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Secretary Kerry's Remarks at the World Economic Forum: Breaking the Impasse, May 2013

Author: John F. Kerry
Published May 26, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry gave this speech at the World Economic Forum, in Dead Sea, Jordan, on May 26, 2013. He discussed the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Excerpt from Kerry's remarks:

"Breaking the Impasse's guiding principle is to respect the freedom and the dignity of all peoples.

I want you to think about that, and I want to put my comments about the peace process in a larger context, if I can for a minute.

As we all remember, it was the lack of that kind of basic respect that ignited the Arab Awakening. It started with a single protest – a street vendor who deserved the right to be able to sell his goods without police interruption and corruption. And then it spread to Cairo, where young Egyptians used their cell phones and tweeted and texted and Googled and called and summoned people to the cause. And they used the social media to organize and demand more jobs, more opportunity, and the liberty to embrace and direct their own destiny. In doing so, these individuals and these individual acts embraced values that are so powerful that they, against all probability, removed dictators who had served for years. And they did it in a matter of days.

Now, of course, there are sectarian and religious and ideological motivations to many of today's clashes that have followed those events, but those events weren't inspired by religious extremism or ideological extremism. They were driven by motivation for opportunity and a future.

And what is fundamentally driving the demand for change in this region is, in fact, generational. It's about whether the massive populations of young people, still growing, has hope that there is something better on the horizon. It's about opportunity and it's about respect and it's about dignity.

And the aspirations that are driving the extraordinary transformations that began in Tunisia and Tahrir Square – the same ones that sparked what has unraveled into a brutal civil war with some sectarian overtones at this point, those aspirations aren't unique to any one country. They're universal. They have driven all of history.

So we ignore the lessons of the Arab Awakening at our own peril. And with an important part of the world upside down, it is imperative that all of us channel our creativity and our energy into making sure that people actually do have better choices.

The public and private sectors alike – and this is where you all come into this. The public and private sectors alike have a fundamental responsibility to meet the demands of this moment. And one can't do it without the other. We need you at the table, Munib and Yossi and all of you.

In fact, this moment is actually – this moment in history is actually one of the great stories of our time. But the ending remains unwritten, which is why what we're doing here is actually important. Insh'allah, we get to write that ending.

And how we do that is what I want to talk to you about here today. We have to remember that the choices being made – whether they're being made north of here in Syria, or south of here in Yemen, or just across the Jordan River in Jerusalem, or in Ramallah, or further west in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia – they all have something very important in common: They each offer two clear paths that really couldn't be more different one from the other, and they couldn't have more different consequences.

If we don't eagerly grab this moment, we will condemn ourselves to future conflict. We are staring down a dangerous path filled with potential violence, with the capacity to harden divisions, increase instability. And as most here are very, very aware, this will be a path that will be haunted by violent extremists who rush to fill the vacuum filled by the failure of leadership.

As King Abdullah said here yesterday, extremism has "grown fat" on conflict. If we make the wrong choices or no choices at all, dangerous people will come to possess more of the world's most dangerous weapons. We will face huge pressure on states from growing populations of refugees, just like the camps that are metastasizing just over here on the border of Jordan and Syria.

Now, everybody here knows it's not that governments or people will purposefully choose that option. That's not the concern. It's that by failing to choose the alternative and failing to take the risks for peace and stability, those with power will make the worst possibilities inevitable.

So what is the other alternative? Let me talk about that a little bit.

Governments need to pay attention to governance. They need to be open, transparent, and accountable to people. And they need to be seen implementing a vision that addresses the needs of their people – the needs to be able to work, to get an education, to have an opportunity to be treated with that dignity and respect that brought people to Tahrir Square and to so many other causes in this region.

Countries like Egypt, Libya and Tunisia need to make the right choices, and that is a combination of building capacity – capacity for governance, capacity for security which doesn't exist, capacity to provide jobs. They need to aggressively re-emerge into the global economic community.

And in making these choices, a significant part of the outcome of the Arab Awakening for certain will be defined by government, because the choices that government makes clearly will have an impact on the playing field. As Egypt moves toward the acceptance of the IMF and hopefully works to bring the opposition to the table, Egypt will be far stronger than if Egypt doesn't choose to do those things.

But the burden, I want you to know, does not just lie within palaces and parliaments. There is a huge role for business to play here and a huge opportunity for you to share in the success. No one here should underestimate the degree to which the private sector can promote change and force critical choices, as well as impact the actions of government. The fact is that good governance, peace, and economic development necessarily go hand-in-hand.

And that's why I believe it is time to put in place a new model for development. The old model is one that saw government make grants or give money government-to-government or invest directly in some infrastructure, some kind of public sector investment. The private sector pretty much did what the private sector thought was in the best interest of the private sector in terms of the bottom line. They did their own thing. And so while aid was government-to-government, there was a sort of division of responsibility, if you will.

In this new age, when there is such a greater amount of wealth, so much cash on the sidelines, and where we see so much pressure on governments in terms of their budgets, and where there is still such a great amount of great poverty, we need a new model for how we are going to bring order and open up the possibilities to the future. We need to partner with the private sector because it is clear that most governments don't have the money, and in certain places, the private sector actually has a greater ability to move things faster than government does. Government can facilitate. Government can leverage. And in fact, government has gained skills and knowledge about how to do that in ways that we never had 10, 15, 20 years ago. And we can do it with greater skill than ever before.

The greater Middle East and many of the countries experiencing the upheaval at this time need to seize on this new model because the task of building stability by creating millions of jobs is urgent for all of us."

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