King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has a wonderful record full of achievements on the local, regional and international levels. At the local level, Saudi Arabia witnessed during his reign major accelerated development in various fields. He supported the fields of education, health, housing, roads, environment, water, electricity, e-government, telecommunications, public services and mega economic development projects. In terms of foreign policy, the Kingdom’s regional and international role gained strength, supported by the high international regard King Abdullah garnered during his life. That regard in turn contributed to the success of his peacemaking efforts in many countries torn by internal strife; on the global level, it led to bringing sects and religions closer and consolidating dialogue between them.

Due to the huge number of King Abdullah’s achievements, it is not possible to list them all here, so let us highlight some of his most prominent achievements.

King Abdullah worked diligently to implement international projects that would help achieve global peace as a strategy in which he believed and fought for. Throughout his life, he worked to reconcile conflicting perspectives among clashing parties in many parts of the world in order to establish peace in their countries. During his reign, the Kingdom was ranked the first country globally to offer humanitarian aid around the world. Some of his top achievements in this field include the following:

Establishing Peace

King Abdullah worked diligently to implement international projects that would help achieve global peace as a strategy in which he believed and fought for. Throughout his life, he worked to reconcile conflicting perspectives among clashing parties in many parts of the world in order to establish peace in their countries. During his reign, the Kingdom was ranked the first country globally to offer humanitarian aid around the world. Some of his top achievements in this field include the following:

  1. Calling for the world’s scouts to be “Messengers of Peace”.

  2. Proposing the Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s Peace Initiative in the Middle East at the Arab summit in Beirut in 2002, which became later known as the Arab Peace Initiative after being endorsed by Arab states.

  3. Calling for the founding of an international center to fight terrorism.

  4. Sponsoring Makkah Agreement between Hamas and Fatah Palestinian factions.

    Sponsoring the reconciliation agreement between Sudan and Chad.

    Sponsoring the Somali National Reconciliation Conference.

  5. Sponsoring the World Scout Exhibition for Peace.

    Calling for interfaith dialogue.

    Sponsoring the Islamic World Conference on Dialogue designated for Muslims to discuss the conference for dialogue among the three heavenly religions, which was formerly proposed by King Abdullah.

  6. Sponsoring reconciliation between several Arab countries at the Arab Summit in Kuwait.

  7. Issuing orders and directives for establishing the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud International Foundation for Humanitarian Activities, which continues to implement King Abdullah’s vision through numerous programs, projects and initiatives.

  8. Launching World Scout “Messengers of Peace” project upon King Abdullah’s call in 2001, after millions of scouts responded to the call; announcing a generous grant by him of $37 million for supporting the project, which seeks to gather 20 million scouts from around the world as messengers of peace in their countries.

    Signing an agreement to establish the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center, and providing $10 million to support it.

    Sponsoring and supervising the Yemeni conflicting factions’ signature in Riyadh of the GCC Initiative and its executional mechanism for resolving the Yemeni crisis.

  9. Establishing the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.

  10. Providing, from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, $100 million in support funding to the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center.

Reform Programs

In line with the King’s vision for developing and improving government institution performance and citizens’ engagement in managing their respective regions’ affairs, the most important reform-related bodies were established during his reign. A series of royal decrees was issued and had a significant impact on the evolution of life in Saudi Arabia and on raising Saudi citizens’ participation rates in public affairs. The following were among the most prominent reforms:

  1. Establishing the Human Rights Commission.

  2. Establishing the Allegiance Council.

    Launching the King Abdullah Project for the Judicial Development.

  3. Issuing a Royal Decree regarding the Judiciary Law and Board of Grievances Law in their current formats, which initiated judicial system development and by which the branches of the Board of Grievances were converted to administrative courts, as well as converting the auditing body at the Board of Grievances to an administrative Court of Appeal.

  4. Issuing an order that restricts, to the Council of Senior Scholars, the right to issue religious fatwas to the public.

  5. Establishing the National Anti-Corruption Commission, directly reporting to the king.

    Involving women in political life for the first time through membership at the Shura Council and through granting them the right to run for and vote in municipal elections.

