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Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship Toronto, Canada Thursday, 22 September 2016 1474419600 Remarks by Adrienne Clarkson at the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship speech Canada 2010s 1 prizes

Tonight, this prize for Global Citizenship is recognizing and celebrating His Highness the Aga Khan, whose entire life demonstrates steadfast unchanging commitment to the ideals of belonging and inclusion. Through his words, through his actions, and through the results obtained by the institutions that he has founded and encouraged and nourished, he has become a light in much of the world’s conflicting darkness. He is someone who has consistently encouraged thought and dialogue as well as practical approaches and inventing strategies that remove barriers, that help to change attitudes, and that ultimately reinforce principles of respect and understanding.

I feel the significance of this prize deeply, because I arrived in this country at the age of two-and-a-half as a refugee of a war on a red cross ship, and all of my life in Canada has been made possible by the kind of principles that His Highness the Aga Khan embodies and makes us aware of everyday.

His Highness has realized through his almost 60 years of leadership of the Ismaili people, that no true development can happen without the pre-condition of a healthy civil society. Only the strength of a society that can pay attention to rural populations, which are frequently geographically isolated, and to the misery of the urban poor, who are totally marginalized. It is his efforts to bring them to equality, to security, to opportunity and to humane treatment that we are honouring by recognizing him as a global citizen.

His Highness is totally committed to pluralism. And, his commitment has had a pervasive effect over the last decade, particularly in making the world understand pluralism, that pluralism is as important as human rights to ensure peace, democracy, and a better quality of life. His Highness has continually pointed out that the management of pluralism, its establishment as a pure value, is critical to a peaceful, harmonious understanding and he points out that pluralism does not happen by accident, but as the product of enlightened education, of moral and material investments by governments, and by the recognition of human beings that each and every human being shares a common humanity. And that no human being is more human than any other.

His Highness has been the inspiring founder of universities and colleges – because education is one of the democratic pillars that he recognizes. He alerts us to the fact that education is not simply the promotion of dogmatic commitments or ideological choices. He emphasizes always that there must be scientific problem-solving with a continued openness to new questions.

The way in which he has dealt with the fashionable “clash of civilisations” is to point out that it is really a “clash of ignorance”. He points out that this ignorance is both historic and current and he is unequivocal in his belief that this ignorance could have been avoided if there had been more dialogue and understanding between the Judeo-Christian and Muslim worlds. He always sees clearly where democracy has failed to create human and institutional resources to nurture young democracies. He is a wise and somewhat sad observer of the fact that corruption can grow out of the sometimes sheer incompetence of democratic failure

His belief in what democracy can do is the most inspiring of all. Because he understands there is a need to be flexible, to be diverse in the institutions that take part in the democratic life. And, most important of all, that the public’s capacity and understanding of democracy can only come about through education and awareness. And finally, he sees and emphasizes the need to strengthen public integrity as the important and sound foundation on which democracy can rest and remain stable. He asks us all to realize that it is not simply governments that make democracy work. He makes us realize that citizens of the most successful democracies are the ones in which their role is played because of their voluntary energies and their commitment to the public good.

To commemorate this prize, I had a medal created by the sculpture Anna Williams. It shows the Inuit Goddess of the Sea, Sedna, emerging from the Arctic waves to pass a vulnerable world to the outstretched arms of a winged triumphal guardian.

Because of his wisdom, practicality, and his total commitment to the betterment of the world through a realistic understanding of the way in which democracy can bring citizens to their fullest level of participation - It is my great pleasure to honour His Highness the Aga Khan with this first Global Citizenship Prize.

speech_173716 "His Highness has continually pointed out that the management of pluralism, its establishment as a pure value, is critical to a peaceful, harmonious understanding and he points out that pluralism does not happen by accident, but as the product of enlightened education, of moral and material investments by governments, and by the recognition of human beings that each and every human being shares a common humanity. And that no human being is more human than any other." English
Accepting the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship Toronto, Canada Thursday, 22 September 2016 1474419600 Address by His Highness the Aga Khan accepting the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship speech Canada 2010s 6926 1 prizes


Madame Adrienne Clarkson
Dr. John Ralston Saul
Premier Kathleen Wynne
Madame Reid, First Lady of Iceland
Your Honour Elizabeth Dowdeswell
Your Worship John Tory
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

This is a deeply memorable moment for me. My warmest thanks go to Adrienne Clarkson, John Ralston Saul and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship for this wonderful Award, and to all of you for sharing in this important moment in my life.

Imagine the honour one feels - to receive an Award named after Adrienne Clarkson, presented by Adrienne Clarkson, and dedicated to the ideals of which Adrienne Clarkson is such a leading example.

As you know, Madame Clarkson has experienced, in her own life, what the concept of Global Citizenship really means. Arriving as a two-year old refugee from outside Canada, she became a Canadian citizen in the fullest and best sense. And she also became an extraordinary advocate for what Global Citizenship truly means. In so many roles over so many years, as a thoughtful journalist and broadcaster, as Canada’s distinguished Governor General, and as a forceful national matriarch, she has continually been reaching out to diverse peoples in Canada, and around the world, not only in eloquent words but also in decisive action.

Madame Clarkson ne s'est pas contentée d'être une amie et une inspiratrice ; elle a aussi été pour moi un partenaire pour qui j'ai la plus grande estime. Sa contribution aux travaux de notre Réseau de Développement a été marquée par son mandat d'Administratrice du Centre Mondial du Pluralisme à Ottawa, l'un des nombreux projets collaboratifs dans lesquels mes institutions, avec une profonde reconnaissance, se sont engagées aux côtés du gouvernement canadien.

One might say that to receive an Award for Global Citizenship from Adrienne Clarkson is a bit like receiving an Excellence in Hockey Award from Wayne Gretzky!

As for the concept of Global Citizenship, that was something I began to think about seriously when I became the Imam of the Ismaili Muslims almost 60 years ago. Happily, I was able to share my thinking about Global Citizenship with the dedicated people of the Aga Khan Development Network - with whom I want to share this honour today. What we learned from the very start was that advancing our development agenda, we would be required to respect the immense diversity of ethnicities, of languages and of cultures, of faiths, of philosophies. In short, we learned to embrace the values of Global Citizenship.

