Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah opened on Tuesday the Abu Dhabi Media Summit 2014 which gathers more than 500 media industry leaders from around the globe.
The theme of this year’s summit is ‘Driving and Sustaining a Future Media in MENA and Beyond’.
In the opening session, which was attended by H.H. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Social Development, and H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Queen Rania delivered a speech with a clear message that the Arab world needs to reclaim its narrative from extremist groups in the region. "A minority of irreligious extremists is using social media to rewrite our narrative hijack our identity and rebrand us."
With images of violence and destruction from the Arab world projected on screen, Her Majesty insisted that these images do not represent the vast majority of Arabs.
"These images don’t represent me anymore than they represent you. They’re alien and abhorrent to the vast majority of Arabs -- Muslims and Christians. And they should make every Arab across this region seethe. Because they’re an attack on our values as a people. And on our collective story."
However, the Queen noted that the moderate majority of Arabs are equally to blame. "They say, "a story is told as much by silence as by speech". Well, our silence speaks volumes. We are complicit in their success." But Her Majesty asserted that the fight against extremists goes well beyond that battleground and it is a fight between moderates and extremists all over the world.
"It’s a fight for the future of Islam and the future of the Arab world. So, it’s a fight that moderates have to win," adding that "Winning also depends on our ability to conquer the philosophical battleground as well. Because at the heart of this assault is an ideology."
Queen Rania questioned the increase in the number of followers and fans of radical groups in the region. She explained that these followers are "from classrooms in which they were never challenged to think for themselves, and where they learned an outdated curriculum. From societies in which a quarter of their peers is unemployed, where there’s inadequate social security to afford a life of dignity, and where opportunities to help to change the status quo are few and far between."
Her Majesty added that the only way we can save our youth from the sirens’ call of extremism is to provide them with a better alternative. "The satisfaction of a job, the relief of justice, the solidarity of equality, and the fulfillment of participation. We provide real opportunities for change and advancement."
Her Majesty presented the audience with the options facing the region today: "We either develop our region, or we let others dismantle it. Find solutions to the challenges, or watch the challenges avalanche. Harness the tools to drive the Arab world forward in the 21st century, or let others use those tools to drag us back to the dark ages."
Education reform topped Her Majesty’s to-do-list for the region: "Our strategy must be long-term. And that starts by investing in quality education for all... Education reform doesn’t come cheap. But the price of ignorance is far, far greater."
She gave the example of EDRAAK, an initiative that Her Majesty launched earlier this year to bring Massive Open Online Courses to the Arab world in Arabic. She also thanked His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his support for the initiative and noted that online learning is the best opportunity to achieve quality and modern education, which the Arab World desperately needs.
Commenting on quality education for all, Queen Rania asserted that it must include girls as well as boys. "Because educated girls strengthen their nations’ economies, they prioritize the health and education of their own children and they help to build stable societies more resilient to radicalization." She said.
Queen Rania then added that "education alone isn’t the solution. We need jobs as well. Recent estimates indicate that we need to create over 100 million jobs by 2020 to absorb new entrants into the labor market."
Acknowledging the job creation challenge, Her Majesty was nonetheless optimistic about emerging opportunities in the region: "The good news is that new industries are emerging. The digital landscape is evolving. And internet connectivity and mobile technologies are creating new horizons for entrepreneurs. Arab internet users are growing at around 20 per cent annually. Mobile penetration at around 110 per cent."
Her Majesty also highlighted the potential of e-commerce in the region, as well as the ICT sector that is set to hit USD20 billion in 2020.
"A burgeoning technology sector. An insatiable consumer market. And a huge youth population hungry for opportunity. The conditions for explosive growth are within reach." Her Majesty said.
Talking about the resources the Arab World possess, Her Majesty said our region has the values, the money, the minds, the youth, the technology, the market, the networks, and the motivation to tap into these reserves and create lasting change.
Ending her speech, Queen Rania said: "For the sake of each one of us for Islam and the Arab world for the future of our young people, we must create a new narrative and broadcast it to the world. Because if we don’t decide what our identity is and what our legacy will be, the extremists will do it for us."
Earlier at the summit, the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, H.E. Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, welcomed Queen Rania and media industry guests to Abu Dhabi, and reflected on the importance of the media industry to the regional economy. "The media sector is becoming increasingly far ranging and relevant. From a regional perspective, our industry represents an ever-increasing and significant contributor to the regional economy," Al Mubarak said.
He went on to describe the market opportunity in MENA, which is being driven by the relentless increase in connectivity in the region. He gave comment on how media innovation is transforming the way students receive and engage with information, and how twofour54 is responding with a number of initiatives to support the industry’s development.
"All of twofour54’s investments are giving young UAE Nationals unprecedented access to a thriving industry in which they can learn their craft, improve their skills, develop new ideas and help shape the media sector of the future."
He added that "through education and training the media industry has an unrivalled potential to contribute to the development of future generations, formally and informally, directly and indirectly, in this region and globally. That is both a huge opportunity and a great responsibility."
While introducing Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, he reminded the audience of Her Majesty’s strong advocacy of education in the Middle East and North Africa, saying "I can think of no better person to open our Summit on the future of media in the MENA region and beyond."
This year’s three day programme features a series of panel discussions, interviews and presentations by seasoned industry leaders as well as new players. Each day is focused around a particular industry topic: content creation, distribution and financing.
Day two of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit – which is open to the public – will kick off tomorrow with a presentation by Facebook’s Vice President of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Nicola Mendelsohn. This will be followed by a panel discussion on technology, social media and women in MENA, featuring Princess Ameera Al-Taweel, Founder and CEO of Time Entertainment and Dalya Al Munthanna, CEO of GE Gulf, among others.
Robert A. Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard will take to the stage to discuss the gaming sector, while Gerhard Zeiler President of Turner Broadcasting International will be interviewed on the future of broadcasting. In a keynote speech, CEO of Imax Corporation Richard Gelfond will address the next big thing for the big screen.
The disruptive impact of online video and the ‘second screen’ on the medium of television will be discussed by panellists from Twitter, Sky News Arabia, Istikana and BBC Future Media. Sam Barnett, CEO of MBC, and twofour54’s Chief Legal Officer, Greg Sweeting will participate in the final panel discussion of day two, which will look combatting content piracy in the digital age.