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Full text: Shaikh Mohammad's speech

The following is the full text of the speech of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the Knowledge Conference in Dubai.

Image Credit:Megan Hirons/Gulf News
Shaikh Mohammad talked about the latest developments and challenges surrounding the initiatives the UAE is undertaking to promote knowledge in Arab and Islamic worlds.
Gulf News

The following is the full text of the speech of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the Knowledge Conference in Dubai on Sunday:

Our dear Guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome this distinguished group of scholars, intellectuals, experts, Arab university presidents and professors. I am proud of your presence among us, and of your participation in the Knowledge Symposium, the first of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation conferences.

As you know, last May I announced the establishment of the Foundation with an endowment of $10 billion to fund knowledge projects in both Arab and Islamic worlds.

Today, I am pleased to inform you that the Foundation has completed the strategic and sector plans, and has drawn up the projects and programmes for immediate implementation.

I made sure that you attend this occasion, not only to witness the proceedings, but also to take part in it. This Foundation belongs to you. It is for you, for your children and communities. With you and by you, the Foundation will achieve its objectives, which are your objectives, as well.

To start with, I shall briefly speak of the Foundation, its mission and mechanism. I shall dwell first on certain apprehensions and questions posed by some people, since the establishment of the Foundation.

A friend said to me: “Mohammad, in this Foundation you are like one ploughing the sea. The challenge is huge; the gap of knowledge in most of the Arab and Islamic countries is bottomless. There is a lot of talk about building communities of knowledge, but little action. The pit is too wide to be seamed, so why should you weary yourself over this matter?!''

Another friend asked about the guarantees of knowledge returns for the Foundation money.

During the preliminary studies, we became aware of certain difficulties that may face the projects of the Foundation: complications and sensitivities plaguing the Arab situations, caused by illusory limitations envisaged by some, over the roles of states, communities and establishments we noted previous attempts that were not met with success and how bureaucracy infiltrates most establishments and groups involved in the production of knowledge.

Naturally, these apprehensions and fears are not without bases. They arise from the present state of affairs and previous experience.

There is no doubt that the Arab state of affairs is not free from thorns and pitfalls. This is our reality. We have no choice but to work through that reality, resolved to overcome obstacles, realizing that the worth of man is not measured by his adaptation to reality, however it maybe, and not by his skill in managing that reality. It is rather his ability to develop reality and change it to the better that matters.

As we have succeeded in various fields, bypassing apprehensions and fears, we shall succeed in this one, relying on God first, and guided by the Emirates' spirit and experience in achievement, with the conviction that man is innately righteous, positive, and mindful of the public good, and that Arab and Islamic people deserve a better type of life. When people find an environment conducive to their desires to achieve and advance, and work laws that are transparent, with equal opportunities for everyone, they will excel, produce, and give more than what is expected of them, and reach unprecedented levels.

This is exactly what we are looking forward to in our Foundation, which, with the help of God, and, through your efforts, will produce a living example of work, useful to people, for ever.

Ladies and gentlemen, the work of our Foundation based on the following points:

ONE: Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Foundation is a development foundation, with a clear vision and a definite goal. It is to participate in the development of the state of knowledge in the Arab and Islamic worlds.

TWO: The Foundation realizes that planning, organization, and sound management of resources, and awareness of the interconnection and integration in the performance and roles of knowledge producers are basic condition for enduring knowledge development.

THREE: The Foundation realizes that building accumulated knowledge is a process of innovation, development, change, and comprehensive reform. It is a number of consecutive and interconnected processes in an open environment conducive to excellence, experimentation and creativity.

FOUR: The Foundation believes that knowledge and freedom are two sides to the same coin. It believes that building communities of knowledge requires the development of policies, laws and measures necessary to ensure the freedom of thought, research, publication, in addition to providing protection for intellectuals, researchers, and inventors, while securing the independence of universities, and research centers.

FIVE: The knowledge projects and programmes of the Foundation are related to the needs of economic, social, and cultural development. They emphasize the improvement of the infrastructure of knowledge and the development of the skills of those working in the field.

SIX: The Foundation realizes the roles expected of the leaders and knowledge establishments. Its priority is the improvement of the powers of those establishments, the development of their leaders' skills in strategic planning, modern methods of administration, and building up new young leaderships.

SEVEN: In the implementation of all projects and programmes, the Foundation will accept nothing less than the best of international standards in production, quality, and performance.

EIGHT: The Foundation shall centre its activities to planning, follow up and encouragement. Projects and programmes shall be carried out in collaboration with knowledge establishments, and knowledge producers, and will follow up performance according to the best international criteria.

NINE: The Foundation sponsors, assists and finances projects, initiatives and programmes of knowledge usefulness. Therefore, it is not a charity society nor a fund for gifts, and donations.

