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FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world

November 23, 2013 Comments off

FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world
Source: Thompson Reuters

Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world, closely followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday.

Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar came top of the survey, which assessed 22 Arab states on violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.

The results were drawn from answers from 336 gender experts invited to participate in an online survey by the foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news and information company Thomson Reuters, in August and September.

+ Complete poll results

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Country Analysis Brief: Oman

October 10, 2013 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Oman
Source: Energy Information Administration

Located on the Arabian Peninsula, Oman’s proximity to the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and Persian Gulf grant it access to some of the most important energy corridors in the world, enhancing Oman’s position in the global supply chain. Oman plans to capitalize on this strategic location by constructing a world-class oil refining and storage complex near Duqm, which lies outside the Strait of Hormuz (an important oil transit chokepoint).

Like many countries in the region, Oman is highly dependent on its hydrocarbons sector. In 2012, Oman’s hydrocarbons sector accounted for 86% of government revenues, according to the country’s Ministry of Finance. Further, revenues from oil and natural gas accounted for approximately 40% of Oman’s gross domestic product in 2012, according to IHS Global Insight. Oman’s fiscal breakeven price for oil in 2013 is approximately $104 per barrel, according to a 2012 government announcement, meaning that Oman’s government needs the export price of oil to remain at or above that level to secure sufficient revenues. For reference, in 2012 the price for Omani crude was $109 per barrel.

The continued viability of developing Oman’s oil and natural gas resources relies heavily on extraction technologies. Several enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques are already used in Oman, including polymer, miscible, and steam-injection techniques. Due to the relatively high cost of production in the country, Oman’s government offers incentives to international oil companies for exploration and development activities in the country’s difficult-to-recover hydrocarbon plays.

New Report: Energy Conservation Key Security Goal for Gulf

August 21, 2013 Comments off

New Report: Energy Conservation Key Security Goal for Gulf
Source: Chatham House

The systemic waste of oil and gas in the Gulf is eroding economic resilience to shocks and increasing security risks, including to citizens’ health. Success or failure in setting and meeting sustainable energy goals in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will have a global impact, says a new report Saving Oil and Gas in the Gulf.

The six GCC countries – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE and Bahrain – now consume more primary energy than the whole of Africa. Yet they have just one twentieth of that continent’s population. Energy intensity in the region is high and rising in contrast to other industrialized regions and is driven by systemic inefficiencies.

Almost 100% of energy in the region is produced from oil and gas without carbon dioxide abatement, and water security is increasingly dependent on energy-driven desalination. If the region’s fuel demand were to continue rising as it has over the last decade, it would double by 2024. This is a deeply undesirable prospect for both the national security of each state and the global environment.

Saving Oil and Gas in the Gulf is the first report to offer practical recommendations that address the key challenges of governance, political commitment and market incentives from a GCC-wide perspective. It draws on the results of two years of research and workshops in the region, with representatives of over 60 local institutions w ith a critical interest in and influence over domestic energy.

The report concludes that efficiency savings are urgent, achievable and will build a bridge to renewables deployment.

CRS — Oman: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy

July 25, 2013 Comments off

Oman: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Prior to the wave of Middle East unrest that began in 2011, the United States had consistently praised the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Sa’id Al Said, for gradually opening the political process without evident public pressure to do so. The liberalization has, to date, allowed Omanis a measure of representation but has not significantly limited Qaboos’ role as paramount decisionmaker. The modest reforms have not satisfied some Omani civil society leaders, youths, and others, and this disappointment produced protests in several Omani cities in 2011. The domestic popularity of Qaboos, some additional economic and political reform measures, and repression of protest actions, caused the unrest to subside in 2012. High turnout in the October 15, 2011, elections for the lower house of Oman’s legislative body suggested that unrest—and the accelerated reforms launched in response—were producing a new public sense of activism, although with public recognition that reform will continue to be gradual. The first-ever municipal elections in Oman on December 22, 2012 furthered the sense of political empowerment among the electorate.

Perhaps because Oman is a long-time U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf, the Obama Administration did not alter policy toward Oman even though some of the 2011-2012 protests were suppressed and activists were arrested. Oman was the first Persian Gulf state to formally allow the U.S. military to use its military facilities, despite the sensitivities in Oman about a visible U.S. military presence there. It hosted U.S. forces during every U.S. military operation in and around the Gulf since 1980 and has become a significant buyer of U.S. military equipment, moving away from its prior reliance on British military advice and equipment. Oman is also a partner in U.S. efforts to counter the movement of terrorists and pirates in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. It has consistently supported U.S. efforts to achieve a Middle East peace by publicly endorsing peace treaties reached and by occasionally meeting with Israeli leaders in or outside Oman. It was partly in appreciation for this alliance that the United States entered into a free trade agreement (FTA) with Oman, which is also intended to help Oman diversify its economy to compensate for its relatively small reserves of crude oil.

