At the World Economic Forum
Singapore City, Singapore
28 April 2005
The idea of a roundtable like this one, is to bring all its members into the circle of ideas. And, my friends, we need you and your ideas, to move forward in this century. The fact is, there are no corners to our globe and no single power centre. Events on every continent can impact the world; leaders in every region set directions, people everywhere can be the nucleus of progress. And nowhere has this proven more true than here in Asia.
Consider Singapore itself. Last month it ranked best in the world for ICT readiness – surpassing the US. This is just one example of the way Asia is transforming itself and the world. Many in this room have contributed to the region's formidable economic performance and promise.
One reality that is very clear is the critical role of civil society and the private sector. No progress can be made without your participation. Countries that advance, are countries that create a partnership between government and people. Again and again, we've seen growth and development take root where there is stability and justice, thrive where there is opportunity, and expand with openness and partnership.
My friends, these are the goals of forward-looking people throughout the Middle East. Today, breakthrough Arab thinkers and doers are working for a better future, through good governance, positive values and a climate of growth and opportunity.
Obviously, long-term growth and development demand regional stability. In Iraq, great strides have been taken. Jordan supports the choices of the Iraqi people. We will continue to assist Iraq's reconstruction. We are also committed to a just and fair resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Arab initiative provides for two peaceful states living side by side, based on international legality. A viable Palestinian state with contiguous borders, where people control their own destiny. Beside it, a secure Israel that lives in peace, accepted in the neighbourhood.
We must not miss this opportunity. The two-state Roadmap has been affirmed by the international community. It has been accepted by the parties. I urge you to support this vital effort to bring peace.
Peacemaking is a step toward a regional future of hope. But it is only one step. The Arab people also know we need reform – political, economic and social. Such reforms will revitalize the engines of growth and promote real development.
A vibrant private sector is critical to future prosperity. It is a key source of the new ideas and the creativity that can expand productivity. But the private sector does not act alone. The public sector also has a critical role. It is the public sector that opens the doors to a society that is rich in opportunity. One key is an enabling environment: fair and consistent regulations, transparent and clear governance. Another key is a great educational system – one that provides a modern curriculum, promotes achievement and gives students skills needed for tomorrow's opportunities.
Jordan has been in the lead. Our reforms are based on the idea of an open, modern civil society rooted in true Arab-Islamic values: peace, tolerance, rule of law and the pursuit of excellence. We've formed a committee of leaders from across society – an inclusive group of people, representing different parties: the media, the private sector and more. They are developing a comprehensive, national reform agenda. Its guidelines will give the government a consistent framework for many years to come.
Our experience in Jordan testifies to the importance of home-grown reform. Deep change cannot succeed unless it responds directly to its own society. It must reflect public priorities and concerns. No action imposed from outside will generate that public buy-in.
Where does Middle East reform go from here? Fundamentally – as in Jordan – the answer will come from the Arab people themselves. Regional leaders from the private sector and NGOs are already meeting to define a new regional vision – a vision for the Arab world in the year 2010. The goal is a plan of action – including specific reforms and set deadlines. Already, a region-wide poll is surveying public views. The plan of action will be launched at next month's World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea.
Reform is in our own hands. Yet we do look to friends for the benefit of their experience. And we have found the Asian model to be of very real value. I'm thinking specifically of Asia's success in creating a platform for growth. I believe my region can learn from Singapore – its achievement in harnessing human resources, its use of ICT to streamline government procedures. We can learn from Malaysia, which has achieved a balance between modernisation and Islamic heritage. We can learn from South Korea, which has risen from war to build its economy and democracy.
This is why I come here again to meet with you. Asia's private-sector leaders, who have helped realise the dreams of their region. Arab private-sector leaders, who shape our region's positive, new future. Together, I believe we can forge a new era of partnership for all our peoples.
In fact, I believe that we are only at the beginning of a new era of cooperation between Asia and the Middle East. I am excited about the possibilities for the partnership with the New Asian Leaders. Next month, I hope some of you will attend the third World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea. It brings together global and regional opinion-makers and leaders. And of course, this June, the Asia-Middle East Dialogue will hold its very important inaugural meeting.
There are no isolated problems in our complex world, and there are no isolated solutions. That's why we in the Middle East, and Jordan in particular, value our close ties to Asian friends. And it is why all of us must continue to work together: to shape our shared future, to make certain its promise reaches everyone.
It is in our power to create a new era of peace and progress, one that will benefit us all. If we work together, we will succeed.
Thank you very much.