As we discuss this concept, and the spirit of Pluralism on which it rests, it is only realistic, in my view, to acknowledge an increasing frustration concerning the pluralism story. We talk sincerely about the values of diversity, about living with complexity. But in too many cases more diversity seems to mean more division; greater complexity, more fragmentation, and more fragmentation can bring us closer to conflict.

The stakes seem to be getting higher as time goes by, but so do the obstacles. And that is why I will focus my brief remarks today on the continuing challenges to the ideals of Global Citizenship.

One enormous challenge, of course, is the simple fact that diversity is increasing around the world. The task is not merely learning to live with that diversity, but learning to live with greater diversity with each passing year.

One aspect of this changing reality is the challenge of human migration. More people are moving, willingly and unwillingly, across national frontiers than ever before. In country after country, the migration question is a central issue of political life. Often it is THE central issue. And old habits of mind, including narrow, exclusionary definitions of citizenship, have not met the challenge.

That was true three months ago when Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. It is true in pre-election debates in France, where I now live, and in the United States, where I went to university. It is true in Canada, as you well know, though Canada has certainly been a world leader in expanding the concept of citizenship. But the challenge is felt everywhere. Nor is the migration challenge likely to dissipate any time soon, especially as war, and violence, and economic deprivation, displace more and more people.

In such a world, the “Other” is no longer a distant someone whom we encounter primarily in the pages of a magazine, or on a video screen, or an exotic holiday trip. The “Other” increasingly is someone who appears in what we think of as “our space”, or even, “in our face.” And that reality can be hard to handle.

When the Other is seen as a potential competitor, for a job for example, even when this fear is unfounded, then the challenge of pluralistic attitudes becomes even more difficult. For those who feel insecure, it is tempting to look for scapegoats, for someone to blame, when their self-esteem seems threatened. Often, we then find it easier to define our identity by what we are against, than by what we are for.

Such fears may be culturally based, or economically driven, or psychologically rooted. But they should not be underestimated. And they will not be driven away by nice sounding words proclaiming lofty ideals.

This is why I would emphasize, as Adrienne Clarkson has always done, our responsibility to improve the quality of life in places throughout the world where that quality is unsatisfactory - fighting poverty, improving health and education, expanding opportunity - as the first manifestation of a healthy pluralistic ethic. Pluralism means responding to diversity not only at home, but on a global basis, creating genuine “visions of opportunity” wherever constraints or reversals are in the air.

But the growing challenge to pluralistic values does not happen only when people move physically from one place to another. As new technologies shrink the planet, distant forces become dire threats. We worry about the perils of environmental degradation, for example, including the spectre of climate change. We see how every local economy can be affected by distant economies. We realize how dangerous forces can spread across national borders - deadly diseases, or deadly weaponry, criminal networks or terrorist threats. And often, the human impulse is not to work across borders to meet these dangers, but to withdraw from a threatening world.

One element that complicates this challenge is the way in which we communicate with our global neighbours. We think sometimes that the new technologies can save us. If we can connect faster, at lower cost, across greater distances, with more people, just think what could happen! We would all learn more about one another and perhaps understand one another better. But I am not sure that things are working out that way. The explosion of available information often means less focus on relevant information, and even a surfeit of misinformation. Thoughtful leadership often gives way to noisy chatter.

Media proliferation is another challenge: what it often means is media fragmentation. Many now live in their own media bubbles, resisting diverse views. New technologies can make communication seem easier, but they can also make pluralism much more difficult.
Yet another dimension of the challenge has to do with the realities of human nature. We often hear in discussions of Global Citizenship that people are basically alike. Under the skin, deep in our hearts, we are all brothers and sisters - we are told - and the secret to a harmonious world is to ignore our differences and to emphasize our similarities.

What worries me, however, is when some take that message to mean that our differences are trivial, that they can be ignored, and eventually erased. And that is not good advice. In fact, it is impossible. Yes, our understanding and our underlying humanity should motivate our quest for healthy pluralism. But such a quest must also be built on an empathetic response to our important differences. And that, again, is a point which Adrienne Clarkson has emphatically articulated.

Pretending that our differences are trivial will not persuade most people to embrace pluralistic attitudes. In fact, it might frighten them away. People know that differences can be challenging, that disagreements are inevitable, that our fellow-humans can sometimes be disagreeable. As Madame Clarkson has famously said, and I am quoting her here: “the secret to social harmony is learning to live with people you may not particularly like.”
My fear is that talking only about our common humanity might seem to threaten people’s distinctive identities. And that can complicate the challenge of pluralism.

Who am I? Qui suis-je? We all must pose that question. Answers will grow out of basic loyalties - to family, faith, community, language, which provide a healthy sense of security and worth. But if the call for pluralism seems to dilute those old loyalties, then that new call may not be effective. Embracing the values of Global Citizenship should not mean compromising the bonds of local or national citizenship. The call of pluralism should ask us to respect our differences, but not to ignore them, to integrate diversity, not to depreciate diversity.

The call for cosmopolitanism is not a call to homogenization. It means affirming social solidarity, without imposing social conformity. One’s identity need not be diluted in a pluralistic world, but rather fulfilled, as one bright thread in a cloth of many colours.

When Adrienne Clarkson gave the Massey Lectures on CBC two years ago, she used a phrase that became her book’s title: “Belonging, the Paradox of Citizenship.” The word “paradox” expresses precisely the challenge I have been discussing.

Perhaps the key to resolving the Paradox of Citizenship is to think about layers of overlapping identity. After all, one can honour a variety of loyalties - to a faith, an ethnicity, a language, a nation, a city, a profession, a school, even to a sports team! One might share some of these identities with some people, and other identities with others.

My own religious community identifies proudly as Ismaili Muslims, with our specific interpretation of Islamic faith and history. But we also feel a sense of belonging with the whole of the Muslim world, what we call the Ummah. Within the Ummah, the diversity of identities is immense - greater than most people realize - differences based on language, on history, on nationhood, ethnicity and a variety of local affiliations. But, at the same time, I observe a growing sense within the Ummah of a meaningful global bond.

