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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

During the closing session of WEF 2006 with Klaus Schwab, Queen Rania: “We need to implant the right values in our youth”

Your Majesty, Queen Rania, we are extremely honoured and pleased to see you here at our closing session and I don’t know how I shall actually greet you, because you are coming here in a number of different capacities. Of course, everybody knows about your important, crucial role you are playing in your own country, in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but I have also the privilege to welcome you as a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum. And I have the privilege to welcome you as the Chairperson of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders Forum. And most important, I have the pleasure to welcome you here as a partner in your capacity of having been the host of three meetings, the three meetings we had in the last three years, at the Dead Sea. So many reasons to have you here and we are looking very much forward to the discussion with you, but first ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Her Majesty, Queen Rania.
 
We felt the best way, and in the spirit of the World Economic Forum, we should have this closing session in the form of a discussion between Her Majesty and myself.  
 
Now, your Majesty, there was a lot of discussion on reform during the last three days. Your country has been amongst the leaders of taking in a very bold way the necessary reforms to speed up economic and social development. Now, if you look back since we met the first time here in the region to the World Economic Forum in the Middle East three years ago, are you satisfied with what has happened to the reform processes, what is your assessment?
 
Queen Rania: Thank you Klaus, thank you very much to you all for the wonderful introduction.  
 
I think when we look at reform in our part of the world, it’s difficult to generalise because I think different countries are making different levels of progress on such reform and moving at a different pace. But I think we have reason to be optimistic. Firstly I feel that the debates on reform is no longer perceived to be in the ownership of those on the Opposition who want to fulfil their own personal agenda but has now permeated the whole of the Arab society and the majority of Arabs who want what’s best for their countries. We see exciting changes happening here in Egypt, as you mentioned in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia and other countries.  
What is very important to remember, I feel, is that reform is a two dimensional approach. There is the process of reform and that involves the tangible things like elections. We saw free and democratic and transparent elections taking place in the Palestinian Territories, in Iraq. We see a lot of countries that are opening, putting policies to open up their economies for foreign investment… but beyond the process I think there’s the values we have to instill, the values of tolerance, acceptance respect for human rights, women’s rights, freedom of expression, property rights, etc. And I think these are the values we have to pass on to the next generation that will ensure that the process is successful, sustainable and really genuine.  
 
Your Majesty, what in this process, what can you personally and can particularly also Jordan contribute to a (better?) Middle East?
 
Queen Rania: I think each one of us, each country, has to, can contribute in its own right by taking the right policies, by ensuring that the changes are made on the ground for example I have seen in my line of work, I try to be involved in issues that have an impact on peoples lives not just in a tangible way but also in terms of different perspectives, new ideas, so for example when we are talking about the issue of child abuse, its not just about protecting the children and providing shelter and services, but its about instilling the values of proper child rearing, of educating children about their rights, public awareness campaigns, or we talk about micro-finance – its amazing,- it never ceases to astonish me what an amazing transformation micro-finance can make in people’s lives and how it can unlock the productive financial capacities of people. But just as important are the values of self-reliance empowerment and entrepreneurial skills that these kinds of projects can make. So, again, it’s the tangible things the process that I once again focus on.
 
Your Majesty, speaking about values, here during the last three days again we have spoken a lot about ethics as a business community and we have particularly spoken about seeking the connectivity between economic and social development, and I know, your Majesty , you are often in meetings with the business community, boardrooms, but you are also in class rooms, you meet NGOs, you are really close to those social issues, now I even read recently – or I heard, you have been in the slums of Old Dehli, now how, in your opinion, it was a key issue here during this conference, how in your opinion, should business, governments and civil society work together in a partnership to address all those complex issues?
 
