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A Discussion with Female Heads of State from Jordan and Norway

Aired October 2, 2009 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, royalty in the 21st century, what's its real role?

Good evening. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to our program.

Many believe that royalty is an anti-democratic anachronism, a relic of the past. But then again, is it? Many who are born to rule are also determined to have a positive impact, to use their privileged position to make a difference.

For Queen Rania of Jordan, she's made improving children's education her life's mission. And among Europe's royal families, the heirs to the Norwegian throne are working on AIDS and trying to dent the extreme poverty that stalks more than 1 billion people around the world.

I sat down with them when they were in New York for the General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative on Humanitarian Affairs. But first, CNN's Phil Black explains.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The glamour is still there, even in 50-year-old silent black-and-white images, the fairytale wedding of American movie star Grace Kelly to Monaco's Prince Rainier. But after the wedding, Princess Grace learnt to use her royal star power in new ways, to help the International Red Cross get attention and money.

Decades later, another much-loved princess set a new royal standard for work to make the world better, here in Bosnia, pushing to get rid of landmines.

RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS, ROYAL COMMENTATOR: The princess of Wales was the world's most glamorous woman, and she used her profile to further causes in which she believed.

BLACK: Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams says Diana is the best- known royal to become a dedicated international social activist, but she had role models.

RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS: If you look at Queen Noor, this is fantastic charitable achievements.

BLACK: Queen Noor, the widow of Jordan's late King Hussein, continues to work for a long list of causes, from landmine removal to education. So does Jordan's current queen.

QUEEN RANIA, JORDAN: Please sign your name for those who can't. Support one goal.

BLACK: Queen Rania's main focus now is education for the world's poorest children. Queen Rania has embraced new technology and social networking to get her message out. YouTube...

QUEEN RANIA: All Arabs are not terrorists. Muslim women are not downtrodden.

BLACK: ... Facebook, and on Twitter, she has more than 870,000 followers, describing herself as a mom and a wife with a really cool day job.

In Norway, the marriage of Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit was initially unpopular, partly because she had a child out of wedlock and a party girl past, but they're now known as hard-working global activists. He is an ambassador for the United Nations Development Program; she works for the U.N.'s effort against AIDS.

Other royal families, including those of Spain, Thailand, and Japan, are respected for charitable works in their own countries.

(on-screen): What do you believe has started this trend towards activist royals?

RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS: I think (inaudible) particularly significant individuals, people with imagination, people also who feel very deeply for humanitarian causes.

BLACK (voice-over): In an age where monarchies are rarely responsible for leading their nations, many royals work to find purpose and meaning in trying to change the world.

Phil Black, CNN, London.


AMANPOUR: Joining me now, Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan.

Welcome to the program, Your Majesty. Thank you for joining us here. I want to talk a little bit about what you're doing here in New York right now. You went up to visit a school in Harlem. What's your main mission now?

QUEEN RANIA, JORDAN: Well, this is a time of year where you have the United Nations meetings and you have the Clinton Global Initiative and, around that, a lot of causes. And my -- the cause that I've been working on most is global education. I've been working on it at home in Jordan and around the world, because today there are 75 million children who are still out of school. And it would cost the world $11 billion to get them into school.

And although that sounds like a lot of money, when you really think about it, in global terms, it's how much the war in Afghanistan and Iraq cost in one month. It's how much Americans spend on their pets in three months. It's how much Europe spends on ice cream in one year.

AMANPOUR: So what are you going to do?

QUEEN RANIA: So it's actually -- it's actually loose change.

AMANPOUR: So let's show you a promo, because you do the one goal precisely for this -- for this reason. Let's just look at what you're saying about the need for education.


QUEEN RANIA: One goal. Education is a human right. It's a path out of poverty. It's protection from disease. It's a life-saver.


AMANPOUR: How do you do it? I know you're partnering with the Clinton Global Initiative. You're partnering with -- with many other individuals and groups. How do you actually do it?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, first of all, as I said, we have to add a sense of urgency. Everybody agrees that education is important, but we need to add action to that and to understand that education is a lifeline, it is a matter of life and death, it does save lives.