When the question of human identity is seen in this context, then diversity itself can be seen as a gift. Diversity is not a reason to put up walls, but rather to open windows. It is not a burden, it is a blessing. In the end of course, we must realize that living with diversity is a challenging process. We are wrong to think it will be easy. The work of pluralism is always a work in progress.

Some of that work will be done in our schools. What I have called the Cosmopolitan Ethic is not something that we are born with, it is something that must be learned. Similarly, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, under the inspirational leadership of Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul, has been working to give people who are new to Canada a sense of belonging. But this process does not simply take care of itself. It requires planning, it requires persistence and ever-fresh thinking. It is work that is never finished.

Finally, advancing the cause of Global Citizenship is not only a matter of building healthy, diversified societies, but also of maintaining them. Inevitably, new challenges will arise. Canada’s Chief Justice, the Right Honorable Beverly McLachlin, spoke of such challenges last year when she delivered the annual Lecture for our Global Centre for Pluralism. She spoke of how a cosmopolitan society needed, continually, to sort out the balance between healthy diversity and social cohesion. To do that well, she said, required a respect for human dignity, strong legal institutions, and a pluralistic institutional environment.

For me, that latter strength implies a broadly diversified civil society - a healthy array of private organizations that are dedicated to public purposes. For pluralism to thrive will require the successful integration of diverse institutions and diverse leadership.

These are just a few thoughts as I look to the future of Global Citizenship. The challenges, in sum, will be many and continuing. What will they require of us? A short list might include these strengths: a vital sense of balance, an abundant capacity for compromise, more than a little sense of patience, an appropriate degree of humility, a good measure of forgiveness, and, of course, a genuine welcoming of human difference.

It will mean hard work. It will never be completed. But no work will be more important.

Thank you.

speech_173711 <span>"This is why I would emphasize ... our responsibility to improve the quality of life in places throughout the world where that quality is unsatisfactory - fighting poverty, improving health and education, expanding opportunity - as the first manifestation of a healthy pluralistic ethic."&nbsp;</span> English
Global Centre for Pluralism Annual Lecture 2016 Introductory Remarks Toronto, Canada Saturday, 21 May 2016 1463652900 Introductory remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Global Centre for Pluralism Annual Lecture 2016 speech Canada 2010s 6926 1


Justice Albie Sachs
Madame Adrienne Clarkson
Your Excellencies
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

What a great pleasure it is for me to welcome you, most warmly, to the Aga Khan Museum and to this Lecture. I am particularly pleased to extend this welcome on behalf of the Global Centre for Pluralism and the members of the Board of Directors.

This is the Fifth time that the Centre has sponsored this annual event - we call it the Pluralism Lecture. It is one of the highlights of the Centre’s activities each year. It is something we look forward to, beforehand, with great anticipation - and something we remember, afterward, with great appreciation.

And this year, it is our special honour to welcome as our Pluralism Lecturer - Justice Albie Sachs.

Au nom du Conseil d’administration du Centre mondial du du pluralisme, permettez-moi de vous souhaiter la bienvenue à la cinquième Conférence annuelle sur le pluralisme que nous avons le plaisir d’organiser pour la deuxième fois au Musée Aga Khan à Toronto. Ces conférences offrent une plateforme unique pour le dialogue international et soulignent le leadership de ceux et celles qui font une différence concrète en faveur du pluralisme et d'une citoyenneté basés sur le respect mutuel. Aujourd’hui, nous avons l’immense honneur de recevoir le juge Albie Sachs.

Justice Sachs’ career has been a truly inspiring one.

He has been a heroic freedom fighter, an insightful legal scholar, a compelling author and for fifteen years a member of South Africa’s Constitutional Court. And, as most of you undoubtedly know, he was a chief architect of South Africa’s new, post apartheid Constitution - one of the most admired Constitutions in the world.

The creation of that Constitution is a story with continuing relevance as nations across the world look for better ways of governing themselves. And it is about that Constitution - and how it was created - that Justice Sachs will speak to us tonight.

Justice Sachs’ commitment to the cause of justice and equality has been the central theme of his life. Even at the age of seventeen, he was a passionate anti-apartheid activist. As an engaged freedom fighter, he was arrested, held in solitary confinement without a trial and forced into exile. And he was not deterred even when a bomb was planted in his car, resulting in the loss of his arm and the sight in one eye.

As a senior member of the African National Congress, he helped to draft the organization’s Code of Conduct - a key document in advancing the ideal of an inclusive South Africa. And then, of course, came his role in creating the post-apartheid Constitution, and later his long career on South Africa’s Constitutional Court.

All of us who try to understand the challenges of pluralism in our modern world also understand that viable constitutions are the sound foundations on which healthy pluralism must rest. They are the vehicle through which the nations can reconcile the quest for national identity with the protection and the bridging of differences. In the pursuit of an effective pluralism we can learn a great deal from studying the South African constitution - and how it works - and how it was created.

Constitution-making requires a strong sense of idealism, married to a practical sense of realism. It requires a willingness to listen as competing priorities are expressed, and a readiness to negotiate as differences are reconciled. As the challenges of governance grow in complex and changing societies, a widely respected Constitution is essential to the preservation of peace and the pursuit of progress.

Canada’s own Charter of Rights and Freedoms has played a central role in making Canada a leading example of a successful pluralist society. And I should also point out that Canada was a helpful contributor to the successful Constitutional transition in South Africa.

That Canadian contribution in South Africa was principally made through the work of the International Development Research Centre - IDRC as most candians know it - a resource created during the Prime Ministership of Pierre Trudeau - whose dedication to effective pluralism was so important in Canadian history, and is, not surprisingly, mirrored in the commitments of the present Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

The mission of the Global Centre for Pluralism is to convene Global leaders and to learn from their experience how to bring about a more inclusive, pluralistic society. On an evening like this, we see how well that mission can be achieved in practice.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are grateful that all of you are here to share in that experience, and to join me in welcoming, most warmly, the Centre’s honoured lecturer for 2016, Justice Albie Sachs.

