At the World Economic Forum on the Middle East
Dead Sea, Jordan
15 May 2009
Powerful solutions are driven by powerful goals. And I am here to urge you: accept no limits on your goals today. At this year's Forum, you will be addressing the most critical issues of our time. Let your answers be just as bold.
Answers that not simply help our countries get through the global economic downturn but ensure the region emerges as a powerhouse: the go-to place for opportunity and wealth-building and a determining factor in reshaping the global economy.
Answers that not only boost education and research capacity but make our region the house of genius for the 21st century, the source of innovation, discovery and expanded horizons.
And answers that not only end conflicts but create a thriving, secure, comprehensive peace.
Make no mistake about it, these goals are within reach. And yours is the capability, yours is the know-how, yours are the partnerships that will help put them in our grasp.
I know that it is easy, in the hard days of 2009, to feel that events are being shaped elsewhere. A global recession that began far from our borders has affected growth and shaken confidence on every continent. In political and security affairs, short-sightedness has prevented the resolution of conflicts. And occupation and the violation of the basic rights to freedom, to dignity and to a life of opportunity still deny our region the peace it needs to realise its full potential.
These challenges are powerful but they do not have the power to break this region or make its future. That make-or-break power is ours. With the right choices, with courage and will, we can, and must, create the future our people deserve.
It begins with a regionwide consensus on action - a home-grown, home-based approach to unity, progress and peace.
Nowhere is this unity more evident than in the Arab Peace Initiative - the historic opening to a better future for every citizen in this region: negotiated settlement, that will finally end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution, which meets the legitimate right of the Palestinians to freedom and statehood and offers Israel the security guarantees and normal relations it needs.
We have committed. So, now, must Israel. The Arab Peace Initiative has offered Israel a place in the neighbourhood and more: acceptance by 57 nations, the one-third of the UN members that do not recognise Israel. This is true security - security that barriers and armed forces cannot bring.
But the time to act is not indefinite. Every delay has brought more danger, not only for the parties but for the region and indeed, the world. There must be no more missed opportunities, no more process without progress. What is needed is real action and real results: a clear plan for comprehensive negotiations and a vigorous leadership commitment to reach the end-game.
This is the message I conveyed to President Obama when I met with him, just a few weeks ago. I was encouraged by the President's commitment to the two-state solution, within a regional approach to a comprehensive peace. I was encouraged that in all my conversations in Washington, it was clear that people know: inaction is not an option.
The new American commitment has now opened an opportunity to change the direction of events. But no single step will get us where we need to be. Just as the United States has committed to momentum, so we in the region - and all our friends - must keep the focus on results. Let us carry the message worldwide: the groundwork is in place. There are no excuses for failure.
The Arab Peace Initiative is just one expression of our region's determination to shape its own positive future. That same sense of purpose and unity must govern economic and other activity as well.
Challenging economic times call upon us to focus more clearly than ever on the essentials - the investments and opportunities that will build economic resilience as well as meet our peoples’ needs.
To succeed, we must build regional multi-sector, multi-skill partnerships. No single entity owns the region's most pressing challenges - or their solution. Responsive, up-to-date education systems, the management of water and other scarce resources, health and environmental solutions, urban and community development: these and many other regional priorities can be addressed most effectively by combining our capabilities.
A vital dynamic in this Forum is your attention to our most important home-grown asset: youth. The 21st century has brought the Middle East its largest youth population in history. In only a few years, we will be looking to these 200 million young men and women for our region's strategies, partnerships, and solutions. They need and deserve all the tools we can give them, to become the great leaders they are capable of being. To the region's young leaders, know this: you have the power to transform the future. Set powerful goals. All of us here today, will help.
These Forums are forward-looking events. But today, we must also look back. This day, May 15, throughout the world, people commemorate the Nakba, the Catastrophe that began for the Palestinian people 61 years ago. At family tables tonight, there will be elders who can tell of entire lifetimes of sorrow and loss - and newborns, who may be the fourth generation - the fourth generation! - born into conflict and an uncertain future.
This history has been a catastrophe not only for Palestinians, but for the entire Middle East - I would say the entire world. As we join in remembering all that has been lost, as we feel compassion for all who have suffered, let us also commit ourselves to joining the solution as well.
Together, through our own initiatives, I believe our region can lead the world away from destruction and toward the future we need: an undivided Middle East, empowered by cooperation, and determined to lead; an era of promise for every one of our children, for lives of dignity, opportunity, and hope.
Your work here will help make that future real. I thank you for being here. And I wish you the very best success, now and in the days and months ahead.