Oman, a country located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, boasts a rich and diverse natural history shaped by its unique geographic and climatic conditions. With its rich history and diverse natural landscapes, Oman has long witnessed the harmonious relationship between its people and their environment. Upholding the legacy of its late Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and the continued strive of his majesty Sultan Hythem bin Tariq to sustain a legacy, Oman has embarked on a journey towards balanced development and prosperity since 1970.
With a focus on progress, well-being, and environmental stewardship, Oman strives to balance growth and sustainability. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have progressively contributed significantly to sustainable development worldwide. In Oman, NGOs play a vital role in driving social inclusion, well-being, road safety, economic diversity, and environmental stewardship. Their complementary efforts support the nation's sustainable development agenda, ultimately assisting in achieving the goals outlined in the Oman 2040 vision. As His Majesty Sultan Hythem stated in his forward for the 2040 vision," The success of this Vision is the responsibility of us all."
The north star: His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said's vision
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said once compared Oman's progress to a bird soaring with its two wings. This powerful analogy resonates deeply with us, reminding us that Oman's journey is one of balance, where women and men work hand in hand to create a brighter future. Oman's commitment to equality and inclusion ensures that every Omani, regardless of gender, plays a crucial role in realising the Sustainable Development Goals.
Social inclusion and wellbeing
Oman Vision 2040 was co-created through broader communal participation that reflects society's different segments. Actors of society, including NGOs, were part of that process; hence, they took ownership of the outcomes. The minister of social development clearly articulated Oman's commitment to social inclusion. She stated, "The cohesion and strength of societies, and the achievement of community peace, requires achieving social justice by maintaining the sustainability and quality of social welfare services...and the provision of social safety nets that provide a decent livelihood with sustainability for current and future generations alike." (timesofoman.com, 24/7/21).
NGOs in Oman actively work towards ensuring social inclusion for all members of society, regardless of their background. There are over 65 women's associations in Oman, which are social and cultural organisations aimed at advancing Omani women on all social and cultural fronts. According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), those associations serve (9,979) members and (40,639) beneficiaries till the end of 2022.
These organisations promote initiatives focusing on gender equality, the empowerment of marginalized communities, and the rights of individuals. The goal is to improve the family's economic and social standing and train women to locate and obtain sources of income. According to Professor Linda Pappas Funsch, from the Middle East and Islamic Studies Omani, women have played a crucial role in their country's social and economic life, deeply rooted in its rich maritime tradition.
Historically, during Oman's peak of influence in East Africa and South Asia, Omani men were often engaged in long-term trade and commerce abroad, which resulted in women in Oman taking on significant financial and managerial responsibilities essential for their families' welfare. Also, women in Oman are celebrated for their contributions to literature and the arts, science and education, sports, and the media. Their representation across a broad spectrum of public pursuits is remarkable, mainly when measured against that of their female counterparts in neighbouring countries of the GCC.
Through programs and projects, NGOs aim to break down barriers and create a society with equal opportunities. According to UNICEF, Oman was one of the first countries in the region to advocate for integrating children with special educational needs into mainstream education.
There are many NGOs, including the one I lead since 2020. Our contributions to research and development, both in scientific advancements and addressing societal issues, have been recognized locally and globally. However, such recognition is not an endpoint but a testament to our ongoing journey, motivating us to explore further.
Our foundation showcased agility and compassion as the world experienced the COVID-19 pandemic. Proactively supporting Oman's efforts to protect its people, we proved our commitment to progress, resilience, and solidarity. Furthermore, promoting the well-being of individuals is another essential aspect of the work carried out by NGOs in Oman. These organisations support mental health initiatives, raising awareness about the importance of psychological and physical health hygiene, providing access to healthcare facilities, and promoting healthy lifestyles. Their efforts help create a healthier, happier, and more productive society. A
An NGO I lead embodies a motto of "touching lives," transforming words into actions by empowering Oman's youth, women, and disabled individuals. By supporting education and healthcare, it strives for inclusivity. Its unwavering commitment to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals is evident through partnerships with schools, hospitals, universities, and other NGOs.
A call for safer roads
While one might not typically associate road safety with sustainability, in a rapidly advancing nation like Oman, ensuring the safety and efficiency of our transport networks is crucial. The Oman Road Safety Association, led by myself for some time, is another NGO dedicated to a future where residents in Oman can move across modern infrastructures without fear of accidents.
The organisation organises awareness campaigns, conducts training programs, and develops initiatives to educate the public about safe driving practices. Recognising that progress extends beyond mere achievements and aims to save lives while propelling the country forward. Also, the NGO contributes to policy advocacy, and the work is ongoing to make Oman's transportation system more sustainable. A sustainable transportation system focuses on minimising environmental impact, promoting energy efficiency, and offering accessible and equitable mobility options.
Preserving Oman's natural tapestry
Oman is characterised by various environments, from the rugged Hajar Mountains and the fertile Dhofar region to the vast deserts and the stunning coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman. Oman's extensive coastline is home to a diverse marine ecosystem, including coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds. The waters host a variety of marine species, such as dolphins, whales, and sea turtles, some of which are endangered and critically important to the global ecosystem.
Also, the country's deserts, like the Wahiba Sands, are home to unique flora and fauna adapted to arid conditions. The Hajar Mountains starkly contrast their more temperate climate, hosting a range of plant and animal species. Furthermore, Oman's varied habitats support many species, including the Arabian oryx, Arabian leopard, and various bird species. The country's flora includes desert-adapted plants and the lush vegetation in Dhofar's monsoon-fed valleys.
To contribute to the state effort, Oman has witnessed significant efforts from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in conserving its natural heritage. These organizations play a pivotal role in environmental protection and sustainable development.
The Oman Environment Society exemplifies Oman's commitment to preserving its diverse natural heritage. Through various initiatives, it aims to ensure that Oman's natural beauty remains untainted for generations. At the Oman Environment Society, we view ourselves as custodians and stewards of our environment, striving to balance modernity and conservation. Aligned with Oman Vision 2040, we are firmly dedicated to contributing to achieving Net Zero by 2050, leaving no one behind.
One of the critical goals of Oman's sustainable development agenda is to diversify the country's economy. NGOs like the Omani Economic Association, with the primary goal of promoting awareness and deepening developmental and economic thinking through partnerships between academia, civil society, the private sector, and decision-makers, actively contribute to this objective by fostering entrepreneurship, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and advocating for fair trade practices. These organisations provide resources, mentorship, and opportunities for individuals who aim to start their businesses, ultimately leading to economic growth and diversification.
Sustainability is balancing growth and preservation, tradition and innovation, and individual rights and responsibilities. Oman's journey is a testament to this delicate equilibrium. As we forge ahead, our legacy will be defined not only by our accomplishments but also by the values we uphold. Oman's Vision is to craft a future that echoes prosperity, equality, and sustainability – a future that ensures Oman's heritage and environment thrive for generations to come.
NGOs in Oman play a pivotal role in driving social inclusion, well-being, road safety, economic diversity, and environmental stewardship. Their efforts align with the nation's sustainable development agenda and contribute to the achievements of the Oman 2040 vision. Collaborative partnerships between NGOs, the government, and other stakeholders are instrumental in creating a more inclusive, prosperous, and sustainable future for Oman.
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