At the Commonwealth Club "The Road Ahead: the Need for Vision and Visionaries"
San Francisco, California, US
16 April 2004
So I hope you'll just take me as I am – and accept my deepest thanks. It is a pleasure to be here in San Francisco, and a great privilege to be part of a Commonwealth Club forum. We are meeting here some 101 years after this Club was founded. That's over one hundred years of debate and discussion on every major event of the 20th Century and now, the 21st Century as well.
The people who founded the Commonwealth Club could not have known the vast changes that would happen to their world. But they had a more important vision: they understood the power of knowledge, and the need for dialogue, and the role of responsible citizens in shaping the world.
Now we meet together to look ahead. And I can guarantee you that even if we don't know what the earth will look like a hundred years from now, we do know one thing: dialogue, and discussion, and citizenship – on a global scale – will be key to getting it right.
These are indeed testing times. The great threat of nuclear confrontation between rival superpowers is behind us. But a new constellation of challenges has arisen: weapons of mass destruction … global terrorism … violence and war … health and environmental problems … global economic and financial crises.
Yet there is also terrific promise. Breakthroughs in human knowledge, innovation, communication and education … new tools for economic development … a new willingness to challenge old assumptions and divisions. These all give us new opportunities, opportunities to move in new directions and create real solutions for our world.
Ours is the most information-rich, instantaneous, borderless time in the world's history. Creative thinkers, entrepreneurs, humanitarians and risk-takers have the power to transform people's lives – not just in one small corner of our world, but everywhere. This gives us a special responsibility; a responsibility to act together in the common interest, a responsibility to make sure that all people share in the promise that our new century offers.
Creating that new promise requires vision and visionaries, gifted leaders who see the patterns in our world's chaos – and use their vision to illuminate and inspire others. Futurists like Cisco CEO John Chambers, who knows technology can help bridge the gap between rich and poor. Wise men like UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, whose words and deeds are lighting a way to a more just and safer world. Moral guides like Shereen Ebadi who won the Nobel Prize for Peace last year, and seeks to establish dynamic roles for Muslim women.
In my part of the world, like yours, we are looking to such visionaries – people with the courage to visualise positive change, and the commitment to achieve it. That is the legacy of our greatest peacemakers, my late father, His Majesty King Hussein and the late Yitzhak Rabin.
King Hussein's unceasing energy made Jordan a leader in the search for justice and progress. Today, we and you have a chance to take that process forward. That means articulating a clear, positive vision for the Middle East. It means renewing the values so eloquently taught by the three faiths that came out of the Holy Land. And it means a genuine commitment to act to make peace real.
It is time to break out of the cycle of violence, a cycle that continually takes us back to a past of despair and division. For Israel, it's time to end the occupation and stop the futile effort to humble Palestinians into submission. For the Palestinian leadership, it is time to act responsibly for peace and reform their political institutions.
For both parties it is time to listen to the people, Israelis and the Palestinians, who tell us so clearly: “Give us security, peace and justice.” Israel needs to take the risk for a peace that would create two states, living side by side. The United States needs to clearly and explicitly commit to a Palestinian state.
Some observers are pessimistic about the near future. They question the willingness of the United States to re-engage seriously in the peace process and press for the implementation of the Road Map, prior to next November's election. They predict the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and an end to the prospect of delivering a two-state solution.
There is good reason to disagree. We are witnessing changes in the Arab world that are removing all strategic security threats to Israel. The Arab peace declaration commits all Arab countries to accept peace with Israel, and a balanced lasting solution to the conflict. It also provides for collective security guarantees for Israel, for an end to the occupation and the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian state. It calls for an agreed solution to the refugee question, and a Jerusalem that is shared and open to all faiths. This is the future that would give both Palestinians and Israelis the security and peace they need.
If the common ground we used to stand on no longer seems solid, let us seek new common ground for our collective efforts. Now we need success, and success requires the active leadership of the United States, and a collective international alliance for peace.
In my region, the stakes are plain. For far too long, the Arab-Israeli conflict has cast its dark clouds over regional development. The Middle East desperately needs peace, prosperity and modernity. To address these issues will take new vision, and brave visionaries. Visionaries who can foster responsive, transparent governance … dedicate our educational systems to excellence … and encourage the vigorous private sector that can harness the region's tremendous human potential.
Such reform is in our own hands, and I can tell you, it is underway. But what we do is greatly affected by what the international community does and doesn't do. Your support can encourage reform. Even more important, your actions can nurture peace and justice in the region – creating an environment that offers hope to our young people and lets them share in the world's promise.
We in Jordan are already committed to the work of reform. It's driven by a vision, a vision that builds on our society's strengths, values and history, while it reaches out to global opportunities. And we are succeeding. Jordan has a workforce that is now, per capita, more computer-literate and entrepreneurial, and better educated than most of the developing countries. We are embracing innovation and enterprise. Jordan is the first Arab country to sign a free trade area agreement with the United States of America. That agreement has already started contributing to economic growth and opportunity.
Thanks to these and other efforts, my country is in a good position to seize the opportunities of the new century. I believe that the Jordan model can be an effective one for our entire region. And success in our region can pave the way for a global expansion of security and peace.
The challenge ahead is a big one, and the voices of despair and division are very, very loud. But with vision, with visionaries, I believe we will prevail. We can raise the voices of reason and dialogue. We can deliver the benefits of this century to those who are less fortunate. We can bring peace and security to those who are suffering. And if we do, when we do, we will make this time of conflict and uncertainty into a real age of opportunity and promise.
Thank you very much.