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Powell: Conclusion of the Forum For the Future

Remarks With Moroccan Foreign Minister Benaissa, Moroccan Finance Minister Oualalou and U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow at the Conclusion of the Forum For the Future

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Ministry of Interior
Rabat, Morocco
December 11, 2004

FOREIGN MINISTER BENAISSA: (in Arabic) Good afternoon. First of all, I would like to thank you for accepting this invitation and for your interest with this meeting, the first meeting for The Forum for the Future that has just finished its activities minutes ago. At the outset, I would like to commend the partnership that the United States of America and Morocco have to prepare for this meeting. We have received all the cooperation from our friends with the U.S. delegation, and at this opportunity, I would like to tell Secretary Powell and his colleague, the Secretary of Treasury, Mr. Snow, that the meeting today was different from the other previous meetings. It was an open meeting and was also characterized as well with the ideas that have encompassed all the sectors and aspects from security and peace and stability to development, also touched on what we think of our governments and civil society.

As you know, more than 20 ministers have participated in this meeting from the Greater Middle East and North Africa and also ministers from the G-8 countries. Also participated, the representatives of regional institutions: the Arab League and also the EU and the Maghreb and the GCC. In addition, also, there was a strong presence for civil society, in both its parts: NGOs and also the contracting and business community. And, for the participating countries, being careful to see its joint, common commitments to see it (inaudible), and to see a mutual benefit, a number of delegations have come forward with several initiatives, secretarial initiatives that are well studied and ready to be implemented. These initiatives have included many sectors, among which: to promote the dialogue for democracy and also to have a network for financing funds, and also a working group on investment and the microfinance. And also to have business activities in addition to a team that had an initiative to promote the activities for removing illiteracy and promoting this activity also with international financing corporation to provide assistance to provide assistance to promote the small business.

At the political level the participants reiterated their conviction that the successful reform has to come from within the societies, the societies of the region, and anyway cannot be imposed, dictated from outside. The participants affirmed their commitment to solidify and strengthen the basis of democracy and consultation and enlarging the participation in the political life and public affairs and also in the decision-making process.

The participants welcomed the concrete progress that has been achieved by many of the countries of the region at the level of the political development and expressed also their support to promote the democratic progress in these countries and to continue the political reforms underway and also scheduled in the countries of the region. The participants also affirmed the sovereign right for each country within its sovereign unity and territorial sovereignty to promote its democratic, political, social, and cultural system very freely, according to the UN charter and the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs and the peaceful settlement of conflicts and good neighborhood. The participants also affirmed that their support to reforms in the region will occur in parallel with their support to finding a solution to the Palestinian conflict.

On the civil society aspect, the participants focused on the importance of the contribution of civil society, in particular NGOs and the representatives of the business sector. That is a fertile ground for good citizenship and responsible citizenship that would be the best guarantee for a transition to democracy. Also the participants affirmed the importance of getting the women engaged in the political activity and citizenship and social sectors and educational and cultural sectors, and humanitarian and developmental sectors. Also the first Forum for the Future was able to promote the commitment of the countries of the region and the partners of the G-8 for development and reform and while also defining the general orientation for this partnership for development and a common future, Insha'allah, God willing. And now I will give the floor to my colleague and my friend, Secretary Powell.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mohammed, and on behalf of Secretary Snow and the other members of my delegation, I would like to thank you and Finance Minister Oualalou for putting on this very successful conference. And also to thank His Majesty King Mohammed the VI and the people of Morocco for all the hospitality they have extended to all of the delegations. Mohammed has given a rather thorough summary of the days proceedings and you have longer printed summary that will be coming out in the name of the Chair. Let me just say that I think this has been an historic and very successful Forum for the Future. It was important that it be done here in the region, because it is from the region that the pressure for reform arises. And as we listened to all the presentations today we heard so many inspiring stories about the need for reform and how the nations of the region want to move forward, through the rule of law, to solving the problem of illiteracy, to empowering women, to taking all the actions necessary for reform to be solidly based within the region. And we heard from G-8 representatives and the other international institutions represented here how we stand ready to assist, by providing financial assistance or lessons learned or the experience that we have that is relevant to the region. The key thing, though, is that reform has to come from within. It cannot be imposed from without and at this conference today we heard that clear voice of reform speaking to us from within the region. And as we move forward, we will do everything we can to respond to that voice in partnership and collaboration.