Thank you.

speech_64836 "The mission of the Global Centre for Pluralism is to convene Global leaders and to learn from their experience how to bring about a more inclusive, pluralistic society. On an evening like this, we see how well that mission can be achieved in practice." English
Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies citation for His Highness the Aga Khan Toronto, Canada Saturday, 21 May 2016 1463822100 Citation on the occasion of the presentation by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies of an Honorary Degree to His Highness the Aga Khan speech Canada 2010s 69341 Mr. David Mulroney, President of the University of St. Michael's College and former Ambassador to the Republic of China delivers the citation at the ceremony of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies conferring an Honorary Degree on His Highness the Aga Khan 1

Your Highness, Your Eminence and Chancellor, Praeses, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I am honoured to present today His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam, or spiritual leader, of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. His Highness is also of course an honorary citizen of this country, a person whose many contributions and connections to Canadian life and society we extend with today’s ceremony.

Given the energy and vigour with which his Highness pursues his calling, and the extent to which he has used it to benefit not only Ismaili Muslims but a broad range of communities around the world--with a particular attention to the most vulnerable--it is all the more impressive to recall that His Highness has been serving in this remarkable capacity since 1957.

The Aga Khan Development Network partners with public and private institutions around the world to build (often, actually to re-build) the institutions necessary to sustain and nurture communities. This mirrors the activism of the Ismaili community, whose members are among the agents of change, the difference makers, in so many parts of the globe, Canada included.

Canadians take special pride in the links that connect us to the Aga Khan, to the Ismaili community and to the important values that they so effectively champion. It is a bond that stretches back to 1972, to an earlier Trudeau era, when Canada provided a home to thousands of Ismailis who had been expelled from the Uganda they had helped to build.

Many have been the rewards that have flowed back to us, most notably the remarkable and continuing contribution of the Ismaili community to our national life. His Highness has himself been most generous, as visitors to the Aga Khan museum here in Toronto can attest.

He has also paid us the compliment of associating us with a powerfully important word: pluralism. As he has written, pluralism is “one of our fundamental values and an inescapable condition for world peace and further human development.” He generously reinforced the connection between Canada and respect for this value by making our national capital home to a Global Centre for Pluralism.

This is a gift that keeps on giving, because the Centre also serves as a perpetual reminder to Canadians of what we can offer the world when we are truly at our best. His Highness, through the work of the Centre, reminds us of our duty, and inspires us to do even more.

Of course, pluralism for His Highness means something more than diversity for its own sake. Our celebration of the many ways in which human society orders and expresses itself is grounded in a sense of shared humanity. As, the Aga Khan Development Network reminds us, we find “in the very diversity of human kind, signs that point to the Creator and Sustainer of all creation.”

Pluralism inevitably involves that most Catholic of words, connectedness.

And His Highness is a great connector, a builder of bridges metaphorically and actually. He has, for example, reconnected Afghanistan with its traditional role as a cross roads of trade and people, art and ideas. This has been evidenced by the construction, thanks to His Highness, of multiple bridges linking Afghans with their northern neighbours.

But it has also been achieved through numerous projects designed to re-connect Afghans with their history and rich array of cultures. His Highness is a great proponent of something that the friends of this Institute also know so well: that openness to learning and culture inevitably restore a sense of common humanity, and with it, an awakened appreciation of the many signs that do indeed point to our Creator.

These natural impulses to learn, communicate and connect were anathema to the extremists who for too long held sway in Afghanistan. Such implacable enemies of progress, tolerance and pluralism sought to disconnect Afghanistan from its neighbours, to uncouple it from its history, and to deflect it from its future.

They did great damage, but His Highness has helped to rebuild and reanimate a broken society. Thanks to the efforts of the Aga Khan Development Network, life is returning to the Bamyan valley, where the tolerant Hazara people, primarily Shia Muslims themselves, embrace a history that includes the golden age of central Asian Buddhism. And in Kabul, a city shattered by 30 years of war, hope and pride have taken root in the restoration, again thanks to His Highness, of the mausoleum of the emperor Babur, and of the great gardens that surround it. Babur was the founder of the Mughal Empire, and a contemporary to those similarly ambitious and larger-than-life princes Henry VIII and Francis I. He laid siege to Kandahar in the same year in which Henry and Francis laid siege to one another at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

Allow me a personal observation on His Highness as a builder of bridges and a connector of people. While serving in Beijing, I was interested to read one of His Highness’s speeches in which he remarked on the size and vitality of the Ismaili community in the far west of China. So, I travelled to the city of Tashkurgan to meet them for myself.

It was a deeply moving experience, and one that resonated with me as a Catholic. I met people of faith and hope and tremendous goodwill. They readily acknowledged the sorrow of being physically separated from their Ismaili brothers and sisters and from His Highness. But they displayed a profound and confident spiritual connection to their global community. They possess a faith that refuses to be hemmed in or isolated by man-made barriers, a conviction that owes much to their very real and justified sense of being in communion with their spiritual leader.

Let us celebrate today our own connection to His Highness, a champion of pluralism, a transcender of borders and barriers, and a great, wise and benevolent connector.

speech_64776 "Let us celebrate today our own connection to His Highness, a champion of pluralism, a transcender of borders and barriers, and a great, wise and benevolent connector." English
Historic agreement signed between Province of Ontario and the Ismaili Imamat Toronto, Canada Wednesday, 18 May 2016 1432542600 Remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan at the signing of an agreement between the Province of Ontario and the Ismaili Imamat speech Canada 2010s 6926 1

I want to tell you how happy and grateful my community and I are for this agreement that we have just signed.

Our history, our interpretation of our faith is anchored in the intellect and we rejoice in investing in the human intellect. It’s part of the ethics of what we believe in and it’s part of what we believe distinguishes us obviously from the environment in which we live.  So the agreement that we have is giving us new opportunities to widen our exposure to education in the industrialized world but to widen that education within a context where our values are the same. That is very important because it’s clear that with the global community such as the Ismaili community we need to invest in global values, in values which can be applied to any society at any time in any  part of the world.  And this is what we are finding in Canada, that we will have a partnership with you and in investing in that partnership we are investing in a profession which I have to say has difficulty  in the developing  world.  

There are three professions in the developing world which are undervalued.  First is nursing, the second is education and the third is journalism.  And yet all those professions are critical for the development of a quality civil society in the third world and the partnership that you have allowed us to create is going to come in and assist us to reposition one of the greatest professions that we need in the third world. So I would ask you to think of this not only in terms of what we will be able to achieve in terms of collaboration but in a much wider context of the teaching profession and its position in the developing world.  

