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Jordanian Envoy Recognized as ‘Ambassador of the Year’

By Samantha Subin

Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar was recognized as “Ambassador of the Year” by the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) during a ceremony Dec. 20 at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington.

The event, which brought together more than 100 leaders from government and business, celebrated 70 years of diplomatic ties between the United States and Jordan, and Kawar’s efforts to implement King Abdullah’s vision to build a more progressive Jordan.

“Our chamber is proud to recognize Ambassador Kawar for her work in promoting America’s exceptional relationship with Jordan, a relationship based on shared values and mutual respect,” said David Hamod, president and CEO of NUSACC. “Thanks to His Majesty King Abdullah’s leadership and commitment to regional peace and stability, the strategic relationship between our two countries continues to thrive and grow.”

Joan Polaschik, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, acknowledged Kawar’s efforts to “promote closer economic and commercial cooperation” between the U.S. and Jordan.

Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar
National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC) President and CEO David Hamod, Ambassador of Jordan Dina Kawar and Ambassador of Iraq Fareed Yasseen attend NUSACC’s “Ambassador of the Year” reception, which honored Kawar for her work promoting U.S.-Jordan relations. Photo: National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce

In 2018, Kawar assisted in the signing of a five-year agreement in which the U.S. commits to providing $6.37 billion in security and economic assistance for Jordan, Polaschik noted; the U.S. is currently the single largest donor of assistance to Jordan.

As one of the few countries in the region with few natural resources such as oil, landlocked Jordan’s economy is heavily dependent on foreign assistance. At the same time, since the early 2000s, King Abdullah implemented significant economic reforms such as privatizing state-owned companies and Jordan has seen a sharp increase in economic growth. In 2001, Jordan’s GDP was at $8.9 billion, according to the World Bank Group reported. By 2017, it reached $40 billion.

Kawar says the government is looking to further tap the country’s potential.

“It doesn’t escape any of you that the economy of the Arab world is diverse,” Kawar said. “The potential is enormous, and so are the challenges. Within this vast market, Jordan, despite its modest resources, is a beacon and a success story, one with a highly resilient economy. Now, how do we do it? We do not believe that citing our ‘meager resources’ is a justifiable excuse.

“Our population, 60 percent of whom are under 35, is leading the way in IT, design and construction, not to mention pharmaceuticals, where companies like Hikma have factories in Europe and the United States,” she added. “Last week, NASDAQ received a new member to its trading floor, Jerash Holdings, a Jordanian textile company. I could keep going but, suffice it to say, Jordan’s businesses are growing steadily.”

Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar
Ambassador of Jordan Dina Kawar, center, accepts the Ambassador of the Year Award from NUSACC President and CEO David Hamod, left, and Nancy Ziuzin Schlegel, NUSACC board member and vice president of international government affairs at Lockheed Martin. Photo: National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce

But unemployment and high debt remain problems, which have been exacerbated by the Syrian refugee crisis next door. Today, Zaatari, located in Jordan, is the largest Syrian refugee camp in the world.

According to a report released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 2015, this refugee influx in “vulnerable communities” has led to frustration, conflict, security concerns and competition in the workforce and housing market.

In June 2018, the UNHCR reported approximately 751,275 refugees in Jordan, the majority of them having fled the civil war in Syria. There are roughly 89 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants, and only 50,000 have work permits, the group noted.

Kawar admits that this influx has put a heavy burden on Jordan’s already-strained resources.

In recent years, she said, Jordan’s population has increased by 21 percent and “our energy spending by 500 percent. This has placed enormous pressure on Jordan’s limited resources, its infrastructure and its public utilities. Today, we are seeing a steady annual growth at the rate of 2.2 percent. However, this is not much, and its impact is felt daily by the Jordanian citizen. Considering the incredible strain to the economy, this is a huge feat, and it is our claim to resilience.”

Kawar added that despite these challenges, Jordan has welcomed those in need.

“Our region has seen turbulent times,” she said. “From the start, Jordan opened its doors to incoming refugees who sought a safe haven from the conflicts in their own countries.”

Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar
Ambassador of Jordan Dina Kawar, center, is joined by VIP guests, from left: former U.S. Ambassador Edward Gnehm; Paul Davis of Pragma Corp.; Iram Ali of Amazon Web Services; Jane Harman of the Wilson Center; David Hamod; Nancy Ziuzin Schlegel of Lockheed Martin; Sarah Kemp of the Department of Commerce; Fawaz Bilbeisi of the World Bank Group; Joan Polaschik of the State Department; Ambassador of Iraq Fareed Yasseen; and Ahmed Selim of Northrop Grumman. Photo: National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce

Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Jordan Stuart Jones, who is now regional president for Europe and the Middle East at Bechtel, praised Kawar for tackling the refugee spillover crisis in her homeland.

“Her persistent efforts have boosted both development and humanitarian aid to Jordan, which has saved and improved the lives of millions of refugees, as well as Jordanians,” he said, noting that she “represents the gold standard for professional diplomacy.”

Prior to her appointment in Washington in June 2016, Kawar served as Jordan’s permanent representative to the U.N., where she was the first Arab woman to preside over the U.N. Security Council. Prior to that, she served as the ambassador to France from 2001 until 2013.

Since 2004, NUSACC has awarded its “Ambassador of the Year” to is given annually to a member of the Arab diplomatic corps for his or her contributions to promoting U.S.-Arab commercial relations.

“This is the 15th anniversary of the award,” said CEO Hamod. “In a sense, we have come full circle. Our first recipient, in 2004, was a member of the Kawar family in Jordan [Karim Kawar]. Fifteen years later, we are once again recognizing the accomplishments of a member of the Kawar family in Jordan.”


Samantha Subin is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.



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