On January 26, 2020 I went to Riyadh to attend the Inception and Kickoff Meeting of the W20 meeting series of Saudi Arabia, where the G20 presidency this year lies. It was a first time ever for me to Riyadh and I frankly didn’t know what to expect. For most of the cities you will have an image of the city in your mind, like Eiffel for Paris. For Riyadh, I unfortunately had no image at all in my mind. Luckily we stayed at the Marriott Hotel and the image of the city was just across my room, as if it was saying “next time don’t forget about me.” It was he Kingdom Tower. It is the third tallest monumental building in the city.
Riyadh is apparently a very flat city and most of the main roads are under construction. They never had a public transportation system, but now they are building a subway system for Riyadh.
The W20 meeting was held at Alnahda.
Alnahda is a non-profit organization to support and empower women with financial and social inclusion in mind. They have training programs and provide employment opportunities as well as working on gender advocacy. Alnahda is a NGO, rather than a charity. They work as a motivated group of women who believe in the development of women will help their society. The NGO has more than 50 years of existence to create positive change for the women around them.
In the W20 meeting, Dr. Thoraya Obaid, the W20 Chair of Saudi Arabia, made her welcome speech.
The opening remarks were delivered by Dr. Fahad Almubarak, the G20 Saudi Arabia Sherpa with sincere positive remarks on gender diversity.
Salma AlRashid, the W20 Sherpa set the stage for the W20 work in 2020.
The Heads of Working Groups made their speeches that touched the issues of their work with the W20 work. These were the Education Working Group Head Dr. Alamri, the Employment Group Head Dr. Alzahrani and the Development Working Group Head Princess Almogrin.
Ms. Park of OECD presented the OECD report titled “From Promises to Action. The report is an important report on the progress of women in G20 countries since the establishment of the W20.
Ms. Teleki, the head of We-Fi Secretariat, elaborated on the developments in Women Enterpreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi). We-Fi was established with the initiation of Chancellor Merkel during the German Presidency of G20 and announced in the W20 meeting.
Dr. Lopez, the Head of of Research for Milken Institute presented a very good brief on the Gender Equality Discussion within the G20 capturing the development and the Communiqués since the W20 Communiqué of Istanbul in 2015.
Later in the evening we had a tour of Alnahda premises that captured Saudi Arabian Women Heritage.
The networking dinner was held in Al-Murabba Historical Place where King Abd Al Aziz’s cars and personal possessions as well as historical objects and cloths are displayed in harmony. It was King Abd Al Aziz who founded Saudi Arabia and introduced the notion of investment in the people of Saudi Arabia.
The second day of the W20 meeting was about the inception notes of the W20 work in 2020 where the titles put forward this year were Labor Inclusion, Financial Inclusion, Digital Inclusion and Inclusive Decision Making as the main themes and Women Entrepreneurship as a cross cutting issue as well as a discussion on the G20 Accountability Mechanisms.
They were all fruitful and promising discussions and remarks.
There will be a W20 meeting on March 14 in NYC and a meeting in London on July 6 and 7 th. The W20 Summit shall take place in Riyadh on October 20-22.
The 2020 Leaders’ Summit shall be held on November 21-22, 2020 in Riyadh.