We offer our deep condolences to the leaders and citizens of Saudi Arabia on the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. He substantially contributed to the development of the country and reinforced its position in spite of all challenges facing it.
One characteristic of King Abdullah’s reign was that he preached moderation and tolerance and promoted interfaith dialogue. The National Dialogue was an important initiative in which previously taboo subjects were discussed in an atmosphere of openness. The National Dialogue has contributed to reducing misunderstanding and enhancing communication among the different elements of Saudi society.
He gave considerable attention to developing the remote areas in the south and north of Saudi Arabia. One of his top priorities was to meet citizens’ needs in areas such as housing, employment and education. He played a major role in supporting women’s rights and opening scholarship programs for Saudi students. King Abdullah was the first Saudi monarch to appoint women to government positions. He also set up monitoring bodies, such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), an important step that has helped control corruption in the country.
Given the tense situation in the region and in most areas of the world, there are many challenges and issues which should receive priority in the next period.
For Saudi Arabia internal consolidation and cohesion are among the priorities that would help social peace and stability. To do this requires combating all forms of militancy and extremism and improving tolerance between different national groups.
It also requires a balancing act between security and freedom. The region has passed through some tense security situations. These conditions unfortunately have created a state of fear among Saudis and pushed the government to adopt tight security measures. These measures have definitely affected the rights of people to freedom of expression. So Saudi Arabia has now to develop more effective legislation to ensure individuals’ freedom of expression, as enshrined in the Basic Law.
Developing programs to meet the public’s needs for housing, lower unemployment, health care and education services are also high priority.
On the foreign affairs front, it is important to create new regional alliances that fit in with the area’s current development. The fluid regional political situation has caused radical changes in the balance of power in the Middle East. These changes require the development of a long-term strategy that promotes and looks after the regional and international position of Saudi Arabia.