Queen Rania’s speech at XIN Philanthropy Conference 2018 - Hangzhou, China

September 05, 2018

Thank you, Rilly, for that introduction. And thank you, Jack for your leadership, and for hosting this important gathering.

This is an exciting time to be in China. All around us are signs of a nation on the rise. 

I’m grateful for the close relationship our two countries share – and particularly for China’s strong support of refugees in Jordan.

And I am here today because the world needs more of your hopeful, dynamic energy.

As a global community, we face serious challenges. Challenges as acute as hunger and as sweeping as climate change; as old as extremism and as new as artificial intelligence.

But anyone who doubts that we are equal to these challenges need only look to China.

From the Great Wall to Hangzhou’s Grand Canal to the Shanghai skyline, China’s landscape is studded with monuments to human ingenuity.

To view these structures is to be reminded that human beings are capable of extraordinary things because we are driven by the impulse to try.

And when it comes to giving, that impulse to try transcends cultures, generations, and geographies.

I think that’s because giving is a central piece of what makes us human.

Generosity is not merely a virtue – it has been vital to our survival. In fact, the latest science suggests it is actually hardwired into our biology.

Neuroscientists have found that the act of donating to a worthy cause stimulates pleasure pathways in our brains.

And that’s not all. The researchers found that participants actually got more pleasure when they were giving money away than when they were receiving it themselves.

It turns out, as human beings, we derive intrinsic benefit from doing selfless work.

Giving isn’t only the right thing to do, in the sense of helping others. Giving is also the best thing to do, in the sense of helping ourselves.

It is the product of our heads and of our hearts. It is the expression of both logic and love. It’s where passion meets purpose.

Nowhere is this compassionate combination more apparent than in the case of education.

As you may be aware, in my region, education is in a state of crisis. Civil war and armed conflict dominate the news headlines, but hidden behind them is another tragedy: violence and forced displacement are preventing more than 15 million of our children from attending school.

In Jordan, where we have taken in more than 155,000 school-age refugees, our public education system has been strained to breaking point, and many of our own children are not learning the skills they will need to meet the demands of tomorrow’s job market.

Education is the birthright of every child, the gift of accumulated wisdom passed down through generations. Ask the mother who treks great distances and spends her last savings to send her children to school… ask the teacher who works long hours for low wages… and they will both tell you: educating our children is an act of love.

Of course, education is also logical. It is the source of all human progress, the antidote to extremism, and the foundation of any peaceful society.

In Jordan, we understand this. My country does not produce oil. We are one of the most water-poor nations in the world. Our single greatest natural resource has always been our human capital. But the crisis in our education system has put that resource in jeopardy.

This is our natural disaster, our tsunami, our earthquake. Except, instead of hitting all at once, it’s happening in slow motion, gradually robbing a young generation of its potential.

We need the world to wake up to this crisis – to bring the same sense of urgency, innovation, and generosity to this issue as it has to other international emergencies.

Because this is not just a crisis for Jordan or the Arab World. Our young people can be the global community’s next great scientists, engineers, doctors, philosophers, and leaders. They can help the world combat climate change, poverty, terrorism, and disease. But only if they are given a fighting chance to participate.

Solving this crisis will take a global movement fueled by logic and by love. Cultivating this movement has become my most passionate pursuit. Five years ago, I founded the Queen Rania Foundation to serve as a launchpad for these efforts, and a hub for new educational models and partnerships. 

Two years later, we partnered with Harvard University and MIT to launch Edraak, a free, open-source, online learning platform that brings quality education to Arabic-speaking students everywhere – including those confined to conflict zones and refugee camps.

And the good news is, we are making progress. In our first few years, Edraak has already reached close to 2 million learners. Now, we’re on a mission to reach multiples more.

The Jack Ma Foundation has been an incredible partner and supporter of our work. As a former English teacher, and now a champion for education, Jack understands the powerful combination of logic and love.

And because he has spent time in the classroom, he also understands something else, something just as important to our philanthropy: the reality of life on the ground.

We need our head and our heart to act collectively on our biggest challenges, especially those that may seem too diffuse or too distant to touch our own lives. But we also need to support people working at the grassroots who use their own life experiences to find solutions to everyday problems.

The theme of today’s conference is “Believe in the Power of Small.” And we don’t have to look far to find examples of grassroots efforts that are making a big difference.

Take the team at Lively Green Color in Chengdu, whose dedicated volunteers are using composting, urban gardening, and more to reduce waste throughout the region’s urban centers.

Or consider Rawan Barakat, a blind woman from my country who is building a library of Arabic language audiobooks for students of all abilities.

Or Omar Alshakal, a Syrian refugee who swam 14 hours to safety in Greece, and now coordinates rescue missions for others attempting the perilous journey.

Yes, small can be powerful. What starts small can grow. And when a nation of one billion acts with logic and love, you can create ripple effects that travel further than you ever imagined possible.

That is not to suggest that this work is easy, or that it’s always rewarding. Far from it. At times you will be tempted to throw your hands up in frustration, or bury your head in the sand, or turn away and run from the problems around you.

But I know you will keep coming back anyway. Because we are all bound to each other. Because our survival depends on it. Because even against extraordinary odds, we cannot suppress our very human impulse to try.

The Great Wall, the Grand Canal, the Shanghai skyline… these engineering marvels pale in comparison to the better world you will build.

Thank you. Xiè xie.