But then we were discussing something else. We were discussing dialogue. We were discussing policy.  We were discussing what ideas we need to move forwards in various parts of the developing world and sharing these ideas and talking about them openly and freely but within the context of common values, shared values is an absolutely wonderful opportunity and I thank you very much for making that possible.

Thank you.

speech_61406 English
His Highness the Aga Khan: a life in the service of development Friday, 20 January 2012 1327060800 His Highness the Aga Khan: a life in the service of development writing France 2010s 6926 1 honorary doctorate

Reproduced with kind permission from Politique Internationale (English edition of special issue on Agence française de développement), n°134 - Winter 2011-2012

I am thankful for this opportunity to share with your readers some thoughts about development problems in various parts of the world, and in particular about the difficult issues of poverty and inequality.

Allow me to begin with a word of personal and institutional background. I was born into a Muslim family, linked by heredity to Prophet Muhammad (May peace be upon him and his family). It was fifty-four years ago that I became the 49th Imam — the spiritual leader — of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, succeeding my late grandfather.

The ethics of Islam bridge the realms of Faith and World — what we call Din and Dunya. Accordingly, my institutional responsibilities for interpreting the faith are accompanied by a strong engagement in issues relating to the quality of life, not only for the Ismaili community but also for those with whom they share their lives — locally, nationally and internationally. This principle of universality is expressed uniquely in the Holy Quran where it is written, “O Mankind, be careful of your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul … (and) joined your hearts in love so that by His grace ye became brethren.”

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) consists of a series of specialised agencies that have been brought into existence over the years since 1957 in response to needs that have been identified in many of the developing countries of Asia and Africa. It is rooted in the ethics of our faith, and it serves all the populations we seek to support, without regard to gender, race or faith.

Since 1957, many of those communities have undergone massive political changes, in countries scattered globally, from Pakistan and Bangladesh to Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Kenya; from Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Côte d’Ivoire, to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran and others. The challenge for AKDN is thus to address the development needs not only of countries at peace, but also of nations that have been born from war, or suffer from internal conflict.

Many of these populations have lived through the Cold War, decolonisation, wars of independence, and racial, religious and ethnic division. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of British and French colonial rule in Africa and Asia have resulted in the birth of a number of new nations, struggling with the challenge of nation building, including the integration of ethnic groups, previously undivided, across the newly created political frontiers. Many approaches have been tested, including single-party centralised political systems, nationalised economies where civil society was suffocated, and the imposition of a single national language such as Swahili, Urdu, Arabic and others. Many of these early endeavours have failed — perpetuating poverty and division. They have since been replaced by multi-party political systems, a new space supporting individual initiative, and language policies which have accepted the unavoidability of the English language as the predominant global language of knowledge.

This trend of multiple forms of instability in much of Africa, Asia and the Middle East also had a detrimental impact on the relative values of national currencies, to the point where some countries simply demonetised their currency, thus destroying all forms of institutional and individual wealth. In this regard the corrective role of the International Monetary Fund has been remarkable.

One of the consequences of this instability for Ismailis but also for many others is that the community today lives in many more countries than in the past, with a significant number moving to the industrialised world, including Europe and North America. Situations such as Idi Amin’s rule in Uganda and his expulsion of all Asians simply because they were Asian caused massive unexpected and unjustified emigration. This tragedy was not limited to Uganda, as it undermined confidence for sister Asian communities throughout Eastern Africa.

The Aga Khan Development Network has drawn a number of conclusions from this complex past, helping us respond effectively not only to instabilities rooted in that past, but also to the fragilities of the future.

Predictability: critical for progress

One important lesson we have learnt is that predictability is not only a critical condition for progress but also one of the most difficult objectives to achieve — given the impact both of natural hazards and man-made situations. Because of this reality, AKDN today consists of many entities, such as Focus Humanitarian Assistance, which can respond to natural disasters, and the many other agencies that address human development problems in healthcare, education, access to credit, rural development, and habitat improvement.  

Civil society: the key to development

A second conclusion is our belief that civil society is the single most important factor in the development equation. Because the popular image of civil society is often associated with advocacy or pressure groups, I want to clarify that, by civil society, I mean a realm of activity which is neither governmental nor commercial, composed of institutions designed to advance the public good, but powered by private energies. They include entities such as the Aga Khan Foundation with its branches and affiliates in 19 countries, educational institutions such as the Aga Khan University, the University of Central Asia and the Aga Khan Academies, and healthcare organizations, such as the Aga Khan teaching and service hospitals. Civil society also embraces science and research institutions, professional, commercial, labour, ethnic and arts associations, such as the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and others devoted to religion or to communication, such as the Nation Media Group in East Africa and Roshan Telecommunications in Afghanistan. Other entities deal with the built environment, including our Building and Construction Improvement Programme and the Water and Sanitation Improvement Programme.

Whether in Asia, or Africa, or in the countries of the Arab Spring, or indeed in post-conflict situations such as Afghanistan, it is civil society, which most often is best positioned to ensure developmental progress.   

Civil society organisations are a bulwark against the potential weaknesses of poorly performing, weakly established or young governments. They make a particular contribution when governments are failing, taking responsibility for additional tasks to help sustain improvements in quality of life.  

Investing in the institutions of civil society deserves far greater priority, attention, support and resources than has hitherto been the case, even as investments in building the State’s institutions continue. They are well placed to ensure that progress is both public and transparent and that good governance is observed as the norm, just as they are the best tools for hastening visible socio-economic development.

Towards better governance

A third caveat that AKDN considers central is that social and economic institutions, including civil society, should be governed by the concepts of transparency, meritocracy and competence.

This commitment underpins the Network’s involvement in education — from early childhood programmes on through secondary and tertiary institutions, and post-graduate studies. The Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia (which is planning campuses in inhospitable mountainous areas of three former Soviet Republics) are a part of this effort, as is the newly developing network of Aga Khan Academies. Again, these initiatives reflect long-standing traditions in Islamic life, and indeed in Ismaili history, stretching back to the founding by my own ancestors a thousand years ago of the Azhar University, one of Cairo's oldest universities.

