Doha, Qatar (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Middle East leaders that they could be leaving their countries vulnerable to the influence of extremists and terrorists if they allow corruption and foster inequality, and ignore the voices of their people.
Calling it a "critical moment" and a "test of leadership," Clinton said people of the region are proud of its accomplishments, but "are profoundly concerned about the trends in many parts of the Middle East region."
Clinton spoke Thursday at the Forum for the Future, an independent organization that brings together representatives from 20 countries of the Mideast, North Africa and the G-8 to discuss sustainable development and human rights.
There is an enormous and growing younger population in the region, she said, which is beset by unemployment and lack of education, she said. In countries that have not made reform, citizens, she said, "are demanding reforms to make their government more effective, more responsive and more open."
If leaders do not find legal ways for their citizens contribute to society, Clinton said, "others will fill that vacuum. Extremist elements, terrorists groups and other who will prey on desperation and poverty are always out there."
"And all of this is taking place against a backdrop of depleting resources," she continued. "Water tables are dropping, oil reserves are running out and too few countries have developed long-term plans for addressing these problems."
Clinton also warned of the destructive influence of corruption. "But in too many ways, the region's foundations are sinking into the sand."