Forum for the Future: Partnership Dialogue Panel Session

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ritz Carlton
Doha, Qatar
January 13, 2011

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.

PRN: 2011/T37-13