As we work to encourage the development of a stronger human resource base, we also work to discourage practices which impede and distort meritocratic processes. This is vitally important since corruption in health care, education, land management, the application of law and in financial services has damaging consequences which affect the performance of civil society, hence generation after generation of hard-working, honourable families seeking to extract themselves from seemingly irreversible poverty.

The roads to democracy

The fourth conclusion that AKDN can draw concerns the urgent need for new forms of democratic government in the developing world.  

I expect that countries of the Arab Spring — and many others — will, over time, become fully democratic, but this transition will necessarily take time. Should some of these post- revolutionary transformations fail, some commentators will say that democracy is antithetical to Islam. This is wrong. Public consultation about the nature of governance and its accountability has been a central precept of statehood since the revelation of the faith. Today the issue is whether these societies will be able to conceive and sustain well-functioning democratic institutions (1).

Practically no countries in Asia, Africa or the Middle East have a political landscape rooted in a strong two-party system as do many western democracies. The probable consequence is that in many if not most countries of the developing world, coalition government will be omnipresent in the decades ahead. Yet few of these countries have any established experience with coalition governance (this is true of even the most powerful countries of the industrialised world). This critical challenge will become even more complex in countries where functioning compromises must be found between secular and theocratic forces.  

A possible common ground could be found if all the political forces accepted over-arching responsibility to nourish a cosmopolitan ethic among their peoples. This would be an ethic for all peoples, one that offers equitable and measureable opportunities for the improvement of their lives, measured in terms of their own criteria for quality living.

Clearly different peoples will have different visions about a desirable quality of life, in urban versus rural areas, for example.

But a commitment to a universal ethical system that welcomes and respects diversity will be of central importance. AKDN has sought to structure itself through its network of specialised agencies to optimise its contribution to civil society. These agencies are able to design various matrixes for interventions, which can be adapted to as many situations as possible.

Reducing poverty

Our fifth of our conclusions concerns the multi-dimensional character of poverty alleviation. Left alone, poverty will provide a context for special interests to pursue their goals in aggressive terms. While humanitarian assistance is indispensable, it should be conceived as part of a long-term strategy of helping the recipient community develop its own resources. Experience has taught us that any notion of alleviation must begin with an in-depth analysis of the multiple causes that require responses. We have also learned that micro responses are often fragile and short-lived; hence responses must achieve a certain scale to achieve longevity. Where possible, these responses should be simultaneous rather than sequential. Hence, much of AKDN’s work is built around the concept of MIAD: Multi-Input Area Development.

Development initiatives cannot be contemplated exclusively in terms of economics, but rather as an integrated programme that encompasses variables such as education and skills training, health and public services, conservation of cultural heritage, infrastructure development, urban planning and rehabilitation, water and energy management, environmental control, and even policy and legislative development.   

Within this concept of MIAD, infrastructure improvement is a key element. Of course AKDN has been active in this sector, often cooperating in the financing of projects such as power generation, water provision, transport, tourism, and food processing, among others. French institutions have been among our active partners in projects such as the Azito Power project in the Côte d’Ivoire, Frigoken, a Kenyan food processing company, and the Serena Hotels which now are established in the capitals of eight countries in Africa and Asia — and which, in collaboration with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, have established a number of small inns in historic forts and palaces on the Silk Route. We have also worked closely with French institutions on projects in health services, including collaboration involving the French Medical Institute for Children in Kabul and our newly launched Heart and Cancer centre at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi.

If a development policy is built around MIAD’s multi-pronged approach, then a fundamental component for success is the creation of an Enabling Environment for private initiative. This includes such conditions as political stability, safety and security, citizen rights, empathetic labour legislation and a legal, fiscal and administrative framework which is streamlined, efficient, impartial and effective. Such an Enabling Environment can be strengthened by the contribution of a wide spectrum of public/private partnerships.

The AKDN works towards these ends in a number of ways, notably through the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM). The fund does not distribute any form of dividend, but reinvests all its surpluses in further development. AKAM is a not-for-profit foundation. While often these agencies and their projects may seem to involve high risks, they are also labour intensive, market responsive, imaginative, and diversifying in their impact. Both agencies recognise that risk must be measured against forecast outcomes.

An Enabling Environment also extends to creating the conditions for development organisations, like the entire Aga Khan Development Network, to work efficiently. To that end, AKDN has agreements or protocols, often including diplomatic privileges, with the following countries and organisations: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Côte d’Ivoire, Kazakhstan, Kenya, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mali, Mozambique, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United Nations. Individual agencies also work closely with local, state and national governments, contributing significantly through taxes and other levies to governmental income.   

Cultural development

A sixth conclusion that is worth special mention is the emphasis which the AKDN has placed on cultural development as a contributing factor for both urban and rural development, helping to alleviate poverty while also contributing to a stronger, richer sense of local and national identity.

It is striking in this regard that nearly one-third of internationally recognised World Heritage sites are in the Muslim world, but like most such sites in the developing world they are inhabited by some of the poorest people. Traditional approaches to cultural regeneration — often designed simply to create museums at such sites — fail to address the full potentials of such situations and often become unproductive burdens. The central objective of our work, therefore, is to leverage cultural opportunities in pursuit of poverty alleviation. We do this through a critical mass of programmes — the creation of parks and gardens, heritage conservation, water and sanitation improvements, microfinance resources, open space and infrastructure improvements, and education and health initiatives. It is the MIAD approach which seems to work best.

We have found that local populations can benefit from these efforts in many ways — they can be equipped to assist in the demanding tasks of historic restoration, finding productive new uses for historic buildings while then also taking on major responsibilities for maintaining cultural sites and accommodating a substantially increased flow of visitors. In the process, they can become the key custodians of their own proud cultural heritage.

AKDN efforts in this field have been wide ranging, including projects such as the creation, in the midst of one of Cairo’s poorest neighbourhoods, of the beautiful and historically significant Al Azhar park, which receives over 2 million visitors per year. Similarly, the restoration of the Mughal Emperor Babur’s Tomb in Kabul, known as Bagh-e-Babur, receives over 500,000 visitors per year. And we have also been involved in a series of cultural heritage projects along the Asian Silk Route.

