Queen Rania’s Discussion with Ambassador Mark Green at 2022 Concordia Annual Summit

September 20, 2022

PRESENTER: Please welcome to the stage Ambassador Mark Green of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

MARK GREEN: It’s good to see you.

QUEEN RANIA: Great to see you.

MARK GREEN: And welcome back to Concordia.

QUEEN RANIA: Thank you. Thank you.

MARK GREEN: It's great to have you back at Concordia. So it's been a historic week. We look at, and you were in attendance – we honored a monarch, a long serving monarch in the United Kingdom, and a reminder of stable leadership all around the world. We come here and we're reminded of all the issues that we have to take on. And you've really been a leader in trying to elevate new leadership, particularly, you know, young leadership. So, given all the challenges that we see, and given the reminders of what leadership has looked like, how do we get to elevating that new generation and bringing them into these challenges?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, when you look at the world today, you know, I think history tends to progress in a linear fashion with some disruption here and there, that causes us to adjust and adapt. But then every now and then, conditions converge and they cause a big jolt in the world, you know, a seismic shake up, that really redefines our future and requires us to adopt new mindsets and to shift gears, really. And I think we are at that juncture in our history. I think it's the cumulative effect of technology, climate change, mass migration, pandemics—have put us in a place that really is very, very disruptive. And at a time like this, I think the most important characteristics of leadership are flexibility and the ability to adapt. Because if you adapt, and when we bend, we don't break—we just find new ways to progress. And I think that lag time between when the disruption happens and when the leader deals with it effectively, is really a great determinant of the success of leadership. So you'll find some leaders who will try to resist change. You know, they'll try to force fit a new reality into old molds, which never works. Worse still, you'll find leaders who will try to avoid dealing with disruption altogether by diverting attention to something else. So they’ll stoke up people's fears and anger and hate, and get them to just be, sort of, you know, united together in a tribe against a dangerous world. But at the end of the day, reality is reality. So I think everybody in this room, you know, we've wrapped our heads around the fact that severe weather conditions and mass migrations, pandemics, are features of our world that are not going to go anywhere anytime soon. And what they all have in common, these challenges, is that they're common to all of us. So nobody can say that they're immune, or that they're not affected. And those kinds of high risk challenges require high level coordination and collaborative action. And when you look at our world today, we're completely off course. So instead of, you know, finding new channels, we're building walls. And you're seeing global trade declining, you're seeing protectionism and nationalism making a comeback. And you know, you do hear some people trying to push against this trend. So you'll see, you know, rousing political speeches and things like that, but really motion without movement will get us nowhere. So I think it's about trying to redefine leadership.

Absolutely, we need to bring young minds, but it's not just about young minds – it’s about minds that are willing to really-

MARK GREEN: That are open-

QUEEN RANIA: That are really open and willing to rethink everything. You know, like I said, we need to adopt a completely new mindset. And the definition of leadership itself needs to be amended. So oftentimes, I think we expect our leaders to be rock stars, you know. We want media-savvy politicians or celebrity CEOs. So the priority becomes on, you know, how to build your brand, rather than how to achieve progress. And so, the focus becomes on short term gains while not looking at the long term costs, and climate change is a great example of that, you know. For decades, the scientific community has been warning us about its effects, and we had to really come face to face with severe conditions for us to take it seriously. So I think we need leaders that don't see the next election as the endgame but rather, the next generation.

MARK GREEN: So, you put your finger on a few issues that are obviously dominating much of the conversation here around the United Nations General Assembly. And as you point out, they're not going away. So climate disruptions, human displacement, which your country knows more than most countries in the world. They’re going to be with us 5 years from now. They’re going to be with us 10 years from now. So how do we sustain the leadership? Not only have the leadership, as you point out, for the next election, but how do we sustain this, given that these challenges are generational?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, it’s about understanding the nature of these challenges. I mean our world is in disequilibrium, and it will be this way for some time. And the old dividing lines between left and right, socialism and capitalism—they’re giving way to new dividing lines, along the lines of globalism versus nationalism, protectionism versus cooperation, holding on to the old or embracing the new. And as a result, you're seeing sort of a reorganization in the geopolitics. So new blocs, economic blocs, are forming, new coalitions are forming, to the exclusion of others. And that makes it very difficult to reach a consensus in the world. And this is at a time in history where collaborative action is so important. Because as the pandemic demonstrated, you know, we are so interconnected. So nobody's saying that you have to adopt globalization as an ideology. But you have to recognize that, you know, we have an increasingly integrated political and economic landscape, and that is just a reality that we can't get away from. And that kind of reality does require, like I said, information sharing, consensus building, collaborative discourse. So I think this is the complicated thing—is that never before did we need to cooperate-

MARK GREEN: Let me throw another variable into this-


MARK GREEN: It's not merely leadership reaching the people as other players with disinformation. So it's not simply you putting out the truth. It's having to counter untruths, misinformation.