So, for example, a girl who goes to school, for every five years of schooling, child survival rates go up by 40 percent. A child who goes to school is 50 percent less likely to die of HIV-AIDS. So it does save lives.

So with one goal, there is the World Cup that's taking place in Africa next year, the world's most popular sport. So we want fans of football to really chant and cheer and demand for world leaders to fulfill the commitments that they made to the children in the developing world.

AMANPOUR: You've said this shocking statistic, 75 million children are not in school, are denied education. But how difficult is it -- look, the UNDP comes out regularly with reports -- they've done about five on the Arab world. And the latest one is just as damning as -- as the previous ones, in other words, saying that despite the wealth and the human potential in the Arab world, the Arab world has still not made its people free, still not made its people rich, still not made its people safe.

How do you think that can change? And can this education -- education goal that you have change that?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, actually, in the Middle East and North Africa region, we are probably one of the highest spenders on education. And as a result, we've achieved very high -- very good results in terms of gender equality in education and enrollment -- total enrollment rates.

But what we have to focus on is the quality of the education. It's not enough to get children into school. It's what they get out of school that matters. And we have to prepare them to -- for the workforce.

So the challenges, I would say, that we face in the Arab world are more about creating jobs for the young people. You know, we have to create about 5 million jobs a year. And youth unemployment is costing us around $25 billion in all of the...


AMANPOUR: It's about 50 million new jobs have to be created by 2020. That's in 11 years. So you talk about a social reform and hope. You are now a big presence on social media, whether it be Twitter, whether it be Facebook. I heard you have something in the region of more than 800,000 followers. We're just going to show some of the pages of Facebook and -- and Twitter and the things that you're doing on there.

What are you using those particular networks for? What are -- why? Why on Twitter and Facebook?

QUEEN RANIA: Social media is great for social change, and it's a great way for me to really reach out to people, to raise awareness about certain issues, and to really rally support. So...

AMANPOUR: Do you know who you're reaching? Are they people in your own country? Are they people in the Arab world? Are they Western?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, it depends which medium I'm using. And most of the time...

AMANPOUR: Your Twitter account.

QUEEN RANIA: Well, the Twitter -- I mean, I can't tell exactly where the 850,000 people are from, but, you know, most of these issues require global awareness anyway. So it's really given me an opportunity to -- to look into people's minds, to see what -- to gain insight on and perspective on how people are thinking, and also to really make these issues that matter to me known among people so that you can galvanize people towards action.

AMANPOUR: You know, when I first met you, we did a profile when you were -- it was -- it was more than nine years ago, and I remember jumping in your car that you were driving to go and pick up your son, who's now crown prince of Jordan, from his school. We're going to show this picture that you -- you put out, one of the pictures on Twitter. There's your son between you and your husband. He has grown.

QUEEN RANIA: He has. He's almost taller than me.


AMANPOUR: Well, you did say on that picture that, as long as you have a little height over him, you remain the authority.

QUEEN RANIA: Right. And I'm losing that authority very quickly.

AMANPOUR: So how do you teach a young boy who's going to be king about social reform, about equality with women, about all the social change that you want to bring?

QUEEN RANIA: You don't necessarily teach, but you demonstrate, you know? I think it's important for him to see us living by these values, to incorporate those values in our everyday life. For me, you know, it's not a preparation course. It's a way of living.

He -- you know, the most important thing for me is for him to get grades in school right now, to -- to have normal relations as much as possible with his friends, and to be exposed to some of those issues in our country, to understand how -- you know, how we want to see Jordan, what our vision is, how we want to move forward, how to treat people with respect, why it's -- and the arguments are very compelling.

When we talk about women's empowerment, that's a very compelling argument. Not only is it moral and human, but it's also an economic argument. You know, in the Arab world, we're sailing at half-mast. You know, we are underutilizing one of the most important resources that we have. So, you know, if he sees the -- the argument in -- in why we need women to -- to be in the workplace, then -- then he'll be one of the biggest supporters.

