join Oxford students and scholars for a one day symposium on the theme “Old and New Challenges in the Arab countries of the Gulf and the Levant” being held on Saturday, 16 November at the Social Science Lecture Theatre, (Manor Road Building) at Oxford University. It is being organised jointly by OxGAPS and the John Smith Memorial Trust. (See location map)

A spokesperson for OxGAPS said, “we are looking forward to having such a large number of practitioners from the region, many of whom have been directly involved in the political processes in the region in recent years. This is an excellent opportunity for the Oxford academic community interested in the Middle East to interact with a new generation of Arab activists.”

There are a few remaining places on the symposium, but prior registration is essential. It can be made through this website.  For further information email to office@oxgaps.info

The provisional program of the symposium is as follows: Continue reading

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Do Saudi students abroad defy stereotypes?

saudi studentsAn article on the website of the Saudi newspaper, Arab News, last week has caused something of a debate. The article written under the byline of Ali Harbi, Detroit, says that “Saudi students studying in the United States are defying stereotypes by adjusting quickly to university and community life.”

Harbi says that “Their presence on American campuses has grown significantly over the past seven years, amounting to 4.5 percent of international students in the country, according to The Arab American News publication.Saudis rank fifth in the number of international students at universities throughout Michigan. They make up 5 percent of the state’s foreign student body. They are the beneficiaries of the Saudi Higher Education Ministry’s scholarship program set up in 2006″. Continue reading

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Saudis snub world community. The Kingdom rejects seat on Security Council citing double standards.

In this op-ed for oxgaps.org Dennis Sammut discusses the implications of Saudi Arabia’s refusal to accept a seat on the United Nations Security Council, to which it had just been elected.

The UN Security Council in session.

The UN Security Council in session.

It was the ultimate snub to the world community, and no country has dared to do it before. Saudi Arabia stunned the international community on Friday by rejecting to take a seat on the United Nations Security Council, to which it had just been elected. Each year five non permanent members of the 15 member council are elected for a two-year period according to regions. Saudi Arabia whilst allowing its name to go forward for the election in the General Assembly refused the seat once it was announced that it was elected.  The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Kingdom rejects the seat “until the council is reformed and enabled, effectively and practically” to carry out its mandate. Continue reading

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Eid Mubarak! The Muslim world celebrates Eid al Adha.

Doha, Capital of Qatar, lit up for Eid festivities.

Doha, Capital of Qatar, lit up for Eid festivities.

We extend Eid greetings to all members of OxGAPS, all our subscribers  on oxgaps.org, and our friends on facebook, and to all Muslims celebrating  Eid al Adha.

The image shows Doha, capital of Qatar lit up for Eid. (picture courtesy of Doha, Qatar page on facebook)

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Great interest in OxGAPS during Oxford University Freshers’ Fair.

The OxGAPS stand at Freshers Fair.

The OxGAPS stand at Freshers Fair.

The OxGAPS stand at Fresher’s Fair was visited by many of the thousands of  Oxford University students who attended this hugely popular event. Members of the OxGAPS committee shared information about our programme of events for the next term.

Several hundred people have expressed interest in our work. Our special membership rate for 2013/14 will remain in effect until Friday, 18 October. You can join through the eventbrite facility on this website.

Once more, welcome to Oxford, and welcome to OxGAPS to all Freshers, and to other students who are returning after the long vacation.

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Two Oxford post-graduates discuss labour migration in the UAE – the challenges and responses.

More than forty one million foreign workers are employed in the six GCC countries. (Picture courtesy of alarabiya.net)

More than forty one million foreign workers are employed in the six GCC countries. (Picture courtesy of alarabiya.net)

The GCC region is the most popular destination for temporary labour migrants of any world region, and flows have continued to increase over the past three decades.

In a recent article on the website of the Washington based Migration Policy Institute, two Oxford post-graduates, Froilan T Malit Jr and Ali Al Youha say that temporary labour migration has been the primary driver of population growth in the UAE since the 1990s, with labour migrants making the vast majority of the total population in 2013. They argue that flow of labour migrants to GCC countries is expected to grow in the coming decades, and will therefore remain a critical public policy challenge. The UAE – although one of the most liberal GCC countries and one that is seemingly proactive in addressing migration and human rights issues – still struggles to balance labour market needs with native-born employment and a host of other pressing concerns.

