Your Highness, the Aga Khan, Prince Amyn and Prince Rahim, Your Excellencies, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, I begin by thanking you, your Highness for hosting this dinner and for inviting me to say a few words on behalf of the Government.
There is of course a very close relationship between the United Kingdom and your Highness’ family as this Golden Jubilee visit shows. It is a measure of the respect that your Highness and your family have in the United Kingdom and elsewhere that the guests this evening include a former Prime Minister and the European Union’s high representative for foreign and security policy.
As you said your Highness, the friendship between the United Kingdom and your family goes back to Queen Victoria and your own Grandfather. There have over that time been many shared goals. His Highness’ family has a tradition of support for higher learning that goes back a thousand years to the time of the Fatimid Empire in Egypt. This country shares His Highness’ view of education as the key ingredient for the development of civil society. Education erodes segregation between faiths and cultures, is the source of the shared values that we need to develop and it is a chance to explore personal convictions.
Oxford University, represented this evening by the Vice Chancellor John Hood, has a long-standing partnership with the Aga Khan University in Karachi. They set up the Institute of Educational Development together which is located in Karachi and develops teacher training. His Highness’ family is responsible for the Institute for Ismaili Studies based in London since 1977. More recently in 2002, the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations was set up in London as well, strengthening the teaching and research of Muslim societies including the challenges we now face in a globalized world.
The International Development accord of co-operation between the United Kingdom government and the Aga Khan Development Network was signed in 1988, and we have worked with the Aga Khan rural support programme in Northern Pakistan since the 1990s. This has been a partnership over many years and from the perspective of my own department of the United Kingdom government with our own belief, that it is the development of skills and the training for skills that is so often the route out of poverty, we have been delighted to see that principle embodied in so much of the work that takes place in rural communities.
The Aga Khan Development Network is a key development partner for the United Kingdom government in Africa, the Indian sub-continent and Central Asia. The Aga Khan Foundation with its vital focus on Islam and its place in the pluralist world is deeply valued. There is excellent collaboration with the United Kingdom government in developing social cohesion in this country and worldwide, and we welcome the forthcoming round table between the government and the Foundation on further collaboration.
Could I end, your Highness, by thanking you for hosting this dinner and for the privilege of hearing from you early this evening about the work that you have undertaken over many years and for which so many people have benefited.