National Youth Commission-Towards a Self-Sustained Future

National Youth Commission-Towards a Self-Sustained Future

The National Youth Commission was established in the year 2017 in accordance with the Royal Degree (117/2011),  Establishing the National Youth Commission and Promulgating its System.

Under the blessings of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said and the guidance of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq, the youth program was developed to empower the Omani youth and prepare them to benefit further from the opportunities created in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Led by His Excellency Dr Ali Qassim Jawad Al-Lawati, Advisor for Studies and Research to the Diwan of Royal Court and Chairman of the National Youth Program for Skills Development (NYC), the program is designed to equip and build young Omanis with the required skills necessary to exploit opportunities presented to them along with an advisory committee consisting of young people aged between the ages of 15 and 29 years old, from various backgrounds of education and work experience.

In order to provide a high standard of skill development training, the program has partnered with several top institutions, both locally and internationally in the field of education specializing in the latest innovations and practices, including Google, GUtech, National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, to name a few.Last year, the NYC partnered with  Microsoft,  to provide hands on training on technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things, ensuring the youth have all the necessary skills to take up the digital future in Oman.

Various events have been held to motivate the participants including the Omani Youth Day, celebrated on 26 October each year and an Omani Youth Tech Ideathon, which brought together around 600 participants with the goal of proposing 100 achievable startup ideas to be implemented in Oman, helping society and thereby  the national economy.

The Al Shabab Scheme allows participants between the ages of 18-29 years old to present their startup ideas as well as implement them into real time projects. Upon selection into the top 1000 participants, online training is provided for a period of 3 months. On completion of the training and on meeting the necessary requirements, the ideas are then presented in the ‘Omani Youth Tech Ideathon’, where the top 100 participants qualify for a 6 month within and outside the Sultanate to hone their entrepreneurial skills.The scheme then ends with the evaluation, implementation and the final preview of the project.

The Al Nashia Scheme allows students between 15 and 17 years old from schools across the Sultanate to apply and aims to introduce them to the basics of programming and gradually develop smart projects and applications using the skills being taught over three stages. Around 15,000 students are allowed to participate and taught the programming basics in stage one. 600 participants move on to the next stage where they apply everything learnt into individual projects. Finally, the 200 students are give the opportunity to be a part of the residential program on the GUtech campus for a period of two weeks, concluding with a two-day hackathon event.

With training from some of the top institutions, the Omani youth are being skilled in the latest technical skills in addition to the academic knowledge provided by the schools across the Sultanate.The country is prepared to be driven by a powerful generation ready to turn challenges into opportunities , thereby integrating the sustainable development goals towards a self- sustained future for the country.

For a downloadable copy:SDG8-Oman


Tanfeedh-Oman’s Initiative towards Economic Diversification

Tanfeedh-Oman's Initiative towards Economic Diversification

With the high oil prices in the 1970s, the Sultanate of Oman was able to introduce various initiatives forSiteOrigin Editor the betterment of the people.Under the guidance of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the Human Development Index (HDI) which was just 0.39 in the early 1970s, went on to reach 0.796 in 2015 due to the rise in per-capita income, nearly doubling in 40 years and thereby enhancing the well-being factors within the country.

With varying oil prices in the recent years, the reliance on oil sectors was sought to be reduced and economic diversification was seen as a viable option with the oil sectors contribution expected to decrease from 40.5% of the gross domestic product to 35.6% between 2016 and 2020.

The National Programme for Enhancing Economic Diversification (Tanfeedh) was an economic initiative started to ensure both public and private sectors had a part in the government’s economic diversification plan as fixed by the ninth five-year plan in line with Oman’s Vision 2040.  Lifting the dependence away from the oil sector, five sectors namely agriculture and fisheries, logistics and transport, energy and mining, and tourism were focused on as alternate sources of  national revenue.

Based on the Malaysian Performance Management and Deliver Units (PEMANDU),technical support to the Secretariat General of the Supreme Council for Planning (SCP), Tanfeedh was  structured slightly different from the earlier diversification initiatives implemented in Oman. It focused on gathering opinions and viewpoints of various government and private sectors, academia and civil societies and allowed the general public to track the progress taken towards the initiatives.