Malit and Al Youha argue that an important first step will be to strengthen efforts in data collection and knowledge sharing across the Emirates, for example to probe further into career trajectories of UAE nationals versus foreign-born professionals, or to identify the victims of human trafficking. Building on existing initiatives like the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, origin and destination countries could also expand data collection efforts to collectively ensure evidence-based policymaking and improved labour migration governance across the region.

You can read the full article on the MPI website here

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Saudi film about a girl and her bicycle makes debut in Oscars.

Wadjda

Haifaa Al Mansour’s drama Wadjda, about a young girl determined to win money to buy a bicycle she’s forbidden to ride, has been selected as Saudi Arabia’s official submission for the Oscar’s foreign-language category. It marks the first time the country has submitted a film for Academy Award consideration.

“We are very proud of the film as an authentic representation of our country and culture and are very pleased to see the themes and story of the film resonate with audiences well beyond our borders,” Sultan Al Bazie, head of Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts and chairman of the nominating committee, said in a statement on Friday. Continue reading

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Dates have been an important part of Gulf diet for centuries.

Saudi man inspects dates during the Ahsa Festival for Palms and Dates in the Eastern Province SPA A Saudi man inspects dates during the “Ahsa Festival for Palms and Dates” in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia held recently, where total sales of dates reached SR4 million during its first three days. Picture Credit: Saudi Press Agency, Riyadh.

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Sana’a Summer Festival 2013.

sana festival Yemeni men perform a fighting dance during the Sana’a Summer Festival in Yemen on Monday, August 19, 2013. The two-week long festival aims at stimulating domestic tourism and to reassure local and international tourists about Yemen’s stability.

Picture Credit: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

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Muslims in the Gulf region and world wide celebrate the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid.

Large crowds attended Eid prayers at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi as millions of Muslims all over the world celebrated the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid el Fitr. (Picture courtesy of The National, Abu Dhabi.)

Large crowds attended Eid prayers at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi as millions of Muslims all over the world celebrated the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid el Fitr. (Picture courtesy of The National, Abu Dhabi.)

Millions of Muslims in the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, and throughout the world today marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the start of the Eid festivities. Large crowds attended prayers in Mosques throughout the region whilst families gathered to celebrate together the annual festivity.

OxGAPS wishes all Muslims in Oxford, the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula and world wide Eid Mubarak.

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There are 180 million people living in the six GCC countries, Iran, Iraq and Yemen. Half of them are under 24.

saudi children (1)The region of the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula consists of nine countries, the six GCC countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Iran, Iraq and Yemen. Together these nine countries have a combined population of approximately one hundred and eighty million people. Around half of them are under 24 years old.
The Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum (OxGAPS) works to increase knowledge of the region, its challenges and potential and offers a space for interaction between those from the region and others interested to learn about it, in the City and University of Oxford and beyond.

If you are studying in Oxford, or plan to do so in the near future, and are from the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula or interested in the region get in touch with us at office@oxgaps.info

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OxGAPS Forum supports Dubai’s bid to host EXPO 2020.

Cartoon characters Nahyan, his sister Shamma, his parents Um and Abu Nahyan, and his grandfather El Waled have been created to promote EXPO2020.

Cartoon characters Nahyan, his sister Shamma, his parents Um and Abu Nahyan, and his grandfather El Waled have been created to promote EXPO2020.

OxGAPS – The Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies forum has become a supporter of the bid of Dubai to host EXPO 2020. A decision is expected to be announced in Paris in November.

A spokesman for OxGAPS Forum said:

“We are delighted to endorse the bid of Dubai to host EXPO 2020. Dubai is a living example of a global city that has risen in the last half century from modest beginnings to be a dynamic world centre of innovation and trade. This creates a spiritual bond between Dubai and Oxford, with its international character, and its centres of intellectual excellence and innovation. Both cities are also renowned for their multi-cultural and multi-ethnic character and tolerance. We wish success to Dubai in its bid to host EXPO2020. We are sure that, if successful  in its endeavour, Dubai will deliver on its bid motto connecting minds, creating the future.” Continue reading

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Iraq to restore the arch of Ctesiphon

The Arch of Ctesiphon in Iraq.

The Arch of Ctesiphon in Iraq.

Iraqi authorities have contracted a Czech firm to carry out a 10-month restoration of the ancient Arch of Ctesiphon as part of a plan to boost tourism to the once-popular site.

