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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Queen at WEF Sharm El-Sheikh

Queen optimistic about regional progress; hopes for better Arab World for next generation

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department - Sharm El-Sheikh) At the closing ceremony of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah joined WEF Founder, Klaus Schwab, on Monday, in a one-on-one discussion, highlighting the need for a greater role for the private sector in socioeconomic development, a genuine integration of women, and the need for positive impact by Arab youth in global discourse. Her Majesty concluded by welcoming participants back to the WEF home base of the Dead Sea, Jordan for next year's forum.
 
Reform was a hot topic at the three-day forum. Schwab welcomed Queen Rania, who is the only Arab member of the Foundation Board of WEF and chairperson of the Young Global Leaders Nomination Committee, to discuss her views on reform. 
 
Her Majesty spoke of two main dimensions of reform: the process of reform and the values of reform. Queen Rania noted that a lot has been done on the reform front, but that leaders still "need to instill the values of tolerance, acceptance, respect for human rights, women’s rights, [and] freedom of expression... these are the values that we need to pass on to the next generation to ensure that the process is successful, sustainable and genuine".
 
Queen Rania said that reform is also about the private sector re-evaluating their role and the contribution they make to the process. "The 21st century is more about engaged giving… we are seeing more and more of the private sector loosening their ties, rolling up their sleeves and really getting into the process of development," she said.
 
The importance of combining private and public partnerships as an essential element within the reform process was also discussed. Said Queen Rania: "Bringing in business know-how with grass root knowledge … partnering the best business practices and resources with the resourcefulness of the grassroots … the private sector should listen to the grassroots, should engage them and should look at forging long term partnerships with them and this is for the good of all."
 
Queen Rania also broached the importance of empowering women. Her Majesty constantly emphasizes the fact that the region can not get a head without the full integration and empowerment of women. "The region is only sailing at half-mast, and we wonder why we’re not catching the wind, and are so far behind the finish line," she said. 
 
"The debate on the empowerment of women has been elevated from one that is just about achieving equality for women to one that is about achieving development for all," she said, adding that "women need to be integrated not only for the sake of women but for the sake of development for the whole country… "
 
Her Majesty also cited World Bank findings which demonstrated that if Arab women’s participation in the labor market increased in parallel to gains in education, household income could rise by as much as 25 percent.
 
Queen Rania noted