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Strategic partnership: To pursue mutual development goals
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 13 - 06 - 2015

The United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Arab States, Dr. Sima Bahous, and UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director for External Relations, Michael O'Neill, proposed elevating UNDP's current relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to a strategic partnership level to pursue mutual development goals in the region and globally.
They made this proposal during their meetings with senior Saudi officials to discuss cooperation in development between UNDP and Saudi Arabia. Bahous and O'Neill were in the Kingdom recently to strengthen partnership and discuss regional development issues of common interest with the Kingdom's high officials.
They viisited Saudi Arabia on June 7-9 June. They underlined Saudi Arabia's significance as a partner for sustainable development at national, regional and international levels.
Bahous congratulated the Kingdom on its development achievements in terms of the Human Development Index, advancing to the 34th ranking in 2014, becoming one of the Very Highly Developed countries.
Bahous discussed deepening the existing partnership with the Kingdom and strengthening UNDP's presence in Saudi Arabia to expand its technical and substantive cooperation in meeting the development demands in the country. She also expressed appreciation to the Kingdom in considering UNDP as a trusted partner in national development planning.
Bahous and O'Neill met Prince Turki Bin Saud Al Kabeer Al Saud, undersecretary of ministry of foreign affairs for multilateral relations, and Dr. Yousef Bin Tarad Al-Saadoun, undersecretary of the ministry of foreign for economic and cultural relations.
They discussed ways to collaborate with Saudi Arabia in regional and global development work such as implementing decisions of the Arab High Level Forum on Sustainable Development and the Arab Social and Economic Summit, especially with regard to the new Sustainable Development Goals.
Bahous informed the ministry of the upcoming Arab Human Development Report on Youth, and explored ideas to use its recommendations to build regional cooperation in innovation, volunteerism and resilience. She applauded the Kingdom's efforts in overseas development assistance, humanitarian assistance and south-south cooperation. She also discussed efforts to support resilience in Yemen after conflict.
Bahous and O'Neill welcomed the Kingdom's initiative with UNDP for a new online Post-2015 Development Platform — Digital Good. This groundbreaking new venture is expected to be launched during the upcoming UN General Assembly meetings in New York in September, to coincide with agreement by world leaders on the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Digital Good is a new global funding mechanism to channel voluntary philanthropic contributions of ordinary people to sustainable development programs and projects around the world in specific thematic areas relevant to the post-2015 SDG framework such as poverty reduction, social inclusion, food-energy-water security, health, education and environmental sustainability.
In a call with Minister of Economy and Planning Adel Fakieh, Bahous confirmed UNDP's commitment to continue to provide technical expertise for the work of the ministry, especially to support national planning, and implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the new Sustainable Development Goals.
Bahous met Dr. Majid Al Qasabi, minister of social affairs, to discuss cooperation on the Kingdom's efforts to measure and analyze social indicators at the local level, capacity development for NGOs, and establishment of social innovation labs. They explored ways to share regional and international best practice in social development.
Bahous and O'Neill met Suleiman Al-Turki, deputy minister for international finance, to explore the scope for increased Saudi support to UNDP, and urge active participation of Saudi Arabia in the Finance for Development conference in July in Addis Ababa and the Climate Change Summit in December in Paris.
Bahous and O'Neill also met with Dr. Abdullah Al Rabiah, Head of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center. Bahous committed to support the Center's capacity, including in research, analysis, monitoring and evaluation, its volunteer training program and to work with the King Salman Center to help communities build resilience in the aftermath crises, and on the transition from humanitarian assistance to recovery and building sustainable livelihoods. Bahous and O'Neill were accompanied on all their meetings by Ashok Nigam, United Nations, Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Saudi Arabia. — SG


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