4th West Africa North Asia Forum

Anman, Jordan

On May 29-30, as we do every year, Prince El Hassan Bin Talal and I convened the 4th Annual WANA Forum in Amman, Jordan.

WANA is the abbreviation of West Asia North Africa, and is the group of 27 countries composed of the 22 member nations of the Arab League, along with Iran, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. This year, politicians, journalists, scholars, spiritual leaders and leading economists from these nations gathered to debate such common issues as the environment, education, poverty, water, and energy.

WANA is an extremely important platform for these leaders to meet and discuss such issues at a personal level, away from the confines of nationality. Each year it produces brilliant debate. As you know, in the past year countries throughout the region have undergone radical changes, including the fall of former regimes. Against this background, I feel that the discussion of “Identity,” this year’s basic theme, was deeply meaningful. The following is a transcript of my speech.

Your Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Distinguished Guests; It is a great honor to participate in the 4th WANA Forum and to have the opportunity to address such a distinguished group.

I would like to begin by expressing my deepest admiration and gratitude to the host of this forum, His Royal Highness Prince Hassan whose vision has made it possible for us to gather here today. I would also like to convey my gratitude to the International Senior Advisory Board members, who have generously shared their wisdom and experience in elaborating the WANA vision. And to the participants who have not only taken part in the annual meetings but have formed working groups to conduct further research on specific issues, I would like to express my appreciation for your efforts.

Last year, when Japan was struck by an unprecedented disaster, people from all over the world rushed to offer assistance. Although more than a year has passed since the devastation, the world has continued to show concern for Japan and the people of the affected region. I take this opportunity to renew my deep appreciation to all of you who supported the people of Japan. I am pleased to report that we are well on our way to recovery.

Now, when we consider the WANA region, there is no question that it is an important region to the world. I myself have been intrigued by this region for the longest time and my friendship with Prince Hassan has been a pleasure and a privilege. Our first meeting was about fifteen years ago, at one of the Forum 2000 Conferences in Prague, an international conference that The Nippon Foundation hosts each year. Our friendship grew with time. It started off with active exchanges of ideas, concerns, and hopes, which eventually developed into the idea of creating the WANA Forum, which we did in 2009.

His Royal Highness wished to make the forum a platform for people to work together to develop regional solutions to solve regional issues. I thought this was a brilliant idea as I also believed that issues common to the region, such as water security and environment, could not be addressed by a single nation. This concept has become the mission of the WANA Forum and has given it its distinctive quality.

In last year’s forum, “Identity” was recognized as a keyword as it came up in various discussions with a different characteristic each time. Identity is often regarded as a multilayered complexity involving various elements such as race, religion, and tradition. Furthermore, it is transient and continuously changes over time. As all of you are aware, the identities of each nation that make up the WANA region are unique. The WANA Forum is a place where people with these various identities can come together to share their honest views and find regional solutions for these regional challenges. For this reason, I believe that taking Identity up as this year’s theme is a significant step forward in deepening discussions of issues concerning the WANA region.

All of you participating are leaders representing various sectors of the region. You have gathered, not for your own benefit or the benefit of your country, but for a much greater purpose of attaining a prosperous future for the entire WANA region. To have such a platform where participants can openly discuss complex challenges is highly significant and meaningful, especially now, since there are multiple changes occurring in the region. Some of them may develop into conflicts. But I strongly believe that as long as we have all of you participating and contributing to the WANA Forum each year, the deep discussions and fostered partnerships will get you all to that starting point to discover regional solutions to the challenges you share.

If there’s one thing I have learned from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, it’s that we are part of a global community where shared human concerns prompt us to help one another in times of need.

I have great expectations that the two days will be filled with lively and fruitful discussions. It is a true privilege to be a member of the WANA Forum and I very much look forward to seeing this forum of likeminded individuals grow in the years to come.