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Social Accountability & Human Rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Kishan Khoday

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Social Accountability & Human Rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Kishan Khoday United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

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Social Accountability & Human Rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)


Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

  • Human Rights in Saudi Arabia in context of its social/cultural context. Scrutiny during last UPR. Regular stark criticisms laid by international NGOs
  • Increasing local calls for change for progress on rights protections related to civil rights, women rights, minority rights, migrant worker rights, combating human trafficking, rights of the child, rights of the disabled, etc
  • Saudi Arabia held its first seat on UN Human Rights Council 2010-11. Kingdom hosted in 2010 first-ever visit by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights advocating changes to human rights situation.

Social Accountability in Saudi Arabia

  • While less visible in global media, various calls for change and campaigns in 2011 focus on rights
  • Calls in 2011-12: for action to improve state of prisons and detentions, combat corruption, enhanced judicial system, enhanced rights of women, religious minority and migrant workers.
  • Actions in 2011-12: women vote policy, rules to allow women to practice law, new anti-corruption commission, draft rules for migrant worker rights.

Women’s Rights

  • In 2011 women vote campaign led to King announcing a new policy for women to vote and stand as candidates in next 2015 elections. In 2011 women also staged a driving campaign.
  • In 2011 campaign undertaken for women to be able to practice as lawyers, leading in 2012 in new directive issued by Justice Ministry allowing women to practice and represent women in legal cases.
  • In early 2012 female students at University of King Khaled in city of Abha staged a sit-in protesting mismanagement of University administration, leading to policy responses.

Migrant Worker Rights

  • Kafalasystem of sponsorship of expat workers, leading to problems from passport control, lack of mobility, isolation of domestic workers, lack of access to remedy.
  • Human Rights Society comparative studies in recent years assessing other countries trends for enhanced protection. Calls for modernization of kafala.
  • New draft labor law in 2012 for revision to kafala, easing passport control, would shift sponsorship from household/individual to contract-based relation with public entities, reducing role of middle-men.
  • New Domestic Worker Convention 2011 dialogue Gulf countries for future signature/application. Stark cases of abuse of isolated female domestic workers

Minority Rights

  • Issues of religious minority rights expressed over past years, especially from minority Shi’a community in Eastern Province.
  • Concerns expressed over detentions of religious minorities without trial.
  • Concerns expressed over lack of development dividends and youth employment in Eastern Province despite hosting oil resources

UN/UNDP Cooperation

  • New UN Common Country Strategic Framework (2012-16) identifies UN cooperation in social accountability and human rights and UNDP Country Programme (2012-16) identifies social empowerment as a key outcome
  • 2012 MOU between UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and National HR Commission. 2013 launch of first UN/UNDP human rights programme in Saudi Arabia, on NHRI capacity development, rights of vulnerable groups.
  • 2013 new UNDP electoral assistance project for 2015 elections including issue of new women vote policy