King Abdullah II, on the need for support and unity in the face of a global crisis: Viewpoint

King Abdullah II

At this critical moment in world history, we are confronted with what is arguably the worst, most tragic humanitarian crisis of our time. The Syrian conflict is entering a sixth brutal year. Its bloodshed and human suffering have continued unabated. The repercussions have been global.

The crisis has challenged economic and political alliances, raised questions about existing structures of cooperation and strained the social values that keep humanity united. Traditional approaches to handling crisis simply do not work to meet this most serious of challenges. We need broader and bolder action.

Today, Jordan and its global partners are proposing a new approach — one that meets this protracted crisis with a sustainable solution. Our holistic approach involves investment and growth, not just aid and relief. It prioritises empowerment and self-sufficiency for refugees over a demeaning reliance on handouts. It brings us together as partners — countries, regions, the private sector and international financial institutions — to build a new model for effective, sustainable action.

Out of all the countries in the world that need help, why give special attention to Jordan? Because Jordan is not a poor country that takes, it is a country that gives and gives abundantly. Imagine the impact had Jordan been different. Had we not let refugees into our country over the past decades, what would the impact on the region and world peace and security be now?

Today, one out of every five people living in our kingdom is a Syrian refugee. It is as if the UK had to absorb the entire population of Belgium. Hosting Syrian refugees currently consumes more than one-quarter of Jordan’s national budget.

The US and EU, whose combined economies are almost a thousand times bigger than Jordan’s, are struggling to handle about 1m refugees: our small country alone has taken in almost 1.3m already, and this is in addition to all the others whom Jordan shelters from the Gulf wars, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Libya, Yemen as well as Christian minorities fleeing from persecution in the region.

Jordan was hit with the first wave of Syrian refugees soon after the devastating impact of the global financial crisis and the turmoil of the region’s Arab Spring. In challenging times, my country did the right thing, as it has so often before.

Our generosity is driven by Jordanian values and sustained by the national resilience that has kept our country secure. This resilience is what has enabled Jordan to respond when we saw our neighbours in need and answer the call of the international community. Jordan has joined nations much larger and richer than we are in global peacekeeping and humanitarian missions around the region.

Our determination to continue our economic and political reforms at home is equally strong. We are firm believers in the importance of strengthening and expanding our private sector. By supporting entrepreneurship and investment, we will be able to unlock a future of opportunity for our population. We are not perfect and do not claim to be; however, we are doing our best against very difficult odds.

Yet, looking today into the eyes of my people and seeing the hardship and distress they carry, I must tell you: we have reached our limits. Our country will continue to do what we can to help those in need, but it cannot be at the expense of our own people’s welfare.

By partnering with Jordan and supporting our refugee response, you will not only be addressing the urgent needs of millions, you will be helping my country continue to do the right thing, fulfilling a critical role in our region and staying strong for the world. This is an investment in hope creation in an area where hope has been in limited supply. This is where we can take a political stance for the stability of the region and show our will and ability to act as one.

Adapted from a speech given at the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference on February 4, 2016.

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