MR. FOSTER: Good morning. Thank you very much for joining us here, at the seventh Forum for the Future. My name is David Foster, and I will be moderating this discussion involving our panelists here, and of course, a great many of you out here, as well.
For the past five years, it's been my privilege to work here in Qatar for Al-Jazeera English. And one of our mottos has always been, "Every angle, every side," which is, effectively, what this is about. It's about dialogue (inaudible). And we will work our way from this side.
First of all, may I ask, Madam Secretary, Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States of America (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, David. I am honored to be here again at the Forum for the Future, especially with so many friends and colleagues from the G8 and from the Middle East.
I am delighted to join with Sheikh Khalid, who is a great colleague of mine in the foreign ministry, and I look forward to hearing from Slaheddine Jourchi, whose work on human rights and democracy in Tunisia I admire -- and, of course, it is especially timely today -- and Mohamed El-Masry, president of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce.
This is the last stop on a trip that has brought me from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Yemen, Oman, and now to Doha. On this short, but intense journey, I saw many signs of the potential for a new and innovative Middle East: a solar-powered city rising from the sands of the UAE; civil society leaders in Oman partnering with their government to improve education and create economic opportunities; a young Yemeni woman and a young Yemeni man, both of whom studied abroad and then returned to work for progress in Yemen. And of course, here in Qatar, the home of the 2022 World Cup, we see many examples of a commitment to innovation. Last year I visited Education City, which is connecting Qatar's young people to the global economy.
So, wherever I go, in my conversations with people from all walks of life—from officials at the highest levels of government to university students, religious leaders, and engaged citizens, one message has consistently emerged: People are deeply proud of this region and what it has accomplished, but they are also profoundly concerned about the trends in many parts of the broader Middle East, and what the future holds.
We all know this region faces serious challenges, even beyond the conflicts that dominate the headlines of the day. And we have a lot of work to do. This forum was designed to be not just an annual meeting where we talk with and at each other, but a launching pad for some of the institutional changes that will deal with the challenges that we all know are present.
For example, a growing majority of this region is under the age of 30. In fact, it is predicted that in just one country, Yemen, the population will double in 30 years. These young people have a hard time finding work. In many places, there are simply not enough jobs. Across the region, one in five young people is unemployed. And in some places, the percentage is far more. While some countries have made great strides in governance, in many others people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order. They are demanding reform to make their governments more effective, more responsive, and more open. And all this is taking place against a backdrop of depleting resources: water tables are dropping, oil reserves are running out, and too few countries have adopted long-term plans for addressing these problems.
Each country, of course, has its own distinct challenges, and each its own achievements. But in too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand. The new and dynamic Middle East that I have seen needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere. And that goal brings us to this Forum.
I believe that the leaders of this region, in partnership with their people, have the capacity to build that stronger foundation. There are enough models and examples in the region to point to, to make the economic and social reforms that will create jobs, respect the right of diversity to exist, create more economic opportunity, encourage entrepreneurship, give citizens the skills they need to succeed, to make the political reforms that will create the space young people are demanding, to participate in public affairs and have a meaningful role in the decisions that shape their lives.
So to my friends, the leaders of these countries, I would say: You can help build a future that your young people will believe in, stay for, and defend. Some of you are already demonstrating that. But for others it will take new visions, new strategies and new commitments. It is time to see civil society not as a threat, but as a partner. And it is time for the elites in every society to invest in the futures of their own countries.
Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries’ problems for a little while, but not forever. If leaders don’t offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum. Extremist elements, terrorist groups, and others who would prey on desperation and poverty are already out there, appealing for allegiance and competing for influence. So this is a critical moment, and this is a test of leadership for all of us.
I am here to pledge my country’s support for those who step up to solve the problems that we and you face. We want to build stronger partnerships with societies that are on the path to long-term stability and progress -- business, government and civil society, as represented on this panel, must work together, as in our new regional initiative called Partners for a New Beginning. We know that what happens in this region will have implications far beyond.
Now, America cannot solve these problems. And I know you understand that. But it bears repeating. What we need is a real vision for that future that comes from each of you, from governments that must deliver on their promises, from civil society and business leaders who must build their people up, and of course, from the people themselves.
The Middle East is brimming with talent. It is blessed with resources, enriched by strong traditions of faith and family. This rising generation of young people has the potential to achieve so much, and we need to give them the chance to do so.