AMANPOUR: You know, on this social media, you have a different profile than often you have when you speak about some of the other crucial issues in -- in -- in the world. I just want to show another picture that you -- that you put up. It was you and your husband, King Abdullah, and you said, "OK, I'm biased, but you've got to admit, my king is kind of cool, no?" That's on Twitter.

QUEEN RANIA: Yes. Well, he is, isn't he?

AMANPOUR: Who are you telling that to? What are you trying to say?

QUEEN RANIA: You know, for me, it's -- it's not just about -- there's obviously the issue of rallying people behind causes, et cetera, but I also feel I'm part of a community, you know? So you feel like you make virtual friends.

AMANPOUR: Do you feel isolated?

QUEEN RANIA: It's possible to sometimes feel isolated. Certainly, it's not easy for people to really speak their minds, because they feel that they have to be formal with me or -- or they don't want to really tell me what -- what they really think, you know? But being on -- on a -- on a venue like Twitter allows you to really hear -- get more information, hear what people have to say unedited, you know? And I feel like I'm part of a community and I'm making friends with -- with these people.

AMANPOUR: So there's that personal aspect and you trying to make friends.

QUEEN RANIA: Absolutely. There is the personal aspect to it, and then there's the work aspect to it.

AMANPOUR: And now there's also the -- the more political, but also concerned about the people aspect. And we're going to show what you said about the people of Gaza in January of this year.


QUEEN RANIA: The children of Gaza, the dead and the barely living, their mothers, their fathers are not acceptable collateral damage. Their lives do matter. Their loss does count. They are not divisible from our universal humanity. No child is.


AMANPOUR: So that was about the war in Gaza earlier. Do you think -- and I'm going to switch now to hard politics -- that the new administration of President Obama -- you've just been at the U.N. -- does it have a chance to re-inject life into, really, the dead peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis?

QUEEN RANIA: The question is, do we have a choice not to? I mean, can the -- can the world afford for this conflict to keep the way -- I mean, it is -- it's a disgrace to humanity that there is still this occupation, that there's an entire population that's still dehumanized, that's still under occupation and suffering.

AMANPOUR: Do you think -- for instance, the Jordanian monarchy has traditionally been in the forefront of the peace process. Do you think -- do you and your husband, after 10 years now being king and queen, feel that there is any chance for progress to relieve this?

QUEEN RANIA: You know, the longer this process takes, the more determined we are, because we understand that peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is in the national interest not only of theirs, but of ours and of the United States and of the whole international community.

And what we saw from President Obama yesterday was a reaffirmation of the United States' engagement and commitment to the peace process. And he very clearly said that we need to move beyond just starting peace negotiations; we need to move towards final permanent status negotiations.

And it's the sense of urgency that we need. Peace process cannot remain hostage to short-term politics, personal agendas. We really need to look at the long-term future of our region.

Where does Israel want to be in 10, 20 years' time, you know? What's the situation going to be for -- for the Palestinians? We need to address the concerns of both sides. And Israel's security ultimately depends on it being accepted into the region. It does not come from armed force or from barrier walls. It needs to be accepted. And for that to happen, you know, the right to Palestinians for statehood has to be achieved.

AMANPOUR: So what do you think that you have learned and achieved in 10 years on the Jordanian throne?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, I've been exposed to so many things and, you know, so many issues. My main concern now is the development of human capital. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to reach people's not only hearts, but their minds.

And, you know, when I look at some of the radicalization in some of the Arab countries and some of the Muslim countries, it's because extremists maybe do a better -- better job of acting on their beliefs than we do. Moderates can tend to be complacent, so they ventured into territory that we have left vacant, and that is young peoples' minds.

So we need to really act more on our beliefs. We need to provide content for young people. What is it that being moderate really stands for? What can you get in your future? Can you fulfill your dreams? And so, you know, education is where it all starts. I think in the classroom is where we need to begin to give our young people an education that prepares them for life, to allow them to be critical thinkers and debaters and creators, problem-solvers. Those are the -- those are the things that provide people with the equal chance to make something out of their lives.