Discussion labs were organized in 2016 over a period of 6 weeks with around 250 participants from different backgrounds who were invited to attend and take part along with the sector experts, facilitation team and central lab team.The outcomes from the lab were presented to the  public at an exhibition as well as through social media, newspapers, radio, television and an electronic survey on the Tanfeedh website.

The key performance indicators (KPI) discussed in the labs were gathered and finalized with time bound action plans. The Implementation Support and Follow—up Unit (ISFU) was set up and took the role of a monitoring body to ensure a smooth project implementation process along with coordinating with everyone involved. The final stage involved verification and publication of results as well as an annual report with the results brought about through the implementation of the Tanfeedh initiative.

The outcomes have been mixed but have included many successes within the various sectors involved. Within the manufacturing sector, enhancement of the Sohar Cement Factory to increase cement manufacturing locally met 80% of the target progress, whereas 100% of the target for 2017 was met in the Koso Gulf Valves manufacturing plant, Al Taj Cement plant and the One Million Date Palms innovation project.Projects were completed in the tourism and logistics sector with 9 out of 35 KPIs met in the tourism sector and 7 out of 31 KPIs met in the logistics sector by 2017.SMEs were developed in the job market and employment sectors, with the maximum targets being met in the business, environment and finance sectors achieving 21 out of 35 KPIs by the year 2017.

A significant change brought about by the Tanfeedh initiative was bringing all electricity related activities along with the gas and power sectors under the Ministry of Oil and Gas as proposed by the Energy Labs held in 2020.Along with various other innovations and projects, a minimum output power generation from renewable sources of 11% was decided upon to be achieved by the year 2023.

The government’s initiatives have been successful in creating a plan for the future of the country. Keeping in mind the demographic patterns, resources available and job opportunities being created, the Sultanate of Oman was commended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the Tanfeedh programme’s contribution to the economic diversification plan casting a positive outlook on the country’s future towards attaining SDG 8,Decent Work and Economic Growth.

For a downloadable copy:Decent Work and Economic Growth-Oman

Healthcare in Oman-The Nation’s Progress in Health and Well-Being

Healthcare in Oman-The Nation's Progress in Health and Well-Being

The Sultanate of Oman has been taking various efforts in addressing the fulfillment of the third Sustainable Development Goal, Good Health and Well-Being. Providing free healthcare services for citizens and at a nominal price for the non-nationals, along with establishing a healthcare information system, training medical staff and supporting researches on related issues are some of the main efforts taken by the Ministry of Health (hereafter abbreviated as MoH).

The MoH has established over 200+ healthcare units throughout the Sultanate which mainly comes under three categories based on location, size and services offered.Health centers and polyclinics come under the primary healthcare units and provide general treatment services  to both rural and urban areas.Multi-speciality regional hospitals come under the secondary healthcare units, whereas the tertiary healthcare units comprise large national hospitals with various core specializations.

The first Healthcare Information System was developed in 1994 at a primary healthcare center in Al-Suwaiq.With the advancement in technology and the progress in Information and Communications Technology(ICT), the Al-Shifa Healthcare Information System was launched and is being used till date across the 200+ healthcare units in the Sultanate. This system allows for easy access to healthcare records, effective information exchange between departments, reduces financial costs and enhances a better overall management of the healthcare resources.

Modules have been developed within the system to ensure its efficient working.The e-referral system was introduced to solve difficulties faced in data exchange regarding patient referrals.The Mother and Child module provides care for new mothers and stores their medical history as well as the child’s under the Integrated Management Childhood Illness system (IMCI), a global strategy recommended by WHO and UNICEF.

This module has allowed Oman to achieve the 4th Millennium Development Goal and reduce  childhood mortality rates over the years with the project being recognized by UNICEF in the 1990s.It has been internationally recognized and awarded first and second places respectively in the UN Public Service Award in 2010, 2012 and the WSIS Project Prize in 2013.

