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Speeches
Speech of His Majesty King Abdullah II
To the Opening Session of the World Economic Forum
Dead Sea, Jordan
21 June 2003

Peace be upon you.

Professor Schwab,
Distinguished Members and Guests,

This is titled an extraordinary meeting, and it is, indeed, extraordinary. An unparalleled group is gathered here in Jordan at a critical moment in history, with an unmatched opportunity to help create a new future: a future of promise, a future of freedom, a future of peace.

Professor Schwab, my friend, I thank you for having the vision and the courage to believe in that future and to know that dialogue is the key to the door. It is a measure of your stature that you have brought together so many leaders, from different sectors, from different sides, who all have a role in this region's future. To everyone here, I thank you for your commitment and your efforts; now, and in the days and months ahead.

When we met in Davos, last January, we could not know we would meet again so soon – or that so much would happen in the meantime. Then, we talked about the looming war in Iraq. Now, we talk about speeding up humanitarian outreach, reconstruction and a credible Iraqi government that represents all its people. Then, we talked about winning a commitment to the roadmap to peace for Israel and Palestine. Now, we talk about making that commitment a reality: a comprehensive peace; two states, living side by side, in peace and security.

I have called this a critical moment. At no other time has there been such despair, and yet such hope. Such misery, and yet such promise. Such bloodshed, and yet such a passionate yearning for peace. Such risks – and yet such opportunity.

Less than three weeks ago, in Aqaba, we witnessed Palestinians and Israelis affirm their sincere intent to pursue the road to peace: to the Israelis, the roadmap offers collective security guarantees by all Arabs; a peace treaty and normal relations with Arab states; and an end to the conflict. To the Palestinians, it offers an end to the occupation; a viable, independent state by 2005; and the promise to live as a free and prospering people.

The roadmap has been sanctioned by the international community. It must now be implemented. This will require more than words and wishes. The friends of peace – within the region and around the world – must stay the course. That means real commitment, commitment that will test our leadership, resources, and, our deepest morality.

Since the Aqaba Summit, renewed violence has been a magnet for media attention. Extremists have tried to derail the peace process – to push it back into the old path of division and hatred and futility. When we hear this news, we must remember what the vast majority on both sides want. They want peace – to work and save, to send their children to school, to plan for the future. People are crying out for normal life, for freedom, for hope. These are the voices that count.

My friends, there must be no more missed opportunities. It is time to listen to the prayers, dreams and expectations of those who live in and love the Holy Land. It is time to lead the way to peace; a peace that works, a peace that lasts.

Tomorrow the Quartet – Europe, Russia, the UN and the United States – will meet here in Jordan to plan the next steps for the implementation of the roadmap. The fact that they set their meeting to take place now, side-by-side with this meeting, speaks to the part that this Forum is playing in an historic period of change.

Over the next two days, the members of the forum will focus their expertise on core challenges: identifying mechanisms to implement the peace roadmap – advancing economic, social and political reform in the region; fuelling the engines of growth and development; and promoting the reconstruction of Iraq, a reconstruction that respects the rights of its people to determine their own future. Binding these key issues together is a single thread: the need to make a safer future, and a better future, for this region – and the world.

The need is urgent. Just as we must act now to resolve regional conflicts, we must swiftly heal socio-economic despair. It's true that in the Arab world, there is much less extreme poverty than in other developing regions. However, there are still too many people in need, too many unemployed and more young people facing these harsh realities every day.

Indeed, half of the Arab population is younger than 18. These young people, like young people everywhere, deserve a future they can prosper in, a future with opportunity and hope. Cut off from that opportunity, is it any wonder they doubt the good of globalisation – or the goodwill of the developed world?

To change this, we must act. And I believe that action begins at home. We in Jordan – and many others, throughout the Middle East – are working hard to create a civic environment in which our people will thrive. The basic requirement is an inclusive, democratic civil society – one that guarantees rights, delegates responsibilities, honours merit and rewards achievement. The foundation stones on which we build are peace and stability, basic civil and political rights, essential services, freedom of expression, and the rule of law.

As many of you know, just this week, Jordan held Parliamentary elections. One hundred and ten new members of the Lower House will be joining the country's 55 Senators in working together for Jordan's future. Countless other Jordanians are on the same mission. Public officials, who are spearheading a new ethos of service and efficiency. Private-sector leaders, who are reaching around the world to create new and innovative business. NGO and community leaders, who are safeguarding children, empowering women, protecting the environment; and much more.

To affirm our commitment to human rights, we recently established the National Centre for Human Rights, as well as an independent Higher Media Council. This is our Jordan – a country that is working for accountability, transparency, and peace; a country, proud of its Islamic heritage, and facing the future with confidence.

I have taken the liberty to invite some of our young achievers to join us in these meetings. They are students from Jordanian universities, who represent the kind of excellence our country is working hard to nurture. I hope you will take the time to meet and talk to them – engage them in dialogue, hear their views, and take a moment to encourage them. Because these young people are the future, not only of Jordan, or even our region, but the world.

The fact is that in our borderless century, no country and no region can prosper in isolation. Every country has a responsibility to work for justice, peace and opportunity. But at the end of the day, success will come only when all nations work together to ensure these values on a global scale. This is the true partnership for human development, a partnership based on shared ideals and shared fates; a partnership empowered by a commitment to mutual respect and genuine dialogue.

This global partnership and dialogue is the strength of this forum – its not-so-secret weapon in the fight against poverty, want and terror. As these problems transcend regions, so must solutions. Your global perspective is the “force multiplier” that real answers need.

In fact, many key players in global development are right in this room. Some of you were involved in the international commitment to slash poverty in the least developed nations. Others have been involved in private-sector efforts to lessen the human costs of globalisation, and ensure access to its benefits. NGOs and public-private partnerships are working more effectively than ever to address global crises and problems.

Over the next few days, I ask you – who come together from so many professional fields and national experiences – to bring your insights to bear on our current agenda. I am confident that, working together, talking together, learning together, we can make a difference.

My friends,

Never have we been more in control of our fate. At no other time have we had such clear choices in our actions and decisions. And certainly, at no other place, can we better hear the cries of those who so desperately need us to succeed.

With a prayer for new beginnings, with faith in new freedoms and with hope for new partnerships, the people of the Holy Land welcome you.

On their behalf, I thank you very much.