At the Opening Session of the World Economic Forum
Dead Sea, Jordan
20 May 2005
Professor Schwab, may I say on behalf of everyone here, thank you for believing in our region and people. You have always said that dialogue is the door to the future. And you have helped open that door for all of us. Rania and I, and the people of Jordan, are honoured to have you among us again.
Two years ago, in this place, we set out to create a new future; a future of promise for the Middle East. Last year, we carried that effort forward, reaching out to leaders from all sectors – public, private, and civil society. Now, we meet again, to build on that progress – and what we achieve here can bring benefits to our entire region.
It is, truly, time to “seize the moment.” Never has there been greater opportunity for progress. Never has there been a greater sense of agreement that the future is in our hands. Today, positive change is in the air across the region. And many of you have played a leading role.
Success begins with an optimising vision: what the Middle East can be, and must be, to meet the needs of our people: a region of peace and stability. Opportunity-rich. With governments that empower and serve. A strong society that draws on its positive Islamic heritage and faith. A global pace-setter in economic life.
This is a future worthy of all our citizens. But it is especially important for our young people. Arab youth need and deserve a world where they can reach their potential – to be full partners in global advancement – and build a secure future for themselves and their families.
My friends, these are not small goals. To achieve them, we need a winning strategy. Vision must be translated into concrete action. You – who have succeeded at the highest levels in business and in civic action – you know what this requires. Unified action. Clear and definite goals. Programs that focus on results. And standards and timetables to keep us moving forward.
These are all elements of a critical initiative, begun right here last year. “Vision 2010 for the Arab World” was developed by leaders from the private sector and civil society. Together, they identified goals for our region, goals reflecting our own people's interests and values. The Arab public was surveyed to get their views and concerns. A practical plan was developed, ensuring progress can be benchmarked, monitored, and assessed.
These reforms are comprehensive – including good government, education, economic growth, and more. And there's an explicit time-frame – the year 2010 – for realistic and meaningful action.
Vision 2010 is no academic exercise. It is an effort for the whole Middle East to create its own positive change. That demands a real-world process: specific steps that can be implemented by regional governments and civil society.
Now, it is up to you. Over the next two days, there will be panel sessions where you discuss what is needed.
Your action can have a huge impact. In the region, you will help forge consensus on specific reforms. On the global scene, you will be encouraging support for the Arab world's initiatives. This is especially important in view of the next G-8 Summit, which will take place in less than two months. It is expected to issue a statement supporting home-grown Middle East reform, a statement that can be an important bridge between Arab and Western views.
Let me say, Jordan itself is deeply engaged in the process of reform. Our objective is a future that will meet the aspirations of our people. And we have taken bold action. In the economy, we have spurred growth and effective development. In the political sphere, we are embedding the values of good governance, human rights and the rule of law.
We know that effective reform must be an ongoing and inclusive process. So we have created a non-partisan National Agenda Committee with leaders from across society. It is defining national priorities in all fields – political, economic and social. Those priorities, the people's priorities, will be guidelines for the government's reform agenda over the next 10 years. We are also working to vest real decision-making power with citizens themselves. Local legislative councils will help regions set their own development priorities. All these are significant steps in giving people a stake in reform and the great future it will deliver.
This Forum must also face the realities of peace and conflict. Regional instability remains a major barrier to sustainable development and prosperity. Failing to solve this issue is simply not an option.
Yes, there are deep challenges. But there are also significant opportunities. This year has already seen Palestinians and Israelis re-commit to move forward in the peace process. Another positive signal is the recent agreement on the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal – the “Peace Conduit.” Jordan worked with both sides on this project, which will enhance water and energy security and protect the environment for all.
We must ensure that this and other practical projects come off the drawing board. And we must marshal every effort to bring peace to the region as a whole. There must be a lasting, just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: two states living beside each other in peace and security. And we must support a stable, unified Iraq – helping its people as they build a dynamic economy and an inclusive society.
Two days ago, I was pleased to open the historic Petra Conference of Nobel Laureates. These outstanding thinkers brought a fresh perspective to today's urgent problems. Later today, the meeting's co-host, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, will tell you about their work. One important result, I hope, will be to inspire all people to reject limits on their vision for the future. And no vision is more important than yours.
Business experts say that when a company needs to adjust to new challenges, the most effective leaders may already be inside the company, they are the inside visionaries: the people who can see a positive future – and how to make it real. They have a level of insight and a commitment that just can't come from an outsider.
They call these visionaries “change agents.” Well, my friends, you are the change agents for our region. Your vision, your drive, your expertise, can make our best possibilities real.
In the next few days, I encourage you to share your ideas boldly. I challenge you to come up with a process to make those ideas reality. And I ask you to seize the moment – to go forward together, to make a difference, to create a new future for all.
Thank you very much.