So, here at the Forum for the Future, let us face honestly that future. Let us discuss openly what needs to be done. Let us use this time to move beyond rhetoric, to put away plans that are timid and gradual, and make a commitment to keep this region moving in the right direction. People are looking for real leadership in the 21st century, and I think it can be provided, and I know that this is the moment to do so.
Thank you very much.
MR. FOSTER: Madam Secretary, thank you very much indeed. I’m going to ask Sheikh Khalid in just a moment to come up here, but I would just like to say a couple of words first. Before I throw it open to the floor, I think it might be very interesting if I ask a couple of questions of our panelists on some of the issues that they have raised during their opening addresses. So that will be the format that we follow.
So now, let me ask Sheikh Khalid, foreign minister of Bahrain, to come to the podium.
FOREIGN MINISTER KHALID: Co-chairs, His Excellency Sheikh Hamid bin Jasim, prime minister of the state of Qatar, and The Honorable Lawrence Cannon, foreign minister of Canada, I’m delighted to be here today. Madam Secretary, I’m really delighted to be with you on a panel again since the Manama Dialogue. This is the last stop after a marathon for you in the Middle East, and that was also a last stop after a Central Asian sub-zero tour to come to the warm weather of the Gulf. So delighted to be with you, and to my other colleagues, Mr. Aldorshi and Mr. El-Masry.
I’m really delighted to be here in such distinguished company, and I look forward to an open and constructive discussion on how we can advance and develop the partnership between governments and civil society in the BMENA region. I greatly appreciate the work of the civil society partners from the region, and in particular, the detailed discussion that took place at the regional preparatory workshops and national seminars. The outcomes of these sessions demonstrate the seriousness with which civil society is engaging in this process. And on behalf of the BMENA governments, I want to underline that we, too, are committed to an ongoing, open, and productive dialogue.
Without question, genuine engagement and partnership with civil society across the region is essential to our progress. In this context, the civil society recommendations from November’s meeting in Ottawa are helpful in shaping how we work together moving forward. They reflect the principles underlying our dialogue and the desire of civil society to participate actively and constructively in this process. Underlying these recommendations, I believe, is the recognition that it is essential for BMENA countries to engage all parts of society in the development process and to harness the energies and talents of every citizen in advancing both personal and national interests.
This is a reorganization that is fully shared by BMENA governments and are, for example, co-pillars, core pillars, of my country’s development strategy. Since 2001, our nongovernmental sector has seen dramatic growth, and in particular, since 2006, the number of civil society groups has grown from 275 to over 526, including some 50 trade unions, an increase of 36 percent in just over four years. And we have with us here attending this forum, from Bahrain, the Bahrain Human Rights Society, the Bahrain Women’s Association, the Bahrain Women’s Union, and the Bahrain Transparency Society.
The government provides technical, financial and logistical support to the NGO sector in cooperation with international organizations such as the United Nations Development Program and including measures to build the capacity of civil society organizations through training programs, workshops, and advice and assistance in applying for grants.
We have also set up an NGO fund to provide grants for social partnership, which engage third-party private funding for development projects. Fund members include the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, national banks and companies, and the Ministry of Social Development. In 2001 – in 2010, some 56 NGOs benefited from funding for social partnership schemes.
This flourishing of civil society has been underpinned by the guarantees in Bahrain’s constitution and laws of rights such as the freedom of assembly, freedom to demonstrate, and the freedom to open public expression and debate. And these guarantees have also ensured the continued progress and consolidation of our democracy and democratic institutions, enabling political institutions to hold political meetings, campaign for public support, select candidates, and act as parliamentary blocs. Furthermore, we are committed to freedom of expression, but we recognize also the potential – the harm that inflammatory information can have on inciting divisions between people and disrupting social harmony. It is important that this fundamental right is exercised constructively and responsibly.
So the democratic process is continuing its progress in the kingdom of Bahrain, and we are committed to strengthening this development, upholding the rule of law, and working towards the goals and principle of our Economic Vision 2030 as a means of providing a sustainable, competitive, and fair future for Bahrain and all its citizens.
I want to mediate on the rule of law and our commitment to it. The rule of law helps the democratic process thrive. It protects and promotes not only the rights of the individual, but also the participation of civil society. If civil society feels that the law needs to be reformed, then the democratic process will ensure that proper avenues exist for such forums to be publicly debated, discussed, and effected.