The Health Vision 2050 is an attempt to channel all available healthcare resources and plan for the future needs of the population.Based on WHO’s framework, the Health Vision takes into consideration various factors including predicted population growth and challenges related to technology and products.It also seeks to increase the Total Health Expenditure (THE) to approximately 8-10% of the GDP.

SDG 3 includes 13 targets measured by 27 indicators. According to data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information, these targets include,

1.Reducing global maternal mortality ratio

2.Ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age

3.Ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combating hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases

4.Reducing premature mortality from non-communicable diseases

5.Halving the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents 

6.Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services 

7.Substantially reducing the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination

8.Strengthening the implementation of the World Health organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries

9.Supporting the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable disease and providing access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines 

10.Ending all forms of malnutrition

11.Substantially increasing health financing 

Combating rising obesity levels, increasing costs due to free medical services and the country’s reliance on imported medicines and equipments poses a challenge but the healthcare planning and various other efforts are under way to address these issues and meet the target goals.

For a downloadable copy:Good Health and Well Being

Ocean Sustainability- Artificial Coral Reefs in Oman

Ocean Sustainability-Artificial Coral Reefs in Oman

Oman’s strategic location allows it to have one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. With a coastline spanning across 2092 kilometers and bordering three environmentally distinct water bodies including the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, it has around 530 square kilometers of coral reefs, supporting over 100 species of coral reefs and 579 species of reef fish.

The studies related to coral reefs began in the 1980s due to the threatening effects of the Crown of Thorns starfish predation. Coral growth is seen in four major areas in the Sultanate according to the National Report On the State of the Marine Environment (2003). They can be found in the Musandam Peninsula; along the rocky shores, bays and islands in and adjacent the Muscat area; the straits, shallows and shores of west Masirah Island and some sheltered locations in Dhofar and the Al Hallaniyats. The Oman Cabbage Coral found in the south of Barr Al Hikman are considered to be unique as they form the largest continuous reefs in Oman, around thirty square kilometers in extent. 

These reefs need certain conditions to thrive and are therefore scattered in other areas surrounding Oman due to absence of suitable substrate, seasonal upwellings of cold water, lack of flat surfaces for growth and irregular turbidity in the region.

Various effects threaten the coral reefs in Oman. Predation by the Crown of Thorns starfish particularly in the Damaniyat Islands, parrotfish predation, boring mussels, coral bleaching due to the elevated seawater temperatures, cancerous growth and diseases on corals and harmful fishing practices endanger the coral reefs in these areas. Steps to control the population of the starfish by the Ministry of Regional Municipalities,Environment and Water Resources began in 1999.The Damaniyat Islands are also Oman’s only protected area due to the abundance of marine life and is classified as a natural reserve.

With the International Year of the Reef in 1997, the MRMEWR along with the Petroleum Development Oman began an artificial reef project in Mina Al Fahal with an aim to introduce artificial reef materials and structures in the seas to create breeding grounds for fish and reduce fishing pressure on natural reefs. Three modules were developed-two of scrap tyres and one of reinforced concrete pipe.A pipe module made of reinforced concrete pipe with scrap tyres was deployed and positive results were seen in seven months with a hard reef-building coral detected growing on the module.Due to the toxicity of the material in the tyres, they were not considered for long term reef restoration.Various reef and underwater cleanups were also organized by the divers from MRMEWR and the diving clubs across the Sultanate during this period.

Divers from Ras Al-Hamra Aqua Club in 1997 noticed the pressure on the marine environment caused due to the anchoring of boats for recreational activities and went on to install permanent mooring bouys at several popular diving and snorkeling locations.  

In 1998, with the help of the PDO and the Sultan Qaboos University, they gathered information from the Reefball Development Group in Florida to build artificial coral reefs in Fahal Island using large, perforated spherical shells made of chemically adjusted concrete known as “reefballs”, to rehabilitate the coral reefs.These shells weigh around 1.2 tonnes and over time becomes pH- neutral to allow coral growth on them.They also have a life expectancy of 500 years provided they adjust well with the Omani marine environment.Their initiative entitled ‘Pro-Creator’, short for Project Reef Creator allowed up to 2.5cm/month of rapid horizontal growth on the deployed reef balls which were confirmed during monitoring.Around 40 reef balls have been deployed to act as substrate for the marine growth till 1999.

