At the World Economic Forum Special Meeting on Economic Growth and Job Creation in the Arab World
Dead Sea, Jordan
22 October 2011
In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before we start this special meeting, I would like to express my sincerest condolences to my brother, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, over the loss of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz of Saudi Arabia.
Jordan mourns the passing of such an Arab statesman and leader, a champion of the Arab and Muslim cause. May I ask you all to join me for a few seconds of silence.
May his soul rest in peace.
Thank you, and thank you all for being here. It is a vital time for this special meeting on economic growth and job creation in the Arab World. I want to extend a warm welcome to our friends from many continents who join us today.
Professor Schwab, let me thank you personally for your inspired work and loyal friendship to the people of this region. Long before social media, the World Economic Forum was hosting a global conversation. Where good minds meet, smart solutions take root. That is just what I hope will be achieved here, by all of you.
Our region stands today at the gates to the future.
First is the Gate of Dignity... a passage to the respect our people deserve... and their right, without exception, to the broad horizons enjoyed by others around the world. Aspiring men and women, young people, pragmatic dreamers, gathered at this gate in the Arab Spring.
Second is the Gate of Opportunity... an economic opening for millions more of our people - young, old, urban, rural, badia. To widen this gate, entrepreneurs and innovators, educators and policymakers are desperately needed... not only to free people from today's economic hardships... but to clear a path to the 85-million new jobs that the region needs soon.
The third gate is the Gate of Democracy... not just a political structure but a way of life. An entry to real reform, where people can come together as citizens and stakeholders: assembling in political parties; formulating platforms; building consensus. There is no one path forward from this gate. Solutions must and will be home-grown, in each of our countries.
The fourth gate is the Gate of Peace and Justice... opening the way out of regional crisis, especially at the heart of the region, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Short-sighted leaders may think they can shut this gate. But the future for the Middle East and beyond is with the normalcy of peace... a two-state solution with a sovereign, viable and independent Palestinian state, on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with U.N. resolutions, resolving all final status issues... security and acceptance for Israel… and a new era of peace and cooperation from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.
The four gates of the Arab future are not alternatives. We must pass through them all. Dignity, opportunity, democracy, peace and justice are ultimately inseparable. To cement progress anywhere, we will need progress everywhere.
Your meetings here focus on an area of urgent need, economic growth and jobs. It is hard to find a more central concern for our people - especially our young people, the majority of our population. Today the Middle East has the highest youth unemployment rate of any region in the world. Pockets of poverty make the distress harder... and families everywhere have felt the impact from global crises in food, energy and even finance. This year's events have opened the way to positive change, but in many places, also created painful economic dislocations. Strategies are urgently needed, and they must take place across the board - in economic life; in politics and policies; in social life and cultural values.
Steve Jobs helped prove that people who 'think different' can change the world. He will be sorely missed. But his inspiration will live on. I believe there are a million men and women, with minds that are no less creative and daring, right here in the Arab World. They are ready for the opportunity to act. And they can, we all can, change our world.
When it comes to getting our people employed, three groups have special roles. One is the private sector, which has a strong interest in getting more people off the unemployment rolls. A secure middle class, optimistic about the future, will anchor our strategic region better than any resource. To get there, we need innovative approaches in all areas. In Jordan, for example, we have seen huge growth in ICT, pioneered by visionaries who saw the possibilities of a new regional market, and supported by national investments in infrastructure and education. There is also great potential in other industries our region needs, such as water and alternative energy - which can in turn open new global markets. Many other possibilities are ripe for initiative and I hope you will discover some here.
The second major player in job growth is government. Let's be clear. Political reform is economic reform. For businesses to invest and expand with confidence, they need a predictable, level playing-field... transparency and accountability... the rule of law... and a strong, stable foundation of inclusive political life.
These are key elements of Jordan's reform effort. For us, the Arab Spring has been an opportunity to move our nation's interests forward. We seek a consensual and evolutionary path, engaging citizens at all levels. We have set milestones, and we are keeping to them. New constitutional amendments protect civil rights and freedoms, establish an independent Constitutional Court, and provide for an independent Elections Commission. Wide-ranging legislation will implement these and other provisions. We are anticipating new municipal and parliamentary elections in the near future.
The third key group in regional job creation is of course, our people themselves. Building our region's future is a responsibility that belongs to all. This is true in political life, and it is true for our economic future as well. All the jobs that our region needs will not be wished into being. But we can help opportunity grow, by what we do: by strong and growing productivity; new investments and industries; innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. For this, we need everyone. Employees who do their jobs with dedication and professionalism. Managers who act ethically and competently. CEOs who lead boldly and responsibly. Civil society volunteers and caring young people, who better our communities and help others reach their potential.
We've all seen the soaring archways of classic Islamic architecture. Their design depends on many individual stones... using the strength of each, working in perfect harmony, to create the whole. It cannot stand, it cannot last, without them all.
Today, in our political and economic life, each of us is needed. If we work together, if we lend our full strength to the job, I believe we can make it a future worthy of our great people. My best wishes to you all, for your work today and in the days ahead.