I can assure everyone here today and all of those who have participated in the G-8 BMENA process that the governments of this region want to work toward practical and achievable outcomes that give effect to these principles. We therefore welcome the civil society recommendations as a basis for serious and constructive discussions with a view to reaching a consensus on how we can move forward in practical terms and strengthen the ongoing dialogue and cooperation between governments and civil society.
What is apparent is that we must invest in our youth. Demographically, we are a young region, and therefore, it is today’s young people who are the key to our prosperous future. We must continue to invest in progressive education and provide job opportunities through programs of economic diversification and expansion. Speaking personally, I am particularly interested in how governments and NGOs can work together to support and promote science, technology and innovation, and to foster a culture of entrepreneurship and enterprise. Economic growth and development has to be the foundation of our region’s future progress, without which other development will be unsustainable.
I’m optimistic that greater interregional cooperation, both between governments and with the civil society, can be coupled with initiatives for projects with the G-8 countries to promote an indigenous and self-sufficient culture of innovation and enterprise that can power the region forward in the years ahead.
In conclusion, I look forward to open and productive discussions both today and in the future, and want to underline, once again, the commitment and good faith of the BMENA governments towards our cooperation with the G-8, as well as in our dealings with the civil society as part of that process. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. FOSTER: Sheikh Khalid, thank you very much indeed. I would like to call from (inaudible) from Tunisia, from the (inaudible) center there to reflect upon perhaps a message that you’ve heard here and also events that we’ve seen in your country in the course of the last two or three weeks. Thank you very much indeed.
PARTICIPANT: (In Arabic.) (Applause.)
MR. FOSTER: (Inaudible), thank you very much indeed. And now, may I ask our fourth panelist here, Mohamed El Masry from the Egyptian Chamber of Commerce, to address the distinguished guests.
MR. EL MASRY: (In Arabic.) (Applause.)
MR. FOSTER: Thank you very much, indeed. Now we know what’s really important, don’t we? Before I throw this open to the floor, I’d just like to ask the panelists myself a few questions, and then perhaps at the end if there’s another couple of minutes, I can bring some more points up.
Mrs. Clinton, your address was very hard-hitting, I thought. You seemed a little bit frustrated at the speed of change in some countries, encouraged by it in others. But let me ask you this: Why do you think there is, as Mr. Aldorshi said, perhaps strategic resistance to change and partnership in some countries in this part of the world?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think there are different reasons in countries as to why they are reluctant to open their economy, as Mr. El Masry just said – a much more open trading system, a more open and accessible entry into the business sector. I think there’s a mistaken belief that by protecting one’s economy, you somehow protect jobs. And in the 21st century, that is absolutely untrue. So one thing we have to do – and I very much appreciated what Mr. El Masry said, as a leader of the business community in Egypt – is to encourage as much openness as possible economically.
Secondly, I think that Mr. Jourchi made a very good point: In too many countries, civil society is viewed as a threat or an enemy to the state, as opposed to a partner. I’ve been involved in civil society most of my life, and there are certainly exceptions, but in general, what civil society tries to do is make their society stronger, meet the needs of people that government cannot meet alone, and prove that they are good citizens as activists within their own culture.
Thirdly, I think corruption is a major problem. And in the 21st century, where information is so readily available, people know now maybe what they did not know 10, 20, 30 years ago, that much of a government’s wealth is going to a few instead of the many in too many countries. And I’ve never understood why people in either the economic or political elite do not understand that corruption is a cancer and it eats away not only at the heart of a country by depriving the people of access to resources that come from the sweat of the efforts of the people, but that it is short-sighted.
You can make a lot of money in a non-corrupt system if you are working hard, and that’s what should be encouraged, because finally, what has to happen is that awareness of the need for more meritocracy, more reward of people no matter where they start in society who are willing to work hard, be that small business owner, that entrepreneur, that hardworking student, and not see the best of your people in too many places leave in order to find a better opportunity. So there are many sources of the lack of movement, the lack of reform, the resistance, David, but those are some.
MR. FOSTER: Thank you very much indeed. Sheikh Khalid, since the first Forum For The Future – we’re talking about 2004, I believe – how much of a change do you think you’ve seen in your society?