Promoting regional cooperation

As a seventh conclusion, I would like to mention briefly one often neglected element in the development equation which has taken on increasing importance in recent years. It concerns the emergence of new political entities when neighbouring countries come together on a cooperative regional basis. The potential for such cross-border activities is critically important in a number of places. In Central Asia, for example, we have built on the demography of the region and on the common culture that has emerged over an extended period of time — as reflected in the history of the ancient Silk Road. For example the hydroelectric plant in Khorog in Eastern Tajikistan is now supplying energy to North East Afghanistan across the Pyanj River. We have also sponsored the construction of five bridges across the Pyanj River linking two heretofore-separated Badakhshani communities in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Afghans in the North East of their country can now seek easy access to healthcare in Khorog instead of having to travel all the way to Faisabad in their own country.

Many civil society needs are clearly regional, hence also our creation of the University of Central Asia in partnership with the governments of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic to provide education specialised in high mountain studies on a regional basis.

The difficulty of living together

Finally the experience of the past 50 years in practically all the countries in which AKDN is operating has shown that — whether in times of peace or crisis — one of the recurrent societal characteristics is the difficulty which peoples of different backgrounds experience in living together. Individuals and families identify closely, of course, with the civil structures which they have inherited from birth, but they live invariably in situations which are not monolithic and they must therefore learn to accept, understand and value the pluralism of their societies, rather than seeing diversity as a liability, a threat, or an opportunity to be abused. Because this feature of human life has been so consistently prevalent over so many decades in so many countries, AKDN views this issue as a major societal problem, one that will need to be addressed successfully if the peoples of both industrialised and developing countries are to live together in peace.

Tolerance, openness and understanding towards other peoples' cultures, values and faiths are now essential to the very survival of an interdependent world. Pluralism is no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for development, it is essential for the functioning of civil society. Indeed, it is vital to our existence. Our concern about this matter is reflected in our creation, with the Canadian government, of the Global Centre for Pluralism, which is dedicated to research on pluralism and its successful implementation.

Based in Canada, a country that boasts one of the most pluralist societies of the industrialized world, the Global Centre for Pluralism is committed to the creative study of the factors that have contributed to a healthy pluralism, throughout human history and in many parts of the world. Included in this perspective is an ancient Islamic heritage of conciliation, mediation and tolerance, an ethic which for many centuries fostered successful and progressive pluralistic societies in much of the Muslim world. The AKDN commitment to pluralism and progress over half a century grows out of that heritage.

The group of institutions that constitute the Aga Khan Development Network is one of the largest, perhaps the largest, group of private development agencies currently active. The Network is a model in its own right. We work with international financial institutions, government development agencies, the private sector, both local and international, for-profit and not-for-profit and civil society groups. Our endeavours are united by a single common theme: to improve the perceived quality of life of those people, essentially the poor and the weak, that we serve.

(1) The Aga Khan also spoke on the subject of democracy in a recent acceptance speech during an honorary doctorate ceremony at the University of Ottawa.

speech_39436 English
New printing press for Nation Media Group Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, 24 March 2016 1458218700 Remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Ceremony commissioning the new printing press for the Nation Media Group speech Kenya 2010s 6926 1 Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development,Kenya,Media Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development Nation Media Group Media

Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru
Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed
Governor of Machakos County, Dr Alfred Mutua
Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps
NMG Chairman Wilfred Kiboro
Mr Muganda
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

This is a great day for the Nation Media Group and for the media community in Kenya, as we take a major step forward in our efforts to serve this country and this region ever more effectively.
What does a new printing press mean? Several things. It means more attractive newspapers. It means faster printing and earlier delivery. It means fewer delays and quicker responses when breaking news develops. It means better quality for our advertisers – more colour for example, for readers and advertisers alike. And, its construction has also meant more investment in the local economy.
At a moment like this, I find myself thinking back to the days when we first launched the Nation – that was more than half a century ago. It’s hard to believe sometimes that it has been that long. And frankly, it is even harder to believe that so much time has passed since my childhood days in Kenya, and my continuing early visits to this country.

Over that time, as you know, our Development Network has built a range of activities here – in education, in health care, commerce, tourism, finance, and other fields – that we hoped would help to improve the quality of life for the people of this country and this region.

Over those many years a great deal has changed, of course. And the change has been particularly striking for the Nation Media Group. We have expanded by launching new newspapers like the East African and the Business Daily, by moving into the television and radio worlds, and by expanding into other countries in East Africa. And we have also moved decisively into on-line, computerised distribution of news and information.

Our celebration today marks one other important transformation. We hear a lot about technological marvels these days. And the one we often hear the most about is how we can serve readers through their computer screens and mobile phones. But that’s not the full modernisation story.

The new press we commission today is also a technological marvel. What it symbolises is our determination to use the very best technology we can find in any part of the world to do a better job for our customers – including the customers we serve on paper and through the printed word.

When I think back to the founding of the Nation, and when I reflect on how much has changed and how far we have come, I think especially about the hopes and dreams with which we launched this company. Our goal then was to create a news medium that belonged to the whole of the nation of Kenya – and that of course is why we chose our company name. That dream moved ahead in a big way when we took the company to the public shareholding market, so that today a majority of Nation shares are owned by the general public of Kenya.

Our additional central goal at the time of our founding was to create a news medium that would be truly independent: a place where the public could find a voice it could trust; an objective and thoughtful voice; a voice that would tell people what the facts are, as reliably as possible. Our goal was not to tell people what to think, but to give them reliable information so that they could think, more clearly, for themselves.

To help us move down that challenging road we also created a formal set of editorial guidelines. These guidelines emerged as a great deal of discussion and debate took place internally and externally, and they were then endorsed at a meeting of our public shareholders. These guidelines represent a set of ethical and procedural standards – our honour code as independent journalists. Adhering to them is something we think of as a moral obligation.

We continue to think and talk a great deal about those editorial guidelines. We had a major meeting just yesterday where we talked again, with our editors and with our Board of Directors, about how we could implement those standards most effectively. We all concluded that the role of a truly independent media house is more important now than ever – in Africa and all around the world. And we also acknowledged that fulfilling that independent role may be more difficult now than ever before.

All over the world, the number of media voices is exploding – websites, bloggers and social media voices multiply every day. The result is often a wild mix of messages: good information and bad information, superficial impressions, fleeting images, and a good deal of confusion and conflict. And this is true all over the world.

