Saudi Arabia is one of the G-20 nations, and as such King Abdullah was a delegate to the G-20 Summit in Toronto, along with his Finance Minister and a number of other Saudi dignitaries. The King arrived the day before the Summit after a stay in Morocco. He and his 200 member entourage stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel (partly Saudi owned), in Yorkville (an upscale historic shopping, dining, and residential area of Toronto) 3km north of the security perimetre for the Summit. The security provisions involved a fleet of Cadillac stretch limousines, and a police escort to and from the Summit site. Also the neighbours across the way were required to show security passes to access the area.
A westward view from the Four Seasons, Yorkville, of the luxurious Prince Arthur Condominiums, whose residents required security cards to access their homes during the King's stay
Lobby looking on to cafe/bar
The hotel bistro, the Studio Cafe
At the entrance to the Studio Cafe
Yorkville shops and restaurants
King Abdullah, in fact, represents not only Saudi Arabia, but is the sole representative of the MENA countries (with the possible exception Turkey, which is however considered Eurasian), of the GCC, and OPEC. As a statesman he is up to the task, but perhaps other countries object. Yet, as the world's largest exporter of oil, and the country with the largest reserves, Saudi Arabia should have a place at the G-20 table. The Saudi Finance Minister Dr Ebrahim Al Assaf elaborated to Gulf News:
... Saudi Arabia's membership in the G20 Summit and its participation in discussions pertaining to the financial and economic issues came in recognition of its position as the single largest oil exporter in the world, in addition to being a country with the largest oil reserves and energy production.
"This has enabled the kingdom to be an influential power in the international oil market," he said.
The minister described his country's economy as the largest in the region and said that it had obtained the G20 membership because of its support to international development institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The G-20 in dark blue
European Countries with collective representation by EU Delegate in light blue
One does get the sense that King Abdullah's participation at the G-20 meeting is somewhat upstaged by his own visit to Washington DC to meet with President Obama on Tuesday June 29. Nonetheless, to the extent that the G-20 does represent a meeting of the world's major economies (with a few left out), industrialized and developing--together 85% of global gross national product, 80% of world trade and 2/3 of the world population--the King's participation is important independent of bilateral discussions with the US.
Canadian reporting on the King's presence prior to his arrival focused on the issue of multiple wives, extravagant shopping sprees, and alcohol consumption, with a combination of reproval and wishful thinking for the local, as in Yorkville boutiques and bars, economy. One article helpfully asserted that 30 wives later he truly loves his horses, and despite his great wealth-->$20 billion USD, world's 3rd richest royal (Forbes)--he is "the Middle East’s most popular Muslim leader by a wide margin", as determined by a Pew Research poll (Feb 2010).
Arab reporting focused before and after on issues, highlighting that King Abdullah is representing the Arab and Islamic world at the summit (neglecting the presence of the Muslim majority country Turkey), and will discuss with different leaders specific bi-national issues, as well as a focus on Middle Eastern, Arab, and Islamic concerns, including: Israel-Palestine, the condition of the Palestinians, the dilemma of Iran's nuclear capacity, and the situation in Iraq. He is expected to advocate for peaceful solutions to these problems. He is also expected to draw attention and funding to poorer Arab and Muslim countries in the world. Shared Canadian-Saudi concerns would be strengthening ties, recent increases in the number of Saudi students on scholarship in Canada, certain human rights concerns, and stabilizing world oil prices.
Though not violent, much smaller, and less covered by the press, there was a protest at the Saudi Embassy in Ottawa. The group there had a number of human rights concerns about Saudi: the male guardianship system; "gender apartheid"; the case of Nathalie Morin, a Quebecker married to a Saudi, and whose mother believes she is being held with her children against her will; and the case of the Kohail brothers, Canadian citizens who are charged with killing a student during an altercation at their high school in Saudi Arabia (2007). Mohamed, 22 at the time, has been convicted and sentenced to death by beheading, while the younger Sultan, 16 at the time, is awaiting the verdict of the adult court.
As well as Saudi participation in the G-20 Summit, Saudi sent a delegate to the G(irls) 20 Summit, and participated in the G20 Young Entrepreneur Summit (YES) on June 20-22, sending delegates courtesy of the Centennial Fund established for that purpose. The G20 YES Summit is an official G20 event that resulted in a communique of how to promote entrepreneurship among young men and women, and a statement about the importance of such development for the economic and cultural benefits of the G20 countries. The communique was passed on to the B20 Summit (Business 20 Summit, June 25-26).
Photo by: dfait.maeci
This Youth/ My Summit was held alongside the G20 Summit, with a focus on leadership development among university level youth. Like the other affiliated G20 Summits this one drew delegates from the countries of the G-20, with each country selecting its own delegates. The students had a rich program of expert-led discussions and visits to relevant sites in Toronto as well as observing the official G-20 Summit. Their summit started June 25 and they have a closing breakfast June 29. The recruitment process was rigorous, and each delegation was ultimately comprised of 7 current university students ages 18-24 who have shown an active interest in international relations, both political and economic.
Youth Delegation – Saudi Arabia
|Name||School Name||Home Town|
|Calgary University||Riyadh Saudi Arabia|
|Carleton University||Jeddah, KSA|
|Salwa Mohammed Alahdal|
|Memorial University||Saudia Arabia|
|Waterloo U||Saudia Arabia|
|Carleton University||Riyadh, Saudi Arabia|
|Reef Al Awwad|
After completing this post, I came to think that Saudi participation as a G-20 country is important, not only for the need to represent itself and also MENA, the GCC, and OPEC, but for the opportunities being a G-20 member country provides for broader participation in affiliated summits, and the networks and training that provides. It also gives an opportunity for Saudis to learn more about and from other countries, and vice versa. It can be seen as a foot in the door for other Arab and Muslim countries as well. Perhaps the G-20 will re-expand to its previous G-32, or G-22. As some have advocated, perhaps it should really be a G-164.
What is your impression of the participation of Saudi Arabia, and King Abdullah in the G-20 Summit?
How important is it for Saudi to be among the G-20 countries?
What are the advantages, or not,of Saudi participation in the ancillary summits: the G(irls) 20 Summit, the G20 YES, the Youth/My Summit?
What impacts, if any, can be expected of this participation as delegates at all summits return to Saudi?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions?
All posts on the G-20 Summit:
The G-20 Meet the GlBTQ
The G(irls) 20 Summit: Part I--Background
The G(irls) 20 Summit: Part II--The Delegates
G-20 Summit 2010 Toronto: Protesters vs Demonstrators vs Rioters; Another Brilliant Harper Idea
G-20 Summit 2010 Toronto: Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, and Young Saudi Delegates
G-20 Summit Toronto 2010: Summarized--Part I Fake Lake and Fiscal Responsibility, Indeed
G-20 Summit Toronto 2010: Summarized--Part II Riots, Amnesty International, and an Unfinished Agenda
*Addendum: From the Saudi Embassy in Washington site, a summary of King Abdullah's Speech at the G-20.