Through the decades of conflict that have wrecked Iraq, the famed 6th century monument, which is the world’s largest brick-built arch and the last structure still standing from the ancient Persian imperial capital Ctesiphon, has fallen into disrepair. It lies south of Baghdad, just a short distance from the tomb of Salman Pak, one of the companions of the Prophet Mohammed. Together, the two sites form what was once one of Iraq’s main tourist attractions in the town of Madain. The town was suspected of housing a biological weapons reasearch facility under the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein and, after his 2003 ouster and subsequent execution, it became an Al-Qaeda stronghold. Continue reading

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Untapped Human Capital: Rethinking young UAE Nationals in the labour market.

Emirati students celebrating after their graduation ceremony. (archive picture)

Emirati students celebrating after their graduation ceremony. (archive picture)

Two recent Oxford University graduates, Ali Al Youha and Froilan Malit have made practical suggestions as to how young UAE professionals can become active development players in their country and region-wide. Their op-ed, which appeared recently in the Dubai daily Gulf News, is reproduced here in full. Continue reading

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Oxford students agree that “Islam is a religion for peace”.

 

The Debating Chamber of the Oxford Union Society.

The Debating Chamber of the Oxford Union Society.

Hundreds of students from Oxford University every Thursday pack the debating chamber of the Oxford Union Society to listen and participate in a debate on an issue of current interest and importance. On 23 May the motion under discussion was “That this House agrees that Islam is a religion for peace”. After a two-hour intensive debate participants voted 284 in favour and 186 against, and the motion was passed.

OXGAPS Mehdi Badali was in the debating chamber following the proceedings: Continue reading

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EU and GCC search for common ground, but the relationship still lacks vision.

EU FLAGSDespite co-operation on a number of technical issues EU-GCC relations in the past have lacked vision and vigor.

OxGAPS Forum Special Correspondent contributed this op-ed following the meeting in Brussels last week of officials from the two blocs.

The European Union (EU) and the Gulf co-operation Council  (GCC) last week held a round of talks in Brussels aimed at taking forward the relationship between the two political and economic blocks.

The immediate objective of the talks was to prepare for the extension of the Joint Action Programme which has been implemented since 2010 and which comes to an end this year. The Joint Action Programme provides for co-operation in areas such as ICT, nuclear safety, clean energy, research, and economic dialogue. The GCC is the EU’s fifth largest export market (€75 billions worth of exports in 2011), and the EU is the grouping’s biggest trading partner, with trade flows totaling €130 billion, or 13.5% of the GCC’s global trade. Continue reading

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Hero of the week: Saudi firefighter becomes instant celebrity as his picture saving a child goes viral on the internet.

hero of the weekIt is not often that common Saudis achieve celebrity status in the Kingdom. Yet Saudi firefighter Abdullah Badhan Al Subai became an instant hero in Saudi Arabia this week after a picture of him carrying a small boy wearing his breathing mask to safety went viral on the internet.

Gulf News reports that bloggers and online users heaped praise on the Saudi national and lauded his courage and his selfless act to save the child from a fire that gutted the apartment in front of their own flat in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. “We have just performed our duty and we thank God everybody is safe,” the firefighter said. “We heard there was a fire at a building in Al Rihab neighbourhood and we rushed to the area. As we were dealing with the blaze, we discovered that the heavy smoke made its way into the apartment across from the one where the fire erupted. I entered the flat and saw a child gasping for breath in a smoke-choked room and needed to be evacuated promptly,” he said, quoted by local news site Sabq on Tuesday.

Abdullah said that he took off his mask and gave it to the boy to help him breathe. This may have actually been in contravention to established procedures and some commented that by doing so he could have risked not only his own life but also that of the boy.

For most people however Abdullah is a hero who risked his life saving that of a young boy.

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Meet the Al Nahyans (and friends) – Society wedding in Abu Dhabi of four grandchildren of the late Sheikh Zayed.

Members of the Al Nahyan, the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and members of the royal families of other UAE Emirates at a society wedding of four grandchildren of the late Sheikh Zayed.

Members of the Al Nahyan, the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and members of the royal families of other UAE Emirates at a society wedding of four grandchildren of the late Sheikh Zayed.

It was a society wedding on a grand scale, but in traditional style. Four grandchildren of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, the founding father of the United Arab Emirates got married on Wednesday in the presence of other members of the Al Nahyan family, the ruling family of Abu Dhabi,  and members of ruling families of the other Emirates. Continue reading

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