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Queen calls on young people to use their time wisely in pursuit of peace, progress

By JT - Oct 04,2023 - Last updated at Oct 04,2023

Her Majesty Queen Rania addresses the One Young World Summit in Northern Ireland’s city of Belfast on Monday (Photo courtesy of Her Majesty's office)

AMMAN — Her Majesty Queen Rania urged young leaders to make the most of their time to further the cause of peace, a “lifelong mission” that requires “not only every ounce of our strength, but every ounce of our time”.

Queen Rania made her remarks in the United Kingdom on Monday, while speaking to a gathering of over 2,000 youth activists and leaders at the One Young World Summit in Northern Ireland’s city of Belfast, according to a statement from Her Majesty’s office. 

This year’s summit commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement between the British and Irish governments, which was signed in Belfast.

Thinking back to the year 1998, Her Majesty recalled how the signing of this agreement inspired His Majesty the late King Hussein to remain hopeful about achieving peace in the Middle East. She also highlighted King Hussein’s role in the Wye River negotiations, which took place that same year, as he was battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy.

She argued that, despite his poor health, he insisted on travelling to the United States to push for the signing of a memorandum between Palestinians and Israelis that aimed to resume the implementation of the Oslo II Accord. “He saw our time on earth for what it is: finite, fragile, and never to be taken for granted,” Queen Rania said. She also relayed the late King’s words at the agreement’s signing, where he said, “If I had an ounce of strength, I would have done my utmost to be here, and to help in any way I can.”

“Cancer reminded King Hussein once again of how limited time can be. And once again, he chose to live in the fullness of that time…to give meaning to every moment he had so that future generations could live in peace,” she said.

Her Majesty explained that despite time’s limited nature, “hope can endure the test of time”, and people can expand the time we have “by using it well”.

The Queen also emphasized the urgency of the world’s biggest challenges, from polarisation in politics to growing refugee crises, climate change and ongoing discrimination and gender inequality.

“At a time when we’re talking about advanced technologies like AI, it is preposterous that many still fall back on the primitive thinking that the colour of one’s complexion determines their worth. And it’s shameful that gender equality is still a goal, not a reality,” she said.

Noting that, 25 years after the Wye River Memorandum, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains a prominent example of an overlooked emergency in need of peaceful resolution, Her Majesty called attention to the injustice and brutality that Palestinians are subjected to on a daily basis.

“Already in 2023, more Palestinians have died at the hands of Israelis than in any of the past 15 years. And every second of every minute of every day, millions of Palestinians are being robbed of their freedom, their rights…their very identity,” she stated. “Palestinian families are being uprooted from their land. Worshippers at Al Aqsa are attacked and brutalised, while 12-year olds are jailed just for throwing stones.”

Her Majesty therefore urged leaders to exert every effort in achieving lasting peace and progress, recommending that they join His Majesty King Abdullah, who, despite headwinds, “continues to walk the hard, and often lonely, path of peace”.

“It is time we populate that path,” she said, asking leaders everywhere to “snap out of complacency and put in the hard work that lasting peace requires — in the Middle East and elsewhere.” 

Queen Rania also underscored the need to remain committed to hope in order to resolve pressing issues, explaining that despite having reason for cynicism, hope remains “a choice — a decision we make, irrespective of the circumstances.”

Referring once again to the Good Friday Agreement, Her Majesty noted that after its signing, it took nine more years of negotiations for the terms of the agreement to come into fruition. She also cited the years-long efforts of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which provided restorative justice following the end of apartheid.

“Miracles don’t happen overnight. Complex problems defy hasty fixes,” Queen Rania said. “You cannot secure peace with the stroke of a pen any more than heal a bullet with a Band-Aid. The truth is, we have to take our time in order to use it well.”

Noting the difference in approach among many modern politicians, Her Majesty said, “Today, many political leaders cater to the now; they care more about the next election cycle than the next generation. And many seem more inclined to break treaties than broker them.”

The Queen also pointed out that it is ironic that those most affected by conflict are often excluded from conversations about long-lasting reconciliation, “even though they have the greatest motivation to find the creative compromises that genuine peace demands”.

One Young World is a global platform that identifies, connects and promotes young leaders from around the world, hosting an annual summit that convenes in a different city each year. Considered one of the world’s largest youth leadership summits, this year it takes place in Belfast, Northern Ireland, from October 2-5.

Summit participants, who are working to accelerate social impact, include a number of young leaders from over 190 countries and more than 250 organisations. The participants are invited to deliver speeches and participate in workshops, and networking opportunities, as well as receive counselling by influential figures attending the summit. In previous years, counsellors included US President Bill Clinton, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the late South African human rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu.


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