Viewpoint: Crown Prince Hussein
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, learn and work. Constant change is our status quo.
Like young people everywhere, the youth of the Middle East are living in a 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, sinking us deeper into violence, intolerance and regression, through the corrosive power of an extremist ideology. The other transports 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 the Arab youth wants is what the youth everywhere wants: a fair chance, the chance to be heard and the chance to make a difference. What is unique to the Arab youth, though, is a yearning and thirst that I have not seen anywhere else. Perhaps our dire circumstances make us cling more tightly to hope.
Our young people 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 access global knowledge. We are the young entrepreneurs who build using digital technology.
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 here in Jordan you’ll meet young men and women who are spearheading innovation and change. They have produced new-era products and services, new Arabic web content, new ideas that can serve our region and our world.
So, here, at the beginning of the global Fourth Industrial Revolution, 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.
However, 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, trade and industry, technology and professions – 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.
If we all do our part, this can be a once-in-a-generation chance to drive radical change across the region, while ultimately driving radicalisation out. 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 decides 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.
The above is an abridged version of Crown Prince Hussein’s speech at the World Economic Forum, May 2017
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