FOREIGN MINISTER KHALID: Thank you. Well, the change started since 2000 – since 1999, actually. So we’re talking about almost 11 years now or slightly more of change and reforms. So we’ve seen a lot. We’ve seen a country going from a simple – simply run by government decree to a very thriving country that has its parliament and has its open media, compared to what we had before. And as I’ve said in my remarks, the number of NGOs, real NGOs and trade unions in Bahrain, have grown dramatically and especially in the last four years. So yes, there is real change and there is a real accountability of the government.
MR. FOSTER: But is there a downside to this, from your point of view?
FOREIGN MINISTER KHALID: No downside at all. If there was a downside, it is maybe how the society is taking change, how is it with all the different forces. This is a region of the world that is not necessarily like many other regions, so people could think differently along different lines, and not necessarily along this – be careful – not necessarily along conservative or liberal lines, but maybe along religious, tribal or sectarian lines. So the resistance is there. The hiccups are there. But it’s never a screeching halt, it’s never a U-turn. Maybe a bump in the road, but we’re moving forward.
MR. FOSTER: Thank you very much. Mr. Aldorshi, a few nights ago on Al Jazeera, I did a program taking a look at some of the problems in your country, in Algeria, comparing those with the situation in Egypt and basically across the top of North Africa. Are you surprised, as a representative of civil society, how little open support there are appears to have been from blocs such as the European Union and perhaps the United States?
PARTICIPANT: (In Arabic.)
MR. FOSTER: Is that understandable?
PARTICIPANT: Excuse me?
MR. FOSTER: I’m sorry. I was asking you. I mean, you talk about, effectively, a pragmatism on behalf of those countries who would otherwise perhaps sort of wade in with something, perhaps standing back.? Is that understandable that they would do that?
PARTICIPANT: (In Arabic.)
MR. FOSTER: Thank you very much, indeed. And Mohamed El Masry, we talk about here the need for change within institutions and that business would welcome seeing those changes. But is it not a fact that given the economic conditions of the world over the last three to four years, business itself needs to change?
MR. EL MASRY: (In Arabic.)
MR. FOSTER: Thank you very much, indeed. From me for the moment, that’s pretty much it. I will now try my very best to be as fair to the audience here as possible. And I believe just to kick it off, we’d like to go Alistair Burt from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Mr. Burt.
MR. BURT: Shukran. Your Excellencies and distinguished guests, on all our behalf, I’d like to thank His Excellency Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabir Al-Thani for his government’s generous hospitality in hosting the Forum and the Honorable Lawrence Cannon for the work Canada has done with Qatar as co-chairs in preparing this event with more structured discussion between civil society and government, all related to the initiative which the United Kingdom has supported since its inception. And my question relates to issues which have been raised by Their Excellencies the Secretary of State and Sheikh Khalid.
The British Government is setting out a foreign policy which promotes universal values of political freedom and economic liberalism. We all face challenges in a globally connected and rapidly changing world, and recent events illustrate such pressures. We believe those challenges are more effectively met with a firm base of political and social participation, accountable effective governments enjoying legitimacy where citizens can express their views freely without fear of reprisal or punishment, where citizens are equipped for employment, have access to jobs and economic opportunity and can make a significant contribution, and where citizens enjoy equal access to good services, to religious tolerance, and justice, and feel protected by the law. All these elements, we believe, form the foundation of the most stable and prosperous countries of the world.
And I say this knowing that all governments face internal challenge and pressure for change. Each has their own history and sense of progression to reach this stage, and all must own that change themselves. The United Kingdom is committed to partnerships throughout the region in pursuance of these common objectives because good governance and active civil participation and a well-developed private sector will help deliver our shared interest – a prosperous, stable, broader Middle East and North Africa region.
And lastly – and this is the point in my intervention – we should not neglect the fact – and this has been mentioned recently in your questions – that modern means of communication and the freer access to information is a wave that will not be rolled back and will increase the pressure for transparency upon us all, a wave that both worries and excites in equal measure.
So my question to the panel is this: Bearing in mind the challenges and opportunities created by the impact of modern communications technology – and as all – we all reach for our BlackBerrys and mobile phones in the last 24 and next 24 hours – what is the panel’s vision of the contribution that this can make to human development in the region over the next 20 years? And how can G-8 and BMENA make a distinctive contribution to such vision looking at this as a particular theme?
