Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me the greatest possible pleasure to join you all this afternoon to celebrate the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the AMAR International Charitable Foundation. Having been familiar with this remarkable organization since its earliest days, and extremely proud of being its Patron for the past thirteen years, I can only say that I know what a great deal there is to celebrate after all these years of quite extraordinary achievements.
Indeed, astonishingly, during the past twenty-five years over ten million people in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan have been able to benefit from the healthcare facilities made available through AMAR, with many more benefitting from the educational opportunities that AMAR provides.
I am sure you will all agree that the scale of AMAR's reach is profoundly impressive but, if I may say so, it is the ethos at the core of AMAR's work which is the most impressive thing of all- even in the most desperate and heart-breaking situations, where conflict has shattered lives and persecution has wrenched societies apart, AMAR has always maintained an unwavering faith in the future. It has not let itself be drawn into the complex causes of past miseries, but has instead focussed on the 'here and now' in order to help ordinary people rebuild their lives and regain the confidence that those lives are worth living. And what is more, it has done all of this by harnessing the talent and determination of doctors, nurses and teachers within these countries who, between them, hold the keys to a better future.
And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, above all, today is an opportunity to honour the work of the remarkable AMAR teams - wherever they operate, and whatever conditions of deprivation or threat they face – whose professionalism has delivered extraordinary outcomes in health and education for so many people over these twenty-five years. Each and every one of them, whether they work in Iraq or in another part of the Middle East, or in London or Washington, should feel deeply proud of all that AMAR has achieved. So too, should the many businesses and commercial entities - and in particular the Iraq Britain Business Council – whose magnificent support over the years has made all of this work possible. If I may, I would also like to pay a special tribute to Baroness Nicholson whose indefatigable leadership and extraordinary professionalism has been so crucially important to this endeavour for so many years.
Ladies and Gentlemen, over the past quarter of a century AMAR has given us all reason to have faith in humanity. It has saved countless lives, created hope from despair and achieved nothing short of miracles. Today, all of us can re-commit ourselves to this remarkable and profoundly important work, knowing that the need remains great and that the challenges continue. I know that each of you will share my confidence that, for as long as those challenges exist, AMAR will rise to them with energy, professionalism and the greatest possible humanity.