 Moving to 2009, Bioshpere Expeditions ran research and conservation expeditions in the Musandam Peninsula. They included a placement program to train Omanis in Reef Check techniques to become Reef Check EcoDivers and Reef Check Trainers. Reef Check Oman was then established in 2017 as a non-profit aimed at preserving the coral reefs in the Sultanate.

The Law of Live Aquatic Wealth (Royal Decree no.20/2019), was issued to protect, develop and monitor the living aquatic resources in the Sultanate.Keeping the value of the marine environment and its resources in mind, Oman also established a National Strategy for Fisheries 2040 to maintain the local marine resources. 

A Mouj Muscat working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, co-created a 40,000 square kilometers area of artificial reef to promote the growth of coral reefs in the year 2014.This project was built by world leading sustainable marine farm designers, Hae Joo using sixty ‘Arab Marine Pyramids’ along the Al Mouj Marina which according to reports is home to 25 species of reef fish.

In 2018, an agreement was signed with a Korean firm Hae Joo to create a breeding ground for coral reefs in the form of an underwater artificial reef farm, the largest of its kind in the Gulf, to be located in Wilayat Al Suwaiq. The Suwaiq Marine Farm Artificial Reef Complex project was valued at RO 2.65 million and would be beneficial to the local fishermen as well as promote eco-tourism and is expected to be completed this year.

The Ministry of Agriculture,Fisheries and Water Resources won the top prize at the Arab Scientific Society Organization Award ceremony held at Doha for the best project in the Arab world in the field of environment in 2020.They won amongst a total of 90 projects submitted from 13 Arab countries.

This year an agreement was signed to implement the second phase of an industrial coral reef project in the wilayat of Sur to increase the fish stock in the Sultanate.

With the help of the various policies by the government as well as the initiatives by individuals in Oman, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources have implemented large scale artificial reef projects in 14 wilayats, with a total of 13,906 artificial reefs between the years 2003 and 2019.This has reinforced their commitment towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 14-Life under water.

For a downloadable copy:Ocean Sustainability-SDG14

Women’s Art Movement in Oman

Women's Art Movement in Oman

Oman began its journey into the world of art in the year 1975, with Stone Age cave drawings being discovered in the region around that time.In the southern part of Oman, graphics and writings were then discovered which were said to be dating back to the pre-Islamic period.

Although the paintings were told to be thousands of years old, it was not until the 1970s that artists in Oman started practicing art. During the country’s revolution, they took inspiration from what they saw around them and used it to express themselves.The rugged landscape, the dunes, the architecture and the environment were taken to be their guidelines as they poured their creativity onto the canvas.

A major challenge faced by artists were the lack of facilities available at the time to learn art. With no studios, art schools or associations, they were left on their own to find their way into learning.

As the years passed, the Youth Art Studio was established in 1980 allowing Omani youth to express their ideas and develop their talents. With the help of the government, the Art Education Department in the Sultan Qaboos University was established in 1991 and the year 1993 saw the opening chapter of the the Omani Society of Fine Arts to allow artists to hold workshops and exhibitions.

The 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of Omani women artists. They were supported by the government and pushed to venture out of their comfort zone and try their hand at different forms of art. Women started practicing art further and participated at a fine art exhibition in 1989.The opening of the OSFA gave them more experience and encouraged them to do more and currently, the women artists registered at the OSFA outweighs the number of men registered at the organization.

An additional step of organizing annual exhibitions exclusively for women, both residents and citizens encouraged them further and is one of the main reasons for the amount of registered women artists in the OSFA.

With many women leading the way, they have contributed massively to the art movement in Oman and around the world. Artist Alia Al Farsi has exhibited in over 20 countries over a period of 20 years with art installations varying in different sizes and has been voted amongst the top Arab women. Her interest in furnitures and sculptures have allowed her to create masterpieces that have been exhibited in various museums and hotels across the world.

