Queen Rania’s speech at the Misk Global Forum 2017 - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

November 15, 2017

In the Name of God, the Almighty and Merciful,

May the peace, mercy, and blessings of God be with you.

Your Royal Highnesses, distinguished guests,

It is a pleasure to be in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today, beneath a sky illuminated by the vision of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz… This bold vision that carries appreciation and support for innovation and science, and opportunities to which young Saudi Arabians aspire. I would like to thank His Highness for bringing together this group of distinguished talents and entrepreneurs from various fields.

Never before has the need been greater for us to connect, exchange knowledge, and expand innovation. Our world is suffering from a scarcity of hope. And I cannot tell you how wide the hope gap is between this room and where I was a few weeks ago.

I visited a camp for Muslim Rohingya refugees, who had fled to Bangladesh to protect their lives and their dignity. I spoke with people who seemed hollow from shock. In their eyes, I saw the death pits where their children were thrown, and the flames that ravaged their bodies.

War has overwhelmed their lives, just as it has overwhelmed the lives of millions in the Arab region.

I must admit, I felt frustration towards a world where dignity is violated, and human life is degraded, as if it were of no value.

When listening to refugee children and others who have been subjected to the cruelties of life, I have found that children have a boundless ability to dream, even in the tightest of places.

Through their dreams, and armed only with their imaginations, they wage war on their reality. Their dreams are a bridge, allowing them to cross the hope gap, and transporting them to a place where they are valued and their future is bright.

But, as they grow older, their horizons narrow, closing up due to fear, obstacles, and helplessness. After all, a mind full of fear has no room for dreams.

Their reality – and that of others combatting illness, poverty, ignorance, and exclusion within our Arab World – hasn’t been changed by advances in science and technology, neither has innovation alleviated their suffering.

Is it not a paradox for people to starve in the age of abundance? For millions of children to be out of school in an era of free education? For us to become disconnected from our most critical humanitarian ideals in the age of connectivity? And for us to turn our backs on and even fight diversity instead of building tolerant and safe societies?  

I also wonder; are we ready to reap the benefits of the scientific and industrial revolutions that are shaping our world?

How will we adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which has already disrupted many traditional industries, when we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the world today?

How will we keep up with changing educational models and strengthen our educational system, when 13 million Arab children are currently deprived of schooling, and the majority of the rest are offered an outdated education?

I believe we need to reevaluate our motives behind acquiring technology. Rather than a race to the top for the privileged few, our priority should be employing technology to empower entire societies.

What we need is technology with a heart – one that beats for us. We need technology that is not measured in bits and bytes, but by its ability to close the gaps that stand between us and the self- realization of our people – the security gap, the education gap, and the hope gap.

Distinguished guests,

A third of the Arab population is directly affected by conflict… And millions of others have been driven from their homelands, escaping with only their lives and their dreams.

Fear is not a feeling limited to conflict zones, because security is more than just the absence of war; it is also freedom from fear, as well as faith in the future.

How many Arabs dream, day in day out, of an opportunity outside of their country? How many Arabs live in their homelands but long for another, for a country that embraces their children’s ambitions and invests in their minds?

How many children dream of attending quality schools? How many young men and women aspire to realize their potential, to learn, to work, and to have their opinions heard? How many wish, like the esteemed group before me, to contribute to their societies?

How can we share expertise when we are incapable of basic dialogue and accepting our differences, when we label each other by group, sect, religion, and ideology, and when there is always an “other” to oppose, feel superior to, or attack? If differences are the first thing we see, security will remain the last thing we enjoy.

As for hope… over the past twenty years, I have visited many countries and sat down with the world’s most affluent and most disadvantaged, with its most powerful and influential, and its most vulnerable and helpless. In the end, deep within our structural makeup as humans, all of them – and all of us – seek to live a meaningful life. We want to feel that our life has value, and is valued by others.

Distinguished guests,

Let us adopt technologies that add value to our lives and keep hope alive in our Arab youth, for they are our source of pride. I have met so many young Arabs who have risen by the merits of their innovations, overcoming the most extreme odds to shine in scientific and literary fields.

Let us broaden their horizons, and provide them with opportunities to realize their potential and achieve their ambitions. Let us inspire them to feel that the future is theirs, as we strive to create a fertile land for us and our children, a land where dreams are nurtured and can bear fruit.

May God bless you all.

May the peace, mercy, and blessings of God be with you.