We do not overlook some of the challenges that we are all facing in the region. The uppermost in that list of challenges is the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But, we also took note of the reality that we may have a new moment of opportunity where we can get the peace process moving again. I'm looking forward to the election of a new Palestinian Authority President on the ninth of January. Hopefully, we can then move forward into the Road Map. But as we work toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians, we cannot ignore the fact that reform has to go on, in any event. A child who is in need of an education and will not be a contributing member of society without that education needs that education now, needs to be made literate now.

We heard from the civil society sector, powerful presentations about the need for reform. The business dialogue presented to us and said very clearly that with 50 percent unemployment now within the region and with 100 million youngsters coming into the work place over the next 10 to 12 years, this is the time for investment, for trade, for doing everything possible to educate our populations here in the region for the kind of world they will be facing.

But, we did more than just talk. As the Minister noted, a number of specific action items came out of this conference. Whether it's future conferences or whether it's setting up entrepreneurial centers, as is going to be done here in Morocco and Bahrain, or the work that will be undertaken with respect to literacy, with respect to trade and investment and a variety of other things. So, this was a conference of real purpose and I think real accomplishment as we join with our friends, those of us from the industrialized world join with friends here in the region in the spirit of partnership to assist the nations of the region to pursue reform, in accordance with each nation's needs, each nation's history, culture, background, state of political development--but above all, totally in consonance with the aspirations, dreams, and hopes of the people of that particular country. It has to be a tailored effort with each of the countries. But, we are united in a common purpose and that is to encourage and push reform to benefit the people of the region, and in turn then the people of the world. Thank you very much

FOREIGN MINISTER OUALALOU: (in Arabic) Dear Sirs, you know that you also discussed finance in this meeting. We have started first with studying some of the major topics, especially the facilities of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and also the problems between the network of capital and funds in the region, and also the small credit and loans in fighting poverty, and some of the other new initiatives that some of the other new initiatives that some of the representatives of the EU have put forward. Also, in addition to the number of countries there were also the representatives of the financial funds, whether European financial funds or the Arab, especially in the Gulf, or worldwide, such as the World Bank, and also the International Finance Corporation.

It is important that I say that the participants considered that the economic reforms are needed in the region, but with the condition that it would happen voluntarily, and also on the basis that it will be gradual and firm and would take into consideration the economic and social specificities and political specificities and cultural specificities of all the components of the region. Also, the participants considered the need of these countries of the region to get involved into the world economy and play an important role at the WTO. Also the participants affirmed their support for more liberalization of the multilateral trade through the program of the DOHA for development and also at the WTO.

The participants also valued the importance of the existing relationship between the Mediterranean countries in the process of Agadir, and the importance of the relationship from the Euro-Mediterranean partnership that was inaugurated in Barcelona, Spain, that will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year. And, also the importance of a greater free Arab zone and also the free trade zone that some countries of the region entered into with the United States of America.

The participants also highlighted the need to strengthen all of the mechanism for fighting of poverty and support small businesses and medium enterprises, and also considered in their discussions about the funding network, considered the importance of having a sort of parallelism and harmony for these exchanges and also there is a study that will be taken by the Arab Monetary Fund with this respect. Thank you.

SECRETARY SNOW: Thank you very much and let me say that the finance minister, development minister, economic minister meeting served to reinforce the reforms that are underway and to suggest that real progress is being made. As has been said, the reforms have to be locally owned, they have to come from the region. It is inspiring to meet with a group of ministers from the region who have such commitment to doing the right thing, to moving forward. And our role, the role of the G-8 and the other international institutions is to support those efforts. You know reforms never come easily. There's always inherently opposition to reforms. That's the nature of reforms. If it were easy, it would already be done. So, reforms face opposition. Our role is to help to build support and momentum in the world community for these very important efforts. There can be no doubt about the fact that the region is on the right path, that progress is being made, and that things like embracing the role of enterprise, things like opening up financial markets and trade and improving cash flows and investment in the region, moving forward with this network of funds, in this IFC facility, all hold great promise. We are honored and pleased to be partners in this effort. This is, for many of us on the economic and finance side, the fourth such meeting. And, we are continuing to build momentum and support for these important initiatives, which hold so much promise for the region. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: (inaudible) situation in Palestine as it stands today? What are the steps that the Administration will undertake to revive the Palestinian track? And secondly, what is the state of relations between Washington and Damascus today?

