News & Current Affairs

HRH Prince Hassan Bin Talals Speech during “Social Water Studies in the MENA Region: State of the Art Perspective”.

By: Ecopeace Middle East
October 26, 2014


Transcription of his HRH Prince Hassan Bin Talals Speech during the conference “Social Water Studies in the MENA Region: State of the Art Perspective” on the 28-29th September, 2014. You will find words placed between brackets {}. This signifies that the transcriber did not hear well the word used, or translated to English because the speaker used Arabic, or rephrased.

The speech was transcribed due to the many important points raised pertaining to grim water realities of the region in general and Jordan in particular.

{HRH thanked Co-Conveners}

My first tasking exercise as founder of North Africa West Asia, 5 years now is to ask the {co-conveners} and whom so ever they would like to align with to accept the invitation on North Africa West Asia forum what we hope will become North Africa West Asia institute to follow up on this session with a study on carrying capacity for our region, by which I mean that Jordan’s population in 1992 was supposed to be two and a half million people, today we are almost 10 million people.

  • We talk about Refugees, {VPs, IVPs,} stateless person as though we were those UN reports. Are they not all Arabs, are we not Arabs.
  • If you can be a European and a German, why cannot you be an Arab, a Syrian { … etc} or an Arab and Iraqi or an Anbari.
  • I stopped by a taxi driver and said to him where you from, he said form Nablus. I said from Jabal Alnar he said we are all Jabal Alnar {Surrounded} god protects this country
  • The fact of the matter, that God will not protect this country if this country does not protect itself here {pointing to his head}
  • It’s all very well to hold a conference on the assumption that we are living in an arid zone but the real arid zone we are living in is between our ears as the good professor pointed out earlier.
  • The only Knowledge base and I love what he said “for whom and for what”. For whom I think I heard him say for the intelligence.
  • And I want to remind you all that the most affluent ministries associations are ministries of interior and I am not talking about our wives … alone.
  • Ministries of curative medicine, ministries of preventative medicine, education, health.
  • What you are calling social studies in my humble understanding places social studies between Natural studies and humanities.
  • Natural studies pursue academic passions; I was never an informed scientist. I like to think I am a
    constructive person. My daughter Sumaya went to the school of art where she produced amazing art in various forms, I said to her you did not get that from my genes and she said yes but you are creative in other ways which is kind of her.
  • As for the other side of the spectrum, humanities embroider either with historical background, or the time line narrative.
  • But the failure of the Arabs and I agree with you I am not optimistic either is failure of good governance.
  • But that does not mean I have lost hope because as we have said many times the prophet of Islam says and I believe there are similar texts in just about every religion, if the Day of Judgment comes and you have a fruit bearing sapling in your hand plant it anyway.
  • So I am not one of the Armageddon crowd I don’t believe in a VIP seat next to the deity have contributed in destroying the world he created.
  • But I do believe that our failure on god’s earth is the failure of good governance.
  • In that sense I want to say that we are living in a state of chronic anxiety. Chronic anxiety from the bombs falling on our heads potentially. Somebody asked me the other day why are soldiers wearing helmets I said I don’t know I suppose that they are worried something might fall on their heads. One has to be simplistic in explaining these things. But we also have chronic anxiety which I would call not over water scarcity or security but anxiety, in my case, over the absence of priorities.
  • We spoke about goods on the ground isn’t it about time to talk about good governance on the ground.
  • With the question always being How do wars end? My friend Sydney Baily the Quaker wrote a whole series of magisterial books on the subject of how do wars end. {How Wars End: The United Nations and the Termination of Armed Conflict} {For Arab-Israeli Wars and the Peace Process}
  • We know almost how they begin but since 1948, we have been successively depleted in our resources, in our thinking, in our energies by the fact that we have not been able to come to terms with the fact that the war has pores and before it resumes it’s about time we exercise good governance.
  • Israel by the way fought in 1948, whether they are Winners or losers, I just want to tell you that the income per capita in Israel according to Standard and Poors Gaza Operations Fiscal Effect Minor, income per capita in Israel is now about thirty eight thousand dollars making Israel one of the highest income economies in our view, Standard and Poors.
  • Israel trend growth is also at the highest spectrum of its peer group.