Sanaa bint Naseeb Aman Al Haib, has been a member of OSFA, youth studio and scientific club since 1999.“My inspiration and passion for art are deeply rooted in my heritage. As I delved deeper into understanding art, I found love for things around me, especially the women around me and our homeland and the aesthetics of Arabic calligraphy,” she said. 

The support from the Omani government has led women to follow their dreams in becoming accomplished artists by providing them with the required tools and education. In accordance with the fifth sustainable development goal, they have made the country proud by making use of the economic resources and building the nation further.

For a downloadable copy:SDG5-3

Redefining Women’s Empowerment-Sidab Women’s Sewing Group

Redefining Women's Empowerment-Sidab Women's Sewing Group

Located along the coastal regions in northeastern Oman is Sidab, a small fishing village well known for its rugged mountains and serene beaches.What makes this village stand out more is the Sidab Women’s Sewing Group, a project started by Badriyah Al Siyabi in the year 2004.

Born in Bahrain, Badriyah moved overseas with her family for higher education between the years 1950 and 1960. She competed her schooling in Muscat and returned to Bahrain to continue her own higher education. She was involved in a number of social and cultural activities in Sidab during her visits and went on to work with banks like Oman Housing Bank,Alliance Housing Bank , Ahli Bank, Bank Sohar and currently works with Omran, a tourism development company.

Apart from this, she has taken part in various training and developmental workshops to aid in community building, women’s empowerment and activities related to poverty alleviation. Her volunteering experience in the Omani Women’s Association and the Ministry of Social Development enabled her to provide support to women, equipping them with skills and knowledge to become independent and support the family income. On joining a community centre in the United States, she was thrilled to see the impact it had on society and began her own venture here in Sidab.

On distributing surveys to women of different age groups, tailoring was chosen to be a skill that could be used as a business opportunity among the women as it was practiced locally and didn’t need any specific training.She started the group with six women, along with the help of local and expatriate volunteers. On brainstorming ideas for the products, they decided on timeless pieces that tourists would treasure once they return back to their home countries. Calico bags with colored ‘wizar’ ( traditional Omani fabric) decorated with motifs like camels, date palms and forts were decided on.

For the trial run, they worked on forty sample bags from a tent factory in Rusayl Industrial Estate and sold it at a community bazaar organized by the American Women’s Group. With the positive response from the event, Badriyah was able to set up a shop with the help of the Women’s Guild of Oman and the American Women’s Group.

Different products were developed over the years including towels, vegetable bags, tissue cases, fragrance bags, handmade decorations and most recently, masks of different sizes and patterns have become popular among the people living in Oman. With ideas taken collectively from the group, different designs have been incorporated with the ‘kameez’ and ‘dish-dasha’ being added to the list of sort after designs.

With the added advantage of the bags being environmental friendly, these bags have been a favorite with people locally following the ban of plastic bags from January 2021. Available for purchase at a few international hotels, online on Markeetex and in-store in Sidab, their products are sold at a reasonable price with the profit divided equally among the women working in the group.The women earn around RO 150 monthly with up to RO 100 per week during peak tourist seasons. 

This opportunity has not only provided them a steady income and allowed them to be more productive, but has also given them more experience with the world beyond Sidab. Shell Oman’s training to make them more proficient in communication, accounting and computer skills have also benefited them and given them the confidence they were looking for.

Their unique designs have been showcased in an exhibition in the British Museum in London and have also gotten appreciation by Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima of The Netherlands during their visit to Oman.

With brands like TOMS shoes or the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh creating large scale social changes through social entrepreneurship, Oman is inching closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals thanks to Sidab Women’s Sewing Group which has touched the lives of the women using a similar strategy and empowered women to develop a craft worth preserving for future generations.

Downloadable copy:Sidab Women's Group

A Step Forward for Women in Oman

A Step Forward for Women in Oman

Omani women have been at the forefront in building up the nation of Oman for over the past 50 years of the blessed Renaissance .Their passion for seeing the nation grow and prosper in various fields has been vital in the development of the country.

