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Queen Rania highlights impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on Jordan

By JT - Apr 05,2014 - Last updated at Apr 05,2014

AMMAN — The situation in Syria a “political conundrum and a heartbreaking humanitarian crisis”, Her Majesty Queen Rania said on Thursday, urging the international community to step up support to refugee host communities. 

Speaking at the fifth annual Women in the World Summit as the featured dinner interview guest, the Queen also addressed various issues and challenges pertinent to women and education in the Arab world, according to a statement from her office.

During the onstage conversation with Tina Brown, founder of Women in the World and CEO of Tina Brown Live Media, Her Majesty told the audience at the Lincoln Centre in New York that Jordan is hosting over 600,000 refugees, and is struggling to manage the huge pressure this place on its economy and infrastructure.

The Queen explained that Syrian refugees in Jordan have free access to public healthcare and school systems, all of which are stretched to the limit. 

Asserting the historic humanitarian role Jordan has played in the region due to its constancy in being a country of moderation, Her Majesty noted that even with the best of intentions, Jordan cannot cope with the unprecedented needs without increased international support.

The Queen touched on the important role played by the international community in supporting Jordan with its humanitarian efforts, adding that “there is no shortage of sympathy”, but aid and donations have not kept pace with the mounting needs. 

Her Majesty also spoke about the importance of education reform in Jordan and across the Arab world in light of the region’s persistent unemployment challenge, stressing the importance of innovation and creativity in addressing this challenge.

One such innovation that can help transform the Arab world is free online education, Queen Rania said. 

“Transformative shifts take place when what is suddenly possible meets what is urgently needed. When opportunity intersects with necessity.”

The Queen spoke about her foundation’s plan to launch a new Arabic MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) platform that utilises the latest technology in making quality education more accessible through the Internet to the general Arabic-speaking population.

When asked about what seemed to be a lack of progress on women’s issues following the Arab Spring, Her Majesty explained that in light of heightened polarisation, violence and conflict in some Arab countries, concerns about safety and security have drowned out many of the voices supporting women’s issues. 

However, the Queen reminded the audience that change on such a scale needs time, explaining that tangible transformations “… will take much more than a three-month spring or even three years to take root in the Arab world”.

Her Majesty also urged the audience to remember that every country in the Arab world, and the starting point for women in each, is different.

Despite the continuing challenges to Arab women’s empowerment, Queen Rania highlighted the surge in activism by women in the region after the Arab Spring. New advocacy groups and movements championing women’s rights have emerged across the region.

She added that the region has also witnessed a dramatic cultural shift, at the heart of which is a new generation of men and women who are more empowered and passionate about making their voices heard. 

The Women in the World Summit was launched in 2010 by the electronic news media, The Daily Beast, to primarily focus on and discuss challenges faced by women and girls in the world as well as inspire conversation about the role of women and their contribution to global development.

Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, International Rescue Committee President and CEO David Miliband, US Ambassador and Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security Executive Director Melanne Verveer, and Global Health Corps CEO and Cofounder Barbara Bush also attended this year’s summit, along with many other leading women from around the world.

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