Oriental Hall, Etc.

Happenings, speakers, and events at the American University in Cairo.

The United Nations was created in 1945 to maintain international peace and security; help solve economic, social, humanitarian, and other problems; and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. Seventy years later, today’s world is reeling from armed conflicts, economic disparities, refugee crises, and environmental threats, yet the international body nonetheless remains relevant and effective, argues Michael Møller, acting head of the UN Office in Geneva. Journalists and social media report on only a fraction of what the UN does, said Møller, delivering AUC’s 10th Nadia Younes Memorial Lecture, established in honor of the Egyptian UN official killed in the bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad in 2003. Møller argued that the UN’s efforts to feed the displaced and provide clean water, medical treatments, and vaccinations help millions but go largely unnoticed when prolonged conflicts like the civil war in Syria dominate the headlines. Møller conceded the UN requires internal reform to tackle growing global security threats such as health epidemics, struggling economies, and food scarcity that affect everyone and not just corners of the globe. “If the [UN] were to be dismantled or fragmented so not everyone comes together around it, we will have solutions that only reflect the concerns of some,” Møller said.

After the ascension of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, a war in Yemen, and cabinet reshuffles, many are wondering, where is Saudi Arabia headed? Veteran Saudi journalist Khaled Al-Maeena argues that despite appearances of a sudden shift, significant sociopolitical changes had been underway for years during the reign of late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. It was during that period, Al-Maeena said in a lecture at AUC’s Middle East Studies Center recently, that women took seats in Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council for the first time, and were given the right to vote and run for office. Al-Maeena noted how Somayya Jabarti, his own successor as chief editor of the Saudi Gazette, became the first woman to hold the top rank at a daily Saudi newspaper. But, Al-Maeena said, change in the kingdom occurs slowly. Women are still banned from driving automobiles, largely due to hard-line religious figures who balk at modernizing reforms. “The government in many ways is progressing, the only problem is that they are too cautious,” Al-Maeena said.