Saudi Arabia Archives - Earth Charter

Humanitarian Engineering by ECYL Mohammed Ba-Aoum

Engineers have made huge efforts to make unimaginable dreams reality, yet their efforts at meeting basic human needs in developing countries are missing. Today most engineering talents are busy with creating luxurious technology for rich customers. According to Paul Polak (2008), “the majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and service exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customer. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%.”

humanitarian engineering

Among the other 90%, there are 0.8 billion people who lack clean water, 2.4 billion people who lack adequate sanitation, 1.6 billion people who have no access to electricity. Moreover, malnutrition kills 11 million children under the age of five every year. These facts should put a moral obligation on the engineering profession to direct some effort to meet basic needs of those people. Many of the challenges that face developing countries and underserved communities are related to engineering in some way. Water filtration, building sanitation and housing, designing nutrition supply chain and energy generation is at the heart of the engineering profession. There is an urgent need to involve engineers in solving underserved communities’ problems. Recently, a new movement within engineering education emerged to induce engineers to practice more humanitarian role. This movement was called humanitarian engineering. Humanitarian Engineering emphasizes the importance of preparing engineers with adequate knowledge and practice to meet underserved communities’ needs. It is a movement to escape the “social captivity of engineering” by capitalism or nationalism or some other form of wealth and power. Encyclopedia Britannica defines humanitarian engineering as “the application of engineering to improve the well-being of marginalized people and disadvantaged communities, usually in the developing world”.

Humanitarian Engineering is an old practice since engineers as individuals have always been involved in humanitarian work. However, as a collective organized action, it is relatively new and only after year 2000, the concept started to emerge in the academia. As a new field of research, Humanitarian Engineering faces several challenges especially in terms of formulating an ethical framework to guide humanitarian engineering education, research and practice. Humanitarian Engineering ethical framework should address topics related to humanitarian engineers’ intervention in foreign countries, discipline and ethics, which humanitarian engineers should maintain during their work, rules of humanitarian engineering work, humanitarian engineers’ rights, humanitarian engineers’ responsibilities, etc. Unfortunately, these topics are not highlighted in conventional engineering code of ethics, which push humanitarian engineers to look for another ethical guide. In the personal I found the Earth Charter a great source to guide my humanitarian engineering practice and community development efforts and I believe it can play a significant role in formulating a comprehensive ethical framework for Humanitarian Engineering profession. The Earth Charter principles that emphasize sustainability, ecological protection, the eradication of poverty, equitable economic development, respecting human rights, promoting democracy and peace are at the core of humanitarian engineering practices. Therefore, I highly encourage people interested in harnessing the power of engineering in facing humanitarian challenges to benefit from the Earth Charter principle in guiding their practice.

Written by: Mohammed Ba-Aoum

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Fostering Sustainable Development in Engineering Education

Preparing engineers to meet global challenges and be facilitators for sustainable development requires a comprehensive reform in educational content and practices. The Institution of Engineers in Australia states, “ the review of engineering education is recommending no less than a culture change in engineering education.” (Kabo, 2010). On January 25th 2017, I was pleased to receive an invitation to present one of my research papers titled Humanizing Engineering Education” at the International Conference on Modern Education Studies (ICONMES). In my presentation, I explained how engineering academies could benefit from the Earth Charter in reforming the culture and ethics within the engineering profession. Here are three examples of areas where the Earth Charter can play a significant role in fostering sustainable development concepts in engineering

1) Earth Charter could expand engineering code of ethics:

Much research shows that most traditional and current engineering codes of ethics were mainly formulated for private sector interest. As a result, ethics related to business, leadership, and management have been emphasized, while ethics related to community development were ignored (Simoes, et al., 2007; Downey, et al., n.d.). Also, engineering lacks “areas relevant to social justice, such as the impact on poverty reduction or enhancement” (Riley,2008). These studies and others indicate a need to extend and modify the current engineering code of ethics to make suitable development goals. The Earth Charter principles could be used as a powerful guide in the process of reforming engineering code of ethics with its firm emphasize on social justice. For instance, under social and economics justice principal the earth charter calls for “eradicating poverty as an ethical, social and environment imperative” and engineers could play a prominent role in eradicating poverty but this role is not highly emphasized in traditional engineering education which focuses mainly on technical education.

