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Her Majesty Queen Noor

Her Majesty Queen Noor is an international public servant and advocate for cross-cultural understanding 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.

Born to an Arab-American family distinguished for its public service, she attended schools in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Concord Academy in Massachusetts, before entering Princeton University in its first co-educational freshman class. After receiving a degree in Architecture and Urban Planning she began work on international urban planning and design projects in Australia, Iran, the United States and Jordan from where she traveled throughout the Arab World to research aviation training facilities.  Subsequently, she joined ‘Royal Jordanian’ airline as Director of Planning and Design Projects.

She married His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan in 1978. They had two sons: HRH Prince Hamzah (born 29 March 1980), and HRH Prince Hashim (born 10 June 1981), and two daughters: HRH Princess Iman (born 24 April 1983), and HRH Princess Raiyah (born 9 February 1986).  She was widowed when the King passed away in 1999 after a brief bout with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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 and, since 1999, the King Hussein Foundation, which she founded and chairs, have advanced development thinking in Jordan and the Middle East through pioneering best practice programs in the fields of poverty eradication, women’s empowerment, microfinance, health, and arts as a medium for social development and cross-cultural exchange. The Foundations provide training and capacity-building expertise in these areas in the broader Arab and Asian regions.

She is also chair of the King Hussein Foundation International, a US non-profit 501(c)(3) which, since 2001, has awarded the King Hussein Leadership Prize to individuals, groups, or institutions that demonstrate inspiring 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 a 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.

ME Work:
In 1979, Queen Noor chaired the National Committee for the International Year of the Child and launched a national immunization campaign, children’s parks, and literature programs, as well as an initiative to establish Jordan’s first children’s hospital.  Also, in 1979, the Queen established the Royal Endowment for Culture and Education (RECE), which conducted the first research on the country’s specific manpower needs in order to award scholarships, with special emphasis on outstanding women, for graduate studies in fields vital to Jordan’s future development.

In 1980, following the Arab Summit Meeting in Amman, the Queen called for an annual 10 day meeting of Arab youth hoping that it might contribute to improving future Arab cooperation and collaboration. Known today as the International Arab Youth Congress, it has for over 37 years brought young people together in Amman from throughout the Arab world and, since 2004, from the international community to promote understanding, tolerance, and solidarity.   During a week of travel, learning, and cultural interaction in Jordan, participants are encouraged to discuss and debate contemporary issues and challenges facing the Arab and international communities. Young people from 27 countries have taken part and submitted their final recommendations to the Arab league, policymakers and UN agencies on issues such as women’s and children’s rights, environmental protection, alternative energy resources, educational reform including technology, 21st century skills for a culture of peace and prosperity including interfaith modules, civic engagement, and protection of refugees and the homeless. It is the longest uninterrupted Arab cultural gathering of youth.  The "Tree of Tolerance" produced by the participants during the 15th Arab Children Congress, was exhibited at the main entrance of UNESCO's building at Paris during the celebrations of UNESCO's 50th anniversary.

Queen Noor launched the Arab World’s first children’s museum in Amman in 1986 - the Children’s Heritage and Science Museum, and in 1988, the Mobile Life and Science Museum, as an outreach program for the museum targeting young people in rural areas with computers, educational materials and recreational activities focused on environmental protection, the sciences, health, and  history.

She founded the Noor Al Hussein Foundation (NHF) in 1985, to consolidate and integrate diverse and expanding development initiatives. The Foundation initiates and supports national, regional, and international projects in the fields of integrated community development, micro finance, women and enterprise development, child and family health, and education and culture.  NHF programs successfully expanded development thinking in Jordan by progressing beyond traditional charity-oriented social welfare practices, to integrate social development strategies more closely with national economic priorities.  NHF projects promote individual and community self-reliance, grassroots participation in decision-making and project implementation, equal opportunity, with special emphasis on the empowerment of women, and intersectoral co-operation.

