1st West Asia North Africa Forum
Your Royal Highness, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great honor to be able to speak here today at the opening ceremony of the West Asia North Africa Forum. I would like to begin by expressing my heartfelt gratitude to His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal for his inspiring vision. His vision is the thing that has brought us together today.
I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to President Martti Ahtisaari and the other members of the International Senior Advisory Board, all of whom have shared their wisdom and experience in elaborating the vision of the WANA Forum. Finally, I extend a warm welcome to all participants of this forum. You are the individuals who will together give shape to this important initiative over the years to come.
I am personally very pleased and humbled to be among such a remarkable group.
His Royal Highness Prince Hassan and I have worked closely in the Forum 2000 Conferences. These are an annual event that President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and I started over a decade ago. The Forum 2000 Conferences gather eminent world leaders to Prague for dialogue on the most pressing issues facing humanity. The participants come from such diverse fields as politics, business, academia, media, religion, and civil society.
At these conferences, His Royal Highness has always expressed a deep interest in the challenges facing the world. He has drawn on his vast pool of knowledge and experience in providing direction for the future of humankind. I have been privileged to be associated with His Royal Highness for this past decade and have been immensely enlightened and inspired.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure and honor to be here to witness the launch of this new initiative. The creation of a new platform similar to Forum 2000 for the WANA region is an idea that His Royal Highness and I nurtured over a series of conversations and we are thrilled that it is finally getting into shape.
Like His Royal Highness, I am committed to tackling the many problems facing our world today. I do this through my work at The Nippon Foundation, where we support programs in a wide range of fields.
We work with farmers in Africa to improve productivity.
We provide support for the disabled in Asia.
We help people affected by leprosy in their fight against social stigma and discrimination.
We support grassroots initiatives aimed at strengthening civil society and education programs that nurture tomorrow’s leaders in many countries spanning the globe.
Our foundation works in many different areas, and on many different levels. But at the root of all our activities lies the same respect for humanity. We want to build a world that embraces its own diversity. We aim to develop societies in which all people can be equal participants. We strive to provide people with their basic human needs, to help improve the quality of their lives.
Like His Royal Highness, we believe that people’s well-being must come first. That is why it is a great honor for me to be here today to celebrate the start of a new initiative which aims to do just that.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
The WANA region has been highlighted for its conflicts for too long.
It is not easy to promote cooperation among people a region that has experienced as much conflict as this one. There are many issues that cannot be effectively addressed by one nation or one group alone. There are issues related to the environment, to health, to human security and development. There are challenges that transcend boundaries. We cannot expect to overcome them unless we are willing to find ways to work together toward our common goals.
These challenges require an urgent, and a patient, response.
Like His Royal Highness, we believe that stop-gap measures are not sufficient; that a long-term, collective vision is needed.
There is an urgent need for a new framework that will allow people to discuss the social, economic, and environmental issues facing the region.
A framework that will lead to the formation of a regional identity, as well as practical cooperation.
A forum through which the voices of the WANA region can be disseminated to the wider world.
The WANA region is important to all of us because of its abundance of resources. Not just energy, but rich cultures and traditions, a beautiful landscape and environment, and above all its people.
Throughout history, the region has had a great influence on Japan as well as the rest of Asia. Our region has learned much from yours. As we all gather here today, we hope that we have something to offer you in return as well.
Something that we have learned through our experiences in various parts of the world. Something that we have learned from through our efforts in helping promoting East Asian regional cooperation in ASEAN. Through our efforts to develop an East Asian Community;
We share many challenges. It is important that we share experiences and work together to overcome these common challenges. We find commonalities in challenges of time we face. It is important that we share our knowledge, wisdom and experiences as together we tackle these problems that transcend boundaries.
Today marks the start of an important new initiative. It may not yet be clear what this forum can achieve. It may evolve in any number of directions. But what is clear is that we have come here today with a shared commitment to seek out common goals and to nurture a long-term vision so that these aspirations can become reality.
In closing, I would like once again to express my deepest gratitude to His Royal Highness for his dedication to this initiative, to all the participants of the forum, and to the members of the International Senior Advisory Board for their guidance, which has made this meeting possible. I very much look forward to the discussions to come.