The Catholic University of America

Nov. 15, 2007

Prince Firas bin Raad of Jordan Speaks at CUA

Health Policy Expert Discusses Middle East Social Development and Social Policy

His Royal Highness Prince Firas bin Raad

His Royal Highness Prince Firas bin Raad of Jordan spoke of the need for "legislation, regulation and persuasion" to help bring disabled citizens into the workforce during a lecture and discussion with Catholic University students and faculty on Nov. 14.

Firas, a health policy specialist and consultant for the Middle East at the World Bank, spoke on "Social Development and Social Policy in the Middle East" as a guest lecturer for the Global Disabilities Policy class taught by Leszek Sibilski, adjunct professor of sociology. Earlier this semester, Sibilski's class visited the World Bank for a field project and met with the prince.

Firas, whose remarks were translated by a sign-language interpreter, discussed the challenges of overcoming the stigma of disability, and the importance of bringing stakeholders, including parents, religious elite and, most important those with disabilities to the table.

He also outlined human development trends in the Middle East and, specifically, challenges facing Jordan, including population growth, an aging population and a rapid rise in chronic diseases such as diabetes.

One of the most successful means of overcoming negative perceptions, Firas said, is for those with disabilities to "take the lead and show able-bodied people that they are just as capable."

Following his comments, the prince participated in a 30-minute Q-and-A session with members of the audience on topics ranging from women in the workforce to Jordan's top health concerns. In response to a question about ensuring that persons with disabilities are not pushed to the bottom of the workforce, Firas said that, in addition to legislation, education and vocational training are crucial.

"We need to make sure people with disabilities have the right skill sets." Firas said that governments should take the lead in promoting such hiring practices, and offered several success stories within Jordan.

Firas, who was introduced by CUA Provost James Brennan, thanked the university for its "great role … in promoting interfaith connectedness and dialogue."