Official website of His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein
Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II
At the Economic Club of Chicago and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations
Chicago, US
11 June 2004

Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you all for your warm welcome; and Lester, thank you for that very kind introduction. It is a pleasure to be in Chicago. To me, and so many others around the globe, this is one of the world's great cities – a global hub of ideas, of business, of innovation and outreach. Its rich diversity shows the strength of an open society. Its great universities teach the power of reason and dialogue.

And its baseball teams … well, its baseball teams … prove the enduring human spirit of hope.

It is a special honour to join all of you this evening. The Economic Club of Chicago and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations are respected across the world. Your members have helped create a global forum on the most urgent issues of our time: inclusion, peace and prosperity.

That dialogue is critical for the 21st Century – critical, because today, countries large and small, rich and poor are influencing where our global system is headed. As people's actions impact events, so do their ideas, aspirations and relationships. We cannot afford misunderstanding and rejection. We must reach out to each other in open respect. Think of our world as an ocean of multiple, crossing, political and economic currents with intermittent storms. Navigating in this environment demands good communication. And this is especially important when it comes to the future of the Middle East.

As some of you may know, I've just come from the Sea Island meetings of the Group of Eight. For those of us in the Middle East who are working for modernisation and reform, it was a chance to articulate our goals and the changes in our region. For the G-8 nations, it was a chance to explore new ways to support these positive efforts – efforts which will benefit not only the Mid-East, but indeed, the entire global system.

I am pleased to tell you that we had very productive meetings and outcomes. I believe we laid a foundation for a new partnership for progress, one that will support development, peace and stability in the Middle East.

Reform is an essential part of my region's future, and I'd like to say a few words about that. Today, most Arabs agree that reform is vital. Arabs also agree that for reform to succeed, it must emerge from within our own societies. And leadership for such reform has emerged. In support of freedom and tolerance. In favour of transparent, responsive, accountable governance. For a civil society where human rights, gender equality and the rule of law are all respected.

And may I also say these are the deepest values of Islam. They are the historic values that drove the ancient Arab world's humanism, and its pioneering civic development. They are the values that, today, make millions of Muslims great citizens, here in America and around the world. Indeed, Islam's core values are essential features of healthy, stable democracy everywhere. The equal dignity of all people; respect for reason and law; tolerance; personal responsibility: these and other principles can drive, and are driving, a new era of progress in the Middle East.

I am pleased that in Tunis last month, the Arab League concurred in the need for reform. And today, leadership for regional reform is moving forward. The new partnership of Sea Island will provide needed support for key initiatives. Over the next few months, we will be working together on measures to support entrepreneurship, micro-finance, education, gender equality and democracy.

But we must not think only in terms of individual programmes. There must also be a strong framework – a recovery plan that can give people, especially youth, a sense that they will share in the promise of our time. I'm talking about a Marshall Plan, as it were, for the recovery of the Middle East.

As most of you know, the original Marshall Plan reached out to the people of Europe at a time of tremendous scarcity and despair. It was a time when the forces of a closed world were actively trying to take advantage of people's hopelessness and fear. But the Marshall Plan gave Europeans the support they needed to build strong, free societies. And the great free world alliance that resulted kept liberty secure.

What could be a better description of what is needed now for the Middle East?

Months before the tragedy of September 11, I challenged American friends to consider a new Marshall Plan, one that would give the Middle East the tools it needs to resist the global enemies of tolerance and peace. That plan is needed now more than ever, to give people hope, and offer them an alternative to hate and division.

At Sea Island, we also reaffirmed the need for peace – and soon. This means a just, lasting, and comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The details are known and clear: A two-state solution based upon UN Resolutions 242, 338 and 425. A free, sovereign, viable, democratic and contiguous Palestine. Security for Israel to live in peace with its neighbours. A process that will allow for a comprehensive settlement to emerge; one that will also address the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.

My friends, I know that these days our newspapers are filled with other concerns; other bloodshed. We must move forward in building a legitimate, inclusive and effective political process in Iraq. But make no mistake about it: the Arab-Israeli conflict remains the central hurdle to peace and progress in my region, and in the world. While its violence and despair continue, extremists will continue to spread their hatred and division. It is time to listen to the people, Israelis and Palestinians, who tell us so clearly: “Give us security, peace and justice.”

The goals I have been speaking about, peace and reform have been a central focus for Jordan. We are at peace with our neighbours. And we have committed to a modern, tolerant, open society.

In the economy, we have encouraged innovation, enterprise and partnership with the private sector. Jordan was the first Arab country to sign a free trade area agreement with the US, and that agreement has already contributed significantly to economic growth and opportunity.

In education, our focus is on empowering youth. Today, whether in busy urban centres or remote desert communities, you'll find students surfing the Internet. First graders are learning English as a second language. University students are learning information technologies and the skills of critical thinking.

The American University of Jordan is one of the initiatives that Rania and I have great hope for. This private, non-profit institution is scheduled to open in 2009. It will be partnered with leading US institutions; it will be open to all students in the region; and it will adopt the standards of world-class scholarship: open inquiry; freedom of thought and freedom of expression.

In these efforts and others, Jordan is showing what a home-grown Arab-Islamic model can accomplish.

My friends,

Great opportunities lie ahead. A world where all people share in the promise of human knowledge; participate in global prosperity and growth and fulfil their human potential. This is our goal in Jordan, and this is Jordan's goal for the Middle East.

It is time that we move forward to peace, stability and development. Together, I believe we have the partnership to succeed. Our region, and our world, deserves no less.

Thank you very much.