As per the Basic Statute of State and the Sultanate joining the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW) in 2005, the country has gone to achieve international commendation for its progress towards achieving the sustainable development goals, in particular SDG 5-Gender Equality.

After the Civil Associations Law and the civil association formation system came into power, based on Royal Decree No.14/2000 and the Ministerial Decree No.150/2000, various civil society organizations came into being and the Omani Women’s Association was established in the early 1970’s.

With headquarters located in the Wilayat of Bowshar, it was established as per Ministerial Decision No. 32/84 on 19/2/1972 as a social, cultural and voluntary organization to empower Omani women in various areas including gaining necessary life skills for personal development, providing job opportunities and exchanging ideas and opinions necessary for the betterment of their wellbeing. The organization also seeks to expand the work base of voluntary work across the 11 governates of Oman, to further enable more women to take advantage of the various opportunities available to them. Spread across the Sultanate, these 65 branches serve as training centers for women, as rural women development centers and promote women to take up government roles, raise awareness about elections and encourage them to set up businesses.

Their achievements in various fields of education, healthcare and economic development have only been strengthened since the designation of the Omani Women’s Day by the Late Sultan Qaboos Bin Said at the conclusion of a symposium held at Saih al Makarim on 17 October 2009.

Various success stories of Omani women leading the way and making strides in technology, medicine and sports have impacted the rest of their sisters in and around the world.

Women like Dr.Mona bint Mohammed al Habsi, worked as a team member of Japanese Prof. Tasuku Hugo whose research focused on combating cancer by motivating the immune system and who later went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2018.

Another example is that of Muscat born Fatma Al-Nabhani, Middle East’s first female professional tennis player who won ten singles titles and 13 doubles titles on the ITF Circuit.

These Omani women along with the combined efforts of the country, have highlighted Oman once again as a nation progressing steadily towards sustainable development and one that values women’s participation towards Oman’s 2040 vision, in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender Equality).

For a downloadable copy:SDG5-1

MECA’s Permit and Licenses – Explained

The Ministerial Decision (MD) 48/2017 is the new regulation for organizing environmental permitting in Oman and that also cancelled the MD 187/2001.

As per MD 48/2017, an Environmental Permit is the approval issued by the concerned authority in the Ministry (in this case, MECA) including the permissions given to the owner to practice a certain activity after ensuring its environmental safety.

Several Environmental Permits may be applicable depending on the activities or processes involved in a proposed project or development.  These activities are linked to the company’s registered business activities and are ISIC-based.  Companies are to coordinate with MECA’s Environmental Assessment and Permit Centre (for guidance on environmental assessment requirements) and the online application to be made with MOCI’s Invest Easy Portal.

Most MECA-issued permits comes with conditions. Typical conditions, aside from employing best practices, conservation ethics, periodic monitoring reports submission, include securing a License.

But what is the difference?

License is issued based on an Environmental Permit and it addresses the technical sufficiency of the applicant’s facility.  It is an upfront legal authorization used to allow practicing a restricted business activity.

As of this writing, MECA has listed 14 areas for licensing for companies or businesses (e.g., air, noise, soil and water, climate, etc.).  Different types of licenses are applicable for Individuals and Public Institutions.  Licenses are obtained from MECA’s Environmental Inspection and Control Department as well as Climate Affairs.

Impact Assessment of Projects on Water Resources

This article aims to assist project planners, EIA practitioners, and the community on Omani regulations as well as to know how to conduct impact assessment of any projects on water resources.

Environmental Permitting Process and EIA in the Sultanate of Oman

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) can generally be defined as an analysis of the effects of a proposed activity or development on the environment and in Oman (as with other developed and developing countries), it is normally required to most industrial, mining, and development activities to be issued an environmental permit.

The paper highlights the evolution to current status, the legal framework, concepts, processes and principles of EIA and the process involved in obtaining an environmental permit within the context of the Sultanate of Oman.

Please contact Agnes to get a copy of the article.

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