Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan speaks during the opening ceremony of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi on January 15, 2013. (AFP/Getty Images)
Jordan’s Queen Rania Al Abdullah has called on the oil-rich Gulf states to help improve access to electricity and energy supplies in the Middle East, in a bid to address social concerns raised during the Arab Spring unrest.
“Today 1.4bn people, one in five in the world, still cannot access grid electricity. For 1bn more, access is unreliable… Without sustainable energy, there can be no sustainable development,” Queen Rania said in a keynote speech in Abu Dhabi at the World Future Energy Summit on Tuesday.
“Energy is humanity’s lifeblood; where it flows, prosperity burgeons. Where it stalls, the impoverished and disadvantaged languish… burdened by multiple challenges,” she added.
She cited a Gallup poll conducted last year, in the midst of the Arab Spring unrest, which highlighted the fact that the majority of Arab youth place finding a job as their number-one priority.
“Yet, if we continue with business as usual, too many are unlikely to find one in the next five years,” she added.
“The Arab world includes some of the richest and the poorest countries in terms of energy resources… We’re rich in the energy of our overwhelmingly young population, but poor in the opportunities we can offer them… And we’ve all seen the result of that. Frustrated energies spilling onto the Arab street over the past two years.”
The Jordanian royal pointed to some examples where a lack of access to electricity has hindered social progress in the Middle East.
“Take Gaza, where power cuts, a daily reality, make studying at home tough. Street lamps there are not only illuminating roads, they’re lighting up futures. Look… and you will see children huddled under them, textbooks in hand, reading, learning. They have learned to make a little light go a long way.
“Or take Iraq, where black-outs are so frequent, the Al Dakhil Clinic in Baghdad had to destroy precious medicines because they couldn’t be kept at the right temperatures. And where they had to cancel their children’s vaccination programme because the vaccines couldn’t be stored properly… Children don’t deserve these injustices.”
While calling for help to address such social concerns, she highlighted some grassroots initiatives that have sought to address the problem of a lack of energy.
“Yemen, where, in the past year, there have been some days with less than one hour of electricity… 16-year old Wafa Al Rimi, with the help of INJAZ Yemen and some private sector guidance, she formed an all-female company that invented solar-powered lights – for which they won INJAZ Al-Arab’s Best Company of the Year in November.
“I’m proud that in Jordan, Bedouin women are training to be solar engineers… swapping unhealthy and expensive kerosene lamps for solar power… so that families have more money.”
Concluding her speech, which was delivered in front of dignitaries, world leaders and energy executives from around the world, she said ”there are no technical barriers to universal access to modern energy.
“With capital investment and political will, we could light up schools for children… power health clinics for mothers and their babies… and pump clean water for families.”