2) The Earth Charter encourages engineers to think about community:

Neoliberal ideology and military mindsets are dominant in engineering education and professions. Pawley studied questions such as “who defines engineering problems, who benefits from the engineering problems, and who benefits from the engineering solutions.” She also asked who is left out of engineering solutions. She found “engineers work overwhelmingly in private, profit-oriented organizations and on industrial, commercial, and military problems.” Most engineering problems tend to be large-scale problems with small-scale problems exiled outside of the engineering profession. This military and market-based education influence how conventional engineers define problems and evaluate engineering solutions. (Riley, 2008). The Earth Charter principles could challenge this narrow perspective by its emphasize on respect and care for the community of life, adopting suitable development plans and regulation. It will encourage engineers to live with a sense of universal responsibility identifying themselves with the whole Earth community as well as their local communities.

3) Earth Charter would support diversity within engineering education and profession:

For a variety of historical reasons, the engineering profession in the US is largely under white male dominance (Mcisaac, Morey, 1998). The lack of ethnic, gender and ideological diversity within the engineering profession does not give engineers the opportunity to develop cultural understanding skills, it limits creativity, and raises many social justice concerns. The Earth Charter could establish a consensus among engineers by its affirmation on the importance of “gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity.”

There are many other dimensions where the Earth Charter could be used to enhance sustainable development values and practices in engineering education and profession. There is a desperate need to engage engineers in sustainable development according to UNESCO report titled “Engineering: Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for Development.” In a recent National Academy of Engineering survey, engineers were given very little credit for improving the general quality of life, saving lives, protecting the environment, or caring about their community (Vandersteen, 2008). Creating educational workshops that integrate the Earth Charter principles in engineering education would serve as strong educational goals for engineers as individuals and as a society as a whole.


Written by ECYL: Mohammed Ba-Aoum


Downey, G., Lucena, J., & Mitcham, C. (n.d.). Engineering Ethics and Identity: Emerging Initiatives in Comparative Perspective. Science and Engineering Ethics, 463-487.

Kabo, J. (2010). Seeing Through the Lens of Social Justice: A Threshold for Engineering. Canada: Queen’s University.

Mcisaac, G., & Morey, N. (1998). Engineers’ Role in Sustainable development considering cultural Dynamics. Journal of Proffessional Issues in Engineering and Practice,110-110.

Riley, D. (2008). Engineering and social justice. San Rafael, Calif.Morgan & Claypool.

Simoes, M., Straker, J., Munakata-Marr, J., Leydens, J., Mitcham, C., & Lucena, J. (2007). Theory and Practcice of Humanitarian Ethics in Graduate Engineering Education, American Socity for Engineering Education

Vandersteen, Jonthan Daniel. Humanitarian Engineering in the Enginering Curriculm. Diss. Queen’s U, 2008. Canda,n.p., 2008. Print.


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Earth Charter Young Leaders’ Reflections from UNESCO forum Youth and Social Impact in Saudi Arabia

Earth Charter Young Leaders Ana Karen Pro Rebolledo, Danelia Zuñiga Alvarado, Jorge Gracia López, Kelly Ngeti, Phat Nguyen, and Mohammed Ba-Aoum, who participated in the Leadership, Sustainability, and Ethics 10-week online training programme, had the opportunity to attend UNESCO’s seventh NGO Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Youth and their Social Impact. Below you can read some of their reflections from the forum!

