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Journal of Middle Eastern Politics & Policy

Topic / Development and Economic Growth

Queen Rania Calls for Optimism at Harvard Arab Weekend


Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan gave a keynote address on November 7th at the Harvard Arab Weekend stating she felt optimistic about the future of the Arab world and unveiled an new digital education platform for the region. HM Queen Rania opened her remarks by quoting Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities “‘It was the best of times, It was the worst of times.’” But this story would not be a tale of two cities, the Queen said, “It would be called a tale of 22 cities, and it would be set in the Arab world. But what direction would the narrative take: Would it be a tale of boom, or a tale of doom?”

Analysts within and outside the region look at the region with a “glass half empty attitude,” she said. “They [critics] lament the slow pace of reform. They bemoan the threat of environmental ruin, claim that our region faces the highest levels of food and water scarcity… they bewail the highest youth unemployment in the world…They say the region needs to create 75 million jobs by 2020 and has the lowest rate of female participation in the workforce: Only 1 in 5 women are employed compared to 1 in 2 globally.”

“They are right to be alarmed,” she acknowledged, “But if all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is all you ever got. Pessimism doesn’t change the reality; it prolongs the status quo. Optimism and faith, coupled with pragmatism, are what change the reality.”

HM Queen Rania gave her case for a positive outlook. “50% of youth in the Middle East think their countries are headed in the right direction. The 2009 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor stated that young Arabs were more likely than others to start a business. They’re excited and empowered by being part of the largest youth cohort in the world.”

She then turned the speech towards education. “Education done well, done creatively, it can positively impact many of the social, political, and economic issues our region faces.” Her majesty unveiled a new Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for the Arab World called Edraak. “MOOCs will open up a world of possibility for intellectually hungry Arab youth. They can transform learning in the Arab World. They will encourage brilliant Arab minds abroad to generate Arabic content.”

HM Queen Rania ended by pushing youth to act. “Yes change and upheaval erupted out of the Arab spring.” She said, “But so did promise and potential. Whether you are in Boston or Beirut, it’s not just about coming back, it’s about giving back. Our region needs you more than ever. Our tale of 22 cities can be a tale of gloom. It can usher in the best of times. We have everything before us in the Arab world if we only open our eyes.”