REMARKS BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS CROWN PRINCE AL HUSSEIN BIN ABDULLAH II AT THE OPENING SESSION OF THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM ON THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Compassionate,
Thank you for your kind welcome, and a special thanks to the World Economic Forum and the King Abdullah II Fund for Development, for bringing us together today.
Let me say what a privilege it is to stand before you representing my beloved country, region, and the hopes we all share. And, on behalf of all Jordanians, I want to thank our international friends for being here, and helping to make this event a success.
It is fitting that this year’s Forum is dedicated to the theme of Generational Transformation, because, for today’s decision makers, the scope and speed of change in our world requires careful analysis, management and planning.
Yet, for young people everywhere, including those who form the large majority in my region, transformation is the reality we were born into. For us, continual innovation is part of the rhythm of life. We grew up embracing new technologies, apps, and processes that give us new ways to connect, and learn, and work. Constant change is our ‘status quo’.
Like young people everywhere, the youth of the Middle East are living in this vast sea of change, but our particular waters are characterised by two opposing currents. Both are forceful and potent, but each is pulling us towards drastically different shores.
On one side, is a treacherous tide, luring our youth toward a dark reality—one that sinks us deeper into violence, intolerance, and regression, through the corrosive power of an extremist ideology; the other transporting us to sunnier shores, where moderation sees our Muslim and Arab identities at peace with modernity and progress, a reality where we can be productive and positive contributors to the world around us.
We are not drifters. When it comes to where the tide will take us, the choice is ours to make. What Arab youth want is what youth everywhere want: A fair chance, a chance to be heard, a chance to make a difference. What is unique to Arab youth, though, is a yearning and thirst that I have not seen anywhere else. Perhaps, that’s because our dire circumstances make us cling more tightly to hope.
Young people in our region are the heaviest users of social media and the Internet. We are the most likely to have smartphones. We are the gamers and the texters. We are the medical students who use the web to connect to global knowledge. We are the young entrepreneurs who build markets and scale up using digital tech.
But, more importantly, the youth of our region aren’t satisfied to just adopt and adapt global technology. Beyond being mere consumers, I’m proud to say that—especially here in Jordan—you’ll meet young men and women who are spearheading innovation and change. They’ve produced new-era products and services, new Arabic-language web content, new ideas that can serve our region and our world. During the course of this Forum, you will hear some of these innovators talk about their work and challenges.
I also would like to congratulate the 21 Jordanian start-ups named in this Forum among the 100 best in the region. You represent the best for the future of our youth through your perseverance, ambition, and determination.
So, here, at the beginning of the global Fourth Industrial Revolution—and thank you, Professor Schwab, for your words of wisdom about it—you can safely say my generation feels the impact. And yet, what they need most is for you all to take a bet on them; to support them—morally and financially—so they can create their own impact. They need your help to advance and scale their projects, so they can see for themselves the difference they can make. Our young people need a region-wide support system for opportunity, access, and hope. That’s why your partnership—all of you in this hall—is so vital.
But this is not a one-way street. If we are to turn chances into life changes, then we, the youth, must be prepared to receive and make the most of the support we get. That means working hard to equip ourselves with relevant skills and tools.
Everything around us is transforming—markets, professions, trade and industry, technology—and so are the qualifications needed to harness these changes. We have to keep pace, all the while knowing that the fast pace we have gotten accustomed to must not be mistaken for fast success. Instant gratification can be a dangerous and false expectation for my generation. Making it to the top takes time, dedication, and a great deal of diligence.
But if we all do our part, this can be a once-in-a-generation chance to drive radical change across this region, and—ultimately—drive radicalisation out of this region. It can be our chance to release the talent, energy, and hopes of millions of men and women; our chance to bridge the gap between what young people see and long for online, and what they have offline.
Let our bright content creators become the progressive curators of our region. Hope and a fair chance are the deciding factors for which current will pull our youth, so I urge you to step in, extend your hand, unleash their power and potential, and guide them to safe shores.
Thank you very much.