    Creating 1,200 new job opportunities to strengthen regulatory authorities’ capabilities, including the General Auditing Bureau, the Control and Investigation Board, the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution, and the Royal Court.

Education and Scientific Research

Education witnessed a major boom during King Abdullah’s reign and was foremost among his development interests. He believed that development cannot be achieved without first developing the human being, as the initial and final target of the development process. He supported the development of public education through the King Abdullah Public Education Development Project, considered among the top educational development projects in the region.

Educational scholarship programs to foreign countries also increased at unprecedented rates. Scholarship students’ salaries witnessed 50% raise. The number of Saudi governmental universities during King Abdullah’s era rose from eight to 28 comprising 440 faculties in various fields, distributed across 80 governorates when they had been limited to only 17 governorates. During King Abdullah’s reign and by direct orders from him, support grew for specialized and rare research fields. For that purpose, many specialized research centers were founded.

Among the indicators of educational development in all its institutions during King Abdullah’s reign, the British Economist magazine ranked Saudi Arabia as seventh in terms of higher education in the world. King Saud University was ranked among the top 300 global universities in Spain’s “Webometrics Ranking of World Universities”, achieving the first rank in the Arab and Islamic worlds, the first rank in the Middle East and Africa, and the 21st rank in Asia.

The following are among the most prominent educational projects initiated in the reign of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz:

  1. Initiating King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which ran from 2005 – 2015.

  2. Initiating the adoption of nanotechnology research in Saudi .

  3. Allocating $300 million to be the nucleus of a program for funding scientific research related to energy, environment and climate change.

    Launching the King Abdullah Public Education Development Project.

  4. Inaugurating Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, as the first integrated Saudi university for girls, and one of the world’s largest women’s universities.

  5. Inaugurating King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST).

  6. Establishing King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC).

  7. Reinforcing the Ministry of Education’s support programs for underprivileged students, so as to cover program expenses (winter and summer attire, school bag) and provide support (Takaful Charity Foundation), as well as allocating an amount of SAR 476 million annually for this purpose.

  8. Establishing Colleges of Excellence in the Kingdom’s various regions, specialized in vocational training focused on local job market needs.

    Inaugurating Phase One of University Cities Project at a cost of SAR 81.5 billion.

  9. Inaugurating the University City for Female Students at King Saud University in Dir’iyah.

  10. Allocating the largest-ever education provision within the State Budget in the Kingdom’s history, in the amount of more than SAR 220 billion, 25% of the total budget, as well as allocating SAR 80 billion to support achieving the goals of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Public Education Development Project in the Kingdom for 5 years.

National Development

During King Abdullah’s reign, Saudi Arabia witnessed significant progress on all global development indices. In 2014, the Kingdom climbed from 57th to 34th place in the Human Development Report issued by the United Nations Development Program. The Kingdom also ranked 36th in the world in the United Nations’ E-Government Development Index.

King Abdullah’s era also witnessed the establishment of many major industrial cities, technology zones and bodies in various fields. Examples include the Public Authority for Housing, Saudi Railways Organization, and Consumer Protection Association. He also led the largest housing project in Saudi Arabia in support of the underprivileged, benefitting tens of thousands of families. The Royal Decrees he issued in February 2011 constituted a quality leap in achieving greater welfare for the Saudi people. These decrees included setting the Cost of Living Allowance at 15% within the basic salary; exempting all deceased borrowers from paying loan installments to the Real Estate Development Fund and to the Saudi Credit and Savings Bank; exempting the remaining borrowers from paying two installments for a period of two years; raising the maximum number of members in a family covered by social security from 8 to 15; expanding and improving social welfare and development services; and finally, approving a temporary subsidy for young job-seekers.

The Royal Decrees also included supporting cooperative associations with SAR 100 million annually; increasing government funds allocated to charities by 50%; providing financial support of SAR 10 million to each athletic and cultural club and each professional association. They also included releasing “public right” prisoners who met certain conditions, and paying the debts of borrowers unable to pay them.