MR. FOSTER: Mr. Burt, thank you very much, indeed. I believe your questions were put to the two foreign ministers from Bahrain and from the United States. And can I just add at this point, when you talk about information technology, that some of the pictures that have been made available via the internet of events in Tunisia and Algeria during the course of the last three weeks have thrown a spotlight on those countries that four or five years ago would not have been possible. Mrs. Clinton, can I ask for your response about it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that the question really poses both a great opportunity and a challenge for governments and societies because I agree completely that there is no turning back the tide of information and interconnectedness that has been brought to us by new technologies. So our response has to be: How do we best keep that free exchange of information going and look for ways to use the technologies to further goals like open information, assistance for employment search, acquisition of skills, and so much else. So I would just make three quick points and tell you what we’re trying to do.
We believe strongly in what in what we call 21st century statecraft, which is trying to empower people in countries to use these technologies on behalf of civil society, to highlight and hold accountable oppressive and corrupt government officials, and to find common ground that will give voice to those who are standing for democracy, freedom, and human rights, and against extremism, terrorism, and violence. So we have reached out and helped oppositions keep information flowing as we did during and after the Iranian election. We all saw the results of the Iranian Government cracking down so drastically on peaceful protest and even the killing of innocent protesters, young people in the streets. So we will, on the United States’ behalf, continue to provide such information.
Secondly, we think that technology can be used to help equip people with skills for the 21st century global economy, something that Mr. El Masry highlighted. We can use distance learning. We can teach English or other skills that people might need to enhance their economic well-being.
And finally, we are using technology to combat poverty and food security by helping to empower small farmers and women and others. One quick example from Africa is we ran a contest on internet applications with young people in African countries and we had a very positive response. Technology used in Kenya helped to monitor the last constitutional election, so we avoided the bloodshed that flowed from the prior election; applications to help pregnant women get better information so that their children are born healthy; applications to let small farmers get access to prices and weather; those are just some of the examples that we’re going to be continuing to develop in the United States as we pursue 21st century statecraft using technology.
MR. FOSTER: But may I just ask you this: Would there ever be a situation in which a government might not wish to see information about itself advertised on the World Wide Web?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, we’ve had that experience, Dave, as you know. (Laughter.)
MR. FOSTER: And what do you do about it, then?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you do a better job protecting confidential information, which we intend to do. And there’s a difference between the open exchange that the internet promotes and, frankly, the theft of confidential information which is what we faced. So we draw that line, and we feel very comfortable with it.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Sheikh Khalid.
FOREIGN MINISTER KHALID: Well, the issue of technology, I see it going beyond the partnership between the G-8 and the BMENA region. It’s really a partnership that started globally with – first of all, with the satellite TV watching – being able to watch American channels here in the Gulf, live programs like the Today Show on NBC or Al Jazeera is another very good example. And today, it’s a partnership more correctly between people like Steve Jobs and Liz Stone and the whole world instead of the foreign ministers sitting here together trying to forge a partnership between them.
So the issue of social media is important, it’s serious, and it’s getting everybody together here, whether they are government representatives or people who are students or in the private sector. I can name a few here inside this room who are with me active on Twitter – the foreign minister of Jordan, Mr. Amr Musa, who is not here in the room. They are all active talking to people. So we need to really emphasize on being part of this whole network. Staying out of it, not being part of it, is really not necessarily very helpful for the future. We need to listen to the people, see what they think. They are all connected, whether here in Qatar, in Bahrain, in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt, in Tunisia, and everywhere. They are all connected in their own way.
So we will have to be part of it, listen to them, and answer their questions. Thank you very much.
MR. FOSTER: Thank you very much, indeed. Let me bring in somebody from the business sector here, because I think it would be interesting to bring our other two panelists into it at this stage. Sir.
PARTICIPANT: (In Arabic.)
MR. FOSTER: Thank you. Thank you very much, indeed. This was a question addressed to G-8, and Mrs. Clinton is the only person on the panel qualified to answer on that basis. Perhaps you would care to address that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. Again, this is a subject worthy of a long and comprehensive answer, but I will try to be brief but pointed.
