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Speeches
Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II
At the FORTUNE Brainstorm
Aspen, Colorado, US
30 July 2002

Mrs. Albright,
Mr. Kirckland,
Friends,

Thank you very much for that kind introduction. Rania and I are delighted to join all of you. Fortune's hospitality has in truth been wonderful and we thank all of you. It is a pleasure to be in Aspen and an honour to be part of this event. Brainstorm 2002 is a chance for each of us to take some time out and think creatively about what lies ahead. I know that the Fortune editors hope to get some story ideas out of us. But what I am hoping is that we will ourselves leave with new insights and tools to meet some of the challenges ahead.

Let me begin by saying a word about leadership. It is not often that I have a chance to talk with so many people who are leaders in so many different fields. But I believe that through those many roles, because of those many roles, you have an absolutely critical part to play in shaping our world.

You know, the Arab people and the American people share a long and important tradition, a tradition of speaking truth to their leaders. And this year, what people are saying, loud and clear, is that trust is the coin of the realm. Madam Albright, I know that one of your predecessors at the US State Department, George Shultz, said this of Washington. But today, it is clear that trust is the fundamental currency of our times and our world, whether in corporate management, or world trade, or government administration, or international conflict resolution.

The fact is that people want to know that those they trust with their futures, have their futures at heart. Now, you could say that has always been true. But let me suggest that our era brings with it a special, global challenge. Modern technologies and human knowledge have brought cultures and peoples closer than ever in history. Events in one place affect events elsewhere with astonishing speed. People have tremendous access to information and ideas. All this has spurred new demands, from men and women across the world, to share in the best our century has to offer. At the end of the day, people will accept no less.

Call it a global statement of yearnings. And I can guarantee you that this is one statement that will never be revised downward. People's hopes and aspirations will only grow stronger. So we, all of us together, have a job to do. To offer real hope and help. To provide genuine opportunity. To bring peace, not just for future generations, but for our own.

The good news is that, in reaching these goals, we can capitalise on some unique opportunities for change.

First is the unprecedented awareness of our mutual reliance, as people, and as nations. Today's global interconnections offer challenges, certainly. But they also make it possible to work together as never before. And I think this conference shows just that. Second is a new and global sense of urgency. For too long, deep pools of poverty and desperation have served as breeding grounds for conflict, division and extremism. But in the sad aftermath of recent horrors, countries around the world are determined to act swiftly to give today's young people different and better choices.

And third, is a growing database of effective development strategies. The fact is, we live in a time of remarkable capabilities. The global marketplace is a powerful engine for growth. Sound domestic policies, good governance, and the rule of law are proving key to development. And we know that international cooperation works. Such cooperation, public and private, serves as a catalyst for education, health, and economic progress. And that puts developing countries on the path to sustainable growth.

Friends,

It has been noted that despite the fact that outsiders are often ambivalent about America, they still want to be part of its world and the modernity that it brings. The globe has been moving closer to its values and ways, especially the opportunity, knowledge and hope that it represents. Countries have new democracies, or want them. They enjoy freedom or yearn for it, they have capitalism, or dream of its prosperity. Although the United States is not the only nation that epitomises these values, for many, it does represent their ultimate expression.

This role has given the United States a unique leadership responsibility, as Jack Kemp clearly stated in this room yesterday evening. In fact, this first decade of the 21st century is already being compared to another period in history, when Americans helped build the Free World out of the rubble of World War II. The tasks and opportunities of that post-war era did not look as clear to Presidents Truman and Eisenhower as they do now, in hindsight. In fact, it took three years before the United States developed the Marshall Plan, and years longer to build and strengthen other assistance efforts. And yet, over time, that commitment laid the groundwork for an expanding zone of freedom around the world.

Today, as before, the United States is being called on to help shape a new world of freedom, this time, out of the rubble of communism's collapse and terrorism's foothold. As before, the challenge is bound to change and most likely grow. And as before, a considerable effort will have to be made. One that draws on a renewed sense of American purpose. One that recognises that supporting reform and development are as vital to the US national interest as ensuring US domestic security. One that understands that ending the conflicts that breed hatred and despair is part of the war on terror itself.

Nowhere is this effort more important than in the Middle East. Nowhere can the results of US leadership be more immediate or beneficial for humanity. The peoples of the region have suffered too much and for too long. That pain, the pain of loss and injustice, has been tragically abused by the enemies of peace.

