King attends opening of World Science Forum 2017

Dead Sea
07 November 2017

His Majesty King Abdullah on Tuesday attended the opening of the World Science Forum 2017, held at the King Hussein bin Talal Convention Centre at the Dead Sea under the theme “Science for Peace”.

Hungarian President János Áder also attended the opening session of the Forum, which is held with the participation of 3,000 leading scientists, politicians, academics, policymakers, and investors from 120 countries.

Over the WSF’s four days, participants are scheduled to discuss issues related to energy, water, food security, digital transformation, and challenges to education in 40 plenary and thematic sessions.

Jordan competed regionally and internationally to host the WSF this year, and was selected by UNESCO and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences due to its role in promoting peaceful dialogue and innovation.

Hungary launched the WSF in 2003 in partnership with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and UNESCO. This is the first time that the WSF is held in the Middle East, and only the second time it is held outside Budapest.

In his speech at the opening session, President Áder said: “It is no accident that this year’s forum focuses on the issues of food security, water and energy. All three of these areas are fundamental to security.”

The president urged scientists to find solutions to issues such as water waste and scarcity.

“Our target is to break the vicious circle caused by a growing population, falling per capita water supply and the degradation of agricultural land,” he added, calling for solutions to improve the efficiency of fertilisers and breed more drought-resistant plants.

President Áder also stressed the need to improve the efficiency of energy production, use, and distribution.

Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan—chair of the WSF and president of the Royal Scientific Society, which is organising this year’s Forum—also spoke at the opening ceremony, highlighting Jordan’s focus on innovation.

“Like so many smaller nations, we Jordanians are eager to earn our space in a renewed global consciousness of compassion and creativity. I would like to thank His Majesty King Abdullah II for enabling our nation to see knowledge as central to our inclusive identity, and for guiding a nation of which you are all citizens today,” Princess Sumaya said.

“Today, we are being watched live by a hopeful nation—an expectant region anticipates answers to questions that challenge us all as a human family—beyond ethnicity, class or creed,” she told the attendees, calling for deploying “all our energy to make science borderless”.

During the opening ceremony, King Abdullah honoured excelling Jordanian scientists from various fields.

The honourees are Zaid Kilani and Barham Abu Dayyeh in medicine, Shaher Al Momani (mathematics), Ahmed Al Ghandoor (industrial engineering), Karem Al Zoubi (pharmacology), Khaled Asfar (mechanical engineering), Issa Batarseh (electrical and computer engineering), and Rana Dajani (biology).

Zaidan Kafafi (archaeology and anthropology), Ali Malkawi (civil engineering and architecture), Munir Nayfeh (nanotechnology), emerging medical scientist Sadeem Qdaisat, Omar Yaghi (chemistry), and Sanad Bushnaq (electrical engineering) were also honoured.

The opening session also featured a live musical performance by Jordanian vocal artists Hana Malhas, Tamer Gargour, and Hussein Salman, along with the Amman Baccalaureate School choir. 

Jordanian soprano Zeina Barhoum performed a song while a visual display highlighted Jordan’s archaeological sites and natural landscapes.

A recording of a radio conversation between His Majesty the late King Hussein and Space Shuttle Columbia as it passed over Jordan in 1983 was played during the ceremony.

In addition, a recorded video message from the International Space Station was played.

In the video, the astronauts stressed the importance of the WSF and the humanitarian and global dimensions of space studies, highlighting scientists’ role in peacemaking.

A film titled “Jordan: Where Science Meets Peace” was also screened, showcasing the Kingdom’s efforts to employ scientific advancements in its development process.

Speaking at the ceremony, Japanese-American theoretical physicist and futurist Michio Kaku outlined the transformations expected to take place in the future due to scientific advancements in artificial intelligence, 3D printing, robotics, and smart technology.

He also introduced humanoid robot Pepper. A team of students from the Princess Sumaya University for Technology is developing an Arabic version of the robot’s programming, and it will be shown to schoolchildren to increase their interest in the field of robotics.

Several royal family members, Prime Minister Hani Mulki, Speaker of the House of Representatives Atef Tarawneh, Director of the Office of His Majesty Jafar Hassan, and a number of ministers, senior officials, and ambassadors to Jordan attended the opening ceremony.

On the sidelines of the WSF, His Majesty and Their Royal Highnesses Prince El Hassan bin Talal and Princess Sarvath El Hassan attended a ceremony to honour Princess Sumaya, who received the Order of Merit of Hungary from President Áder in appreciation of her efforts to support and promote science.