At the Arab and American Action Forum
New York, US
19 September 2006
Thank you Saeed. And thank you all for your warm welcome. I am tremendously pleased to be here. Young Arab Leaders are making a major impact throughout and beyond our region. Your work and leadership have helped shape a new action ethic: forward-looking, determined to develop our strengths and participating fully in global progress. Your achievements are reason for great pride and great hope.
We also welcome the partnership of our many American friends, especially those of you who are here today. The CGI has made possible important new relationships, and it is nurturing the leadership - on both sides of the Atlantic - that can carry us forward. May I say a special word of appreciation to the Young Arab Leaders organisation, under the able direction of Saeed, who has led the way to a new face of business leadership, one that is both, globally aware and globally responsible.
This Forum takes place at a critical time. Recent crises have demonstrated a worrying disconnect between peoples and regions. I hear young Arab men and women ask if America is listening to them. Such divisions are bad news for all of us. Because in this century, prosperity and peace cannot be achieved in isolation, or gained by force; they are the products of two conditions only: global cooperation and mutual respect.
In the Middle East, that means getting the message out that regional and global peace is the only way to achieve the better life that people want and deserve. Outside the region, the message needs to be heard that a better future depends on global partnerships - and the Arab nation is your partner, in both peace and progress.
The fact is, that even despite the burden of regional conflicts, the Arab world has been moving forward with a vision for the future. The private sector has put its talents and energy to work, expanding opportunity and accelerating economic growth. Young Arab professionals are guiding innovation and delivering on performance at NGOs and in the education and health systems. Business leaders have collaborated on landmark, region- wide initiatives to strengthen civil society. In Jordan and elsewhere, there is a serious commitment to good governance and reform.
This kind of effort makes an obvious, direct contribution to development. But it does more. It inspires people throughout society about the power of positive action. When a corporation builds libraries in impoverished communities; when Jordanian technology experts work with global corporate partners to put computers in classrooms and expand access to the Internet; when leading private sector enterprises commit to building housing for educators, they are not just investing in the future. They are serving as models to our youth; models of civic responsibility, and hope.
There is no question that the Middle East faces immense and very immediate challenges. The private sector is key. We will need almost 50 million new jobs over the next five years; by the year 2020, today's employment level must double. We can't afford a constant cycle of conflict, draining resources that are needed for priorities like education, health, and infrastructure. We must meet people's expectations for democracy, opportunity, and a better quality of life.
Such efforts must be home-grown. And young Arab leaders are already driving the way forward. But our American and other global partners have another important international role. Many of you have worked with our people; been to the Middle East; experienced our culture and heritage. You've heard the Amman Message and other initiatives, articulating Islam's abiding social values: respect for others; social justice; peace.
Recent crises, especially the crisis in Lebanon, shout out the urgent need for a better partnership among us, especially for peace. The evidence is clear: piecemeal and unilateral solutions do not work. None of us will be able to move forward until there is a comprehensive solution to the region's core problem. Palestinians must be empowered to shape a future of hope in a viable, sovereign Palestine. Israel must be part of the neighbourhood, making peace with all.
In 2002, the Arab states broke the old cycle with a landmark peace proposal. It promised security guarantees for Israel to live in peace with its neighbours - a sovereign, viable, and independent Palestine and a process that would lead to a comprehensive settlement.
The Arab action was an unprecedented opening. It laid the groundwork for specific actions to reach an end to conflict. It supports the two-state solution that is the only basis for lasting peace. And let us move swiftly, before more young lives, more young hopes, are destroyed.
It is in our hands to make a difference. Your vision and leadership will make a critical difference. Over the next few days, you will be considering new private sector initiatives that can drive progress and peace. Your work can create a pattern for success, not for future generations only, but for today's societies.In November, the Young Arab Leaders group will meet in Jordan. I welcome you all, and I look forward to the reports of your work here in New York.
To our American friends, I say: join us. With a collective will to act, our partnership can build a future that benefits us all.
Thank you very much.