Queen Rania: Well, you know, when we talk about reform, I think its not just about the policies of leadership has to take and instil in the country, but its also about the private sector re-evaluating their role and what kind of contribution they make to the reform process. And I have to say that I have seen a paradigm shift in the way that the private sector views community work. Traditionally, social work was viewed as just charity – and charity meant just sometimes making a donation and never looking back. Now, although making a donation is a positive thing, I think in the 21st century it is more about engaged giving. It’s no longer enough just to give to a cause its important to adopt a cause. So I’m happy to say that I’ve been seeing more and more members of the private sector sort of loosening up their ties, rolling up their sleeves and really getting into the process of development. And for example, its not just enough for a CEO to commit financial resources to a cause, but he also has to get involved in sharing his success stories, talking to the community, getting his employees and members of his team to actually engage and allocate some of their time to some of the social causes. For the shareholders themselves, not only to encourage but to insist that their companies invest in community services, because that’s part of the success of the company. So, as I said it’s more of an engaged kind of giving and like any kind of engagement or marriage, it’s about forging a long term relationship with your community – opening up your boardrooms for the grass roots. Bringing in the business know-how with the grass roots knowledge. Partnering the best business practice and resources with the resourcefulness of the grass roots. This is not something that can be done from behind a desk. So, if you ask me what should the private sector do? I think the private sector should listen to the grass roots, should engage them, look at forging long term partnerships with them – and this is for the benefit of all.
 
The key word in what you just said, your Majesty, is engagement, and I feel this engagement means also the community – the business community – brings on the plate – its best – which means its specific know-how , its managerial capabilities, and we have initiated together with your government the ‘Child and Education’ initiative, which we have now the great pleasure to have followed by an Egyptian education initiative . I think this is a very good example of how government, business and civil society can work together.
 
Queen Rania: It's all about forging partnerships. For the business sector its not just about the bottom line, I think its about forging lines of communication  
 
between them and each other, sharing knowledge between them and the community, and them and leadership and as you said, this was a great example of a tactic which has lead to quite wonderful results and these are the kind of things we want to see ... more passion and more ownership from the private sector when they come to work with their communities.
 
I think there’s a big… let’s say …. growth of development – usually we talk only about corporate social responsibility, what we are speaking now about is corporate global citizenship. Because corporations have suddenly big advantages from globalization, we all know. We have many issues on our global agenda which can not be served by governments or business or civil society alone, we need co operation – and here I think, this engagement of business, of business feeling, since I have a role to play in addressing all those issues is very important …
 
Queen Rania: Absolutely, and its not just…again I’d like to reiterate … it not just giving financial resources, but in the 21st century sharing of knowledge is very, very important. So, the company, as I said … you know through my work, a lot of times I go and visit centres, for example, a community centre that was donated by a company and as soon as I enter I can immediately tell whether the private sector is engaged or not, because if it is engaged you feel that there’s a heart and a soul and a passion in that community centre and there’s a great deal of enthusiasm and ownership by the community itself. They feel that they are being engaged that their voices are being listened to and there is knowledge being passed on to them. And I always say, knowledge is a very rare kind of resource, because it’s a resource that grows when it is shared so the more we can give of it the better it is for all.  
 
Your Majesty, I have to tell you one of the striking experiences during this meeting was the active role of women. We had the honour to have you as a co-chair in the past – and we had here also a woman as a co-chair and women were very outspoken. Now, you are yourself a young woman leader here the region. Do you feel what we see here is only the surface and a lot has to be done or do you feel real progress in terms of engagement of women in society? And maybe I would add immediately …. This is a question : What else, what do you feel should be done to close the gender gap?
 
Queen Rania: Well, again, I’m rather optimistic. Again, each country is making different levels of progress and there are obviously many issues that need to be tackled. There’s a lot of work that’s still ahead of us. But again the debate on the empowerment of women has been elevated from one that is just about achieving equality for women, to achieving development for all. In other words, people are beginning to realise that women need to be integrated not only for the sake of women but for the sake of the development for the whole country … and a recent World Bank study has showed if women’s participation in the labour force increases in parallel to investments and gains in education then the average household income in the Arab world will increase by 25%. So in other words, the Arab world has been sailing at half mast and we’re wondering why we’re not catching the wind! and why we’re so far away from the finish line! So that kind of appreciation I think is setting the right kind of atmosphere for us to really engage more and be more committed by all sectors of society to work more for women. And its not just about policies but its also about perceptions and these are the things that are more sometimes difficult to change but we have to challenge some of the mind sets and cultural perceptions that really stand as barriers for women to enter into the workforce. I’d like to mention here the pioneering contributions of the First Lady of Egypt , Mrs Suzanne Mabarak, who has been indeed a pioneer in the Arab world when it comes to women and their role. Through my interaction with here I always feel the passion she has for this and she really demonstrates how giving purpose to power can really make a change on the ground, so, I would really like to applaud her for all her contributions.  
 