SECRETARY POWELL: As you know, in the post-Arafat period, I traveled immediately to the region and spoke with Israeli leaders and Palestinian leaders. I'm encouraged that both sides are now reaching out to one another. The first important step is a successful election of a new Palestinian President on the 9th of January. I'm encouraged that both the Israelis and Palestinians are working to make sure that that election takes place, that all Palestinians have an opportunity to participate in the election to include Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. And the Israelis have said that they would open the region up so that there is the ability to move back and forth to campaign as well as to participate in the election on election day. And so I think this is an encouraging step. We have encouraged the Palestinian Authority to begin preparing a government, for the new President and to begin giving consideration to the political and security needs for the turnover of Gaza when the settlements are removed as part of Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement plan in Gaza and also four West Bank settlements--all part of the Road Map process with final status issues ultimately to be resolved by direct negotiation between the two parties. So, I believe we have a moment of opportunity here. The United States is fully engaged in working with both parties to seize this moment of opportunity, and it was discussed rather widely in our conference today.

With respect to the U.S. relations with Damascus, as you know we are in constant touch with the authorities in Damascus. We have some concerns with respect to transit of individuals and contraband across the Syrian-Iraq border that is not helpful. Syria has taken some action. We think that there is more that they can do and we communicate with them on a regular basis in that regard.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, your colleague the Moroccan Foreign Minister said that the participants reported that reforms will occur in tandem with steps toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. That's the way I understood him. Is that your understanding of what

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: I'm sorry, George. I 'm not understanding the question. Try again.

QUESTION: You're colleague the Moroccan Prime Minister just said the participants reported that they would take steps toward reform in tandem with steps towards progress in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Is that your understanding of the situation, and, if so, are you disappointed?

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: No, not at all. I think what we heard in the conference was that we very much want to see progress toward the Road Map and toward the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after all these years. Everybody wants that. We also want to see reform take place, and reform does not have to wait for that. Obviously, as that situation improves and if we start moving down that track, then I think conditions are created for faster reform, and that may be the tandem linkage there. But we are not sitting here today saying, "no reform until that's resolved." Reform is underway. We didn't start reform here today. Reform has been underway in so many of the countries in the region, and we are here to hear from those countries, give them encouragement and give them resources. But we also understand that the region wants to see progress with respect to getting into the Road Map and finding a solution to the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We're not starting reform, or holding up reform. It's taking place. It's ongoing, especially here in the Kingdom of Morocco of all places.

QUESTION: Thank you. I'm wondering if this is a one-off event? Or there will be many? And if there are going to be some more events, will there be a permanent Secretariat. And will the events be open to all the participants? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER BENAISSA: (in Arabic) As we have indicated this on many occasions, the Forum for the Future is a space for a free dialogue, open dialogue, a flexible dialogue and it has mechanisms that work on defining the Secretarial aspects for establishing a partnership among the relevant countries firstly, and to gain the commitment and support of the G-8 member countries. Therefore, there is no Secretariat in the meaning of a Secretariat. This meeting will be followed up by another meeting. The Kingdom of Bahrain, the sister friend, offered an invitation and is the only country who put forward this invitation for the second meeting to be held for the Forum for the Future to be held next year in Manama, Insha'allah, God willing.

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: The only thing I might add is that not only has the King of Bahrain agreed to host the next one that has already been scheduled, but all of the things you will see in the Chairman's summary that will be distributed or has been distributed, and the things that the Minister touched on show that a lot of action will be taking place between this forum and the next forum. All of the things you talked about: the creation of the International Finance facility, the literacy initiative, the entrepreneurship initiative in Morocco and Bahrain. I think this shows action and not just words, and not just a one-off event.