I think that, again, there are five different actions that need to be taken that the G-8 would strongly support. First, you referenced the reform of the laws of countries. There are still too many restrictions on the right to do business, the opportunities that can be made available for people to do business in too many of the countries in the BMENA region. So there needs to be internal reform. The G-8 is certainly more than ready to work with any country to provide the benefit of our own experience and, speaking for the United States, the benefit of the experience we have from working with countries around the world about how to liberalize their economies and create more economic opportunity bubbling up.
Second, I would once again reference corruption. It is a costly, frustrating process to open and run a business in many of the countries in the BMENA area. You know this better than I do. Trying to get a permit, you have to pass money through so many different hands. Trying to open up, you have to pay people off. Trying to stay open, you have to pay people off. Trying to export your goods, you have to pay people off. So by the time you finish paying everybody off, it’s not a very profitable venture. So there needs to be a concerted, constant chorus from the business community to end the corruption, to make your businesses more profitable and productive.
Number three, it is important to demonstrate that there is a rule of law, good governance, respect for contracts in order to create an investment climate that attracts business and keeps them there. I think that many of the businesses in my country want to, and many do, already invest in the countries of the BMENA region. But they would tell you that there are some countries they love to invest in because they feel that they are welcomed, they are supported, and there are other countries where it is a very challenging experience to do so.
Number four, it is hard to have the kind of economic climate that is needed without making some of the social reforms that are required. Put aside the critical issue of political freedoms, human rights, and democracy that we have been discussing. Focus on social conditions. If you do not have an educated workforce, it is very hard to grow the economy to the extent that it should grow. Some of the countries in BMENA have done an excellent job expanding universal education, some have not. Unless one is committed to creating an educated workforce, it will be very difficult to grow the economies to the extent that it is necessary.
And finally, there has to be respect for the various sectors of the population so that business opportunities are available to religious, tribal, sectarian minorities, business opportunities are available to women, so that the entire society is empowered to pursue their economic well-being. We started an initiative last year under President Obama’s leadership, the entrepreneurial partnerships that we are forming with primarily BMENA and other Muslim-majority countries in the world because we think there is so much economic potential that should be unleashed. We stand ready to provide mentoring, technical assistance, even credit where appropriate. But the long-term benefits of this economic activity, which you can see by going to some of the countries in BMENA, will not be realized unless countries pursue a plan that at least takes into account those five points.
MR. FOSTER: Mr. Romas, would you like to intervene?
PARTICIPANT: (In Arabic.)
MR. FOSTER: Thank you very much indeed, and I apologize, sir. I can’t throw it open to debate all the way around. We got to get in as many people as possible, but thank you very much for your question.
I think it’s fascinating standing here and seeing so many people representing civil society, human rights organizations, when perhaps 10, 15 years ago, it just wouldn’t have happened. So let’s bring in somebody from that side of the room with a question for the panel.
QUESTION: Thank you. (In Arabic.)
PARTICIPANT: (In Arabic.)
QUESTION: (In Arabic.)
PARTICIPANT: (In Arabic.)
QUESTION: (In Arabic.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that it’s important that we use the Forum For The Future to try to bring about some institutional change by creating ongoing efforts between the annual meetings. We have the one institution that was created, but we need more, and I know that there will be a proposal for us to consider about creating some ongoing institutions.
Let’s take, for example, what we’ve been discussing – the economic arena. I think it would be very useful to have a Forum For The Future institution that provides best practices, provides suggested legislative reforms, provides models for training. There’s a lot that we could do if we built on the very good points that have been made by both gentlemen from Qatar who asked me a question, by Mr. El Masry, and others.
We can also do the same when it comes to the pressing problem of young people. 2011 is declared by the United Nations to be the year of youth. I think it would be especially important, perhaps, for the United Nations to study the challenges that the growing youth population in the BMENA region posed to governments, to economies that could be addressed through some specific actions. So the United States will certainly support these kinds of institutional efforts coming out of the Forum and will be an advocate for looking for ways that we can provide information that governments and civil society and the private sector can use to improve conditions in their own country.
MR. FOSTER: Thank you very much indeed. I would say that it’s not just the right and left, as where I stand, that we would like to see involved in this discussion, but also all of the representatives of the governments who have come here for this Forum. So if you could think about something that you’d like to address to the panel.
There was a second gentleman over there with the civil society who I know is expecting to ask a question. Has your point been made or would you like to ask a question? I think the message we got from the chair was that it should be brief.
