At Georgetown University
Washington, DC, US
21 March 2005
Members of the Board,
Distinguished Faculty and Guests:
Thank you. I am honoured to receive this degree; doubly honoured, to receive it from a university that I attended and respect so greatly.
Georgetown University is an enduring testament to the good that comes when the doors of scholarship are open to a global community. By welcoming students from around the world, you have helped create a truly international dialogue. I am proud to be counted among you.
I came to Georgetown for graduate studies in 1987. Just 18 years ago – and a world away. In 1987, the Berlin Wall was standing. The Dow Jones Average made headline news by topping 2000. There was no World Wide Web. No dot-coms and no dot-com crash. Global trade was a fraction of what it is today. And nearly half the population of today's Arab world had not yet been born.
Historic changes and challenges. Breakthroughs in human knowledge and opportunity. And yet, for vast numbers across the globe, the daily realities have not altered. Their world is one of poverty, unemployment, hardship and relentless conflict.
When I talk to people in need, they tell me they want to hope; they are eager for opportunity; they are ready for better days. And I can tell you that every time their hopes are disappointed, all nations lose. Because earth's dispossessed are vulnerable targets for extremists: those who teach that global justice is meaningless, that satisfaction can come only in violence, division and intellectual isolation.
Ours is a moment of great potential for my region and the world. It can be an era of openness, cooperation and advancement – a time for ending old divisions and expanding prosperity. But we will not achieve that potential until we reach the voiceless majority. It is time to give them new reasons to hope and meaningful ways to participate – economically, politically and in shaping our global culture. Most important, people need confidence that opportunity is available to all.
This is the challenge of 21st century development and reform. Clearly, it is not a challenge for the Middle East alone. But for those of us in the Arab world, who believe in the future, who believe in our people – it is a challenge we accept.
More than five years ago, Jordan committed to a reform strategy that would accelerate the pace of change. We have taken specific steps to support pluralism, strengthen private-sector-led growth and create a renewed social contract. In our view, successful reform is not an event. It is a sustainable process that will build on its own successes – a virtuous cycle of change.
That means educational programs that equip young people to succeed in a modern economy. It means human-rights initiatives that empower women and youth to participate fully in the life of the nation. It means disengaging government from state media to support the growth of a responsible, independent press. It means good governance to facilitate private-sector job creation and national economic growth – indeed, last year, Jordanian GDP grew 7.5 percent.
Real change only happens when citizens throughout society understand and commit to reform. This is one reason effective reform must be home-grown. It is also why, in Jordan's model, participation is important at every level. In addition to our elected national Parliament, we are establishing development regions across the country, each with a directly elected local council. Such decentralisation will give the grassroots a more direct say in their own development.
Most recently, I tasked a high-level committee to set a national agenda to guide the country in all areas – political, economic and social. The committee brings together leaders from government, the media, civil society, political parties and the private sector.
We believe that Jordan's reform model is relevant to the entire Middle East. It responds to the challenges and opportunities of the modern world. It takes inspiration and power from our society's deepest Arab-Islamic values: respect for human dignity, global good citizenship, tolerance and peace. And we have spoken out very clearly about these values, in our worldwide Amman Message about the true Islam.
As President Bush recognises, reform will take a different course in each country in the Middle East. In my meeting with the President last week, we had very good discussions about the progress that is being made. The Arab world is writing a new future; the pen is in our own hands. But we need and welcome the support of friends throughout the world.
Nowhere is that support more important than on the issue of Arab-Israeli peace. This conflict has caused major instability in our region. You can't build solid reforms where violent shockwaves are constantly churning. Make no mistake about it: today, the enemies of a just peace are enemies of Arab progress. For sake of the parties, the region, and the world, the time has come to heal the land.
Today, we have an unprecedented opportunity to move the process forward. The parties have agreed to the Roadmap. The international community is on board through the Quartet and the G-8. In London earlier this month, leading nations committed to helping the Palestinians create the security and economic opportunity that progress requires.
Next is the hard work to make real history. For that, the friends of peace need our constant and active support. Let's help them stay focused on the promise of lasting peace. It is a positive vision put forward by Arab nations in Beirut three years ago – and one to which we remain committed. A sovereign, viable Palestinian state – one that gives its people the dignity of freedom and provides a future of hope. Security guarantees for Israel, based on regional acceptance and peace, from sea to sea – from Morocco's Atlantic coast to the United Arab Emirates' Gulf waters. And a process that can bring regional reconciliation – one that leads to a comprehensive settlement that addresses the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.
Other critical issues, too, need our united support. In Iraq, the difficult work of reconstruction continues. Iraqis need our help as they build security, establish effective and inclusive institutions, and rebuild their historic country. In Lebanon, the international community must support a peaceful, democratic future. Globally, we must work together against terror and to bridge economic and cultural divides.
Education is key. More than ever, people and nations need knowledge – of our common bonds, of history's shifts, of humanity's mistakes and successes. Georgetown University can take pride in its important role. I was privileged to be here in 1999 for the dedication of the Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies. It is only one of the many ways that this university contributes to cooperation and understanding. Let us never silence that dialogue. In the days and years ahead, I urge you to keep your doors open to the young people of my region.
My friends, our nations and futures are inseparably linked. Creative thinkers throughout our societies have the power to transform lives around the globe. It is up to us to open minds and lives to the promise that our century offers. Together – in the classroom, in the workplace and in the halls of government – we can make the promise real.
Thank you very much.