At the Opening of the Third Petra Conference of Nobel Laureates
15 May 2007
Nobel Laureates change the world with a simple question…“What if?”
- What if peace groups work together across the divides?
- What if there is a new way to give poor people economic power in their lives?
- What if the marvels of molecular science, laser optics and much, much more can be unlocked?
- What new possibilities for life would these discoveries create?
The combined abilities in this room to imagine, create and produce solutions are immense.
We, in Jordan, are honoured to have so many of the world's great minds come to us today – Nobel Laureates in peace, literature, physics, medicine, chemistry, and economics. We are also honoured to have many other thought leaders come to us today from throughout the Middle East and beyond. We are honoured that so many world-renowned leaders from the public and private sectors are also able to join us at this forum.
All of us, in this room, have this opportunity to harness all of our thought power and abilities and apply them to produce creative, powerful initiatives to nurture tomorrow's leaders.
To those of you who have been here before, and those of you who are newcomers: Welcome, and thank you for being here. I want to recognise a special group of participants this year – some of the brightest young men and women, who represent the youth and future of this region. Welcome and thank you all.
More than half of our region's population is below the age of 18. This represents a significant generation coming of age. These young people are the ones who will shape our future. It is for them I wish to speak today.
My friends, at this conference and after this conference is over, I urge you to help this new generation in our region ask their own “what ifs.”
What if, across borders, we can solve problems we share? - economic development, the environment, health, and more.
What if, in partnership, we can expand prosperity?
What if, person to person, we can create the reality of a region at peace?
Here in our region, youth face special challenges. Like their contemporaries around the world, they are facing huge dichotomies in the condition of humankind. In our region, conflict and economic hurdles are consuming the lives and hopes of millions.
We have immense new knowledge and capabilities … yet our access to that knowledge and the promise it brings is elusive.
There have been tremendous discoveries and achievements in health care … yet billions are excluded from these benefits.
We know more than ever about the environment and how to improve it … yet there continue to be serious dangers from pollution, climate change, and resource shortages.
And, yes, in the global economy, there have been unprecedented advances - in growth, development, and more … yet there are still too many inequities, inefficiencies, and barriers.
This third Petra conference is a defining moment for our meetings here. Over the past few years, we've achieved a foundation of understanding about areas where we, in this room, can have a singular impact. Now is the time to exercise your experience, your influence, and your creative power … and put in place a process that works for those who need our help.
Today, my friends, I am here to tell you that a central focus must be the future of young people, especially here in the Middle East.
Even those who aren't in the front lines feel the impact. Our young people work doubly hard to learn, achieve, and build a future. In just a few minutes, you will hear their voices yourself, in a plenary session on youth perspectives. I won't speak for them. But I can tell you about them. I can tell you that the young men and women of this region have incredible talent and energy and character. I can tell you, they can transform old realities – they can cross the divides, agree on justice and share in the progress of our century.
It is our job, here and now, to help give them the tools to succeed. It begins with your ability to inspire young minds to re-imagine the future.
But today we must not just imagine and inspire. If these powerful thoughts are to make a difference we must initiate positive change.
We must prepare initiatives in areas of core concern – education, economic progress, health, the environment. Your ability to think out of the box can ignite tremendous innovation. Your professional expectations and determination can ensure tangible results.
One promising vehicle, which I believe will attract much excited discussion here, is a regional Science Fund, professionally administered and overseen by Laureates. It would bring global support for academic excellence and research, encouraging advances and training tomorrow's scientists.
Old hands will know we have discussed specific initiatives in the past. This year we must make the connection between ideas and action. It is absolutely critical to achieve tangible, concrete results. In this room is unmatched intellect, credibility, and global influence. We want your ideas to reach beyond the conference room, and we need your ideas to benefit the lives of the people of this region. I urge you, over the next few days, to help find ways to make that happen.
The celebrated 14th century Muslim scholar ibn Khaldun advised those who seek wisdom, to travel widely and meet the great thinkers of the day.
Today, we, in Jordan, seek your wisdom and welcome this meeting of the great thinkers.
My door is not just open to you: it is wide open. I speak for all Jordanians. We stand ready to offer all the help we can.
Working together, a new generation in the Middle East can move into a future of hope. It is not a distant dream.
Conflict can be a chapter in history books.
Students can leave school ready and excited about the future – and tomorrow's jobs can be waiting for them.
Palestinians, Israelis, Jordanians, and others can work together to end poverty, conserve resources, protect children.
They can be models, in a new era, thus continuing our region's heritage of co-existence and social responsibility.
Here at Petra, you can be part of creating this exciting future.
Participate boldly and honestly.
Stay engaged as we move ahead.
Make a difference with your powerful ideas.
Participate in the creation of real initiatives.
If you do all of these things, you will make a difference to millions of lives – one by one by one.
Nothing will be a greater expression of your humanity and genius.
Thank you very much.