“I was very fortunate to be one of representatives of Earth Charter International to participate in UNESCO’s seventh_DSC1821 NGO Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 3 and 4 May, 2017. The conference mainly focused on the topic of Youth and Their Social Impact and I learned a lot from it. One of my favorite speakers was Mr. Jacques Attali, Founder and President of Positive Planet organization, who stated that education helps learners to find out why they are here on this earth. I found this statement interesting in the sense that the role of education is more than giving learners a ticket to land at their profession. More importantly, education helps learners to reflect on the values, morality that they hold on. Being educated does not serve the benefit of an individual, but of a community, society, and the world. The fact of why being on the earth is also connected to the relationship between human beings and nature. This might sound obvious but in my own observation of what is happening around the world today, many well-educated politicians or business people make a decision in different issues, which affect the community and the world without considering other people’s lives. For instance: deforestation, industrialization, and corruption.

In addition to Mr. Attali, another inspirational speaker to me was Ms. Sara Minkara, Founder and President, SaudiaArabia ECYL PhotosEmpowerment Through Integration, Lebanon. Her presentation taught me how brave and resilient she is. She looks at her identity as a blind person, as a blessing. She strongly believes that when she cannot see a person, whom she communicates with, she has a chance to listen attentively to them without any judgement. This positive thinking really touched me. Moreover, she does not keep that positivity with her, but inspires other blind people through her organization. She also shared that being independent and seeing her potential makes her feel self-confident to get over challenges facing to her life.

On the other note, I had a great opportunity to explore and learn more about the culture of Saudi Arabia, which has many stereotypes. But prior to the conference, I prepared myself to let my curiosity lead my judgement rather than impose my way of thinking and perspective into the local culture. Consequently, everything was so new and interesting to me. For instance: men and women have to stand separately when taking a group picture because culturally speaking, women do not feel comfortable with mixing up men and women in a group.

In conclusion, I very much enjoyed the conference in both professional and social sense. It gave me a chance to get inspired by amazing speakers and broaden my connection and knowledge. Having said that, I feel very grateful to Earth Charter International, UNESCO, MiSK Foundation for allowing me to be a part of such interesting conference.

-Phat Nyugen, Vietnam


“I had a special experience attending the UNESCO NGO Forum 2017 in Riyadh since I was the only Saudi person attending the forum as a guest to represent Earth Charter International, an international organization.

My position as a guest and local -at the same time- gave me also the chance to engage in many discussions about the Saudi culture with non-Saudi guests, especially during the cultural programs. I like to participate in such discussion as it enables me to reflect on my culture, enrich my way of looking at things and enable me to understand how people look at my culture from outside. I found that people have stereotypes about Saudi people, but I was so pleased that most visitors I met showed respect to local culture and were willing to understand the Saudi society without superficial judging.  I learned a lot from their deep questions and reflections. We also realized that we share many common values that we can build on to make action for the common good. The national and international cultural diversity should be celebrated as a great source of knowledge rather than a source of conflict or arrogance._DSC1788

Respecting and protecting local cultures and identities is a critical part of protecting human dignity. This is one of the core principles in the Earth Charter, which calls for” upholding the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity.” These principles promote the culture of peace and respect which is highly needed in the current era.  As a delegate for Earth Charter International, I shared the Charter principles with many participants and all of them emphasized the importance of these principles on the local and global level.

I very much enjoyed the Educating for a Sustainable Future panel discussion. I was shocked to know that only 6% of people around the world go to higher education. Governments, corporations and NGO’s should collaborate to provide more opportunity for people, especially in developing countries, to access higher education and empower them through formal and informal education to contribute actively to sustainable development.

Throughout the forum, I heard speakers as well as participants mentioning several times the Earth Charter principles on peace, social and economic justice, respect and care for the community of life which convinced me more of the critical role that the Earth Charter could play in creating a shared vision to foster sustainable development.” -Mohammed Ba-Aoum, Saudi Arabia


“Participating in this forum was a unique experience and unlike any other. I really enjoyed living for a few days in a _DSC1706country with a culture totally different from my country. Saudi Arabia is distinguished by being a country totally closed to tourism and being one of the strictest Muslim countries. Despite the extreme cultural clash, traveling to this wonderful country allowed me to have a broader view of the people who inhabit it and their customs and to understand from the depths the reason of each one of them and the perspective of the people that inhabit it.

