24 Mar 2015

HRH Princess Haya calls for more solutions to help less fortunate achieve better opportunities, mobility and sustainability at DIHAD 2015

Your Royal Highness Prince Hassan Bin Talal,

Your Royal Highness Princess Sarvath Al-Hassan,

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to DIHAD 2015.


This year's themes for DIHAD are "Opportunity", "Mobility" and "Sustainability", are taken from the upcoming EXPO that Dubai will host in 2020. They are broad topics in themselves and offer speakers different vantage points to discuss the challenges we face in global development.

In theory, they sum up what a society must attain to be successful today. However, in reality, most governments struggle with meeting those challenges every day.

Here in the UAE, since the time of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, our leaders have sought to provide these three key elements to Emiratis, and they have succeeded beyond anyone's imagining. They have created a culture of success.

With regards to "opportunity”, societies create economic opportunities through a combination of education, health and social services, encouragement of innovation, and tax and regulatory regimes that foster growth rather than frustrating it.

This is what has been done in the UAE -- we provide an atmosphere that creates opportunities for individuals, corporations, and other entities.

We are especially proud of how we have created educational and health services. For all Emiratis, health services and education are free, and there is a massive growth in participation of women in education. The UAE is number one globally in the percentage of women enrolled in higher education.   

Our leaders have also fostered mobility -- bringing in talent from over 200 countries, so the UAE now has the most diverse population in the world. Both His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and other UAE leaders have long recognised the need for long-term economic sustainability. While much of the country's wealth originally stemmed from oil production, there has been a persistent drive towards sustainability based on economic diversification.

Here in Dubai, transport, finance, and tourism account for a far larger portion of the economy than energy. In fact, Dubai now relies little on the energy sector for income -- under 5 per cent. Abu Dhabi and the other Emirates have also pursued sustainability. In the energy sector, Masdar City is the UAE’s shining jewel -- a commitment to sustainability in energy use not matched anywhere else today.

What the less fortunate people in so many developing countries lack are these three key elements of opportunity, mobility and sustainability that we enjoy here.

But people also forget that the UAE was built by its leadership from nothing. Their Highnesses Sheikh Rashid and Sheikh Zayed worked hard to build a better future for their people. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s generation, growing up, also struggled with famine, limited education and health services. However, so much can be achieved with a leadership that is motivated to serve its people.

Last year, I visited camps for South Sudanese refugees in Gambella, Ethiopia. Despite the efforts of the local authorities to help, the situation was shocking. More than 90 per cent of the refugees were women and children and most had struggled to cross the border into Ethiopia, arriving at the edge of starvation. There were tens of thousands living out in the open with few tents or structures to protect them. The women were in constant fear of rape and kidnapping -- even fetching water for their children put their lives in danger.  Few dared to venture out after sundown.   

For these women and children, there was no opportunity, no mobility, and no sustainability. They were trapped in a forest where they could not farm or start a business. Education was possible, and UNHCR and NGOs sought to provide it, but there was no way to apply its lessons and health workers worked day and night to provide the most minimal services. Lacking enough potable water and arable land, the camp was unsustainable without a constant infusion of cash and food from donors.

The lives of South Sudanese refugees in Gambella offer an extreme example, but most poor societies share many of these same dynamics. People are trapped in environments and social systems where they cannot sustain themselves, and there are few opportunities to overcome the obstacles that hold them back.

The first obstacles to opportunity for families in developing countries are malnutrition and the poor health that accompanies it. A seriously malnourished child will never grow to have the mental and physical capacity to succeed. Nutritionists tell us that the first 1000 days are critical -- if a child is badly malnourished then, the game is over before it has even begun.

With initiatives such as DIHAD, and with the gathering of such great minds, we are taking important steps to mobilise the aid that people in less fortunate societies need. This is what this conference is about – finding solutions. 

There is so much work to do to help the world's poor have the opportunities we have.  Back in 2000, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals called for cutting hunger and malnutrition among the poor in half by 2015.

We have made progress, but 835 million people remain chronically hungry. Two billion suffer from nutritional deficiencies -- anaemia, especially women and girls, iodine deficiencies, and lack of Vitamin A. Despite hundreds of billions of dollars in development aid from donors over the last half-century, we still live with this disgrace.  And we still need to work harder to end it.

I am sure each of the speakers this week will have his or her own perspectives on what makes for opportunity, mobility and sustainability.

It is a great honour to be able to introduce a very special speaker. Throughout my childhood, and indeed, until this day, I have always listened to him speak in awe. He is an incredible intellectual, in addition to being an amazing human being, and I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to one day, introduce my favourite Uncle to speak.

To name just a few of His achievements, His Royal Highness Prince Hassan Bin Talal is Chairman of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. In this capacity, He works hard to raise awareness of how prevailing water scarcity can present opportunities to bring about lasting peace in the region.

He is also a member of the Global Leadership Foundation, a member of the International Crisis Group and a member of the World Future Council. He also serves on the informal advisory group to UNHCR, and is a member of the International Board of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also helped guide many, many more organisations in Jordan and around the world.

Without further ado, I would like to invite His Royal Highness, my Uncle Hassan, to say a few words.

Thank you.