Financing of accredited projects depends on rates of implementation, quality standard and the achievement of predefined results.

Ten: The Foundation is not a substitute for, nor a competitor with any of the other establishments. It is open to all, ready to cooperate with all workers in the field of knowledge.

These bases are the framework which governs the work of the Foundation. They are our guide when studying, evaluating programmes, projects, partnerships, proposals and new ideas.

Ladies and gentlemen, the challenges we face in the Arab and Islamic worlds are challenges of survival, not only of reform and development. Our knowledge level will determine, to a large extent, our ability to bypass these challenges.

Let us take the challenges of unemployment for example, which is about 15%, the highest rate in the world.

The challenge facing all of us today is not only finding jobs for the unemployed. It is finding 80 million job opportunities during the next decade.

How are we to face this challenge?

It is not easy. No region in the world, like our own, has ever created jobs for 80 million people within one decade.

If the rates of economic growth in the past period have failed to create enough jobs, what would the situation be like as the world moves from traditional to knowledge economy?

How are we to cope with this change and the rate of illiteracy is still the highest in the world, and the rate of scientific research funds is the lowest in the world?

The gulf is still too wide between the skills of graduates and qualified workers and the skills needed in the work market.
Small and medium size business companies, which form the majority in the private sector in the region, lack the necessary financing for investment in research, development, improving work systems, and modernizing tools and equipments. These companies have a basic role in realizing economic growth and providing new jobs.

In the light of these facts, how can our region move to knowledge economy? How can we create 80 million jobs during the next decade?

Naturally, we are not in the age of miracles. There are no magical solutions, or ready recipes.

Either we create miracles ourselves, and make solutions with our own hands, or the region will be heading towards millions of frustrated, angry young men and women… and you may imagine the consequences.

Our only choice, in the governments, the private sector, and the civil community organizations is to work fast, organize, study, and plan.

If every one of us carries out his responsibility, in whichever position he may be, and realizes his own potentials, whatever they may be, we shall be able to fill the gaps, bypass obstacles, conquer challenges, and achieve comprehensive and steady growth.

Ladies and gentlemen, I built up the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Foundation because I believe that our destiny in the region is one and the same, that the areas of cooperation are very wide, and waiting for initiatives.

I believe that the success we have achieved in the UAE can be achieved in other states as well, and that the spread of success is healthy, and it should be done with the help of the successful, while the results of failure are catastrophic, and can spread instantly, asking permission of no one, and can affect all.

Your Foundation will work in the fields which facilitate the fast movement of the region communities and their economies to the age of knowledge, through building potentials in the fields of education and culture, creativity and pioneering business.

Throughout history, no nation has ever made progress without the ability to create, excel, and be open to others. No progress has ever been made without looking at the future, and preparing for expected developments.

In every case, the role of leaders was decisive.

We know that the Abbasid Caliph Al-Ma'moun's initiative in establishing the House of Wisdom (Dar al-Hikma) was the starting point of the scientific and intellectual awakening of the Arabs and Muslims.

In modern times, had it not been for the competition of kings, rulers, princes, and merchants in Europe to support inventions, new ideas, new lines of business, the West would not have achieved its great renaissance, and its civilization would not have advanced during the past three centuries.

Your Foundation will concentrate, through its projects and programmes, on building the culture of invention, excellence, and innovation in the establishments of knowledge, and business, of both public and private sectors.

The foundation will be concerned with building the potentials of the leaders and the infrastructure of these establishments, through a number of studied initiatives, programmes and incentives.

The foundation will also be concerned with developing the potentials of small and medium size companies to help them stay active, and able develop and take part in creating new jobs.

Four hundred years ago, Arab and Muslim traders controlled the larger part of international world trade. Today, in this one world trade, they can hardly compete in their local markets.

We want them to be well established in their own markets, and to compete in the world markets.

If we do not help these companies to acquire the methods of knowledge economy in management, financing, marketing and quality standards, the development activities are bound to face crises and bottlenecks, and it will not be possible to create half of the 80 million jobs in the next decade.

Ladies and gentlemen, one thousand four hundred and twenty years ago, knowledge in our part of world went hand in hand with faith. We were the first who knew schools, houses of learning, laboratories, hospitals, and endowments.

We are proud of our past and its scientific achievements. But this pride does not reduce the heavy weight of the bitter present situation in education, universities, laboratories, scientific and intellectual output, whether original or translated, and the endowments assigned for the public good.

You, professors, scientists, intellectuals know best the reality of the situation, its inadequacy in the age of knowledge, and you can realize the effect of this backwardness in knowledge on the strength and integration of Arab and Islamic communities, on the nature and level of interaction with the economic, political, and cultural activities of globalization, the chances of their success in the realization of constant growth and advancement, on the possibilities of their joining new powers ascending to advanced scientific, economic, and civilizational positions.