What surprised me most was the separation between men and women and how men see women, with so many rules and many restrictions, however it was very interesting to talk to the locals and to openly ask questions about their culture and exchange information about my culture allowing me to discover that many times the world’s perceptions about this culture is wrong. Everyone is very kind, intelligent and above all peaceful, attached to their religion and beliefs, always very courteous, and above all accessible.

On the other hand, it was very gratifying to share the experience with people from other countries of the world and of all ages, representatives of various organizations dedicated to solve all kinds of problems. It was enriching to exchange all these actions, ideas, advice, and suggestions, opening the way and carrying out various activities when returning to our countries.

I found the project competition organized by Misk Fundation to be excellent because it provided great economic support to projects around the world dedicated to improving the situation of their respective countries. This left a great message in me about the excellent quality of panels they organized and how they supported this forum. No matter where you come from, or your beliefs, it is always good to help to put a grain of sand in any part of the world, because whatever country you come from we all live on the same planet.

It was simply an unforgettable experience and completely full of teaching and I am totally grateful to the locals who went to great lengths so that we all live their culture- from the traditional way of eating to the way they dress. Everything that was lived in two days in the forum were examples of Earth Charter principles that were fulfilled, this means that to adopt and to apply the Earth Charter and its principles is truly possible, feasible and above all useful.” – Ana Karen Proa Rebolledo, Mexico


From left to right Earth Charter Young Leaders: Mohammed Ba-Aoum (Saudi Arabia), Kelly Ngeti (Kenya), Ana Karen Pro Rebolledo (Mexico), Danelia Zuñiga Alvarado (Costa Rica), Jorge Gracia López (Spain), Phat Nguyen (Vietnam)

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Reflections as the New Earth Charter Youth Projects Coordinator

By: Christine Lacayo

My first month of work ends and I’m excited to share some of my reflections!

As the Earth Charter Youth Projects ChristineECCoordinator, my main responsibility is to motivate, guide, and engage young people to create a more just, sustainable and peaceful world. What is the best way to do this? I think the beauty of this position is the flexibility and creativity the job requires. I have the ability to incorporate my passions and interests to expand and create new opportunities and stories. I’m excited to bring my passion for visual media and writing to collect all Earth Charter Youth actions and stories that are taking place around the world. As an ocean advocate, I would also like to continue sensitizing my community members on the importance of taking care of our ocean ecosystems!

Some of the main projects I’m focusing on now include promoting our app Mapting, used to take pictures of actions related the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We have our next photo competition to celebrate International Day for Biological Diversity starting from 12-22 May.Mapting_FB_AD

I’m also facilitating our next online training programme for youth, Leadership, Sustainability, and Ethics (LSE) starting 19 June. This 10-week course is designed to prepare and empower young people with the skills and knowledge to be effective ethical sustainability leaders and implement Earth Charter-inspired projects.

One of my favorite roles of my job is having a group of Earth Charter Young Leaders, those who have completed the LSE course, from all over the world. These leaders are from countries such as St. Lucia, Germany, Kenya, Nigeria, Japan, Netherlands, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Rwanda, and Spain, just to name a few! My responsibility is to support them along their year commitment as an Earth Charter Young Leader implementing activities and workshops in their community.

I’m also diving into the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Leadership Training Programme created by esd-training-flierEarth Charter International for the UNESCO Global Action Program (GAP) on ESD focusing on priority area number 4: empowering and mobilizing youth. The training is designed for young people from 18-35 who are active leaders in sustainable development in their communities.  At the beginning of July, I will be co-facilitating the training programme in Brasilia, Brazil for selected young leaders from across Latin America!