AMANPOUR: And on that note, thank you so much for joining us. Queen Rania of Jordan.

QUEEN RANIA: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: In a moment, a royal couple who married in a whirlwind of controversy turned fairytale and are now trying to transform their world.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back. Joining me now is the crown prince of Norway, Prince Haakon, and the crown princess of Norway, Her Royal Highness Princess Mette-Marit.

Welcome to the show, both of you.


AMANPOUR: Thank you for being here. You know, whenever we talk about the royal families, monarchies, people want to know, is this still a relevant institution for today, the 21st century? What do you say to that?

PRINCE HAAKON, CROWN PRINCE OF NORWAY: Well, I think in the Norwegian case, the monarchy is quite young. It started in 1905. My great- grandfather was a Danish prince and was asked to become king of Norway, and he actually asked for a referendum so that Norwegian people voted the king in.

AMANPOUR: So, sort of democratic?

PRINCE HAAKON: Democratic, yes. But there's a while since the last election, I have to admit.

AMANPOUR: Let me -- let me ask you, because you were not royal. You married into the royal family. And not only that, there was -- you had a particularly interesting background. Having been a single mother, you came to your marriage with a 3-year-old son, and obviously it was huge fodder for the tabloids, but we're not going to go to the tabloid side of it.

There was a certain amount of disapproval, and yet it seems now that the majority of the first-born children in Norway are born to single mothers. Did you find a connection to the people of your country by your own experience?

PRINCESS METTE-MARIT: I think the process that we went through when we got married is one of the most interesting periods of my life, and I must say I think that's -- it's taught me a lot about life and also gave me a lot of strength, I think, for -- in my capacity as crown princess.

AMANPOUR: And you've chosen a -- a very dramatic area to work in, the area of HIV and AIDS. You are a U.N. ambassador for that.


AMANPOUR: Why did you choose that?

PRINCESS METTE-MARIT: Well, I've actually been working on this issue for now maybe eight years, taking a lot of different forms, but now I'm working as a special representative for UNAIDS, which I've done for the last three years. And now my particular focus is on young people and strengthening their impact on policy, health services...

AMANPOUR: And I also read that actually you also worked quite well on the issue of women and AIDS, the feminization of AIDS. Tell us a little bit about that.

PRINCESS METTE-MARIT: Well, obviously, young women and girls are very vulnerable to this. So I think my role is making sure that those women and young girls get to the table when strategies are laid out. They know what made them vulnerable to the disease, and I think they have the answers for the future. I think it's very important that we focus on young women and girls.

AMANPOUR: And you are a Goodwill Ambassador or an Ambassador for the UNDP.

PRINCE HAAKON: Well, the Norwegian government is a long supporter of development and the U.N....

AMANPOUR: And it's one of the main contributors to the United Nations in terms if funding.

PRINCE HAAKON: That's right. And we were looking at the Millennium Development Goals and maybe how I could help promote those, halting extreme poverty by 2015, getting more children into schools, gender equality, et cetera.

And I find that it's fascinating to work on issues such as that, and I think one of the stories that I loved, sometimes, when we see the world, is actually how much improvement we have done, how far we have come. There's now millions of people that have been pulled up out of extreme poverty. There's more girls and boys going to school. There's more gender equality, more democracy, et cetera, and we need to be able to also pause for a little while and count our victory.

AMANPOUR: I was struck by your focus on dignity. You made several speeches about that, and in South Africa you did say -- you -- you made another speech, and you said that everybody needs to have their dignity. What are you saying?

PRINCE HAAKON: Well, I'm -- I'm saying that it's important to do it because it's the moral thing to do, it's the right thing to do. But in addition to that, lifting other people and helping other people's dignity is actually good for me and it's quite simply the only way I can actually increase my own dignity. So this -- this duality, that we're all interconnected, we're in this together, and your success is my success.

