Her Majesty Queen Noor was born Lisa Najeeb Halaby to an Arab-American family distinguished for its public service. After receiving a B.A. in Architecture and Urban Planning from Princeton University in 1974, she worked on international urban planning and design projects in Australia, Iran, the United States and Jordan. She married His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan in 1978.
Queen Noor is an outspoken voice on issues of international exchange and understanding of Arab, Muslim and Western relations, and conflict prevention and recovery issues such as refugees, missing persons, poverty, climate change and disarmament. Her peace-building work has focused on the Middle East, the Balkans, Central and Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Queen Noor’s work in Jordan and the Arab world has focused on national and regional human security in the areas of education, conservation, sustainable development, human rights and cross-cultural understanding.
Since 1979, the initiatives of the Noor Al Hussein Foundation (NHF), which she founded and chairs, have transformed development thinking in Jordan and the Middle East through pioneering best practice programs in the fields of poverty eradication and sustainable development, women’s empowerment, microfinance, health and the arts as a medium for social development and cross-cultural exchange, many of which are internationally acclaimed models for the developing world. NHF provides training and assistance in implementing these programs in the broader Arab and Asian regions through the Institute for Family Health, WAGE: Women and Girls Empowerment- Securing the Future, Tamweelcom—the Jordan Micro Credit Company (which has been ranked the regional MFI leader and eighth best performing in the world), and the Community Development Program. www.nooralhusseinfoundation.org
In 1980, following the Arab Summit Meeting in Amman, the Queen called for an annual meeting of Arab youth– the Arab Youth Congress, which for over 30 years has brought young people together in Amman from throughout the Arab world and, since 2004, from the international community to promote understanding, tolerance, and solidarity.
In 2010, a strategic partnership agreement with Abu Dhabi’s Family Development Foundation (FDF) enhanced the Congress’ impact through initiating several International Arab Youth Awards in the name of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Supreme Chairwoman of FDF.
In 1995, Queen Noor chaired a National Task Force for Children (NTFC) to monitor and evaluate the condition and status of Jordan’s children. To encourage and facilitate cooperation among often competing organizations, the NTFC established the National Coalition for Children in 1997 as a forum to coordinate and promote partnerships among all public and private institutions, and NGOs involved with children’s affairs. The NTFC also established a national policy and research center as well as Jordan’s first child information system on the World Wide Web. The Information and Research Center (IRC) is a policy research center providing access to materials, models and methodologies that can assist practitioners and policy makers in promoting awareness and more effective and targeted socio-economic planning. The Center has focused on critically important issues, such as child labor, urban poverty, youth and culture, smoking among teens, and gaps and priorities in development programs.
The Queen also founded the Jordan’s SOS Children’s Villages Association that has established three SOS children Villages, a school and youth facilities throughout the country. She is an honorary member of the General Assembly of the SOS-Kinderdorf International.
Queen Noor’s appreciation for the role of culture and the arts in the formation of individual and national identity is reflected in her national and international initiatives including the Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts, the National Handicrafts Development Project, the National Music Conservatory, and the National Center for Culture & Performing Arts.
In 1981, she brought together a diverse group of Jordanian public and private sector visionaries to launch the annual Jerash Festival. For almost 3 decades, festival provided a vibrant venue—one of Jordan’s most important archaeological sites—for Arab and international performing artists, and served as a dynamic catalyst for the promotion of Jordanian and Arab culture and arts and cross-cultural exchange.
The National Handicrafts Development Project was launched in 1985 to revive and preserve a unique aspect of Jordan’s national heritage while developing income-generating opportunities for women. Subsequently, theJordan Design and Trade Center was established to raise the standards of national handicrafts production, to increase women’s productivity and economic role, to create new jobs, marketing strategies, and opportunities for the industry to become a new, sustainable source of national income.
The National Music Conservatory was initiated in 1985 to develop accomplished musicians in classical Arabic and Western music, to foster music appreciation, to promote teacher training and public school music curricula in Jordan and international exchange of artists. The Conservatory also provides music education at the College and Preparatory levels, leading to Bachelor’s Degrees in various specialties, as well as counseling and training in clinical music therapy for families and children who are victims of violence.