You also know that the great challenge in the question of knowledge is not limited to a shortage in producing it, or to the type of that production. It also goes to the weakness in the components of the basic structure of knowledge, to its forms, administration, systems, and the dominant work culture.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Foundation is launching an organized and studied effort to participate in facing this challenge. It is my pleasure to announce today the projects of the next stage.

FIRST: The Arab Report on Knowledge
In collaboration with the UN Development Programme, the Foundation will issue an Annual Report on Knowledge Affairs.

The Report will provide an Arab index to gauge the situation of knowledge in the Arab states, in order to help those in charge to evaluate performance, develop policies and plans, and encourage competition in a field where competition is plausible.

TWO: Improvement of University Education Quality Programme
If we want our efforts in building knowledge to succeed, we have to do our utmost to compete with ourselves and with time in order to develop university education in the Arab world.

Your Foundation will participate in this effort, and will work with the UN Programme for quality and accreditation in Arab universities, in order to build the independent Arab establishment, vying with major regional institutions in the advanced world, and working in accordance with international criteria and experience.

THREE: Arab Research Network
This network will finance research and open active channels of cooperation among Arab scholars and researchers. The network will first start with two projects: Public Administration and The Arab Council of Social Sciences.

FOUR: School – Teachers Network
This network will launch a programme to train school – teachers in the Arab world, to help them present and exchange experience, ideas, and experiments; to be familiarized with programmes and to participate in research and the study of cases and models

FIVE: University Student Training Network
This network will help establish communication between university students who seek to find opportunities for practical training and Arab companies looking for promising graduates.

SIX: Scholarship Programme
This programme is addressed to a selection of young Arab professional to help them study for Master's Degree in more advanced universities in the world.

SEVEN: Pioneers Programme
This programme is addressed to top graduates who want to study for higher degrees in one of the more advanced Arab universities in the specialized field of the graduate.

EIGHT: Online Programme for Women
This programme addresses aspiring women whose family and practical obligations do not allow them to continue their higher education. The Foundation will offer grants to cover their online education, P.C., subscription to I.T. and the Internet, to help ambitious women continue their university education at home.

NINE: Leadership Skills Programme
The programme aims at building potentials in the field of leading establishments, individuals, and groups. It is open to aspirants, qualified young people working in government and private sectors.

TEN: Business Pioneers Programme
This programme will be carried out with universities willing to provide their students with skills to start their own business. The Foundation will organize a competition among new projects, ideas, and support every idea that proves useful.

ELEVEN: Business Sponsorships in Universities
This programme encourages students to invent, and facilitates the application of new inventions in practical life. The programme will work with business sponsorships that exist in universities and help in their development. It will start new units in the universities that want them, and will connect the invention with funds and business sectors.

TWELVE: Refugee Loan Programme
This programme will help refugees in disaster areas by making small loans to start small businesses. This programme will be carried out in collaboration with Arab and international organizations, societies and programmes, and the relevant community organizations.

THIRTEEN: Arab Database Programme
This programme aims at the development of Arab database on the internet through supporting ideas and projects of the young people in the programmes and Arab sites on the internet.

FOURTEEN: Charity Programme
This programme helps to develop the potentials of the donators, individuals, charities, or societies, to start productive charity projects, to help turn charity recipients to productive people, relying on themselves.

FIFTEEN: The Knowledge Complex
What about this Complex?
I always remember the Baghdadi “House of Wisdom'' (Bait al-Hikma) which abides in the Arab and Muslim conscience as an Arab pioneering step to provide the suitable environment to produce knowledge and as an example of openness to the age and its living cultures.

I admit before you that the idea of the “House of Wisdom'' has been insistent on me for several years.

I have always asked myself why doesn't the “House of Wisdom'' come back renovated in the Arab capitals?

Not a formal renovation, that is, but a renovation that is an actual representation of that House in serious and noble treatment of knowledge and its producers.

When I announced the establishment of Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Foundation, the House of Wisdom was present in my mind.

I believe that the memory of that House is present with us in this hall...inspiring us and teaching us lessons and examples.

It is my pleasure to announce today the foundation of the “Knowledge Complex'' to be at the heart of Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum projects.

The task of the Complex is, briefly, to provide the sources of knowledge as well as its dissemination, to facilitate the way to it, and to patronize the participatnts in its production, and those gifted young men and women who are in need of someone to lead them on the way.

The Complex will try to perform its task according to the following programmes and projects.

ONE: Adoption of new projects of knowledge value.

TWO: Translating knowledge from its foreign sources in to Arabic, providing it at no cost for universities, public libraries, study centers, and all interested knowledge producers.

