Monday 17th May 2004 - 1:45pm - 3:15pm
World Economic Forum in Jordan 2004
"Our youth saving us" is what the title of the session should have been, commented H.M. Queen Rania of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, who said she was "energized" by this meeting with young leaders from across Jordan.
"It all begins with education," she said, adding that it is not enough to upgrade the curriculum, "we also need to focus on the quality of our teachers." H.M. Queen Rania also pointed to the need for role models, and said Jordan needs more involvement from the private sector to address the country's most pressing concern for young people job creation. She also called on the private sector to create more mentoring opportunities for young people.
"We are concerned about unemployment and economic challenges," said Lina Ajeilat, one of the young leaders at the session, "and part of the solution is to encourage more young people to be entrepreneurs. It's not enough to look for a job with a stable paycheck," she said, "we need to promote entrepreneurship." Others in the group concurred.
"Too many people expect to go to medical school or engineering school and then expect a good salary in the public sector," said Anas Hadidi, adding that what Jordan needs is more young people going into fields like law and particularly more young people becoming entrepreneurs.
"Democracy and political participation" are the principal challenges facing youth, said Iman Obeidat, another young leader taking part in the session. "We are not able to participate," she added.
Responding to these concerns, H.M. Queen Rania said the government should do more to consult young people. "When the government has an initiative," she said, "we should make sure that young people are there."
The most important thing that young people can do is influence perceptions, said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum. Toward this end, the World Economic Forum is launching a new movement of young global leaders to act as a consultative body for politicians and business leaders. Schwab said the effort will focus on the "intermediate" generation, those young leaders between 20 and 40 years old.
"H.M King Abdullah and H.M. Queen Rania are at the vanguard of reform in the region," said Dina Powell, Assistant to the US President and Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, adding that "President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush have tremendous respect for Her Majesty's efforts in the areas of advancement of women, education and the expansion of opportunities for youth."
Turning to the recommendations of participants at her table, Powell put forward several concrete proposals, including increasing tax incentives for businesses to train young people and establishing high school programmes devoted to business development. She also pointed to the highly successful "take a daughter/girl to work" programme in the US and suggested that it be adopted in Jordan and throughout the region.
Meeting and engaging with the younger generation is only part of what governments and heads of state need to do, said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), New York, "they also need to learn from young people."
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Her Majesty Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
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Dina H. Powell
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