The developmental accomplishments in King Abdullah’s reign exceeded the criteria set for achieving them based on their specified objectives. Below we review some of the achievements that represent his development vision:

  1. Establishing King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Foundation for Developmental Housing Dedicated to His Parents, which provided until 2014, around 8652 housing units for the underprivileged in addition to support service units such as schools, mosques, health and social centers, with the number of beneficiaries from the Foundation’s projects exceeding 65,000 citizens.

  2. Announcing the founding of King Abdullah Economic City with a total cost of SAR 375 billion.

    Approving the Saudi Arabia accession to the World Trade Organization.

  3. Setting the cornerstone of Prince Abdulaziz bin Mousaed Economic City in Ha’il province.

    Setting the cornerstone of King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh.

  4. Advancing Saudi Arabia to sixth place globally in Labor Freedom as per the Index of Economic Freedom report.

    Developing Jabal Omar as one of the most important integrated real estate development projects located just steps from the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

    Establishing Jazan Economic City.

  5. Advancing Saudi Arabia to fifth place among the top ten countries that introduced reforms to facilitate the practice of private business according to a World Bank report.

    Launching the development of slums in the Makkah region.

    Establishing the National Water Company through a public-private sector partnership.

    Setting the cornerstones of 22 investment projects in the King Abdullah Economic City with a total cost of SAR 130 billion.

    Setting the cornerstone of the Knowledge Economic City in Medina.

  6. Launching the Haramain High Speed Rail Project, as an electric train connecting Mecca City with Medina passing through Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City.

  7. Establishing King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy.

    Inaugurating King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Project for Zamzam Water in Makkah at a total cost of SAR 700 million.

    Establishing King Abdullah Civic Center in Dammam.

  8. Approving Employees’ List of Rights and Financial Benefits.

    Reinforcing the Budget of the Public Authority for Housing with SAR 15 billion.

    Reinforcing Real Estate Development Fund capital with an additional SAR 40 billion.

    Adding to the Saudi Credit & Savings Bank capital an amount of SAR 30 billion.

    Launching work on the new King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, as one of the most beautiful and largest airports globally in terms of design, specifications, technical performance and equipment.

    Launching the expansion project of Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Medina, to double its capacity from 4 to 8 million passengers annually.

    Launching the Railway Project, which connects western Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea coast with its eastern part along the Arabian Gulf.

    Issuing a King Abdullah Royal Decree allocating SAR 250 billion for the construction of 500,000 housing units for citizens across the Kingdom.

    Setting the cornerstone of the largest expansion of the Grand Mosque of Makkah in history in terms of size and cost amounting to SAR 80 billion.

    Launching the largest expansion and development projects for the Holy sites in Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat.

    Establishing the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (MODON), which in turn established more than 32 industrial cities in various regions of the Kingdom.

  9. Setting the cornerstone of the largest expansion ever of the Prophet's Mosque over its history, which increased its capacity to more than 1.6 million worshippers.

    Launching work on King Abdullah project for developing Waad Al Shamal Industrial City for Mining Investments in Ar’ar.

  10. Launching Riyadh Metro project at a cost of SAR 84 billion, leading to a maximum capacity of 3.6 million passengers daily.

    Launching the expansion project of King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh.

Healthcare

During the reign of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the health sector witnessed great development and transformation at unprecedented levels. At the outset of his reign, he issued Royal Decrees establishing hospitals across the Kingdom as part of the “Health Belt” Project. During the period from 2005-2013, out of the total 259 hospitals, 74 new hospitals were inaugurated with a capacity of 7402 beds. During the same period, 769 primary healthcare centers were established. Five medical integrated reference cities were designed and inaugurated aimed at providing world-class standards of specialized and inclusive healthcare. Since 2013, the Ministry of Health carried on the remaining stages of King Abdullah’s health sector strategy through initiating the design and implementation of 125 hospitals and 1671 healthcare centers.