The National Center for Culture & Performing Arts (PAC) began in 1987 as a program to promote the performing arts as a medium for developing conflict resolution skills and cross-cultural understanding. The Center has pioneered creative public education approaches to social and sustainable development, and human rights issues as well as national, regional, and international efforts to promote democratic values and a global culture of peace through interactive theater, dance, plays and television programs.
Queen Noor chairs the King Hussein Foundation and the King Hussein Foundation International (KHFI), which she founded in 1999 to build on King Hussein’s humanitarian vision and legacy in Jordan and abroad through national, regional and international programs that promote education and leadership, economic empowerment, tolerance and cross cultural dialogue and media that enhance mutual understanding and respect among different cultures and across conflict lines. The Foundation currently encompasses the Noor Al Hussein Foundation, the Jubilee Institute, the Information and Research Center, the National Center for Culture and Arts, the National Music Conservatory.www.kinghusseinfoundation.org
KHFI awards the annual King Hussein Leadership Prize to individuals, groups or institutions that demonstrate inspiring and courageous leadership in their efforts to promote sustainable development, human rights, tolerance, social equity and peace. Past recipients of the Prize are Professor Muhammed Yunus (2000), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) (2001), Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization (2002), Mary Robinson (2003), Médecins Sans Frontières (2004), The Arab Human Development Reports, Dr. Rola Dashti, Saliha Djuderija, and OneVoice (2005), Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Seeds of Peace (2006), green energy entrepreneur Robert Freling (2008), and Just Vision and Palestinian peace activist Ayed Morrar (2010).
In May 2007, KHFI launched an annual Media and Humanity Program during New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival to promote media projects that bridge political and cultural divides with special emphasis on the Middle East and the Muslim world.
Queen Noor was co-founder of the Alliance of Civilizations Media Fund, a not-for-profit initiative by private media, the United Nations, and global philanthropists to promote and support media content that enhances cross-cultural understanding. In 2009 the organization merged with Soliya, a non-profit industry leader in using new media technologies to foster cross-cultural understanding.
She also launched Cinema Verite, an international initiative to promote socially-conscious cinema during the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
Queen Noor has made environmental priorities an essential component of her work to promote human security and conflict resolution. In 1980, Queen Noor became patron of Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), the Middle East’s first environmental NGO, responsible for planning nationwide nature reserves, environmental clubs and the integration of biodiversity concepts into curricula throughout the school system, the region’s first eco-tourism/rural development projects and programs to regulate diving, protect endangered marine species, clean up coastal beaches and shores. RSCN programs were early models for regional conservation and sustainable development, and have also provided training and capacity building to institutions throughout the Middle East.
The Queen founded an NGO for the protection of Jordan’s coastline and supported the establishment of the Gulf of Aqaba’s Marine Science Station. She also founded the Arab World’s first children’s museum, the Children’s Heritage and Science Museum, and in 1988 the Mobile Life and Science Museum, an outreach program targeting young people in rural areas, which provided computers, books, exhibits, and hands-on educational and recreational activities focussed on environmental protection, health, the sciences, and Jordan’s history.
Queen Noor chaired Jordan’s National Commission in 1990 which developed Jordan’s National Environment Strategy, the region’s first, and Jordan’s Environment Law which set standards for water use and quality, specifications to measure and control air pollution, and conditions for the establishment and operation of wild and aquatic nature reserves. It has imposed stringent fines on vessels polluting the marine environment, and ensured that factories and vehicles reduce their emissions within a limit set by the Ministry of the Environment.
Queen Noor is Patron of IUCN- the world’s oldest international conservation organization, Founding and Emeritus President of BirdLife International, Trustee Emeritus of Conservation International, and a member of the OceanElders. She has received the United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 Award, the Healing the Planet Award from Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Global Environmental Citizen Award from Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, among other tributes for her activism.
As a member of the International Commission on Peace and Food, Queen Noor presented the results of a five-year international research program: "Uncommon Opportunities: An Agenda For Peace And Equitable Development" in 1994 to the United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali for adoption by the UN. The report presented practical strategies to accelerate political stability, progress, and peace to ensure food security and employment, and to promote human development, demilitarization, and environmental protection. She has been a Director on the global board of The Hunger Project and Ambassador of Future Harvest, a network of international research centers located around the world that seek to make agricultural issues and the need for international agricultural research more immediate and relevant to policymakers, the media, and the general public.