QUESTION: (In Arabic.)
MODERATOR: Thank you very much indeed. Let me bring Mr. Aldorshi here, because with firsthand experience, I – the question I would like to put to you is: Do you find that civil societies, those that have sprung up in the last five to six years, are accepted, are tolerated, or are they, by and large, encouraged?
PARTICIPANT: (In Arabic.)
MR. FOSTER: Mrs. Clinton, how do you change that approach? I’m sorry to catch you while you’re just about to have a drink.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that that point is a fair point, because this Forum was intended to create an opportunity for civil society and government to meet together, work toward common goals, and implement plans to achieve those goals. And I think that in some places, as Sheikh Khalid said, we’ve seen a lot of progress, but in other places, we have not. So how do we continue the progress where it’s occurring and try to stimulate progress where it is not? And that’s a very difficult question.
Let me go back to the gentleman from Yemen, because I was just in Yemen. I met with the president and the government. I met with a very vigorous, dynamic group of about 200 civil society leaders. I met with leaders of the opposition. And it struck me that there is not the level of cooperation that there needs to be to improve the lives of the Yemeni people and to put Yemen on a firmer foundation going forward.
Now, the United States, other members of the G-8, neighbors in the region, I think, have been working to try to persuade the Government of Yemen to take more steps to open up the political process to engage in meaningful dialogue with dissident groups, to invest in the education and well-being of their people. And it is, for me, a high priority to try to make that case. But at the end of the day, there has to be a willingness on the part of the government and the people to work together toward a common goal. And I’m not sure that any forum or any kind of meeting can produce that. It has to be encouraged constantly and come from both the top and the bottom.
I left Yemen. I went to Oman. And certainly, in Oman, as the foreign minister and His Majesty can attest to, the social conditions, the emphasis on development, the changes in people’s lives over the last four decades have been quite remarkable.
We have a free trade agreement with Oman. We can reward countries that are making the changes and the investments, even if they take a long time, if we see a path that they are following. But if a leadership will not pursue such a path of development, it is very hard for anyone on the outside to make that happen.
And I would just end by this point. It is – I think it is worth continuing the effort that the Forum For The Future represents, even though I acknowledge the frustration in many places that progress is not faster. But we need the voices and the encouragement of the leaders, not just in government, but in business, in academia, in other walks of life, to be speaking with a common voice about why these changes are important.
It will improve the lives of people, it will increase economic output, it will provide a repudiation of extremism, because in many of these countries, as we know in Yemen, there is a lot of conflict going on. And there is a real effort by al-Qaida to fill vacuums. And those vacuums will either be filled by smart leadership or by alternatives that are not in the best interests of people like us, whether we’re in civil society, diplomacy, or business.
So, I think we have to keep working at it, even though we don’t have immediate results in every place we would like to see.
FOREIGN MINISTER KHALID: I would like to go back to the fifth Forum for the Future in Abu Dhabi that was held two years ago, when then the attendee from the United States was Under Secretary Negroponte. And he said, I remember very well during a dinner, that he hoped that the Forum For The Future would continue. At that moment, the Forum For The Future was really in doubt. Its future was really in doubt. And we thank you, Madam Secretary, for holding the next one with us in Marrakesh. And here we are here in Doha, and we understand it will continue in the future in the BMENA region.
One of the most important things that we have – I don’t want to say “started,” but I want to say “honed our skills in” is our partnership with the civil society. And it’s a developing process. It’s ever-evolving, whether here or anywhere else in the world. So, yes, we are committed to it.
But my colleague here, Mr. Aldorshi, mentioned that now there is a – kind of a split in the views of the civil society. Some say we should continue, some say we should not. This split did not happen now. The split happened from the second Forum For The Future which took place in Bahrain. We had – and my Bahraini colleagues from the civil society know that very well – we were requested to arrange for a parallel Forum For The Future for the civil society.
At that second one, right after Morocco, when it came to Bahrain, we did not hesitate to accept that offer and facilities for that one. But – so the idea of having trust, it didn’t come after five years, or didn’t get enough time, but it came very early in the process. Thank you.