QUEEN RANIA: Absolutely.

MARK GREEN: How does that play in? How do we deal with that? How do we overcome that?

QUEEN RANIA: Look, honesty has always been the currency of leadership. But it's more critical today at a time of misinformation and constant disruption where mistrust has become the default mode, default reaction. All of us, every day, are bombarded with a barrage of news and information. And change is happening at a dizzying pace. So in that real fog of upheaval, I think we've all become vulnerable to a media landscape that rewards outrage over honesty. So, I feel that misinformation poses the greatest threat to our world today. I mean, I'll go out on a limb and say it's more dangerous than climate change, pandemics, wars—anything else—because accurate and sound information is a prerequisite to dealing with all these challenges. And so, how can you deal with these challenges when different groups of people rely on a different, sometimes contradictory, set of facts?

You know, it's the manipulation of our perception of the world is happening to us constantly, whether we're aware of it or not. It’s like a constant war, an ongoing war, on truth, on fact, on data, on science, on rational thinking, on sound judgment. And that's incredibly dangerous. And the goal of misinformation isn't just simply to misinform. It is to manipulate our thinking and our actions to the service of somebody else's political agenda, which means that we have to be incredibly selective and prudent and really vigilant in what information would we decide to believe in. And we have to go that extra fact-checking mile. I mean, honestly, today in the United States, if you flip between CNN and Fox News, you would—it’d be difficult to think that you're living in the same country. You know, they can't possibly be reporting on the same issue, because it's just completely different. And I think that is incredibly dangerous. And it leads to a polarization that I'm seeing in this country that is really, really worrying. You know, it's one thing to disagree with someone. It's a very different thing when you dismiss someone. So you can respectfully disagree with someone. But if you dismiss them, you're just completely banishing them. You're not even acknowledging them. And it's a challenge for everyone, no matter what end of the spectrum they are, to really try to see the other side, not just to make just a wholesale judgment of them or just throw titles. You mentioned being in London, and I can tell you one thing during my time a couple of days in London that I really felt and I was very affected by it. Because we live in increasingly fractious times. But what I felt there was, because of the monumental loss that they're feeling, they put all their differences to one side and they just came together. And it was so reassuring for me to see the sense of unity and community—that it can be done. And honestly, it's not even a choice for us, because you know, the pandemic demonstrated once how interconnected we are because you have a virus that can circle the globe in days and upend a world order for years to come. We see how the war in Ukraine is causing starvation in other countries of the world. So, isolation is not an option, you know? And so collaborative action is a must. Whether we like someone or not. So, I think the challenge for leaders today is not just to work with people that they agree with and they like, and that they share the same values and principles, but how do you work with someone you don't agree with, you know?

MARK GREEN: Constructive disagreement.

QUEEN RANIA: Because the future generations depend on that ability to reach out to someone you don't like, or don't agree with, and focus on the endgame of the challenges that we have ahead of us and how we're going to deal with—climate change is not going to fix itself, right? And climate does not recognize national borders. So, every country has to come to the table, and if we don't deal with it, we're already seeing the consequences of not dealing with it.

MARK GREEN: Does it also put a premium on trust, right? So I often point out in one of my past lives when I was at USAID in battling Ebola, for example, even after we had a vaccine and intervention, deaths went up. Why? Because nobody trusts the public messaging around coming forward to take the vaccine in the interventions. So you have to have leadership that people can believe in, even if they disagree with, they can look and say, well, we know that he or she at least has the interest.

QUEEN RANIA: Absolutely, and that takes a lot of continuous, clear and honest communication and you know trying to amplify the truth amongst all the din. And you know, it's not easy in a media landscape like I said that sort of amplifies simple lies over complex truths. But a good leader trusts people with the truth, even if it isn't pretty or popular. And that's another challenge is that there's so much populism now and it becomes too easy to just say what you think is going to get you the votes, even if it's to the detriment of the people who are voting for you. So you need leadership that focuses on the principles, not on the politics, on real values, not on popularity, and it has to be continuous, not just crisis-based, because it takes a long time to build that capital of trust. And you will need that capital. You’ll need to draw from it in difficult times when you have to make tough decisions. People need to be trusting that you've got their backs.

MARK GREEN: So one of the reasons I admire your work and the work of His Majesty so much is that in the area of displacement, which we work together on, the willingness to tell people that which they may not want to hear. So telling people in Jordan that refugees, migrants who have come, they're really not going home.