In terms of capacity-building and health service development, King Abdullah created a program for health scholarships, which aimed at sending physicians and technicians to study abroad the fields of medicine and Applied Health Sciences. Furthermore, the King ratified disbursing the Patient Service Award of two months’ salaries per year for those who work in serving patients directly in all health facilities, from hospitals to health clinics and quarantines.

His commitment to achieving tangible development in the healthcare sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia extended to cover all medical fields: medical research, family and community medicine services; gynecology, obstetrics, and pediatrics; building new oncology centers raising the number of the Ministry of Health centers specialized in this field to 8. The number of cardiac treatment centers also rose to 12. King Abdullah’s support covered micro-specialties as well, such as neurological sciences, whereby he sought to expand their service availability. In fact, medical specialties received a large share of developmental projects and included qualitative progress in ophthalmology and kidney patient care, and extended to micro-specialties such as organ transplant, separation of conjoined twins, and other specialized medical fields.

The examples below demonstrate health sector accomplishments achieved during King Abdullah’s reign:

  1. Inaugurating King Abdulaziz Medical City – Jeddah, run by National Guard Health Affairs.

  2. Inaugurating King Abdulaziz Medical City – Riyadh, run by National Guard Health Affairs.

  3. Approving the establishment of 1010 integrated health centers spanning the Kingdom’s cities and villages.

  4. Inaugurating King Abdullah Medical City in Medina.

    Establishing a stem cell bank at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.

  5. Inaugurating the Heart Center at King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh.

  6. Setting the cornerstone of King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, run by National Guard Health Affairs.

    Setting the cornerstone of King Abdullah International Medical Research Center, run by National Guard Health Affairs.

  7. Announcing the National Integrated and Comprehensive Care Plan.

    Inaugurating King Abdullah Medical City in Makkah.

    Starting construction works at King Abdullah Specialty Children’s Hospital in Riyadh, designed to be a global center for children’s diseases, especially the separation of Siamese twins.

  8. Starting the design and construction phases of King Abdullah Center for Cancer and Liver Diseases at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.

  9. Starting construction works at King Faisal Medical City in the southern region at a cost of nearly SAR 4 billion .

  10. Starting construction works at King Faisal Specialist Hospital’s new headquarters in Jeddah at a cost of SAR 1.77 billion on an area of 2 million square meters.

    Inaugurating expansion of King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital in Riyadh at a cost of SAR 200 million.

    Starting construction works of Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Medical City in Al Jouf.

    Completing the structural designs of King Khalid Medical City in the Eastern Province at a cost of SAR 4.6 billion.

  11. Starting construction works for King Abdullah Specialist Children Hospital in Jeddah.

Culture and Youth

During his reign, King Abdullah demonstrated a great commitment to sponsoring the talented and creative. When he sought to establish an institution for supporting talent in 1999, he chaired it himself and named it “King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity” (Mawhiba). He continued to head this foundation after he became king and until his death. He also founded and personally supervised the establishment of Janadriyah Festival. During his reign, cultural, literary and artistic activities increased, thanks to his great support for specialized clubs and associations. He was keen on making the developmental achievements in the fields of culture and youth unique and distinct in accordance with the highest standards. Some of the most important achievements in these fields are listed below.

  1. Being the first president of the Equestrian Club, which led to great development of this sport in Saudi Arabia.

  2. Establishing King Abdulaziz Public Library in Riyadh.

    Establishing the National Festival for Heritage and Culture, which is held annually in Janadriyah and which attracts writers, poets and intellectuals from around the world.

  3. Establishing King Abdulaziz Foundation for Islamic Studies and Human Sciences in Casablanca, Morocco.

  4. Establishing and presiding “King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity” (Mawhiba).

  5. Establishing the New Equestrian Sports Club at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Janadriyah.

  6. Resuming the historic event of launching Souk Okaz cultural annual activities (after nearly 1,300 years of absence from cultural influence), attracting writers and intellectuals from around the world.

    Launching the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Award for Translation.

  7. Inaugurating King Abdullah Sports City and Al-Jawhara Stadium at Jeddah City.

    Issuing decrees for establishing 11 world-class athletic stadiums across the Kingdom, each with a capacity of 45,000 spectators.