I’m very excited to start this dynamic new job not to mention the stunning nature views and sounds from my office! I’m happy to be back in the country I grew up visiting as my second home while promoting a more peaceful and sustainable world using the skills and knowledge I’ve gained from my studies and experiences!IMG_0032




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Launch of Middle East and North Africa Earth Charter Network

On 23 and 24 November 2010, a special celebration of the 10th Earth Charter anniversary took place in Jordan, under the patronage of HRH Princess Basma Bint Talal and the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development  (JOHUD).  The objectives were to raise awareness about the EC in Jordan and in the region, share experiences and forge collaboration between regional organizations.  As a result, a regional Earth Charter network for Middle East and North Africa was created, and strategic actions and way forward were discussed and agreed.

The first day of the event, around 200 people gathered at Movenpick Hotel in the Dead Sea, Jordan, where HRH Princess Basma offered her views on the importance of the Earth Charter for the region, she said:  “the Earth Charter is in line with our region’s culture and lifestyle. Our commitment to the EC is evident, but we need to do more actions, we need to do what is simply right”.   She offered an overview of the contributions of Jordan society to the drafting process of the Charter,  and actions that have taken place during this last 10 years.  She highlighted the translation of the EC Teacher’s Guidebook into Arabic and how this resource was distributed to schools throughout the country.   At the end of her speech, she expressed hope that this meeting leads to more use and promotion of the sustainability vision that is articulated in the Earth Charter.

In this occasion, IUCN regional office launched a toolkit in Arabic of the water initiative called WANI. Mr. Mark Smith from IUCN Headquarters presented this material and made the official launch. In addition, he reflected on the complementary missions of IUCN and Earth Charter Initiative.

In the first panel discussion, Prof. Peter Blaze Corcoran offered, on behalf of the Earth Charter International, a thorough presentation of what have been the most important highlights and outcomes of the Earth Charter in the last ten years, in areas such as education, private sector, youth and global governance.   In addition, Mr. Odeh Al-Jayyousi, IUCN Regional Director highlighted the importance of the EC as an educational tool for sustainable development and the importance of a continued collaboration.  Dr. Sawsan Majali, Director of ZENID offered an overview of actions to put in practice the Earth Charter in Jordan.   Finally, Mr. Mustafa Naseredin, from TAG group, offered his views on the importance of the Earth Charter as a framework to motivate new ways of doing business.  He reflected on the complementarities between EC, Global Compact and GRI.

A second panel was organized to share experiences of the Earth Charter in action, each panelist discussed one of the four pillars of the Earth Charter.  Mr. Ibrahim Al-Zubi from Emirates Diving Association discussed about Respect and Care for the Community of Life;  Mr. Yehya Khaled from Royal Society of Conservation of Nature shared thoughts on the notion of Ecological Integrity; Mr. Emad Adly from RAED Network reflected on his work on Social and Economic Justice and Mr. Melhem Mansour from Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Syria about Democracy, Non Violence and Peace.

Then, participants divided into five groups to discuss the role of the Earth Charter in education, private sector, youth, policy making, planning and in evaluation and assessment for sustainability.

The second day of the meeting, the working groups identified priority actions for each area discussed, they started to develop a regional plan for putting the actions identified into practice, and discussed on a collaboration effort to start a regional Earth Charter network.

Participants representing organizations of 11 countries (Governmental, International and Non Governmental Organizations) committed to get involved in this network.  The countries represented were:  Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

There was an agreement to have JOHUD as the coordinating entity for this network, who will be in close communication with the members and ECI Secretariat.    The participant’s commitment is expressed in a final declaration signed by all, which was presented to HRH Princess Basma on the last day.

Find here the Dead Sea Declaration (in Arabic and English).

Also, a video that presents JOHUD’s work in Jordan, and how it reflects the principles of the EC.

Finally, a report of the event done by JOHUD staff (only in Arabic), some photos and an article from the Jordan Times.

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