The one significant difference between the United States and Oman on regional issues is Iran. Unlike most of the other Persian Gulf monarchies, Oman does not perceive a major potential threat from Iran. Sultan Qaboos has consistently maintained ties to Iran’s leaders, despite the widespread international criticism of Iran’s nuclear program and foreign policy. However, successive U.S. Administrations have generally refrained from criticizing the Iran-Oman relationship, perhaps in part because Oman has sometimes been useful as an intermediary between the United States and Iran. Oman played the role of broker between Iran and the United States in the September 2011 release of two U.S. hikers from Iran after two years in jail there, and it reportedly is involved in efforts to obtain the release of other U.S. citizens imprisoned in Iran or in territory under Iran’s control. For further information on regional dynamics that affect Oman, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman.

Country Analysis Brief: Oman

August 26, 2012 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Oman
Source: Energy Information Administration

Like most of its neighbors, Oman is dependent upon its oil sector for the majority of its export revenues and government spending. Oman possesses the largest oil reserves of any non-OPEC country in the Middle East and significant reserves of natural gas, of which it is a leading exporter regionally. While crude oil remains a significant yet declining part of its economy, Oman has made a concerted effort to diversify its economic base in face of its declining output. Under Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s “Vision 2020″ policy, Oman has made considerable investments and progress into developing gas resources, increasing gas production, and developing current and new oil fields.

The Rise of Diabetes Prevalence in the Arab Region

May 31, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Open Journal of Epidemiology
Introduction:
Arab populations have many similarities and dissimilarities. They share culture, language and religion but they are also subject to economic, political and social differences. The purpose of this study is to understand the causes of the rising trend of diabetes prevalence in order to suggest efficient actions susceptible to reduce the burden of diabetes in the Arab world.
Method:
We use principal component analysis to illustrate similarities and differences between Arab countries according to four variables: 1) the prevalence of diabetes, 2) impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), 3) diabetes related deaths and 4) diabetes related expenditure per person. A linear regression is also used to study the correlation between human development index and diabetes prevalence.
Results:
Arab countries are mainly classified into three groups according to the diabetes comparative prevalence (high, medium and low) but other differences are seen in terms of diabetes-related mortality and diabetes related expenditure per person. We also investigate the correlation between the human development index (HDI) and diabetes comparative prevalence (R = 0.81).
Conclusion:
The alarming rising trend of diabetes prevalence in the Arab region constitutes a real challenge for heath decision makers. In order to alleviate the burden of diabetes, preventive strategies are needed, based essentially on sensitization for a more healthy diet with regular exercise but health authorities are also asked to provide populations with heath- care and early diagnosis to avoid the high burden caused by complications of diabetes.

Economics of the Arab awakening

February 22, 2012 Comments off
Source:  International Food Policy Research Institute
Few observers would have predicted the dramatic changes over the past few months in the Arab world. Arab governments appeared to be in tight control, and many Arab economies were growing around or above the world average over the past few years. Annual growth rates in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Sudan averaged more than 6 percent between 2005 and 2010; and Syria, Tunisia, and Libya grew at about 5 percent on average during the same period of time. Official poverty rates in most Arab countries are lower than in many Asian and Latin American countries.
However, experts have long identified slow progress in economic diversification and job creation, social inequalities, and persistent food insecurity as major development challenges for Arab countries. Did these factors and, more broadly, people’s dissatisfaction with their living standards contribute to the recent uprisings? At first glance, the sudden turn of events and the generally low coverage, quality, and accessibility of data in the Arab world make it difficult to find answers to this question. By looking beyond more conventional data, however, this policy brief provides some insights into the potential role of economics in the ongoing uprisings. It also reviews major policy responses of Arab governments and provides a new narrative of Arab development that is based on inclusive economic transformation, food security, and decisionmaking.
Full Paper (PDF)

CRS — Oman: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy

November 15, 2011 Comments off

Oman: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via CQ Roll Call)

