Saudi Arabia to host Urban 20 Summit

Today’s Urban 20 Summit—held as part of the upcoming G20 summit in November—will host mayors from major cities around the

riyadh skyline

Photo: Peter MacDiarmid

Today’s Urban 20 Summit—held as part of the upcoming G20 summit in November—will host mayors from major cities around the world. The event has sparked criticism from various human rights organisations.

The summit, which coincides with the second anniversary of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, has led many human rights groups to urge mayors to boycott the event in condemnation of Riyadh’s increasing crackdowns on activists and dissidents in the kingdom. Mayors Sadiq Khan (London), Michael Muller (Berlin) and Anne Hidalgo (Paris) are reconsidering their invitations, while New York’s Bill De Blasio has pulled out following Saudi Arabia’s decision to overturn the death sentences of the perpetrators accused of Khashoggi’s murder.

Saudi Arabia hoped the summit would in part rehabilitate its image within the international community, but the ploy has backfired, causing accusations against the kingdom’s human rights violations, both domestically and those abroad, to resurface.

Due to Riyadh’s economic prominence and its close relationship with the White House, its human rights record has often escaped actionable consequences. However, now that the value—and thus, the strategic significance—of oil is in decline, expect the kingdom’s continued crackdowns on dissent to prompt harsher reactions from its Western allies, threatening even to damage the relationship.

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