  • In per capita terms, this equates to trend growth of slightly less than 5 percent per year.
  • As far as gas is concerned, I want to point out new projection includes an estimated contribution from new natural gas production of about 0.3 percent.
  • So that makes Israel apart from anything else, the 5th most important country in gas.
  • European Ministry came to see me sometimes ago and in dignity at least from my {} because he was in my office said this is Gaza gas I said why are you so angry. You really want to be angry go out give a press conference and then resign.
  • So I want to say to you ladies and gentlemen that while we have been muddling through with the aftermath of war, they have been building a formidable reality in Palestine.
  • I want to ask you about “the co-conveners” a few things: one of them, you have said in your papers, you have made reference to CSR. Isn’t it time we started talking about production value added.
  • What production value added have we benefited from Arab oil, gas, or value added from Disi pipelines. What I am trying to say is what about the people living next to the pipelines.
  • If we want to think as you put it professor, you suggested we look at Reflexive knowledge for whom and for What is not only academic.
  • If this conference is going to produce another academic paper, I don’t think that it will have it wrung the alarm bell, and we don’t only need that, we need the alarm bell with few suggested outcomes.
  • And that’s why I suggested at the beginning to hold a meeting on carrying capacity, don’t misunderstand me, not carrying capability.
  • Khaled Tukan can announce that a deal has been struck with Rosatom The Russian Energy Giant for 10 billion dollars or so I read like everybody else, we read what the newspapers write. I have to say.
  • Now if you forgive my simple mind, by asking if South Africa in the same day signed to a Rosatom a 10 billion dollars, how is it that tiny Jordan with no past experience in nuclear program let alone creating a nuclear bomb which I believe South Africa has achieved, how is it that we are signing a deal with the same figure.
  • And not only that, how is it that Jordan is offering up to 70 million dollars for the studies to be conducted on the impact of the nuclear facility on top of a water aquifer, I am talking about Azraq Zarka.
  • So what the hell are we doing here? Are we just pissing in the wind!
  • Or are we really serious about saying to policy planners in Jordan that if you want to create a nuclear program with UAE, I understand we have much support and much interest.
  • Every time I fly to Vienna in an airplane, not my airplane, a royal Jordanian airplane, when I go to Vienna, it’s full of young Jordanians bright-eyed, bushy-tailed off to study nuclear this and that in Vienna.
  • When I was in Oxford in the dark ages in the 60s, the Pakistanis and Indians were studying nuclear this and that and then they bought {}, boom, the made a bomb and that was quiet a long time ago.
  • Nobody can convince me that we are going to indigenize the competence in nuclear programs in Jordan.
  • And if so, nobody can convince me that this is not at the expense of other priorities and other fund necessary for Jordan survival.
  • So I would suggest to you that one of the carrying capacity proposals you consider is to look at the resilience center of the University of Stockholm. Inter disciplinary, eco social in good governance.
  • Abdul Rahman Al Tamimi has presented us with work on the communities of Wadi Obeid, Kherbat Salama, {} and Resh. Areas of Palestine where water subsidies can be used as a tool for poverty alleviation to effective policies.
  • Areas of Palestine, ladies and gentlemen, to show you what dupes we have been when we dug wells in the foot hills of the west bank pre 1967. In those days it was quiet for {} not USAID. The precursor of USAID.
  • We were told that these wells were none productive, a few years later, {Subhan Allah} they are supplying over 50% of the water requirements of Israel. And we wonder why Israel wants to continue its occupation.
  • So the importance of the policies of inclusion as opposed to policies of division, or the politics of division is a key to that small country Jordan in the Middle surviving.
  • If we want stability, we have to look at creating a knowledge base whereby we look at all human beings.
  • That glass of water is not Palestinian, Iraqi, Syrian glass of water. That much water is available to all of us potentially or none of us.
  • An inclusionist approach, {thanked ESKWA for always emphasizing inclusionist policies} An inclusionist approach can only be built on early beginnings of a credible knowledge base.
  • I am told that those Syrians are turning Lemons into Lemonade. Those Syrians who have started over 280 industrial investments. 400 applied, 280 were chosen. How were they chosen? God only knows and maybe he doesn’t know either.
  • Anas Zeyaden speaks of the different ways of engaging youth. Thank you. To help with water conservation and combating the effects of climate change.
