The Blind Efforts Of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 Project
April 24th, 2021
In April of 2016, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman announced the launch of Vision 2030, a program established by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, with the goals of a vibrant society with a thriving economy and an ambitious nation. In order to do so, a setlist of sub-programs was created to pursue specific fields requiring change. Particularly focusing on the National Character Enrichment Program, as well as the Human Capital Development Program, the government is misled in its aspirations. Until the presence of human rights in the country is overcome, this project can never be fully realized.
Saudi Arabia is a rich country, with poor standards for the treatment of human beings. The country’s eagerness to jump on Vision 2030 overlooks the current issues citizens face as a result of the government’s absolutism, and in this way, they inhibit their own progress.
Firstly, the National Character Enrichment Program aims to establish a collective psyche by “fostering a set of values rooted in the Kingdom’s legacy and Islamic heritage." To do so, it is absorbing youth-targeted policies designed to foster values of entrepreneurship, generosity, volunteering, hard work, ambition, and optimism. Vision 2030 has been promoted to the public through a multitude of communication resources, such as in Saudi Arabian media, television, and - most importantly, to reach the youth - pillars of the project have been integrated into their school curriculums and textbooks as well. It has been socially engineered to weave preferred work ethics into the youth and orient their paths so that they can help contribute to the growth of the country.
The first issue with these plans is that the government fails to acknowledge who the ‘progression of the country’ will benefit. Constructing a more ambitious and determined society requires some dedication to the needs of the citizens. However, when calls for respect for human rights occur, and the government does nothing but silence them, they are not listening to the needs of the nation. Furthermore, when acts of protest and activism - rooted in the disapproval of the systems of government - are belittled and reduced to be criminal acts of terrorism, and punishments consist of torture, persecution, and imprisonment, they are not listening to the needs of the nation. When the excess of the detainment of people breaches even the Kingdom’s own criminal code, a government no longer exists. A tyranny does.
National progress cannot be made this way. The assumption that a population of people will work to better the country of a government that is oppressing them is futile - and at its surface, an exploitative measure; a goal that is situated and dependent on how early in a person’s life the government can begin to engineer a desire to work to sustain an abusive government and help it prosper. Vision 2030 orchestrates a hopefulness within citizens for a government that will go to great lengths to disregard their rights. Efforts expended into banning human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, from the country, extend further than their supposed goals that are meant to be working towards creating a better society for citizens.
Furthermore, certain steps outlined by the government that is guaranteed to ensure change are in and of themselves hypocritical. For example, one goal within the National Character Enrichment program is to foster tolerance within youth. A society cannot endorse tolerance and restrict freedom of expression, association, and assembly at once. In April of 2019, for instance, 14 individuals were arrested for their peaceful support of the Women’s Rights Movement. In this way, Saudi Arabia remains one of the least free first-world countries.
“I love where I live, it’s a beautiful city with a rich heritage, but everything has changed since the advent of the religious awakening. I don’t like the contempt for women, and I want political representation. Women want the right to leadership and freedom. I want to be able to travel alone, go out and establish normal relationships with my friends. I want to feel like I’m a human being, not a breakable commodity that’s for sale. I’m human.”
—Noura, 21, Interviewed by The Cut in 2017
The Human Capital Enrichment program is focussing specifically on improving the education and training system, at all stages. It aims to “provide training to reach the international levels through education, rehabilitation and training programs that keep abreast of modern times.” The irony in the project’s goals extends beyond just tolerance. For example, the effort to strengthen the quality of information is performative at best when the government is actively restricting citizens’ access to information through several forms of media. Censorship is inhibiting civilians’ abilities to understand issues beyond their own country and society, creating a gap in their knowledge and critical skills.
“Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties. No officials at the national level are elected. The regime relies on extensive surveillance, the criminalization of dissent, appeals to sectarianism and ethnicity, and public spending supported by oil revenues to maintain power. Women and religious minorities face extensive discrimination in law and in practice. Working conditions for the large expatriate labor force are often exploitative.”
—Freedom House Report, 2019
Until the Saudi Arabian government can begin to acknowledge the needs of its citizens, Vision 2030 will make no real progress towards improving the society that they live in.
ReferencesTen ways that Saudi Arabia violates human rights
HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Vision 2030 is built around three primary themes: a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation.
Max Weber in Arabia: Saudi’s Character Enrichment Program
Inside the Lives of Young Women Living in Saudi Arabia
SAUDI ARABIA 2020