Ladies and Gentleman, I am honored to be with you today. We are facing threats to global security that are no longer isolated in one country or region of the world. The security landscape has changed, and with it so must our traditional approach to global crises.
Global security cannot be achieved without global action. One nation alone will not succeed in stemming the roots of global terrorism without cooperating with neighbors, friends, and partners around the world. As an old Arabic proverb goes, “One hand alone does not clap.”
In my brief remarks I would like to suggest that only international cooperation and collective action can provide a credible and appropriate response to the challenges lying at our doorstep. Perhaps the most pressing of these are worldwide terrorism, energy security, education, food and water distribution, and global health.
I am proud of what we have accomplished in Saudi Arabia when it comes to counterterrorism. Our comprehensive and proactive program is succeeding thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of many brave Saudi men and women. This achievement has translated into confidence.
Saudi Arabia has proposed the establishment of an international center for counterterrorism. The proposed center will draw upon the expertise of friends and partners from around the world while undertaking important and timely work, not only in gathering, processing, and exchanging intelligence and information, but also in providing know-how and support for countries that need it. Already, the GCC countries have agreed to establish such a center in Bahrain to meet regional needs. The proposed center is not so much an option as it is an imperative, particularly as some nations look to others for assistance and leadership in confronting the terrorist threat.
Another aspect of counterterrorism is regional conflicts. The Israeli occupation of Palestine draws recruits to terrorism like flies to honey. Terrorists everywhere use the suffering of Palestinians to further their aims. What happened in Gaza yesterday will further exacerbate the situation. Iraq further complicates and adds to the sense of despair and hopelessness. Fixing these disputes will go a long way to mitigating terrorism.
Let me switch here to global energy, another area where Saudi Arabia has taken the lead. High prices at the gasoline pump are as much a concern for Saudi Arabia as it is for the global consumer. We are committed to a stable and secure energy policy with a proven track record over the years, including during global energy crises. However, as demand and the price of oil rise, so does the need for greater understanding and cooperation.
Recognizing this, Saudi Arabia had proposed the establishment of an International Energy Forum to serve as a resource for the global energy market. This forum has taken shape and is operational in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. It houses almost 100 different organizations and institutions and draws in international experience and know-how.
Work is currently under way for King Abdullah’s Global Energy Initiative, whose aim is to draw a complete picture of the world’s energy situation.
Let me switch to another threat that impacts us all: water and food availability. We in Saudi Arabia strongly believe in the need for a new and comprehensive perspective on sharing water. Water supply is scarce in some parts of the world while in others we find distribution disproportionate to population size. A good deal of work lies ahead on this critical issue, not least to draw consensus and craft new laws and regulations that govern water allocation.
The availability of food also needs to be looked at. The imbalance in the availability of food is a threat not only to human lives. It also affects global security, by provoking hunger-stricken nations to take severe measures merely to feed their starving populations, leading to instability and migration of populations.
Much has been done by governments and international organizations to aid the hungry in dire need, and they deserve our thanks and recognition. That does not relieve us, however, of our duty to hungry and poor nations moving forward. We must harden our resolve to work together to ensure a secure and global supply of food and water for all. A week ago, Saudi Arabia contributed 10 million dollars to the World Food Program.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the H2N1 bird influenza at large, we need not be reminded of the importance of maintaining our global health systems. As one community, we must enable ourselves to deploy resources and health expertise in a timely manner, above all to share information, control the spread of diseases, and provide infected or at-risk communities with swift emergency-response units.
Global Health corporations, particularly multinationals, can show leadership together with world governments and NGOs by supporting price ceilings for medicinal drugs for poor and needy countries.
Finally but certainly not least, a subject of intense debate in all corners of the world:
education. We in Saudi Arabia recognize the importance of education. With a booming population and youth bulge, we are committed to an ongoing reform process that matches our curriculum with global trends and markets while providing education for free.
While some of us have worked tirelessly to expand the reach of national education in our countries so that “no child is left behind,” still more can be done. Education serves as a primary tool for self-fulfillment and national advancement. With larger student enrollment numbers around the world, the gap between rich and poor will only narrow, along with the potential threats that emanate from poverty-stricken lands.
Ladies and gentleman, some might argue that the solutions to these pressing concerns are directly linked to domestic political and economic reforms. But what if a country is seen to be lagging behind its commitments to its people?
Asked another way: Can we develop guidelines that govern how and when countries might intervene in a troubled country without overreaching the law or, for that matter, further complicating the situation?
A case in point is Iraq. Without any reasonable doubt, Saddam Hussein, the former ruler of Iraq, provided strong and plausible justification for the international community to take action to replace his regime. However, what we see in Iraq today is a far cry from what we would like to see during any post-intervention period. Consultation and cooperation may help to avoid a similar situation moving forward.
There is a very thin line between forcing our views on others and helping them help themselves. While one hand cannot clap, two or more can create positive and lasting momentum. For our part, Saudi Arabia is committed to building partnerships and confronting global crises together with our friends and partners across the globe.