MR. FOSTER: Thank you very much, indeed. We’ve probably got about another six or seven minutes left. I would say to the representatives of the government – we’ve heard from Mr. Burt, but we’ve not heard from anybody else – you possibly have another five minutes in which to make your views known. And if you disagree with anything you’ve heard from the panel, now would be the perfect opportunity to raise your hand so that I can get your attention.
But let’s go back to the business sector again.
MR. HAMOD: As-Salāmu `Alaykum, (In Arabic.) My name is David Hamod. I serve as the president of the U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce. And on behalf of all of the private sector folks here, I want to extend our thanks for the extraordinary hospitality of the Qatari people.
I come before you today as a proud American of Arab descent, and I respectfully suggest that those of us who are born and raised in the G-8 nations have a special role to play in promoting mutual respect, cooperation, and business relations between the G-8 nations and the BMENA countries.
My question, Mr. Moderator: What steps can governments take to gain a better understanding of the needs of the business community? Specifically, how do we work together to promote entrepreneurship and small, medium-sized enterprises which play such an essential role in the growth of productive jobs in our countries? How do we work together to develop educational systems at the primary, secondary, and higher education level that will allow our students to gain practical education knowledge and skills for the workplace? And how do we work together to eliminate those barriers to trade and investment, including visas, that are preventing our business communities from working together more closely for the mutual benefit of our respective peoples? Thank you.
MR. FOSTER: Mr. El Masry, perhaps you could give us the 1-2-3 of what you think the most important first steps are.
MR. EL MASRY: Yes, thank you. (In Arabic.)
PARTICIPANT: (In Arabic.)
MR. FOSTER: Thank you. Thank you very much, indeed. We are coming towards (applause) – we are approaching the end of what I think has been a fascinating session.
I, personally, and I think on behalf of a number of people here, would like to address one final such query to you, Mrs. Clinton. And that is: When you talk about tolerance and prosperity, there will be those in this room who associate that with the Middle East peace process, and your efforts to try and bring about a solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And they will say, “How can the Secretary of State come here, talk about intransigence, backsliding, broken promises, when you cannot persuade Israel to stop building in the West Bank and Jerusalem?”
Can you explain to those people who have that concern, why should we listen to the United States? Can you explain to them why you cannot stop Israel doing that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Israel is a sovereign country. It makes its own decisions. We can’t stop a lot of countries from doing things we disagree with and that we speak out against. We see it all over the world. The United States bears a disproportionate amount of the burden for trying to maintain peace and security and prosperity across the globe. I wish there were a way we could tell a lot of countries what they should do, because there are a lot of countries doing things that are not in the best interests of their own people, their neighbors, or the world.
So, I think that the question needs to be addressed by asking ourselves what more can we do to help the Palestinian people continue their state-building efforts, which is a very positive development of the last several years under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. And the United States is now the largest single donor to the Palestinians to help them with the state-building efforts.
The World Bank issued a report earlier, several months ago, saying that if the Palestinians continue on the pace they are on, they will be ready for statehood. I think that’s a very important commitment that all the countries represented around here ought to be supporting. And the Palestinians especially need the continuing support of their neighbors and Arab -- fellow Arab countries.
We also have to convince the Israelis that a complete move toward a two-state solution will not endanger their security. Any leader in this room knows that you often make decisions based on your own experience and history. And when the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon, they got Hezbollah and 40,000 rockets. And when they pulled out of Gaza, they got Hamas and about 20,000 rockets. So it’s easy to say, “Well, this is what somebody else should do,” but you’ve got to figure out a way to make it possible for people to undertake the hard work of the negotiations that are necessary to achieve a two-state solution.
So, we have spent a lot of time, and will continue to spend a lot of time, working to build enough confidence on both sides that they can make decisions that will, by necessity, be compromises. There is no solution to any dispute I am aware of anywhere in the world where, if it’s going to be a peaceful resolution with a lasting outcome, there are not compromises that have to be made. So, I would hope that all the BMENA countries will work toward creating a climate where both the Palestinians and the Israelis will be able to do so.
MR. FOSTER: Thank you. Thank you very much, indeed. May I thank our panelists, Mr. El Masry, Mr. Aldorshi, Sheikh Khalifa, Mrs. Clinton. It’s been a very fascinating hour-and-a-half, and I thank you very much, indeed, for your time. And thank you, too, all of you, for contributing to this session. Thank – may peace be upon you, and thank you for inviting me. (Applause.)
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