Opening the 2013 World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa
Dead Sea, Jordan
25 May 2013
In the Name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate,
On behalf of Jordan, a warm welcome to you all.
This is a special day, a great day for the Jordanian family, the 67th anniversary of Jordan's Independence. Allow me a special message on this important occasion:
Peace and God’s mercy be upon you,
We meet today as Jordan celebrates its dearest national occasion, its independence, so I warmly congratulate each Jordanian and the whole of Jordan.
Independence stands for the sacrifices made by our forefathers to liberate the national will, and build a better future. Our independence embodies sacrifice, belonging, and a sense of responsibility to build our homeland and preserve its security, stability, and achievements. I congratulate you all on this occasion, and on behalf of the generous Jordanian people, I welcome you all to Jordan.
Today, we celebrate our beloved country. We honour our citizens, past and present. And we look to the future. I am delighted that you are here to join us.
This Forum recognizes the partnership of all our countries. From the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, our countries stretch in one sweep, like a strong spine across the world. And as a spine is central to a human being, so our region is central to this globe.
Our strength and stability in times of threat, keep the world more secure. Our resilience and progress in times of change, keep the world moving forward. And the choices that we make, carry a message to the world about the future we share.
My friends, the Arab Spring, and its call for human dignity, has become the voice of our century. And the hard work of millions of our people is proving that inclusive, peaceful change is a better path than despair or violence.
This is reason to stand proud. But we cannot stand still. Reform, democracy, and peace are always works in progress, and progress demands we keep moving forward.
We also cannot stand alone. Our countries have their own, unique histories and paths. But a stable, secure future for us all, will take our full capabilities, pulling together.
We are emerging from an era of historic economic challenge: a global downturn; regional dislocations; slow recovery in major world economies. The job ahead is not simply to rebound. We must spur new growth. Our region's single greatest economic crisis youth unemployment pleads for action, double action: immediate relief, to meet urgent needs; and inclusive, high-growth strategies that can produce the millions-more jobs we must have, soon.
These are serious challenges. But I believe there is huge potential in the MENA region not only to solve our problems, but to move strongly ahead. Investors, who look, are finding real opportunities to enter markets, grow business, and create jobs.
The force behind regional opportunity is the expansion of stakeholding: Reform; that empowers people to build the future they want to see and frees our countries to be their creative, productive best.
This is the path that Jordan is taking: Consensus-driven and law-based, creating inclusive, sustainable change that keeps people secure and improves lives.
The Arab Spring helped us intensify this effort, on multiple fronts. And as we celebrate Jordan's 67th Independence Day, our new journey is well underway.
On the political side, we are laying the foundations of effective, party-based, parliamentary government secured by our Constitution, the backbone of our country’s rights and laws. This January, parliamentary elections brought one of the highest voter turnouts in Jordan's history. Record numbers of candidates vied for seats. Sixty percent of the new Parliament are first-time MPs. There has been a consultative process to choose the Prime Minister and the first pilot parliamentary government is underway.
Economic reform is also ongoing. To respond to economic challenges including an unforeseeable energy crisis the government developed a national reform program that has earned us international support. It will make our economy emerge stronger from this latest test.
We seek inclusive growth, the key to job creation, now and in the future. And Jordan recognizes the central role of the private sector. For more than ten years, we have worked to remove barriers to enterprise, and to integrate into the global and regional economies. Our free-trade agreements link us to more than one billion consumers. We have invested in infrastructure, public services, and Jordan's greatest asset our people. ICT companies among others have turned to our young, tech-savvy workforce, helping Jordanian ICT become a leading sector at home, and a leader in the region.
For our relatively small country, with limited natural resources, openness is a strategic choice. But the entire MENA region profits from working together; to expand regional markets; better manage the environment; and encourage innovation and enterprise. This cooperation is the backbone of sustainable, inclusive growth.
Cooperation is also essential for security and peace. For some time, regional economies have survived and even grown, despite nearby crises. But we will never be able to put the full resources of our lands into better lives for our people until regional crises are met.
In Syria, a political solution is urgently needed, to stop that country's dangerous fragmentation and to resolve the dire refugee crisis. Our Jordanian population is now hosting 10 percent of its size in Syrian refugees and this may double by year-end. Jordanians are generously sharing scarce water and other resources. For host countries like us and Lebanon; for displaced and vulnerable Syrians, both inside and outside their country increased humanitarian assistance from the global community is vital. But what is ultimately needed is an immediate end to the violence, so all the Syrian people can rebuild their country.
We must also work together to address the core crisis in our region the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Extremism everywhere has grown fat off this crisis. It is time to stop feeding its growth. The Arab Peace Initiative points the way forward. Now we need to help the parties get on the path. Settlement building and threats to the Holy City and its sacred sites must stop. Good-faith talks must get going. We can and must keep this issue at the top of the international agenda.
Allow me to thank you for your special friendship with Jordan, and our entire region. Your support has been key since the first of these Forums, here at the Dead Sea, exactly ten years ago.
For ten years, we’ve met together, we’ve built futures together, we have welcomed change together. And our partnership continues.
I am especially proud of the Jordanian youth who have joined these Forums over the years young men and women who have brought the voice of a new generation to the dialogue. They and all their peers across the region, working hard for a better world are the backbone of our future.
Let us help them be strong. Here in this Forum, and in the days ahead, we will be welcoming new ideas, new partnerships, new achievements. For prosperity. Peace. Justice. Inclusion. Jordan stands ready to work with you every step of the way.
Thank you and a wonderful Jordanian Independence Day to all of you.