At Harvard University

Speech of His Majesty King Abdullah II

At Harvard University

USBoston, Massachusetts
15 October 1999

President Rodenstein,
Professor Nye,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of Rania and myself, I would like to express our gratitude for your kind invitation to come to Cambridge today, and for this timely opportunity to address such a distinguished gathering. It is quite a privilege to share with you some of the challenges that face Jordan at this present time, as we approach the dawn of a new millennium.

On a historical note, our past is one filled with episodes of surmounting domestic, regional and international challenges. The main objective was to build a successful model of a modern civil society that is established on the principles of pluralism, democracy and the respect of human rights. Internal social, political and economic stability was an essential factor for Jordan to continue performing its regional role of supporting moderation and absorbing the aftershocks of the many crisis that have befallen our region during the past fifty years. We could not have been successful in our determined drive to pursue a fair and just peace had we not been supported by our friends in the world who truly realised the extent of the difficulties that Jordan would face when it set itself to embark upon such an arduous task.

Today, we pride ourselves in the fact that the peace for which King Hussein devoted a considerable part of his life is at long last being given the chance to be a comprehensive and lasting one. Jordan has truly and proudly become a main pillar in the achievement of this cherished dream, as it pursues a process of building peace with its Israeli neighbours that is based on strong economic foundations. Indeed, five years after the signature of the treaty of peace between Jordan and Israel, the model that was shaped by King Hussein and Prime Minister Rabin has passed the test of great challenges, and managed to prove its success as an example of how peace can be best made and most effectively sustained.

In fact, it is this challenge of preserving peace, building upon it, and solidifying its multifaceted aspects that is the greatest task that lies ahead of us. The Jordan of today is in need of domestic strength on the political, economic and social fronts if it is to face the new challenges of peace, like it did when it faced the old challenges of war. Indeed, the reality of the matter is that the role of Jordan in enhancing the security and stability of our region within the framework of peace has become more demanding in terms of its requirements - and certainly more challenging in terms of its implications. It is with this mind that we have prioritised our national agenda to reflect the required measures that would enable us to play a positive and leading role in the new set of interregional relations.

At the top of this agenda is our determination to deepen our democratisation process and to ensure that the culture of democracy becomes embedded in society through daily practices. An important aspect in this regard is the issue of national unity. Jordanians, men and women, regardless of origin, religion, or ideology, need to feel equal before the law, as guaranteed by our constitution. We need to strive to guarantee, through legislation and practice, that this becomes a reality. A strong and independent judiciary that will ensure full transparency and security for all citizens is a matter that I have placed great importance on. We are committed to amend existing legislation and introduce new laws as may be required to guarantee that the opportunities are there for all Jordanians to participate in the development of their civil society.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For the new framework of regional relations to be sustainable, it must be built on a commonality of economic interests, acceptable to all. The globalisation of international economic affairs, ranging from trade matters to investment issues to the protection of intellectual property rights, has left no room for narrow differences among nations to obstruct the process of establishing a new mode of regional economic cooperation and development any longer. Certain requirements are essential for the establishment of this new framework, including a strong political will to positively and constructively address issues of asymmetry in the social and economic conditions of neighbouring states.

Equally important is the determination of states in the region to pursue the path of economic reform, and to adopt and pursue liberal policies regarding trade, investments and the free movement of capital. Jordan has been a leading pioneer in this regard. Our commitment and pursuit of economic reform, as evidenced by the continued efforts to achieve monetary and fiscal stability, the successful privatisation of government-owned companies, and the determination to improve the investment climate in the Kingdom, have placed us at the forefront of those countries intent on helping themselves before seeking the assistance of others.

Jordan's entry into an association agreement with the European Union, and our impending accession to the World Trade Organisation, have paved the ground for an effective and meaningful participation in the global economy. Despite a fourth consecutive year of negative growth in per capita income, our will to continue with the reform of our economy has not wavered. On the contrary, we realise that the more attractive our economy becomes to foreign direct investment, the easier and quicker for it to emerge from its recessionary mode. It is this realisation that has placed the goal of attaining economic stability at the top of our agenda.

