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Queen Rania receives first humanitarian award from Foreign Press Association

During the Foreign Press Association’s (FPA), seventeenth annual FPA Media Awards ceremony in London on Tuesday, Queen Rania Al Abdulla of Jordan was the first recipient of the Humanitarian Award created by the organisation.

The FPA has been in existence for nearly 130 years. It is apolitical and independent and the only organisation of its kind in the UK. Funding is paid by membership dues; members are journalists from around the world. To receive an FPA award is a great honour as the organisation is quite prestigious in the media and journalism community.

You can read part of Queen Rania’s speech below:

Henry Luce, the co-founder of TIME magazine, once said, “I became a journalist to come as close as possible to the heart of the world.”

Well, tonight I think I’ve come as close as possible to the heart of journalism.

The FPA’s decision to create this award says a lot about you and your values. Thank you all for shining your collective spotlight on human welfare.

Because, now more than ever, I think we need to focus on our humanity—especially at a time of such profound change and innovation.

You have all witnessed, firsthand, the transformative impact of technology on media.

Now, we are on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution, and our lives are never going to be the same.

Every day brings another breakthrough in the relationship between man and machine… Driverless cars may soon become the norm on our roads and highways. Smart factories are revolutionising the way we build and create. Artificial intelligence is helping doctors treat cancer… helping aid workers target relief… and making it easier for children to learn.

So, the distant future is no longer distant. In many ways, the future is here. And I think that’s incredibly exciting. I think it holds great promise for humanity…But when fear overwhelms our thinking, we compromise our logic and compassion.

Because fear is not a cognitive response. Fear is about the reaction, not reflection. Fear tells us to resist and reject the unfamiliar… and to compromise the values, we hold dear.

And in many places around the world today, we’re seeing the result. Impulse is crowding out contemplation, and upending the rules of the game.

Even our vaunted modern scientific polling failed to capture the power of human emotions. We knew that globalisation was helping shape the future, but we failed to see how human fears could undermine it.

That’s the backdrop against which I find myself thinking about this humanitarian award.

We say that our world is more connected than ever—yet, we’re pushing one another away. Our politics are migrating to the extremes, and we’re losing the middle ground: closing off instead of opening up; talking of isolationism instead of cooperation… of borders instead of bridges. Permitting labels and stereotypes of others to substitute for personal knowledge and understanding.

That’s why, at a time when technologists are trying to figure out how to code empathy into computers, I believe it’s actually human empathy that needs an urgent upgrade. I think we need to find our way back to the basics of simply listening to each other… of trying to see through each other’s eyes and to walk in each other’s shoes.

This really hit home when I read an article about the rise of artificial intelligence. The author wrote, “As a species, we are on the verge of birthing the most prodigiously advanced and intelligent child within our known universe.” That is, a super intelligent machine that can reason like a human being, but with a computer’s speed, power, and memory…

What would it learn from the way politicians are responding to the savagery in Syria—seemingly preoccupied with outmanoeuvring one another while civilians are maimed and brutalised and killed?

We’ll never be able to teach humanity’s values to machines if we don’t reboot those basic values ourselves. And we’ll never be able to navigate the upheavals of tomorrow if we cannot tolerate the changes of today. There’s no simple way forward…

We need to help people prepare for change, to be resilient instead of resistant. We need to equip them with the tools to adapt—to be a part of global progress, not apart from it. We need to find ways to close the gaps of inequality… to alleviate economic anxiety. And we need to make sure that everyone feels they are seen, and they are heard…

But facing our challenges will take real dialogue, not simply tweeting past one another. This is not about elites talking to elites, or leaders hidden away behind closed doors…Put simply, we must be as excited about the advancement of our humanity as we are about the advancement of our technology.

Because at the end of the day, regardless of changes and advances, true progress is all about people.

And that is why I believe your work as journalists is more important than ever. You are as close as possible to the heart of the world… which means you can touch the world’s heart.

Your reporting casts a light into the shadows. Your words convey the voices of the voiceless. Your images bring complex issues into focus. Your analysis educates and inspires... And it’s in that spirit that I’d like to close by dedicating this award to the greatest humanitarians I know: the men and women of Jordan.

Our country is small, with few natural resources… We live in a dangerous neighbourhood. And we have been tested by shock after shock… crisis after crisis.

Yet, in the face of Syria’s suffering, we’ve opened our homes and our hearts. Today, roughly one in seven people in my country is a Syrian refugee.

Jordanians have little, yet we are giving our all—because we see our common humanity in our neighbours. I’m not sure a computer program would tell us we’ve been smart—but we are certain that our actions are right because they represent the most noble of human values.

Whatever the future of artificial intelligence, there is no such thing as artificial compassion.

The children who need us are already here. In Jordan, we’re doing our best to be there for them.

And as we all prepare to face the disruptive changes ahead—let us strive to be better role models… better parents… not only for the children we give birth to, but also for the coming generation of super-intelligent machines we will conceive.