More than ever, it is time to bring justice, peace and hope to the people of Palestine and Israel, a comprehensive, lasting solution that will meet the needs of both peoples. For the Palestinians, an end to occupation and the establishment of a democratic state. For Israel, genuine security. These are compatible, indeed complementary needs.

This summer, President Bush articulated a vision for peace in the Middle East. I believe we now need to move quickly to translate this into reality. The President has set a timeline of three years to achieve the goal of establishing the Palestinian state. I think we need to expedite this target date so that the Israeli occupation can end sooner. Establishing democratic reforms and free market institutions in Palestine, will mean little when the occupation can bring commerce and daily life to a halt. What's more, if Palestine is to have genuinely free institutions, political reform must come from within, and for the benefit of, the Palestinians. And we must also find a comprehensive settlement that will address the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, in order to finally bring an end to this tragic saga.

Friends,

There is an unprecedented consensus on the unique and essential role of the United States in bringing about a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yet I must tell you that Arab trust of US influence remains rather low. This is all the more reason for the US to show its commitment to fairness and freedom, and lead the way to peace.

Of course, salvation will not come from outside. Both Arabs and Israelis must realise that their fate is in their hands. If they do not stop before the abyss, nobody will do it for them. To live up to this moment in history, to be able to look forward to a peaceful future, both will have to compromise on age-old dreams, and create new ones instead.

The region that I come from desperately needs peace, development, and modernity. A recent UN Report shows that over the last 20 years, contrary to some stereotypes, per capita income in the Arab countries has shrunk. Indeed, it is now at a level just above that of sub-Saharan Africa. One of every five Arabs lives on less than $2 a day. Fifteen percent of the labour force is unemployed. Productivity is declining, R&D is weak or nonexistent, and science and technology are dormant.

As dismal as this reality check sounds, it does, however, provide an impetus for putting an end to conflict and focusing instead on change. The Arab countries must be able to meet the aspirations of a basically young population. Within the next few decades, the overwhelming majority of our populations will have been raised and educated in a world where democracy, human rights, and market economies are the norm, and they will accept nothing less for themselves.

This will require structural change. The capacity of the Arab economies to grow must increase, if it is to absorb the expanding labour force. Growth is also essential in meeting important social goals, reducing poverty, improving the quality of life, enhancing health, and more. All this can only come through regional action, but it cannot come without global leadership and support.

Historically, my own country has always been vulnerable to regional developments. Jordan's economic performance has reflected its dependence on its neighbours, for trade, aid, and remittances. Sustaining social development and fuelling economic growth has proved difficult in the atmosphere of conflict and instability that has ravaged the Middle East.

Despite the odds, however, I am proud to say that Jordan has been successful in charting a new course for our region. We have pioneered a democratic experience that is built on solid institutions of law, accountability, and justice. We have made peace with our neighbours. We have promoted economic reform and opened the doors for private ownership and management. We are expecting to achieve real growth in our economy of over 5% this year on the heels of 4.2% last year. Our exports increased by 25% last year, and more than 19% in the first five months of this year. Exports to the United States rose from a level of $7.5 million in 1997 to over $300 million last year, ushering a new era of Free Trade between Jordan and the United States. External debt declined from 120% of GDP two years ago to around 73% at present.

Beyond these figures, such indicators denote a real commitment to reach out to cement a public-private partnership. This is what will sustain real growth in our economy. In this effort, we have turned to our own young, energetic talents, our best and brightest. They are working to make our goals into realities. In the words of one of them, the 35-year-old chairman of Jordan's IT association: “Two years ago, we brought in Oracle, America Online, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems and others and told them what we were planning. Now we are ready to tell them what we have accomplished.”

Of course, our country has farther to go. We won't stop, we can't stop, until we have found the 21st century promise for every Jordanian. But we have already succeeded, I believe, in setting a standard for our region, laying the groundwork for a modern, strong, and inclusive civil society, a society that guarantees freedom, equal rights and the opportunity for progress and prosperity.

Once again, it comes down to trust. We must live up to the trust of the people, that their future is at the heart of all we do.

And this, too, is the message of Fortune Brainstorm as I see it. To leverage development through the partnership and energy of our peoples. To find innovative ways to create opportunity. And to meet the trust of those who turn to us to build this new century, a century of hope and change.

Thank you very much.