THREE: Training Translators
The most urgent need in translation is the lack of competent translators.
The Complex will help in broadening the basis of competent translators through training programmes for young men and women working in the field.

FOUR: Mechanization of Translation
The Complex will support research in developing machine translation programmes to enhance translation activities from and into Arabic.

FIVE: Writing in Foreign Languages Programme
Most foreign books that deal with Arab and Muslims affairs are written by foreigners who choose their subjects according to their own interests. In may cases, current events lead to those books and the interests of authors and publishers.
If it is the right of foreigners to write the way they want, it is the duty of the Arabs and Muslims not to fall behind in presenting themselves, their heritage and their affairs to the world.

The Complex will launch a programme to support writing in foreign languages, not only on current and hot events, but also on our achievements, aspirations, our life which is full of beautiful things, our men and women who have dreams, sorrows, suffering and hopes, like other people.
We have human tales worthy of telling, stories of success worthy of writing, and places worthy of visits. Our life is not dry as the others imagine in what they write about us…

SIX: Supporting Arab Publishing Houses Programme
This programme aims at developing publishing institutions, to help them improve their infrastructures, their administrative and financial systems, and their activities in marketing and distribution the Complex hopes to draw up policies and programmes leading to the enlargement of publishing houses and discovering talents and adopting excellence.

SEVEN: Monthly Book Magazine
Since the Arab knowledge community needs a specialized publication to follow up Arabic and foreign book publications, measures have already been taken to issue a monthly specialized magazine, along the highest criteria of similar magazines in the world.

The Complex will be a home and a support for gifted people through the following programmes:
1. Offering sabbatical grants for knowledge producers, including writers, men of letters, researchers, intellectuals to help them complete their books and new work.

2. Excellence prizes to honour creative work in literature and research, whether for new works or the entire output.

3. Dubai Guests Programme: Invitation of creative people to Dubai for 1-3 months where they will be our honored guests.

4. Grants to publish works by promising young men and women. The Foundation will guarantee publication and distribution of deserving works, on the Arab level.

5. Heritage Grants, to support the study of heritage, showing its real essence and presenting it to our new generations and the world in a modern style.

Ladies and Gentlemen
Bring up your new ideas and projects and you will find that we welcome and support you.

Naturally, you will ask about the possibility and method of carrying out all these ambitious projects.

I assure all of you that the foundation is able to carry out all these projects.

Several projects will be implemented immediately, others will follow within a year, at most.

The Foundation has prepared work systems to ensure good administration and follow up. It will work with special communities of the best qualified people highly concerned with knowledge, and well- known for their experience, impartiality, achievement and good reputation.

The foundation will enter into programme partnership with universities, establishments of translation, publishing and research, and with private universities and relevant Arab and international organizations.

Ladies and gentlemen, if our Arab -Islamic world is replete with problems and crises, it is also replete with possibilities, chances, and successful examples.

In our Arab-Islamic world there are more than 1200 million people in possession of huge energy and potential, capable of realizing miracles.

More than half of this number are below 18 years old. They are the promise of the future. The political, intellectual, cultural, and economic élite bear the responsibility of igniting their potentials to give, produce, excel, and make stories of success (like our brothers and children have done, some of them are with us in this hall) in scientific and professional fields in USA and Europe.

If the élite fail to carry out their responsibilities, they do not deserve their positions or the privileges they enjoy, or the status they hold.

In the Arab-Islamic world, we have no time except for work and production. If we do not take the initiative, we shall remain followers and marginal. If every one of us fails to do his duty, we shall remain weak in this world, outside the wide current of human civilization, exposed to more crises, foreign interference, setbacks and division.

Let each of us do his best, ask himself before advising the other.

Let each of us do the best he can, without waiting for the others.

Let him work faithfully and perfectly.

Let each one of us be armed with hope and optimism, liberated from selfishness and personal interests. Challenges in our times demand more organization, harmonization, and work through establishments, and groups.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Foundation aims at advancing knowledge in the Islamic world as well. In the future, our services will be available to neighbours of Islamic states. The projects of the Foundation will start in the Arab region, and then they will move over to the Islamic and neighbouring regions.

I welcome you once more.

I have great trust that the activities of your Symposium will yield positive results which will enrich our Foundation's plans, projects and programmes.

Be free in your dialogues and discussions. Present your suggestions and initiatives. Come forward and let us work together for the advancement of knowledge in our region, for the realization of progress in our countries, in order to provide opportunities for a decent life for our new generations.

I consider this Symposium as a general assembly of leaders, pioneers and producers of knowledge. I also consider it a consultation board for Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation. I look forward for its annual meeting, to participate in reviewing and developing the Foundation plans; to evaluate performance, present initiatives, opinions on ideas, suggestions and new projects, and participating in their implementation.

I wish you prosperity and success. Thank you very much.