Queen Rania receives the North-South Prize in Lisbon

March 17, 2009

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department – Lisbon) Her Majesty Queen Rania, on Monday, received the Council of Europe (COE) North-South Prize while accompanying His Majesty King Abdullah on an official visit to Portugal.

The North-South 2008 award recognizes Queen Rania’s concerted efforts to increase public awareness on global interdependence issues and foster inter-cultural dialogue between Eastern and Western cultures.

The ceremony was attended by His Majesty King Abdullah, The President of Portugal Anibal Cavaco Silva, the President of the Portuguese Assembly Jaime Gama, Council of Europe Deputy Secretary General Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the President of the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly Lluis Maria de Puig, and the President of the North-South Centre, Claude Frey.

During the ceremony, hosted in the Palácio de São Bento in Lisbon, Her Majesty lauded the Alliance of Civilizations (AOC), led by President Jorge Sampaio, expressing her highest hope that such dialogue would be a “force of moderation and understanding during times of heightened cross-cultural tensions.”

Queen Rania, who earlier this year launched her YouTube channel in an effort to dismantle pre-existing stereotypes and encourage greater solidarity across the region, referred to her YouTube initiative as an attempt to “remind the world of the similarities we all share.”

Her Majesty also highlighted the significance of building mutual trust between the Muslim and Western world to better the quality of existing relations and bridge the gap of misunderstanding between them.

Further underlining the importance of promoting compassion, mutual respect and tolerance among nations, the Queen said “we are at the beginning of a new age of discovery, an era that sees us connecting openly and rediscovering ourselves and our neighbors."

In this regard, Her Majesty commended the COE’s white paper, a strategy to increase intercultural dialogue adopted by all 47 COE member states last year as “the best antidote to fear, rejection and violence.”

Finally, recalling an inspirational song from her YouTube channel entitled, “Waiting on the World to Change,” featuring Jordanian singer Hanna Gargour and Portuguese Mia Rose, Her Majesty suggested music and creativity can help “bridge the gap” between cultures. “Hanna and Mia aren’t just waiting…they’re actively helping the world by engaging with it,” concluded Her Majesty.

Since its inception in 1995, the North South prize is awarded annually to two laureates acknowledging their deep commitment and outstanding achievements in the field of human rights, defence of pluralistic democracy and North-South partnership and solidarity.

The 2008 North-South award was also delivered on Monday to Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal and High Representative of the United Nations for the Alliance of Civilizations.

Previous recipients of the prize also include Simone Veil, former President of the European Parliament, and Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, for their contribution to the defence and the promotion of human rights throughout the world.

During her stay in Lisbon, Queen Rania, accompanied by Portuguese First Lady Maria Cavaco Silva, also visited the National Coach Museum which contains an impressive collection of carriages and carts dating back to the 17th century.