  • The Knowledge base that we are speaking about should take into account consideration achievements of IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature, largely through the work of our Lebanese colleagues of introducing and accepting the term Himma. So we are looking inclusion of human and physical environment. {Albeah, Alensaneya, wa Albeah al Masaheya aw Alheseyah}
  • And speaking of the human and physical environment is another example. Edra is speaking on water scarcity and irrigation in the Nile Delta, I hope we can have a chat because I have been invited to do the impossible. To address the Nile Basin Countries in December in Cairo. And I would like to thank your work on focusing on developing participation again inclusionist approaches that enable farmers to secure control over local water. And I like your choice of words because I am reminded of the fact that it is only with foreign NGOs, it seems that we are capable of moving local farmers to do something cooperative and I cite here the Grey water reuse   for agricultural purposes in the Jordan Valley. A house hold survey results, still house hold survey better than nothing in Deir Allah by Othman Mashagbeh, Ayub Gred and professor Migdal. The survey responses provided evidence that rural communities  are not only willing to accept but they are willing to  reuse treated grey water for irrigation.  Water scarcity in this rural area of Jordan is the main determinant, the main determinant of willingness to reuse grey water rather than socio economic variables. The main determinant of their wanting to continue to live productively in the Jordan Valley. Do I have to remind you who has his eyes on the Jordan Valley.
  • Those people living there are part of indeterminism of Jordanians to do what they can in the most difficult of circumstances.
  • So I go back to good governance. For listening to people. Not a monologue about the need for dialogue but an interaction.
  • There are many problems and we know, hundreds of millions of people are deprived of basic right to clean water. And that very United Nations asked me to present a report on water and sanitation and I did.
  • In fact if you look up my name on youtube, you will see it next to “World Toilet Day”. For those of you who are smiling, will you be smiling when disease affects us or our children.
  • West Asia North Africa is home to ten percent of the Worlds land but less than one percent of the Worlds Water.
  • And I do not have to remind you that before we say Alsalm Alaykom in 2030, 45 million Egyptians will be flooding of the delta by the Mediterranean, are risking displacement, nature displacement.
  • And 45 million Iranian, let us think of Iranians also as human beings will be on the march.
  • So that means a 90 million figure already.
  • As for Gaza, poor Gaza to run out of renewable water by 2020 means that Gaza the state, Gaza the city state, Gaza Sinai city state has to find a way out of this mess. I don’t believe that the rocket margin of 10 km 20 km have only to do with rockets but I believe it had a lot to do with ground aquifers.
  • As for Interdiscplinarity again, water and sanitation, eight hundred thousand children die per year from diarrhea, and as many as 88 percent of the diarrhea cases are linked to unsafe treated water.
  • We when I presented the report, I suggested that we look in a network form, at interlinked rules, they wanted the water lobby, water as independent issue.
  • I knew that the issue will be discussed on the 38th floor of UN building between the secretary general and all those governments who could influence the decision. And I knew that the decision was not going to be water. I felt it.
  • And when I saw World climate day, incidentally today is the United Nations Day of Peace, I hope you are feeling terribly peaceful, As for world climate, it seems to be very clear that a deal has been struck with the cooperate world spoiling the climate to make climate issues a priority.
  • As for WANA, we have joined the international appeal with over a hundred thousand signatories. Corporate signatories, NGO signatories in the conference held in Amman two weeks ago calling for justice as a standard on {}.
  • And justice of course is inclusive, Justice includes government, justice includes having the right to ask what are the priorities?  Renewable energy, oil shale, red dead canal! What is it, A la carte menu so that we have so much money that we can spend on anything and everything we want!
  • I am asking you to help your selves in the triple helix if I may use your expression of policy, socio economic contribution. One of your colleagues the other day said to me what is the kings vision for the next ten years. This vision of development for the next ten years. I said to him I am sure that we will be learning from the working groups and there was a working group meeting that took place in the Dead Sea with the prime Minister as a chair and I don’t follow Jordanian issues in detail but I want to say from my memory have you , I was addressing the men form the chamber of industries, 14 chambers, 16 chambers, 18 chambers have any of you ever sat down and discussed the priorities of Jordan Economy.
  • We talk about private interest being stronger than public interest and this is a glaring example of this fact.