The NHF Quality of Life Project and Community Development Program, the Institute for Family Health, the Jubilee School, the National Handcrafts Development Project, the National Music Conservatory, the National Center for Culture and Arts, and the Jordan Micro Credit Company- Tamweelcom have been recognized and supported by the United Nations and other international organizations as development models for the Middle East and the developing world.

The NHF manages one of the largest portfolio of economic empowerment development programs in Jordan.  On a regional level, the NHF’s Village Business Incubator (VBI) for women, which promotes women’s active role in the labor market through business training and linkages with marketing and lending institutions, has supported capacity building in Saudi Arabia and has been replicated in Syria.

Since 1986, the Institute for Family Health (IFH) founded by NHF with initial support from Sweden’s Radda Barnen has developed from a primary health care center for mothers and children into a regional leader in psychosocial trauma rehabilitation for victims of violence and a regional model for comprehensive family health care.  The IFH provides services and training on child protection and development, reproductive health and gender based violence, psychosocial and trauma rehabilitation in addition to regional training programs on rehabilitation and prevention of torture and trauma to teams from Syria, Iraq, Abu Dhabi, Gaza, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt. The IFH operates 18 family health clinics throughout the country, 9 of which are inside Syrian refugee camps serving over 100,000 clients annually.

In partnership with two Jordanian universities, the IFH provides accredited professional diplomas in Clinical Psychology, Narrative Exposure Therapy, and Pediatric Psychology, as well as Audiology and Speech Therapy. As part of the first national anti-torture program in the Kingdom, the IFH trained judges and prosecutors in handling torture and trauma cases.

Tamweelcom- the Jordan Micro-Credit Company, established by the Noor Al Hussein Foundation in 1999, became a regional pioneer in providing loans to small and medium sized entrepreneurs lacking access to financial services. Such loans have given thousands of potential and existing micro entrepreneurs, the majority of whom are women, the opportunity to start businesses, generate income, build assets and improve their families’ quality of life. Through 34 microfinance branches across Jordan, two mobile branches, and ATM card machines for loan disbursement, Tamweelcom has dispersed over 700 thousand loans .Such loans have given thousands of potential and existing micro entrepreneurs, the majority of whom are women, the opportunity to start businesses, generate income, build assets and improve their families’ quality of life.

Regionally, the micro credit company has supported Yemen, Egypt and Sudan with its expertise in financial analysis, marketing strategy and human resource management.

Building on that success Ethmar for Islamic Finance was established in 2015 as Jordan’s first micro-finance company offering Sharia-compliant financial products.

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 & 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, the 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 Queen launched the National Handicrafts Development Project in 1985 to revive and preserve a unique aspect of Jordan’s national heritage while developing income-generating opportunities for women. In partnership with Save the Children (U.S.), the Bani Hamida and Jordan River Design projects were established as successful community-development artisanal production models. Subsequently, she established the Jordan Design and Trade Center 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 training in clinical music therapy and rehabilitation for families and children who are victims of violence. Training programs have supported musicians in Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere in the region.

The National Center for Culture & Arts (NCCA) began in 1987 out of a pioneering theater in education program. The Center introduced 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, cross-cultural understanding and a global culture of peace through, interactive theater, dance, plays, TV programs and national and international training and exchange programs. In partnership with the UNFPA Global Center of Excellence in Theatre Based Peer Education, the NCCA is introducing training on theater techniques to trainees from Arab states, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

