Her Majesty Queen Noor al-Hussein Reflects on Working
my work supporting refugees and those plunged into poverty
and despair by conflict, and in my work with the International
Campaign to Ban Landmines, I have witnessed the devastation
of war in the Middle East, in the former Yugoslavia, and
in Asia. I have seen it in the faces of the women of Srebrenica,
struggling to carry on without their husbands, fathers,
and sons, and even without certain knowledge of what happened
to them. I have seen it in the supposedly "temporary"
Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, and elsewhere in our
region, where people endeavor to make a life and hang on,
even half a century later, to the hope of returning to their
homeland one day. And, I have seen it in those striving
to overcome the devastation land mines have wrought on their
bodies and their lives in rural Jordan, in Lebanon, in Cambodia,
and in Vietnam.
As we enter a new era, it is time to create a new culture-a
culture of peace rather than war. The world is becoming
both more global and more fragmented; in the first half
of the twentieth century, our wars were mammoth struggles
between superpowers and their allies. Now, long-standing
ethnic tensions have escaped the restraints of larger state
control, and are escalating into conflicts-smaller, more
localized, but no less devastating to those caught up in
As we see all too vividly in the Middle East, where the
spending on armaments is the highest per capita in the world,
this is a colossal waste of valuable resources-monetary,
material, and human. The presence and availability of these
vast arsenals, from nuclear weapons to land mines to handguns,
rather than acting as a deterrent, actually makes it harder
to recover from conflict and establish a lasting peace.
Land mines pose one of the chief threats to recovery and
progress because they continue killing after the conflict
has stopped. When war ends, the guns and mortars are stilled,
but no one turns off the mines. And because they are small,
and destroy lives one by one, their horrific consequences
can go as unnoticed as the mines themselves.
We have made much progress. A new sense of possibility
is taking hold, producing a new coalition activism. Through
a groundbreaking series of international conferences on
issues such as population, social development, women's and
children's rights, water and environment, and others, the
international community has defined global norms of fundamental
human rights and needs. For example, in a few short years
the fight to eradicate land mines has gone from a noble
dream to international law. But land mines are only the
tip of an iceberg in the problem of armaments of every kind.
The real issue is security. As long as a nation, or a community,
or an individual feels threatened, violence and recourse
to weapons are never far from the surface. But like so much
else, the definition of security is changing. Threats today
come not only from war, but also from economic and social
inequities, human rights abuses, marginalization, and poverty.
True security is not simply a matter of protecting borders
from military aggression, but of providing a stable environment
for all citizens, women and men, of all races and creeds,
to participate fully in commercial and political life. Peace
is not merely the absence of hostilities, but a positive
human security founded in equity.
As King Hussein described it, the purpose of peace "is
to promote the security and the prosperity of peoples. Without
security, there can be no assured prosperity. And without
prosperity, there can be no assured security."
In my development work in the Middle East over the past
twenty-four years, I have seen clearly that providing the
prosperity that underpins peace requires moving beyond traditional,
ineffective, centralized social welfare schemes, to projects
that empower the poor to help themselves. As we have enabled
individuals, women in particular, to become active participants
and decision makers in the affairs of their communities,
they also become genuine economic and political forces,
increasing their status and influence. They build stable,
healthy, and prosperous communities, which in turn can engage
in regional partnerships in the wider pursuit of peace.
These models for sustainable economic growth and political
participation are an essential component of our larger quest
for justice, peace, and understanding in the Middle East.
We have also seen over the past decades that it is not
enough simply to sign a peace treaty. Reconciliation can
be one of the greatest challenges of conflict recovery,
but it is essential in order to prevent conflicts from recurring.
As the recent history of our region has demonstrated, such
reconciliation is possible, but often laborious and lengthy.
It takes courage to hold one's hand out to an old adversary.
Often, the most powerful way to overcome the enmity of previous
generations is to encourage the next generation, the future
guardians of peace, to understand both their opportunities
in a changing world and their duties toward themselves and
others. In recent years we have witnessed in our region
and elsewhere that with education and opportunity, even
children can be a force for peace out of proportion to their
years, breaking down the barriers of ignorance and prejudice
through mutual respect and understanding.
If we can bring to education for peace the same level of
commitment, expertise, and resources that previous generations
devoted to their military academies, I am certain that we
will be well on the way to achieving a more lasting security
than the arsenals of war could ever provide.
These ideas were fundamental to my beloved mentor King
Hussein- one of the great Architects of Peace. A devout
Muslim, he believed, deeply and passionately, in authentic
Islamic values such as education, tolerance, and consensus
building, and above all, in peace. He achieved remarkable
progress in modernizing a conservative developing society
through initiatives such as promoting the role of women,
universal education, and a participatory and pluralistic
system of governance-all within the framework of traditional
Arab and Islamic principles.
By personal example, he inspired the different people of
our region to understand what he felt so deeply: that real
peace is made not only among governments but among peoples,
that it is written not only on pieces of paper but must
be enshrined in the hearts of those who live together side
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