A long-time advocate for a just Arab-Israeli peace and for Palestinian refugees, Her Majesty is a board member of Refugees International and an outspoken voice for the protection of civilians in conflict and displaced persons around the world. She was a forceful advocate for the displaced of the first Gulf War as well as traveling to Pakistan, during 2001 war, to assess the situation of Afghan refugees and later advocated on behalf of the2.5 million Pakistanis forced to flee government-militant clashes in the northwest region. Her ongoing focus includes advocacy for Iraqis displaced in Iraq, Jordan, Syria and other countries after the 2003 Iraq conflict, and for the hundreds of thousands of Syrians displaced since the onset of the 2011 Syrian civil war. At the community level, the Noor Al-Hussein Foundation’s Institute for Family Health’s provides healthcare and critical psychosocial support and child protection services in coordination with UN, local, and international agencies to thousands of displaced Iraqi and Syrian families in Jordan through the region’s first specialized trauma treatment center and at camps near Jordan’s northern border.
Queen Noor has traveled extensively throughout the Balkans since her first humanitarian mission in 1996 after the tragic fall of Srebrenica. She is a Commissioner of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), created through the Dayton Accords to promote reconciliation and conflict resolution through the search for, recovery, and identification of missing persons from the armed conflicts in the Balkans. She has supported the development of ICMP's groundbreaking forensic DNA identification system, which is the leading provider of DNA-assisted identifications to countries worldwide dealing with natural catastrophes and human rights cases. Her Majesty has also overseen ICMP’s families/community reconciliation programs and advocated with the leaders of BiH to finalize the establishment of The Missing Persons Institute, critical to resolution of the tragedy of tens of thousands of missing and murdered in the 1990s Balkans conflicts.
Queen Noor has been an advisor to, and global advocate for, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines since 1998, travelling to Central and Southeast Asia, the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America to advocate for the ban with governments, support NGOs, and landmine survivors struggling to recover and reclaim their lives. She has testified before the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus appealing for humanitarian assistance and justice for hundreds of thousands of landmine victims worldwide.
At the invitation of President Andres Pastrana and President Alvaro Uribe Velez, Queen Noor undertook several humanitarian missions to Colombia to try to negotiate a series of humanitarian accords with the leaders of the country’s guerilla insurgency on landmines, child soldiers and kidnappings, to promote mine awareness programs in rural and conflict areas with UNDP, to advocate against the use of anti-personnel mines, especially in civilian areas, and to oversee the destruction of Columbia’s last arsenal of anti-personnel mines.
She is a founding leader of Global Zero, an international movement working for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons. She represented Global Zero at the historic 2009 UN Security Council meeting, which endorsed the goal of global zero, and was an advisor to the 2010 film Countdown to Zero about the escalating global nuclear arms threat.
Queen Noor is also involved with a number of other international organizations advancing global peace-building and conflict recovery such as the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Seeds of Peace, Council of Women World Leaders, andWomen Waging Peace. She is President of the United World Colleges, (UWC), a network of 13 equal-opportunity international IB colleges around the world which foster cross-cultural understanding and global peace; a Trustee of theAspen Institute, and a Board Member of America Near East Refugee Aid. She is Honorary Chair of the McGill Middle East Program in Civil Society and Peace Building, which brings together Jordanians, Palestinians, and Israelis to improve the living conditions of the region’s poor. Her Majesty also serves as a member of the Pew Global Attitudes Survey International Advisory Board.
In recognition of her efforts to advance development, democracy and peace, Queen Noor has been awarded numerous awards and honorary doctorates in international relations, law and humane letters.
She has published two books, Hussein of Jordan (KHF Publishing, 2000) and Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life (Miramax Books, 2003), a New York Times best seller published in 17 languages.
Queen Noor has four children, Their Royal Highnesses Princes Hamzah and Hashim and Princesses Iman and Raiyah.