SECRETARY SNOW: If I could add one further thought on that. At the finance ministers' meeting there was an agreement that the finance ministers would have a follow-up session sometime in '05, either the fall or the spring, probably in conjunction with the World Bank and IMF meetings. And that in the interim we have established a working group of the deputies to the ministers to continue to monitor progress on these initiatives, the IFC facility remittances, the network of funds and so on. So, in that sense, we have a permanent, ongoing effort with respect to the finance minister side of this major initiative.

QUESTION: Secretary Snow, OPEC met yesterday and agreed to cut production. Was that a premature decision? Are you still concerned about the risk oil plays to the U.S. and global economy?

SECRETARY SNOW: Well, I've not had a chance to examine the statements by the OPEC ministers in any detail. Obviously, it's a matter that we will want to follow and follow closely. The global economy is on a good growth path and it's important that we continue to stay on that growth path. And staying on that growth path requires all of us to do what we can to maintain the current momentum. Thank you.

QUESTION: (in Arabic) With respect to the economic aspect of the activities of the forum, you have touched on the issue of financing. We notice that most of the participant countries are indebted. What are the G-8 members and the international institutions, did you have the initiative to cancel the debts of these countries or reduce the debts of these countries? Or, (inaudible) of the United Nations and called on canceling the debts of the African countries.

FINANCE MINISTER OUALALOU: (in Arabic) The discussion about this issue of mostly relating to financing the reforms and the future. Now, the problem of debts, with respect to Morocco, what we have focused on mostly, and for most is taking into consideration the financing experience that comes from several funds: either the funds that are in Europe (inaudible) or the funds that are related to the Gulf, Arabian Gulf, and also the international financing institutions. The main idea now is to work on finding a sort of harmony of the activities of these funds, knowing that each fund will have its specific (inaudible) activity, and for each country also will have its own specificity for its relationship for the funds it deals with. Thank you.

QUESTION: I would like know whether the Forum for the Future is an alternative for the Greater Middle East Initiative and how could the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and war in Iraq affect it? Thank you.

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: I believe these are all complementary efforts. We have the Middle East Partnership Initiative. Now we're calling this initiative the Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative. And I think it's freestanding from the Palestinian issue, as well as the war in Iraq. The United States has made a firm commitment to support this effort. We are confident that with an Iraqi election at the end of January and the Iraqi people have their legitimate government, legitimate in terms of having an elected in place, the situation can continue to improve there as we put down the insurgency. And we're also hoping for progress in the Middle East peace plan. But while we're waiting to solve these two problems, there is a need for reform. That's what we heard clearly today. We can't hold up reform or slow the pace of reform, or keep reform from accelerating because of these other issues that are important. They affect the environment in which we are operating. But nevertheless, reform is necessary. If a child is in need of education, or in need of an opportunity, if people are in need of jobs, that is a reality that reform has to talk to and deal with, even if there are these other issues that are of concern to people.

QUESTION: (in French) Can you tell us how big is the amout that will be injected into the region? Did you talk about any amount? With respect to the youth, isn't this a very modest initiative, especially that these funds that you've located are very slight compared to the needs of these countries. Thank you.

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: The needs are great and we will be doing everything we can to address those needs. And not only with specific funds that might have been identified for BMENA, but there are many other things we are doing, for example with Morocco. Morocco is now a candidate for the Millennium Challenge Account: a huge infusion of assistance funding, development funding, that we are making available to countries around the world. And, Morocco is in first tranche of countries that was selected. In addition, the United States has doubled its development assistance in President Bush's first four years in addition to the Millennium Challenge Account. So there are many other things that we are doing that feed into the effort that we are talking about here today. This is a way of bringing it all together and coming up with a solid plan of what the needs are for each of these countries, and making sure that all of our different development programs that are already underway are feeding into that common agenda and then see what additional resources we need beyond all those already there.

SECRETARY SNOW: I would just add that the best development program is a job. Jobs come from growth and growth comes from the sorts of initiatives that the governments of the region are advancing. And that can't be emphasized enough, because with growth, with the emergence of small, medium-sized enterprises, with capital flows, with good use of the remittances, with good use of the network of funds, you will be creating in the region a stronger enterprise culture. And that enterprise culture lies at the very heart of the success of the economies of the region, job creation and higher standards of living.

MODERATOR: Thank you to the ministers for responding to the questions. Thank you to all.

[End]

Released on December 11, 2004

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