Speech of Baroness Symons in
Doha 6th forum for
Democracy, development and
Sixth Doha Forum on
Democracy, Development and Free Trade
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great privilege,
and an enormous pleasure to address you, a very
distinguished and expert audience, at this opening of the 6th
Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade.
May I also say how
delighted I am to be back in Qatar, and particularly here in
Doha, which has become a byword for hospitality and
wonderful conference facilities.
Your Highness, thank you
very much for the splendid arrangements which have been made
for this conference – and, through you, may we thank all
those who have worked so hard to bring this about. The
conference is beautifully presented and at the same time
warm, welcoming and very hospitable.
Your Highness, I can think
of no better venue for an international gathering to discuss
democracy, development and free trade. It was in this city
that the World Trade Organization launched the Doha
Development Round; trade talks on the vital necessity of how
we can do most to ensure that Free Trade is also Fair Trade;
fair to developing countries, and fair in encouraging real
and sustainable development for the future. We all know how
those talks have been very difficult, but the very fact that
development is a key issue is vitally important.
Qatar is also an excellent
example of a country developing its own democratic
institutions, strengthening civil society and empowering
women, whilst maintaining a strong sense of its own
identity, culture and future.
Qatar is an
outward-reaching, completely Arab State for the 21st
We wish Qatar well in its
role as a member of the United Nations Security Council, and
look forward to its contribution on the huge regional
issues; Iraq, Iran, Sudan and of course the
Middle East Peace Process.
It is also, entirely
appropriate for us to be tackling this very challenging
agenda, here in the Middle East Region. This region is of
vital importance to us in the United Kingdom, to Europe, the
world economy and global business. It is
fundamental to the world’s energy security,
containing, as it does, so much of the world’s known oil and
And the region is a major
trading partner – we in the United Kingdom have long
recognized its importance – and last year, the UK imported
over £7 billion worth of goods from the region, and exported
more than £12 billion worth – a growth of a stunning 30% in
trade over the previous year.
Increases in trade build
prosperity, enhance opportunities for investment, and
stimulate growth. But trade does so much more than that.
Trade facilitates investment in the great public services
which people everywhere – in every country
need and deserve.
Growth in education,
health, housing, transport and welfare. Investment in
the future is what we see so clearly here in Qatar – and
in a number of other Gulf countries, and increasingly
elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa Region.
Of course, this is helped
by the increase in oil prices, which have added an extra
£250 billion in revenues in the last four years in the GCC
countries. What has changed, and continues to develop, is
the way in which these revenues have helped to finance
significant public sector investment programmes, and to
generate considerable liquidity for private sector
investment around the region.
Your Highness, I am sure
that Qatar would be the first to recognize that the region
has still not reached its potential. Investment is high in
oil and gas, but it remains relatively low in other parts of
many of the economies of the region. Qatar, like the UAE
and other Gulf States are diversifying your economies, and
that diversification is vital for the future and needs to
spread throughout the region.
Global investment is
moving, but more needs to be done. We all know the figures:
youth unemployment is high. The World Bank calculates it is
about 50% in the region, and 100 million jobs are needed to
be created over the next 15-20 years if the situation is to
stabilize, and then improve.
So diversification in
economics, coupled with investment for future generations,
is of paramount importance to build a lasting
sustainability and security for the future. But
partnership must be for the long term – investors must be
prepared to endure the hard times as well as the good. We
in Europe and our transatlantic partners have a vital role
in building these partnerships – as was demonstrated last
month in Marrakech, at the meeting of trade ministers from
the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership – we hope this will lead
to full liberalization of trade between the EU and Arab
Mediterranean by 2010, and we look forward to the conclusion
of an EU/GCC Free Trade Agreement.
The Middle East North
Africa OECD investment programme is another good example of
practical reform which coupled with the United Nations Arab
Human Development report written, by people from the region,
provide policy frameworks within which we can all work
together in partnership. And I commend too the G8 Middle
East North Africa Forum for the Future, which was
ground-breaking in the meeting held in Bahrain in September,
putting real financial backing into work on supporting
democracy and civic participation, as well as encouraging
entrepreneurs and the growth of small and medium sized
businesses, and this evening we have heard from His Highness
further about Qatar’s contribution to the agenda on
Those of us from the
Western democracies have a real responsibility in this
respect. We need to recognize that these changes cannot be
imposed from outside the region. They must come from within
it. And we need to remember too that every country in this
region is different. Every bit as different from
each other as we in Europe are difference from each other,
and from our friends across the Atlantic. So our
responsibility has to be to form partnerships – real
partnerships to answer these challenges and recognize that
broad based, fundamental and integrated changes are
necessary, but may well be different in each country.
One size really does not fit all.
Moreover, we cannot exhort
other countries to move towards democratic reform and then
refuse to acknowledge the outcome of the very democratic
change we advocate. And the fact is that almost every
country in the region is introducing more democratic
dialogue, greater enfranchisement of both men and women, and
encouraging the growth of civil society and its voluntary
We shall be discussing
these developments over the next two days reviewing the very
real Arab based reform which has taken place, and
considering how best that may develop in the future.
Those of us who live in
the older Western democracies know just how imperfect those
democracies are – and we also have a development process of
our own to consider and much to learn.
No one has a monopoly on wisdom. We know too
that without the twin rocks of the rule of law and human
rights democracies can become the tyranny of the majority
over the minority, and a license to undermine the very human
rights and civil liberties which we have taken so long to
So the three go hand in
Democracy, the rule of
law, and human rights all three are vital components
and have to be supported by sound
economies, sustained by free and fair trade.
Democracy, the rule of law
and human rights are also all interdependent. Our
agenda here in Doha recognizes that all these components are
Each country has to find
its own way forward, but we do depend on each other – for
our prosperity in trade, and our international security.
The 21st Century is very different from the 20th
Century – perhaps we are all learning at last that
international cooperation is the key for all of us in
securing a better future.
Thank you, Your Highness
for all your generosity and commitment to this forum. I
wish it well.