Before the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce
15 November 2011
In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate
Your Royal Highness,
Members of the Chamber... and Friends:
Thank you, and thank you all. May I add a word of appreciation for Dr Al-Shuaiby - the first Saudi and the first woman Secretary General of this Chamber - a model of achievement and leadership. Dr Al-Shuaiby, we were delighted to welcome you and Baroness Symons to Jordan this year. And it is a privilege to be with you - and all of you - tonight, to celebrate 35 years of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce.
We meet at an historic time for my region. Each of our countries has had its own, distinct path. But one name has come to describe it all: the Arab Spring ... a season of transition, growth, turbulence, and hope.
Change is a process, not an event. Much depends on what happens next. I'm going to be bold tonight, and suggest three reasons for confidence.
First is the inclusiveness of events. The Arab Spring belonged to no single group. We saw people from many communities and sectors. Youth and women both played notable roles. That is in keeping with their importance: young people, the majority of our population; women, half of humankind. I believe there will be no going back from the participation we have seen. And we need these productive energies, for solutions to move forward.
A second reality is the central issue of human dignity. From street sellers to students, from teachers to business leaders, the call has been for respect, for every person. This spirit is vital. Positive change must go beyond formal structures. It must involve a way of life, built on shared values: fairness; accountability; the rule of law; respect for each other.
A third reality we saw this year was global awareness. Millions of our people, more each day, are connected to a global conversation. Like their peers everywhere, our people want to help lead the progress of the age: broader horizons; more access to opportunity; and a share in shaping the world's future. The Arab people simply will not be shut out of the worldwide partnership of humanity. This is a platform for even deeper global cooperation - region-to-region, business-to-business, people-to-people.
Much is involved in bringing today's expectations to reality. Many of our countries face urgent needs. Our young people are coming out of school to face the worst unemployment rate of any region. Smart economic policy is critical, to support inclusive, jobs-generating growth. We also need good governance – for predictable, level playing fields; and a strong foundation of stable political life. And we need partnerships, from international friends who recognize the strategic role of the Middle East in the future we share.
In Jordan, we are well on our way to the future, along multiple tracks. New constitutional amendments are already in place, to protect civil rights and freedoms and ensures separation of the three branches of government. A new, constitutional court is being established, along with a new, independent elections commission. Meanwhile, we are working with determination to develop national parties and political life.
In economic policy, our focus is on jobs-rich growth, innovation, and new enterprise. National investments in infrastructure and education are continuing - and we are seeing results in the success of sectors like ICT. Free-trade agreements have helped Jordan-based companies find good markets. British firms have entered exciting areas of growth: alternative energy and mining; financial and legal services; ICT; and more. The future also looks bright in tourism, health services, engineering, and other areas. I am deeply grateful to the GCC States for their support for Jordan’s accession - a strong signal of confidence in our country's global access, safety, and growth potential.
Elsewhere I have spoken of the four great gates to the Arab future - Dignity, Opportunity, Democracy, Peace and Justice. They are indivisible. And our region cannot achieve its full potential until all of them, all of them, are achieved.
My friends, it is time, it is long past time, to honour the dignity, rights, and dreams of the Palestinian people.
The Arab States have spoken with a united voice on behalf of a just peace: two states, with a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine, on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with UN resolutions, resolving all final status issues, with security and acceptance for Israel. Tonight I ask for your partnership in the work of peace as well as prosperity, to get the parties to the negotiation tables and a final agreement.
In so many ways, the world is a different place from when the Chamber first opened its doors.
In 1975, Bill Gates was a college student, Apple meant a record company, and Top of the Pops was not nostalgia. The tallest building in London was the BT Tower. The first British Concorde flight - to Bahrain, by the way; not to New York - was almost a year away.
And our children did not have mobile phones.
It is all but certain that in only a few short years, more change is coming. But one thing will not change: the power of partnership. And partnership has never been more important than now, as my strategic region moves forward. Friends that join us will share in our success... and send a positive signal that earns trust across the Arab World.
Together, it is in our power to make win-win investments in jobs, confidence, and growth. To create opportunities that create opportunities, markets that create markets, expanding the horizons of the Arab and the British people alike. To fill our neighbourhood with peace and cooperation from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean; from the North Sea to the Red Sea; and far beyond.
I wish all of you, a central role. Thank you very much.