AMANPOUR: Dignity is something that people talk about a lot, and it's something that people in the developed world tend to forget, that what people really want is their dignity. Do you find that when you're talking to victims of AIDS or those who you're trying to help educate about the problem?

PRINCESS METTE-MARIT: Absolutely. I think that's one of the most important issues of our time is, you know, is making sure that everyone has their dignity and have also the freedom that we have in the developed world. So that's obviously been a very important thing that I've been focusing on when I've been traveling through Europe.

AMANPOUR: We have pictures of you when you were with your troops, the Norwegian troops, in Afghanistan. Obviously, Afghanistan is a big issue right now. What did you come away with when you visited your troops there? What particularly are they doing there?

PRINCE HAAKON: Well, I can't get into the politics of Afghanistan. I'll leave that to the politicians. But I was there to support our troops. But, in general, I might say that Norway is a strong supporter of peace and development, and of course we would like to see that in Afghanistan, as well.

AMANPOUR: The Norwegian troops are actually training, for instance, Afghan army. I think they're training some of the security forces, and that seems to be a big focus going forward, the Afghanization of the situation there.

PRINCE HAAKON: That's right. Some of the Norwegian forces are training and cooperating together with Afghan counterparts.

AMANPOUR: When -- when you joined this family, were you concerned? Were you worried? Did you think -- I mean, apart from being in love with - - with your crown prince and this being a -- a fairytale as it was written up, were you concerned about what it would do to your life, about how it would change your life? Did you have sort of questions about what you would do with your life?

PRINCESS METTE-MARIT: Yes, and I think it's been a long process for me. It's been a long learning process, and it still obviously is. But I was very concerned. I was obviously very concerned of the role of my son in the family, but I think these are all issues that seem very different when they're -- when you're outside of the family.

When you come into the family -- being in the family, I have a very good and close relationship with my parents-in-law. They have a very close relationship with my son. And so I think, all in all, I'm very happy about my life at the moment and how it's worked out.

AMANPOUR: Was it -- was it hard to -- to get to that comfort level?

PRINCESS METTE-MARIT: Well, it took a bit of time. It takes a little bit of time and experience.

AMANPOUR: For your son?

PRINCESS METTE-MARIT: For my son, I think it's -- I think the changes in his life -- he was so -- he was only 3 years old when we met, so -- even -- he was even younger when we met, so I think it's been -- for him, it's just...

AMANPOUR: ... his life.

PRINCESS METTE-MARIT: ... his life, a part of growing up, basically.


PRINCE HAAKON: Can I say something? Well, you know, I found this -- I met this fantastic, interesting woman, right, and I could see all of her qualities, but of course, not necessarily everyone else could see that.

So, to me, it was, you know, more a matter of -- of taking the time together to, you know, that you met our -- my family and that people got to know you and -- and then, you know, it became easier.

AMANPOUR: I just want to ask you one last question about social networking. We asked Queen Rania of Jordan. She is a big social networker, trying to break down stereotypes and -- and send similar messages. What do you do it for?

PRINCESS METTE-MARIT: Well, we do it to put focus and communicate with other groups, younger groups that we wouldn't have maybe had the natural connection to otherwise and to promote the issues that we're very interested in.

AMANPOUR: And what do you see for yourself, in terms of issues and -- and the work you do? What -- what do you -- where -- where do you see your work taking you, let's say, in the next year?

PRINCESS METTE-MARIT: Well, I think I'm going to start focus on youth leadership with UNAIDS. I'm going to travel a lot with them. And, obviously, I do a lot of things in Norway that I find extremely interesting. My husband is traveling a lot abroad this year, so I'm going to be traveling a lot in Norway.

AMANPOUR: All right. Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette- Marit, thank you very much indeed for joining us.


PRINCE HAAKON: Thank you for having us.


AMANPOUR: And this conversation will continue online on and on our Web site,, where you can see photo galleries of the crown prince and princess of Norway and of Queen Rania of Jordan. You can also see a podcast of our program there, so please join us.

And that's it for now. Thank you for watching. We'll be back next week with the next big story. For all of us here, goodbye from New York.