In 1984, Queen Noor assumed responsibility for the implementation of an educational project to commemorate H.M King Hussein’s 1977 Silver Jubilee. She launched the Jubilee Institute and Jubilee School - an independent co-educational secondary institution which opened in 1993 to develop the academic and leadership potential of outstanding scholarship students from the country and the region, with special emphasis on students from less developed areas of Jordan.  The School provides a unique educational environment, which promotes creative thinking, leadership and conflict-resolution skills, scientific and technological expertise, and social responsibility and has educated award winning high school innovators. Students and graduates have contributed to innovative companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo and earned international acclaim — such as Salahaldeen Abu-AlSheikh who won Intel’s 2013 award in Applied Mathematics, inspiring NASA to name a main-belt asteroid after him. Sa’eda Shdaifat, despite being told that “IT was an exclusive boys’ club” led a team that won the first place in the “App Challenge'' in Jordan, with a game that ranked 20th globally in the “edutainment” category. Other accolades include top placement in regional international competitions, such as first place in the Genius Olympiad, USA, in the Science and Art Categories, and 1st Place in Innovation Field “Early detection mechanism of Brain Stroke”, at the Imagine Cup Microsoft Competition in Lebanon.

The school offers three educational programs: the Jordanian Tawjihi, the IB and the IGCSE.

The Jubilee Institute’s Center for Excellence in Education advances national and regional educational standards through the development of innovative curricula and training programs, and workshops for public and private school teachers. Recently, it developed the first STEM curricula for visually impaired students, and organized robotics and electronics training programs for hearing impaired students in rural areas. Since 2009, the Institute has managed the DAFI Program – a global university scholarship program, which facilitates unique opportunities for young refugees to pursue their higher education in Jordanian universities.

In 1995, Queen Noor established 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, the (IRC) Information and Research Center to provide evidence-based research using innovative methodologies, to assist practitioners and policy makers in promoting awareness and more effective socio-economic planning. Today, a King Hussein Foundation institution, the Center has focused on critically important issues, such as women’s, girls’ and the disabled’s rights, child labor, urban poverty, violence and sexual harassment, youth and livelihoods, teen smoking, and gaps and priorities in development programs. “Haqqi”, Jordan’s first human rights on-line database provides key information on legislation, research and media in Jordan, with over half a million global users. To address women’s rights and gender issues, the IRC has worked closely with the Jordanian Parliament Research Center to assess law makers’ priorities in policies and legislation. The IRC collaborates with several international and UN agencies to assess the effects of displacement on Syrian, Iraqi, and Palestinian youth, and explore entrepreneurship opportunities.

The Queen founded the Jordan’s SOS Children’s Villages Association that has established three SOS children Villages, 2 kindergartens and youth facilities in the country. She is an honorary member of the General Assembly of the SOS-Kinderdorf International.

Queen Noor has made environmental priorities an essential component of her work to promote human security and conflict resolution. Shortly after her marriage, she became patron of Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, the Middle East’s first environmental NGO advocating for nationwide nature reserves, environmental clubs, the integration of biodiversity concepts into school curricula, for the region’s first eco-tourism/rural development projects, and for regulating diving, protecting endangered marine species, and cleanup of coastal beaches and shores. RSCN programs have become regional models for conservation and sustainable development providing training and capacity building in the Middle East.

The Queen also chaired Jordan’s National Commission in 1990 which developed Jordan’s National Environment Strategy, the region’s first such initiative, 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.

In 2016 Queen Noor launched the KHF Solar Farm which feeds green energy to over 30 centers and branches operated by the Foundation.

Internationally, she has focused on environmental conservation and human security with emphasis on water and Ocean health and protection issues advocating with governments, keynoting conferences, through various media platforms, non-profit fundraising, and other fora.  She is Patron of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Founding and Emeritus President of BirdLife International, Trustee Emeritus of Conservation International, a member of the Ocean Elders and 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 honors  for her activism.

In 1994, Queen Noor, a member of the International Commission on Peace and Food (ICPF), presented the results of a five-year international research program: "Uncommon Opportunities: An Agenda For Peace And Equitable Development" to the United Nations Secretary General for adoption by the UN on the occasion of its  50th anniversary.  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.

A long-time advocate for a just Arab-Israeli peace and for Palestinian refugees, Queen Noor is a Director of Refugees International and an outspoken voice for the protection of civilians in conflict and displaced persons around the world. Her focus has included advocacy for Afghans displaced after the 2001 war, displaced Pakistanis, Iraqis displaced in Iraq, Jordan, Syria and other countries after the 2003 Iraq conflict and for the millions of Syrians displaced since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011.   She has also been an expert advisor to the United Nations focusing on implementation of the MDGs in Central Asia and on behalf of Colombia’s displaced.

