At the Closing Plenary Session of the World Economic Forum
Dead Sea, Jordan
17 May 2004
Every change begins with a vision and a decision to take action. But every change needs extraordinary times and special people. The last three days have been quite extraordinary indeed. They have witnessed the launch of a process to turn the thoughts of entrepreneurs and leaders into action, action that will benefit our region and our world. Men and women meeting here have been relentless in the pursuit of their vision; people who simply will not take “no” for an answer, who will not give up until they have spread their ideas as far as they possibly can. This is the vision that can shift behaviour patterns and perceptions. This is the leadership that can make change happen.
This is the real challenge that we set ourselves to face in this meeting: to marshal the determination and the will that we need, to address the still unanswered question of Palestine, to find the solution for the future of Iraq and to fight to restore our humanity, our values and our innocence.
Over the last few days, we managed to align different interests, abilities and beliefs to produce changes that are meaningful, indeed essential, for this region. We all agreed that change is urgently needed. We are all conscious of the entrenched poverty, failing education systems and continued violence in this region. We therefore concluded that the long-term interests of society must take priority over the short-term considerations of politicians. Peace, stability and prosperity must always guide our efforts of reform, of positive change.
We must also establish benchmarks and milestones along the way to measure success and evaluate drawbacks, and most important to calculate the cost of the missed opportunities. This is the programme of action that will be produced within the next few months by a group of leading members of Arab civil society and government, who met here to start to define a vision for 2010. It will articulate practical steps and concrete policies that must be implemented by governments to effect positive change. It will build on present initiatives and will offer tangible effects that will be understood and appreciated by the people of the region.
The main impetus for action continues to be the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. The real challenge here is to arrive at the belief that we can solve the problem. This has become doubtful in recent months, and our faith must be restored in our collective ability to hold to the vision no matter how disruptive the forces that surround us. We must bring justice for the Palestinians. We must offer security for the Israelis. We must take action for change.
The compelling need for reform is the quest of the Arab youth. More young Arabs today have the freedom, time, social mobility and confidence to face the real challenge of the future. We can no longer afford to deny the younger generations the fulfilment of their expectations of knowledge and freedom. We can no longer afford the denial of rights based on gender. Neither can we afford to deny the sanctity of free expression to all those, whose opinions will undoubtedly contribute to strengthening our political and social culture.
The capacity to cause change grows in societies over time, as small-scale efforts lead gradually to larger ones. But the process needs a beginning, a taste of success that helps people form the belief that it is possible to make the world a better safer place. In this region, if we want to start to effect this positive change, we must address our young, our future. They are the ones who will determine the shape of things to come. They are the global citizens of humanity.
Those who act on this belief will spread it to others. Their stories must be heard.
Thank you very much.