MARK GREEN: And the willingness to tell people that which they may not want to hear, is that how you build trust, so people can at least respect the fact that you’re willing to tell them unpleasant truths.

QUEEN RANIA: Yes. Like I said, it's something that takes time and you do have to say the unpleasant truth and I think one of the dangers in our world today is that the line between fact and opinion has been blurred. So you know we're just taking liberties with the truth and with facts and you know I think we need to redraw that line where fact is objective and opinion is subjective. And so for example, when it comes to refugees, yes, you know, we had to say that they are here. And interestingly enough, a poll done just three months ago in Jordan showed despite the fact that we're dealing with high unemployment rates, obviously we’re affected by the cost of living and increases in fuel and food, our overcrowded schools and clinics, but 96% of Jordanians are still sympathetic with the plight of refugees. You know, and that tells me that people are inherently good, and they will instinctively do the right thing if nobody is telling them to be fearful of the other. And I think the politics, normalizing the politics of fear is a very dangerous route because you know politics based on fear is just wrong. You know, it's all too easy to just, you know, demonize the other person, you know...

MARK GREEN: Instead of finding an answer…

QUEEN RANIA: Instead of doing the hard work of finding constructive solutions and adopting an optimistic agenda. But you know, when it comes to refugees, I think one of the challenges that we face as a host country—I think typically when a conflict happens, and there's an influx of refugees, it captures the global attention. People rush in with relief aid, with you know, like food, shelter, medicine, which is all very, very important, but it's the sustained involvement that really, and the care that you give over the long term, that really determines the trajectory of a refugee’s life, because they're there to stay. And so there needs to be that shift, you know, it's not something that you can just dip in and out of. It needs a sustained effort, but that again, requires you know, more funding, not less, and you know refugee response plans all over the world are chronically underfunded. So in Jordan, only 10% of the cost of hosting refugees has been met. So I guess the world also needs to be a bit more involved over longer term. Reallocation numbers are very insufficient, so you find many wealthy countries just wanting to take a small number of refugees. So, that whole refugee issue needs a wholesale rethink.

MARK GREEN: Well, and don't we also run the risk…I think the people of the world are compassionate. I think Americans are compassionate. But we are drawn to the latest crisis. And so the extraordinary outpouring of compassion and support for the Ukrainian people, which what the Ukrainian people have suffered is extraordinary. That doesn't make the plight of refugees elsewhere any less important. It is whether we like it or not simply a reality that we have more to do.

QUEEN RANIA: Absolutely. And not only that, I think mass displacement is going to be an annual norm. So according to the World Bank, 200 people are going to be displaced by the year 2050 just because of climate change. And so you know, it is up to us to decide what kind of world we want. Do we want a disorganized, chaotic world with the unpredictable movement of people? Or do we want to have a sort of dignified, organized, orderly system of mass migration? That choice is ours. And so, yeah, it's another issue that requires collaborative action, and it requires people to realize that you know, this is not just—this is a global responsibility. It's an obligation, it's not an option for us whether we want to deal with it or not, because we're all going to be affected by it. So finding those ways of—Like I said, there's never been a time where we needed more cooperation, and there's never been a time when there's been so little of it. And that's I think the conundrum of our world. And you know, the challenges that we're facing today there's so much unevenness and uncertainty. So, everywhere in the world, you know, I think the pandemic really showed—it exasperated and exposed the unequalness in our world and so the dividing lines between countries rich and poor have increased and within countries, you find that the inequality along race, gender, income have really increased. So that all sets a very dangerous stage for if we don't change the way we do things.

MARK GREEN: We're rapidly running out of time, but one thing I wanted to point to a couple of years ago, I had the honor of walking with you through some of the schools that you support, that are providing some of the skills training for young people, both those who are new Jordanians and Jordanians. And is that where you see the hope in these young people that are getting these skills and tools and what they can do?

QUEEN RANIA: You know, that's the reason why my main focus is education, because I think it's the only way to change the trajectory. And I think today the amount of change that you can make, it's unprecedented because you have the tools. You don't have to wait for governments to change. You don't have to wait to build new schools or whatever. You have the technology, you have all that's available to you online. And if you just have the connectivity and the mobile devices and just some of the basic infrastructure, you can make a huge change, and I think that's where leadership, proper leadership, starts.

MARK GREEN: So Your Majesty, we have a week in which we honor long-term leadership that provides stability. And now we have your conversation with our audience, which is showing the next chapter of leadership taking these challenges on. Congratulations, and thank you for the great work that you do.

QUEEN RANIA: Thank you. It's a pleasure. Thank you so much.