  • And part of the reason of course if you want to take a policy support center then you have to have knowledge, but if this knowledge is limited to vested interest, it is not going to travel very far.
  • So I would like to suggest that maybe policy should include the water, sanitation and health program.
  • You can break even on 200 latrines, if you work on a computer from Singapore. Architect, designing Latrines. Is anybody in our IT sector sensitive to Jordanian issues.
  • Does Venture magazine encourage the discussion of local solutions {} rather than problematic or do we just show in glossy pictures the most important Jordanian men and women doing what for Jordan!
  • Water pollution and poor sanitation are directly connected to urban poverty and reduced productivity.
  • Which in turn are directly connected to 28 percent of urban residents in slums in West Asia and North Africa which in turn are directly connected to recruitments of extremist organizations.
  • To the parallel, Black economy, or whatever color you want to call it, which is doing much better, thank you very much, in certain instances than the official economy.
  • At least when we say we want to study people, Bretton Woods does not come back and say yes but you cannot study refugees because they are political economy.
  • I don’t care what you categorize them as. The fact is that they are drinking the same water, using the same facilities and the time has come to develop a carrying capacity based on knowledge.
  • So if I just conclude by suggestion one of two solutions.
  • Of course we all agree that the level of water lost for leakage, Dr Hazem who couldn’t join us today because he went to the hospital for a checkup …
  • 44% of that water is leakage caused by deliberate under registration and theft.
  • That’s a lot of water lost for any country let alone the 3rd poorest water country in the world.
  • Can we acknowledge that traditional water resources won’t be sufficient to meet the growing demands for water in a region characterized by exploding populations and increasing energy demands.
  • Population growth 17. 3% in WANA from 2014-2024
  • The merely 20 million Israelian, or Israelian dual nationality in the world, {and they are making}
  • … 500 hundred million Arabs but may be only 20 million Arabs {…}
  • That is the achievement that led to these economic facts and figures. Not only because Israel is in a situation of popular support from so many western countries but they have also done it themselves.
  • I don’t think that we cannot talk about water without talking about energy.
  • In the WANA region alone, we have the fastest growing demand for energy in the entire world.
  • What is this energy for, where is the carrying capacity once again.
  • Where is the concept of hinterland intraindependence relationship between oil producing countries and human resource populations neighboring them
  • And how can we develop without putting at the center of the construct sustainability and investment in the center of that human being.
  • Sustainability and investment in human capital
  • Is that not the policy we can develop together. When are we going to develop solutions for water extension and solid and liquid waste disposal.
  • When will this be a priority.
  • I am sorry if i over stepped my time I always do. So I will wrap up.
  • Can we understand what the Middle East desalination research center is doing is commendable? Can we work with them, we being the group of co conveners once again? What thoughts do you have on the subject.
  • This is carrying capacity.
  • Can we invest in technology to use treated water for industrial and domestic purposes as well as exploiting brackish underground resources.
  • So in brief, I would like to say what we should do differently is to consider the entra regional cooperation if we are that tiny country surrounded by these realities.
  • If we are moving towards millennium development roles and authentic view from the region. If ESKWA hopes to partner with its sister organizations in other regions. If we can be partners and not only clients, then I think intraregional cooperation is charity starting at home. The south, Center and North of Jordan.
  • A professional discourse into which everyone has committed.
  • Legal empowerment, legal enablement of people to speak out at all levels; civil, society, private sector, and government to make them all stakeholders whether they are mobility stakeholders or national stakeholders does not matter, they are human beings, and then possibly to move to good governance on the ground.
  • Anbar is just next door, Huran is just next door,
  • You talked the question of who merits the pot of gold. It’s the question of who manages their human resources, the physical resources and their economic resources most successfully.
  • So cooperation, partnership, interregional cooperation, intraregional cooperation, It’s not a nice to have option but it’s a must have option

Thank you for listening to me.

The speech is transcribed by Samar M. Salma, FoEMEs Media Officer/ Projects Coordinator at the Amman Office.

The speech is transcribed to the best of my abilities. 

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