Before the Arab-Asian Dialogue Forum
Singapore City, Singapore
27 April 2007
(Delivered by His Royal Highness Prince Faisal Bin Al Hussein)
Thank you, Saeed and thank you all. I am delighted to be here, at the first meeting of the Arab Asian Dialogue. Allow me to congratulate all of you for being part of this milestone. This Forum is part of an emerging global dialogue that is engaging high performers from around the world. It is uniquely focused on young leaders who can set an agenda for action. This is tremendously important for our countries and regions.
I am honoured to have an opportunity to say a few words before you start your working meetings. And I hope I can leave you with a sense of the historic developments you are part of. The first is the emerging, and critical, nexus between Asia and the Middle East. The second is the vital contribution of private sector and civil society leaders like so many of you, who are creating and sustaining this region-to-region partnership.
The relationship between Asia and the Arab World is an ancient one. But our modern connections are energised by today's multi-polar global system. In recent decades, many more players are shaping world trends. Developing as well as newly developed countries are having a significant impact on the global marketplace and on international policy. And this influence reflects not only the achievements of individual nations, but a new level of inter-regional cooperation as well. More and more, we are each other's partners in progress and prosperity - leveraging our strengths, sharing solutions to common challenges, and increasing our say in world events.
We can see this in the growing connections between Asia and the Middle East. Both Inter-region trade is setting new records. Cross-border investment, business-to-business interaction, and other economic ties are up. Our countries have worked together in international forums to advance shared concerns, like market access, debt policy, and resources for development. Beyond all this, there is significant cooperation in education, development, and other critical fields - including the vital sphere of security and peace.
I believe that what we have achieved is only the beginning. There is a future for partnership in many other critical areas. There are obvious shared benefits from working together on cross-border challenges like health, environment, and security. We have vital intersecting interests in key fields from energy to technology. And our regions have a unique fit in trade and commerce: combining the Arab World's gateway position between East and West, Asia's global reach as producer and consumer, and both regions' greatest asset, the vitality and talent of our people.
In all these areas and more, partnerships can put our synergies to work for a better future for the people of Asia and the Arab World. Together, we can create new alliances for development - innovative strategies for economic growth - global models of dialogue and respect - and a common front for peace. We in the Arab World are guided to this partnership by Islam's most cherished social values - tolerance, co-existence, and respect for others. It is this that calls us to work in partnership for the progress of humanity in our age. And Asia is one of our most valued partners.
Governments have played a key role in recognising and fostering the Asia-Arab friendship. But people throughout our societies need to be engaged - in creating understanding between our cultures, and in creating the mechanisms and institutions that will sustain our ties. Success requires all of us: government, with its powers and mandate for the public good; the private sector, with its focus on effectiveness and achievement; NGOs, with their expertise and commitment; teachers and scientists, with their knowledge and vision; and many more.
In the Middle East, we've seen the impact such engagement can have. Leadership groups like the Young Arab Leaders, the Arab Business Council, and others are contributing to reform, development, and the growth of opportunity. Businesses and NGOs are major players in public-private partnerships that are making a difference in education and other growth-producing, community-sustaining development initiatives.
What's exciting to see is the growth of similar synergies at the regional level. This Forum is one such gathering, with tremendous potential to create long-term networks for cooperation and benefit on both sides. New Asian Leaders and the Arab Business Council are working together to create platforms for joint development. AMED, the Asia-Middle East Dialogue has created a new, institutional structure for addressing a wide range of shared concerns.
These and other initiatives provide important opportunities for action. Singapore has been active in sponsoring the AMED process as well as innovative initiatives, like the regional vocational training centre in Jordan, to help young people develop needed skills. Japan has been instrumental in the Peace Corridor concept, which will engage the private sector in Jordan, Palestine, and Israel in economic cooperation. In my country, the pioneering Jordan Education Initiative is the result of partnership among global corporations, Jordanian experts, education specialists, and more. And the JEI approach is going international, including here in Asia, where it is being adapted for use in India.
These are just a few examples of the specific, practical programs that can bring people together to create prosperity. Obviously, one of the most important places that can happen is within the private sector itself. Throughout the Middle East, there has been a serious effort to facilitate economic activity and create opportunity and development. We know this is essential in meeting the needs of our young people - more than half of our current population.
A new generation is coming of age with urgent expectations: for jobs, for hope, for respect. We need to help them succeed, and I believe that, working together, we can. Indeed, youthful populations can be powerhouses of growth and advancement. The Asian Economic Miracle was fuelled by a significant youth demographic. Young innovators across the world helped bring the 20th century flood of new technologies - transforming global possibilities.
In just the same way, the Arab World's youth population can and will drive regional growth and achievement. And leaders like you can be trailblazers - not only by working together to create vehicles for economic opportunity, but also by modelling leadership responsibility, respect for others, and the satisfaction of real achievement.
Our young people, yours and ours, also need peace. Violent crisis in the Middle East endangers the whole world. And no conflict has greater repercussions than the core conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. There must be peace and justice for the Palestinian people.
Last month the Arab states renewed their commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative - a fair and just resolution to the crisis, one that offers solutions that both parties can take confidence in. It would provide security guarantees between all Arab states and Israel; Israeli withdrawal from Arab territories occupied since 1967; and, at long last, a sovereign, viable, and independent Palestine.
There is a critical need for all of us to work together to achieve real results – a lasting, comprehensive settlement, this year. All friends of peace and progress can play a role, by urging progress and helping the parties focus on the future.
Centuries ago merchants and others crossed the seas and continents between Asia and the Arab World, and opened the doors to an historic partnership. In those days, that effort truly did require the energies and enterprise of youth. The famous Arab traveller ibn Battuta was 27 when he began his global journeys, and in his early 40s when he reached East Asia. (Well, that was 700 years ago. The trip is a little faster these days.)
These early travellers and merchants were the global business leaders and opinion-makers of their day. And what they did, began a process of cross-cultural understanding and world commerce that is the foundation of today's global system.
Today, you are the global pioneers and thought leaders. You are the opinion-makers who can see other cultures face-to-face, and share with a much larger public, the reality of our shared concerns and values. You are the young leaders who can energise and reach the coming generations. You are the achievers who can create tomorrow's partnerships.
Over the next few days, this Forum will hold discussions on thought leadership, economic action, and building dialogue. The fact is, these are not separate concerns. Economic and development gains won't happen without forward-looking thinking at every level of society – from business executives, teachers, development experts, and many more. And part of that forward-looking thinking is a global dialogue – among people who can partner across oceans, think creatively, cooperate, and achieve.
It is in your hands to create a new dialogue of respect between cultures. To find innovative solutions to shared concerns. To leverage our partnership for progress and peace. And to encourage all those who look to you for inspiration.The long friendship between Asia and the Arab world is alive in your leadership. I wish you and this Forum the greatest success.
Thank you very much.