Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The time of global transformation is upon us. We stand on the precipice of a new global order. The ascendance of the Global South and alignment of previously marginalized nations stands to rewrite the narratives, policies, and future of the world. Two of the leading Southern regions, the Middle East and Latin America, come together to unite our mutual values of social justice and peace. Thanks to the tremendous support of former President of the Dominican Republic; his Excellency Leonel Fernández, and President of the University of Jordan; Professor Ekhlief Tarawneh, and my colleagues, it is my great pleasure as Dean of the School of International Studies and Political Science, to welcome you to the inauguration of the Leonel Fernández Center for Latin American Studies hosted here at the University of Jordan.
The Arab and Latin American regions constitute a major part of the Global South and are united by common historicities, cultures, and goals that facilitate intercollaboration between the two regions. Indeed, Latin America has large populations of Arab communities. Both regions have shared fundamental core values centered in conceptions of social justice and peace. Both societies also have strong religious traditions, promoting respect for humanity and other cultures of faith. These moral values as well as a similar historical past shape these countries as natural allies for promoting their mutual goals.
Even our region's revolutions and reforms are reminiscent of an earlier era in Latin American history. Latin America too was once plagued with authoritarian leaders who led regimes filled with massive human rights violations and repression. Eventually, the people of the region began their revolutions throughout the 1980s and 90s, similar to those we are seeing now in the MENA region. Democracy soon saturated the region as new presidents heeded the wishes of their citizens. The last twenty years has seen peace coupled with egalitarian political policies. Internationalizing their experience is integral to global knowledge.
It is in recognition of these shared histories and dreams that I welcome the Leonel Fernández Center on Latin American Studies to the University of Jordan School of International Studies and Political Science. Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in 2012, the University aims to become a globally recognized center for rigorous research and international education. Jordan strives to enhance opportunities for both Jordanian and international students through an expansion of research ideas, cooperating institutions, and intellectual excellence. The Center is the culmination of these global and academic aims.
Through the establishment of this world class think tank and global forum, students will study a rich plethora of information about Latin America. Art is inherent to the region, and students will soon analyze the questions of humanity while glimpsing at the rolling hills of Mexico, in the paintings of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Dance and music at the heart of Latino culture cultivates compassion whilst questioning desire and love. This will be examined in the brilliant tempos of Salsa, Cumbia, and Bachata. Whereas resistance and suffering will be explored in the violent yet graceful moves of capoeira. Great novelists and thinkers question the human experience in books like 100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the nature of man in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by the first Latino Pulitzer Prize winner, Junot Diaz.
The immense beauty of what it is to be Latino will enrich our University, in the midst of the Levant, a region equal in cultural beauty. The Arab world prides itself on tradition. Our modern capital is sprinkled with marks of the ancients and the names of our children speak to this. Starbucks is contrasted to the plethora of cafes, where City Mall meets the souqs of Jebel al Hussein. Embedded in both of our regions is a tremendous appreciation for what once was in a time of hope for what we can become.
The Fernández Center for Latin American Studies is another step in our mutual development. This Center is in collaboration with the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development, or FUNGLODE, led by President Fernández. During his extraordinary tenure as President of the Dominican Republic, President Fernández led his country to previously unknown economic, democratic, and educational heights. He has continued his visionary leadership through FUNGLODE, an institution based in the Dominican Republic that is a pioneer in the realm of scientific research and specializes in the establishment and promotion of Latin American Studies in the Middle East. This partnership between UJ and FUNGLODE has evolved and solidified since FUNGLODE sponsored the Forum on Middle East Peace was held in July 2010 in the Dominican Republic. This Forum united global leaders, decision makers, and scholars for the first time in unimpeded dialogue aimed at developing mutual understanding. Pragmatic and goal oriented dialogue has continued since at various conferences, sponsored by FUNGLODE and other respected Latin American organizations.
The extraordinary shifts taking place around the world, the Arab Spring, the financial crisis in the West, and the rise of Latin America in the South; facilitates more prospects for Global South direct interchange and scholarship. Long aware of their unique histories, and the role of external actors in their development, Global South scholars have never before cooperated in such an intensive way. Previously hindered from open communication, there lacks a true plethora of inter-relational knowledge. Establishing the Center at the University of Jordan is an effort to correct for this lack of knowledge. Utilizing intensive language studies as well as study abroad opportunities; both Jordanian and Latin American students will develop a broader knowledge of the Global South partnership. Visiting scholars, entrepreneurs, and decision makers will inform a larger audience of the various mutual issues relevant to both the Arab and Latin American regions. By spreading this knowledge and awareness, the Center will create educated global citizens better prepared to participate in the development of international as well as their respective civic and education sectors.
As the only institute in the region to host a Latin American Studies Center, the University of Jordan will establish itself as a pioneer institution of intercultural dialogue. The Center will hold diverse, debate-oriented public lectures and discussions focusing on cultural, societal, and political issues relevant to both the Latin American and Arab societies. The forums will engage experts and students from both societies to promote intercultural collaboration, awareness, and research.
The Center will also publish monthly newsletters and annual journal publications detailing its events and investigative findings. The emphasis of these papers will be on promoting and exploring a variety of identities, issues, themes, and philosophies relevant to the two societies in Arabic, Spanish, and English, so as to inform a multinational audience. The need for language immersion and cultural exchange is crucial in this endeavor in order to produce better-informed research. Accordingly, the Center will sponsor Arabic and Spanish classes. Working with FUNGLODE, students will be encouraged to engage in study abroad opportunities in the Dominican Republic and other Latin American nations. Students from the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries studying Arabic, Middle Eastern or Islamic Studies will also be welcomed at UJ. Through initiatives such as these, UJ strives to create a fluid, pioneering environment.
The ultimate goal of the Center is to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees relating to Latin American Studies. The focus will be to prepare young scholars to promote relations between Latin America and the Arab region by emphasizing the globalized nature of world issues through these strenuous and relevant courses. These training courses and degrees will create educated men and women, better equipped to advance and contribute to Latin American areas of academic and civic society.
At the Summit of South American-Arab Countries in 2012, HM King Abdullah II ended his speech on this note:
“My friends, the challenges ahead are real. To reach our goals, to create the future our people deserve, we must use all our capabilities…It is teamwork that will multiply our strength…help us level the playing field…give us a voice in writing the global rules…and deliver success.”
Global South partnerships can now remake the world in radical ways. The University of Jordan seeks to lead the Global South into the future. Development and peace promotion do not come easy. However, working together in many fields, particularly in academia, allows the Center to influence the international narrative in decisive ways. Once the Center is complete, it can begin to create a new frame of reference and a rich source of knowledge. Through this, and other strategic actions, the Global South will continue on its trajectory of success.
Long the most prominent institution in the Kingdom, the University of Jordan will soon influence the globe. In this new era, the world is observing the ascension of the Global South. Our futures remain uncertain as difficulties are anticipated. It is for this reason, the Leonel Fernández Center on Latin American studies is essential to the internationalization of the aims of the University of Jordan and the globe. Good governance, peace, democracy, and human rights are the bedrock of our future. The dispersion of information correlated to our objectives enriches the global narrative in addition to the Jordanian citizenry. The importance of our shared future resides now in our present and the remembrance of our vibrant histories. Together we can transform what it is to be a global citizen in a globalized world and there is no better place to begin than here, and no better time than now.