Queen Sonja gave a speech during the opening of a business seminar, hosted by Innovation Norway, on Monday, 2 March 2020.
King Abdullah II and King Harald attended the Jordan-Norway Business Forum: Discovering Future Partnerships with Queen Sonja as one of the keynote speakers.
Your Royal Highnesses
Ladies and gentlemen
Jordan has a strange, haunting beauty and a sense of timelessness. Dotted with the ruins of empires once great, it is the last resort of yesterday in the world of tomorrow.”
For many Norwegians, I think this quote by Your Majesty’s father, King Hussein I, captures our impression of your country: A fascinating history, a rich culture and a dramatic natural environment meet in a peaceful corner of this part of the world.
This is the first Norwegian state visit to Jordan, and The King and I are very grateful for the warm welcome we have received. We have been very much looking forward to visiting your beautiful country – which we already have caught an interesting glimpse of.
I am also quite sure that the impression we Norwegians have of your country has been shaped by the many colorful images we have seen in films. I will never forget the vibrant landscapes in Lawrence of Arabia, the nerve-breaking action scenes in Indiana Jones – or the desert backdrop in the latest Star Wars film. Jordan has given generations of cinema-goers unforgettable memories. The kind of images dreams are made of.
But now we are here – together with representatives of different generations and experts from so many institutions – all of us with our own dreams. This event shows our common interest in building partnerships based on shared experiences and ambitions.
Economic growth is number one priority for Jordan. Let me commend Your Majesty and the government of Jordan for your ambitious reform plans – aiming to improve conditions for the private sector.
We hope this state visit will help to strengthen Norway’s bilateral and economic ties with Jordan. The Norwegian business delegation will explore opportunities for cooperation in a number of areas, like cancer treatment: Jordan and Norway are both advanced cancer care nations.
Partnerships between actors from our two countries can accelerate access to new cancer treatment.
Or tourism: Like Norway, Jordan is blessed with natural and cultural landmarks. This blessing also gives our two nations responsibility. During this state visit, Jordanian and Norwegian travel agencies and tour operators will share experiences and work together on a roadmap for sustainable destinations.
In addition comes meetings and opportunities related to: renewable energy, agriculture and digital technology. The members of the delegation are all – I promise you – excited to be here. We hope to see new partnerships emerge that will benefit both our countries!
In order for our economies to flourish, we have to realize the full potential of our resources – including our human resources. Therefore, women’s economic empowerment and participation in the workforce is vital. I am delighted that the empowerment of women – a topic close to my heart – will be a recurrent theme throughout this state visit.
In Norway, the participation of both women and men has been central in building our welfare state. In 2019, women’s participation in the labor market was only about 5 % lower than that of men. This is the result of sound and targeted policies – like government-funded childcare and gender quotas for company boards. And it is not only women who profits. These policies have helped the whole of Norwegian society – men, women, and children. Economic growth depends on optimal use of the workforce.
Women’s participation in working life has had a greater impact on Norway’s economy than our oil and gas revenues — together. Guess we are proud of that?
Over the last few years, Jordan has implemented important reforms, aimed at increasing women’s participation in the labor market. Important steps have been taken towards achieving pay equity and supporting anti-discrimination in the workplace.
Norway is supporting several of these Jordanian initiatives. We hope to encourage even more, by sharing our experience in this area. Women’s economic empowerment is crucial if we are to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2030.
Gender equality is not only a human right. It is also smart economics! Talents are distributed equally among men and women. Therefore, opportunities should be equal, too.
Identifying and addressing the obstacles to women’s economic participation is of vital importance in this work. Seminars like the one on female empowerment that will follow this opening session, can help us to achieve our common goals.
Or, as the actor Emma Watson said in her gender equality speech to the UN in 2014: “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feels welcome to participate in the conversation?”
Many parts of this seminar is related to digitalization. I imagine this is also close to Your Majesty`s heart. My knowledge is based on a very pleasant meeting in Oslo in 2010, where you told me about a fabulous item called an Ipad. I had never seen one, but could imagine how useful this device would be. A day later, a parcel arrived from abroad – guess what it was? An Ipad from Your Majesty. Suddenly, I felt very modern! Thank you, dear King Abdullah, for your most suitable gift!
Therefore, I find it quite natural that Jordan and Norway today will join forces in the global initiative Digital Public Goods Alliance – to be launched later today. The partnership’s goal is to make existing technologies, content and data freely for re-use and adapted to fit local context. I am sure our Minister of Foreign Affairs will tell you more about this important initiative later. With these words, I wish you every success with today’s fruitful meetings. I hope they will lead to many new opportunities!
The forum also announced Jordan has joined the Digital Public Goods Alliance and Platform, founded by Norway and UNICEF, to support entrepreneurship and help companies to access funding and networking with experts worldwide.
Queen Sonja and Queen Rania also attended another forum focusing on freedom and participation for women in the workplace.
Jordanian women are highly educated but often stay home once they marry.
The Jordanian Government plans to increase the level of women participating in economic life.
King Harald and Queen Sonja are on an official visit to Jordan from Monday, 2 March, to Wednesday, 4 March 2020.
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