Your Majesty, the theme of this meeting was the promise of a new generation ….what do you feel ….what is the promise for you, for the new generation?
 
Queen Rania: Well, I hope we can give the new, the next generation a better Arab world. I think they deserve it from us! And in order to achieve that we need to implant the right values in our youth. One of the most important values in our interconnected world today is the value of communication and for me, communication is very much about knowing how and when to influence and how and when to be influenced. In many instances for example, we dismiss some thoughts, some ideas as being too western or too liberal, or too conservative, and that way we end up losing some very valuable lessons that could be appropriate for us …so in many instances we have to decide what is appropriate for us and we should not shy away from learning these lessons. But equally we have to learn when and how to influence others and its time for us in the Arab world to create the atmosphere that is conducive for our youth to contribute, and to leave a positive imprint, an Arab imprint on the global discourse. And you know, leaving an influence, it's not by having a hired operative who’s videotaped appearing on our satellite stations, that’s all about the wrong kind of influence, it's not about the Danish cartoonist depicting negative images about our Prophet. That’s the wrong kind of influence so, again, our youth have to take pride in their achievements and have to really integrate themselves into the global dialogue and not shy away from it. It is up to us, the older generation to create the atmosphere that will enable them to do so in a positive way and to really unleash their creativity, their intellectual abilities and their ability to interact with the rest of the world.
 
Your Majesty, since we met first at the Dead Sea three years ago there have been many set-backs in the region but I think there has been a lot of progress also and this meeting here was very much characterised by one phrase which occurred again and again – it was ‘ winds of hope’. Now if I may ask you - what would you expect to happen, what would you wish to happen in the period from now until we convene again in 12 months from now?
 
Queen Rania: Well, 12 months in the Arab world is equivalent of 12 years in the rest of the world in the terms of how many things end up happening in our country, and as we saw in the past year, it’s been a very eventful year, a lot of things have transpired. We’ve seen the elections – the election of Hammas, we’ve seen the newly formed Iraqi government and the volatility of the oil prices, the boom and bust of some of the stock markets and what I hope for from now until next year is a bit more clarity because at the moment is seems as if things are still up in the air and we’re hoping that by next year the dust will settle and we’ll have more visibility into the future, hopefully for a better and more hopeful future for the Arab world.  
 
If we look at all those issues we have to convene again at a place where it is in (the midst of all) the action – and I think your Majesty you have good news for us?
 
Queen Rania: Well I would like first of all just to congratulate everyone on a very successful conference held here in Sharm el-Sheikh, and to welcome everyone back to Jordan to the Dead Sea, the home base of the World Economic Forum, so we look forward to seeing you all there again next year. Again, congratulations.
 
So we are all looking very much forward to being back at the Dead Sea …
 
Queen Rania: …Thank you ….
 
 … to enjoy again, the great cooperation of partnership with your country. I would like to thank you for having made a very special effort to join us this afternoon and I would not end this meeting with (sic) thanking again, our Egyptian friends for great hospitality, Prime Minister, First Lady and all the friends here. It was a wonderful meeting, we have heard it also from the co-chairs … it was a very productive meeting, but the task which has to be done is enormous…. and … we all know this is not just a meeting where we come and enjoy ourselves…it’s a meeting which asKlaus Schwab us to take on our duties … we all have to, in our own sphere, we have to make sure that the spirit which we found here – the spirit of the Dead Sea the spirit of Sharm el-Sheikh, the spirit that we found here is carried on, is carried outside this house, and if we create really a movement of looking at matters in a positive way I think some development of the world will follow in a positive way.
 
Queen Rania: In sha’ Allah
 
Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen, and see you next year.