She is President of the United World Colleges (UWC), a network of 17 equal-opportunity international IB scholarship colleges around the world which foster cross-cultural understanding and global peacebuilding- since 1995 she has inaugurated schools in Norway, India, Costa Rica, The Netherlands, China, and Thailand, and visited and supported many others.

Queen Noor has also focused extensively on the Balkans since her first humanitarian mission in 1996 to bring aid from Jordan to the survivors of the tragic fall of Srebrenica. As the scale of the genocide at Srebrenica was revealed and documented over the following years, Queen Noor worked closely with families of the missing from Srebrenica and the Western Balkans region as a Commissioner of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), created in 1996 to promote reconciliation and conflict resolution after the Balkans war. ICMP today is the leading provider of DNA-assisted identifications, and related healing and reconciliation best practices to countries worldwide dealing with natural catastrophes, human rights abuses and conflict. She has supported and overseen the ICMP's groundbreaking forensic DNA identification and families/community reconciliation programs and advocated with the leaders of BiH to finalize the establishment of a Missing Persons Institute, critical to resolution of the tragedy of tens of thousands of missing and murdered in the 1992-1995 Balkan conflicts.  ICMP spearheaded an effort that has accounted for more than 70 percent of the missing from the Western Balkans, including 7,000 of the 8,000 missing from Srebrenica.

As ICMP’s longest serving Commissioner, Queen Noor has supported the organization’s development into an intergovernmental organization with headquarters in The Hague and its work with more than 40 countries and active engagement in programs in Colombia, Iraq and among the Syrian Diaspora, as well as in the Western Balkans.

Queen Noor 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 and was an advisor to the 2010 documentary film, Countdown to Zero about the escalating global nuclear arms threat.

She also has been an advisor to, and global advocate for, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. As Patron of Landmine Survivors Network (LSN), she hosted the first “International Conference on Landmine Injury & Rehabilitation in the Middle East” in Amman in 1998 and successfully lobbied for Jordan’s ratification of the Ottawa treaty. She announced the critical 40th ratification of the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty at the United Nations on October 1, 1998, detailing new measures to universalize the treaty and to promote victim-survivors assistance.

She has travelled to Central and Southeast Asia, the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, to advocate with governments, to support NGOs, and to visit with landmine survivors struggling to heal, recover, and reclaim their lives. Queen Noor 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 Presidents Andres Pastana and Alvaro Uribe Velez, she  undertook several humanitarian missions to Colombia to try to negotiate a series of humanitarian accords with the leaders of the country’s guerilla insurgency, FARC, on landmines, child soldiers and kidnappings, to promote mine awareness programs in rural and conflict areas with UNDP, to advocate against the use of APMs especially in civilian areas and oversaw the destruction of Columbia’s last arsenal of anti-personnel mines.

In 2004 and 2005 Queen Noor, an expert advisor to the United Nations traveled to Central Asia to advocate for adoption and implementation of the Ottawa Treaty throughout the region and for multi-sectoral commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in Tajikistan one of the world’s poorest countries.

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 is a Trustee of the Aspen Institute, Advisor to Search for Common Ground and Trust Women – the Thomson Reuters Foundation annual conference aiming to put the rule of law behind women’s rights, a Board Member of America Near East Refugee Aid and 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.

She was a Director on the global board of The Hunger Project, an international organization committed to the end of world hunger through the empowerment of women and communities, the stabilization of population growth, the eradication of poverty, the preservation of the natural environment and the universalization of access to basic health and education. She has also worked 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, and Women Waging Peace and as a member of the Pew Global Attitudes Survey International Advisory Board.

In recognition of her efforts to advance development, democracy and peace, the Queen 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 #1 best seller published in 17 languages.
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