Prior to the wave of unrest that has swept the Middle East in 2011, the United States had consistently praised Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’’id Al Said for gradually opening the political process in the Sultanate of Oman, an initiative begun in the early 1980s without evident pressure from the citizenry. The liberalization allowed Omanis a measure of representation but without significantly limiting Qaboos’’ role as major decision maker. Some Omani human rights activists and civil society leaders, along with many younger Omanis, were always unsatisfied with the implicit and explicit limits to political rights and believed the democratization process had stagnated. This disappointment may have proved deeper and broader than experts believed when protests broke out in several Omani cities beginning in late February 2011, after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt on February 11. Still, the generally positive Omani views of Qaboos, coupled with economic measures and repression of protest actions, appear to have contained the unrest. Record turnout in the October 15, 2011, elections for the lower house of Oman’’s legislative body suggests the unrest has resulted in a new sense of activism, although with public recognition that reform will continue to be gradual.

The stakes for the Administration and Congress in Oman’’s stability are considerable. A long-time U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf, Oman has allowed U.S. access to its military facilities for virtually every U.S. military operation in and around the Gulf since 1980, despite the sensitivities in Oman about a U.S. military presence there. Oman also has consistently supported U.S. efforts to achieve a Middle East peace by publicly endorsing the peace treaties that have been achieved between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors, and by occasionally hosting Israeli political leaders or meeting with them outside Oman. It was partly in appreciation for this alliance that the United States entered into a free trade agreement (FTA) with Oman. The FTA is considered pivotal to helping Oman diversify its economy to compensate for its relatively small reserves of crude oil.

Perhaps because of the extensive benefits the alliance with Oman provides to U.S. Persian Gulf policy, successive U.S. Administrations have tended not to criticize Oman’’s relatively close relations with Iran. Oman has a tradition of cooperation with Iran dating back to the Shah of Iran’’s regime, and Oman has always been less alarmed by the perceived threat from Iran than have the other Gulf states. Oman’’s leaders view possible U.S. military action against Iran’’s nuclear facilities as potentially more destabilizing to the region than is Iran’’s nuclear program or Iran’’s foreign policy that supports Shiite and some other hardline Islamist movements. In addition, Oman has played the role of broker between Iran and the United States, most recently in the September 2011 release of two U.S. hikers from Iran after two years in jail there. For further information on regional dynamics that affect Oman, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman.

CRS — Oman: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy

May 10, 2011 Comments off

Oman: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via OpenCRS)

The Sultanate of Oman is a long-time U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf. It has allowed U.S. access to its military facilities for virtually every U.S. military operation in and around the Gulf since 1980, despite the sensitivities in Oman and throughout the Middle East about a U.S. military presence there. Oman also has fully and consistently supported U.S. efforts to achieve a Middle East peace by publicly endorsing the peace treaties that have been achieved between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors, and by occasionally hosting Israeli political leaders or meeting with them outside Oman. It was partly in appreciation for this alliance that the United States entered into a free trade agreement (FTA) with Oman. The FTA was considered pivotal to helping Oman diversify its economy to compensate for its relatively small reserves of crude oil.

Perhaps because of the extensive benefits the alliance with Oman provides to U.S. Persian Gulf policy, successive U.S. Administrations have tended not to criticize Oman’s relatively close relations with Iran. Oman has a tradition of cooperation with Iran dating back to the Shah of Iran’s regime and Oman has always been less alarmed by the perceived threat from Iran than have the other Gulf states. Oman’s leaders view possible U.S. military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities as potentially more destabilizing to the region than is Iran’s nuclear program or Iran’s foreign policy that supports Shiite and some other hardline Islamist movements. Still, there is a long-standing assumption among U.S. policymakers that, in the event of U.S.-Iran confrontation, Oman would at least tacitly back the United States.

Another major U.S. priority in the Gulf region has been the promotion of human rights and democracy and the empowerment of civil society. The United States has praised Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al Said for opening up the political process in Oman, beginning this initiative in the early 1980s, long before the issue was highlighted by the United States. The political liberalization has given citizens the opportunity to express their views on issues but has not significantly limited Qaboos’ role as major decision maker. Some Omani human rights activists and civil society leaders, along with many younger Omanis, who have always been unsatisfied with the implicit and explicit limits to political rights in Oman, believe the democratization process has stagnated over the past five years. This disappointment within Oman may have proved deeper and broader than most experts believed when protests broke out in several Omani cities in late February 2011, apparently sparked by grievances similar to those that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11.

For further information on regional dynamics that affect Oman, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman.

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