One might even argue that the political and social dimensions of the internal stability required to face the future challenges are mere extensions of the economic factor. The example of what we refer to as "the peace dividend" exemplifies this very point. The majority of Jordanians, who were longing to shed the austerity imposed by regional tension and conflict in exchange for the benefits of trade, large-scale investments and vibrant economic activity that is characteristic of renewed hope in a prosperous future, are still awaiting the fulfilment of their dreams. Suffice it to say that the economic underpinning of peace, security and stability is a major factor that would affect the future of our region. Without it, little can be achieved in terms of nurturing support for policies dictated by the goal of achieving the peace that we all aspire for. When viewed as such, this becomes by definition an issue that affects regional, and by extension, global security, and therefore needs to be placed on the agenda of the international community.

In particular, the solution to the refugee issue is a challenge that we in Jordan need to consider very delicately. The point to be made is that only a Jordan at peace and harmony with itself, strong with its people and confident of its future, can deal with such a challenge in a positive and constructive manner. The issue, however, is not a purely a Jordanian or Jordanian-Palestinian one. It rather permeates regional states to transcend international legality.

Our position is well known and calls for the safeguarding of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and to be compensated, in accordance with international legality as pronounced in United Nations resolution 194. Jordan remains steadfast in its support for this position, and will never permit narrow political considerations to affect its call for the restoration of rights whenever and wherever they were usurped.

However, one cannot deny that whatever the outcome of bilateral and multilateral negotiations on this issue may be, the political, social, demographic and economic landscape of Jordan would be affected by it more than any other host country in the region. Despite the fact that we are not direct participants in the final status negotiations on behalf of, or in addition to the Palestinians, this matter in particular, among others, is of vital national interest to us in Jordan. It not only necessitates strong and close co-ordination between Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority, but also requires active international support and involvement. Exercising the right of return by refugees cannot be separated from the notion of compensation, both at the individual and state level. In addition, there are other countries in the Middle East which are categorical in their positions on this highly political issue, and would insist on an international involvement in any scenario or solution.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we pursue our domestic agenda of political and economic reform, approaching a new millennium, which we intend to start with peaceful political relations and positive economic cooperation on the regional level, we cannot stay hostage to the political uncertainties of the future. There is an absolute requirement to be able to know where we are heading, if we are to succeed in fulfilling our regional role. Internal stability is one such essential factor if we are to face the challenges of the peace process.

Equally, there is also a need to close a sad and turbulent chapter on the eastern frontier of Jordan. Iraq continues to be outside the regional framework, with its people suffering from oppression and starvation, and its regime facing mounting military strikes. Meanwhile, differing views within the political outlook of participants in the alliance, and increasing levels of illicit trade that violates on imposed sanctions, are threatening the resolve of the international community. Moreover, the purpose for which the sanctions were originally imposed is no longer clear nor agreed upon by the community of states, and observers have noted that sanctions are being, at any rate, manipulated by the regime for its own interests. Within this atmosphere, no one is certain of the future of Iraq and the prospects for the Iraqi people, a fact that threatens our national and regional efforts for security and cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is the second visit that I pay to the United States. I had a chance to meet with President Clinton, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce, the United States trade representatives, members of Congress and other officials. Our relationship has developed in scope and depth over the past few years, to the extent that it is at its best ever level. We really have a true partnership. We see eye to eye on many issues most importantly freedom, democracy and the respect of human rights. More than anything, the US administration is very supportive of our national and regional role of peace building. We cannot permit challenges, both immediate and future ones, to jeopardise the success of a viable model of democracy, freedom, and free enterprise.

On our behalf, let me state from this podium that we shall continue to do all that we can to help advance the peace process, until we achieve this noble goal and start enjoying the fruits of a new set of relations in the Middle East that will be characterised by positive cooperation. Despite the challenges, we shall continue to be prepared to face the future. With the help of the international community, and with a fair and just peace engulfing the region, our people will hopefully stand to reap the fruits and promise of a better tomorrow.

Thank you very much indeed.