On top of that, this is also a time when public emotions and political sentiments are intensifying and even polarising – again, all over the world.

The result, some people say, is that we live in a “post-fact” society. Yes, a post-fact society. It’s not just that everyone feels entitled to his or her own opinion – that’s a good thing. But the problem comes when people feel they are entitled to their own facts. What is true, too often, can then depend not on what actually happened, but on whose side you are. Our search for the truth can then become less important than our allegiance to a cause – an ideology, for example, or a political party, or a tribal or religious identity, or a pro-government or opposition outlook. And so publics all over the world can begin to fragment, and societies can drift into deadlock.

In such a world, it is absolutely critical – more than ever – that the public should have somewhere to turn for reliable, balanced, objective and accurate information, as best as it can be discovered. No one, including the Nation Media Group, will ever be able to do that perfectly. But it is critically important that all of us should try.

That may sound idealistic, but that is the reason that I founded the Nation a half century ago. That is also why we have also recently started a new Graduate School of Media and Communication here in Nairobi as part of the Aga Khan University. And it is why I wanted to be here today… to share in another milestone moment for the Nation Media Group.

As we often do at milestone events in our personal lives as well as in our institutional lives, we think today about our dreams of the past and our hopes for the future. Milestone moments are times for celebration, and they are also times for rededication. As we commission this new press today, we are also rededicating ourselves to the ideals which gave birth to this company almost six decades ago, and that have since propelled it forward ever since.

I am deeply pleased to be part of this moment, and to share in it with all of you.

Thank you for being here, and thank you for your attention.

speech_29826 "This is a great day for the Nation Media Group and for the media community in Kenya, as we take a major step forward in our efforts to serve this country and this region ever more effectively." English
Supporting Syria and the Region Conference London, UK Friday, 4 March 2016 1454590800 Statement by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference speech Syria 2010s 6926 1 Aga Khan Foundation conferences Civil society

Co-hosts of the Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank the co-hosts for organising this much needed initiative to deepen the understanding of, and garner international support for, the peoples of Syria. Alongside all those present here today, I am deeply distressed over the indiscriminate and widespread devastation of life and property, including that of irreplaceable cultural assets which are the manifestation of Syria’s stunningly rich pluralistic history.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), which is the Ismaili Imamat’s global agency for supporting development, is fully engaged with the peace process under UN leadership, and is firmly committed to helping build a Syria that continues to respect pluralism, remains secular, and embarks on a political process led by Syrians.

AKDN’s development and humanitarian work in Syria began many years before the war. In the present situation, we have committed resources and efforts to ensure that Internally Displaced People receive humanitarian assistance, and are supported to sustain their livelihoods. We are taking two approaches:

First, we are supporting local community leaders, teachers, doctors, engineers and others to foster stability, protecting their families and their communities. We are thus building and strengthening civil society to take as much responsibility as possible for their own future.

Second, we are investing in communities, by supporting agriculture, income generation, early childhood education, schools, and hospitals. We also provide vocational training to create skills. Our goal is to sustain hope.

We aim to meet the urgent needs of the present, but where also possible to protect and strengthen the foundations for the future. We seek to create “islands of stability”, where there is public consensus, in the face of war. It is my conviction that “islands of stability” can be replicated wherever security permits. Investing in them will help prevent displacement of people and anchor communities that would otherwise flee as refugees.

Since the onset of conflict in 2011, AKDN has dedicated $50 million towards these endeavours in Syria and is now committing to increasing this investment to $200 million over the next four years. Our efforts will expand to wider areas of the country. Our goal is peace, stability, and reconstruction.

Thank you

speech_26611 "The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), which is the Ismaili Imamat’s global agency for supporting development, is fully engaged with the peace process under UN leadership, and is firmly committed to helping build a Syria that continues to respect pluralism, remains secular, and embarks on a political process led by Syrians." English
"Africa 2016" conference Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt Friday, 4 March 2016 1456046100 Keynote address by His Highness the Aga Khan at the 'Africa 2016: Business for Africa, Egypt and the World' conference Civil Society speech Egypt 2010s 6926 1 Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development,Aga Khan Foundation,Egypt Civil society

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Leaders of Africa
Ladies and Gentlemen

What a great pleasure it is for me to be part of the Africa 2016 Forum. I thank President Sisi, most warmly, for his kind invitation. What a wonderful opportunity to meet with old and new friends, from all over the world, and to talk together about Africa’s future.

My enthusiasm today is especially strong because of the message which is at the heart of this Forum. And that message is, quite simply, that Africa’s Moment has come.

I am proud to add my strong endorsement to that statement.

To be sure, and to be realistic, serious challenges confront the African peoples. One example is the enormous problem of unemployment among the young - in countries with the highest percentage of youth in the world.

But the story of Africa’s progress and potential is also impressive – whether we talk about growing GDP and foreign direct investment, whether we look at economic diversification and national resiliency, whether we chart the role and the rise of a vital middle class - and the expansion of consumer spending - now breaking through the one trillion-dollar mark.

The experience of our Aga Khan Development Network supports this positive picture. We are now active in 13 African countries, in fields ranging from health and education, to travel and hospitality, from food and clothing companies to banking and finance, media and culture.

Many of these involvements go back several decades - with some ups and downs, of course. But as we look at these experiences on the ground, we can say with conviction that Africa’s moment has come.

What supports that statement, however, is not only economic data. My own optimism is also based on intangible qualities, including an inspiring new spirit of African confidence.

What I see emerging today is a refreshingly, balanced confidence in Africa - a spirit that takes encouragement from past progress, while also seeking new answers to new challenges - understanding that the best way to move into the future is to walk hand-in-hand with partners who share one’s goals. And we are all here to fulfil that role.

I highlight the part played by confidence because it addresses a problem that has long plagued the human race. I refer to the fear we so often have that our environment will be controlled by others, to the point where we distance ourselves from potential worthy partners.

This difference can extend to people of different ethnic groups, different tribes, different nationalities, different religious traditions. It can also extend to people with different political or economic loyalties. And the frequent result is a fragmenting of society, a breakdown of cooperation, an undercurrent of fear, and even a paralysing polarisation in our public life. It can be a distinctly disabling environment.

The problem of fragmentation has often afflicted Africa, separating tribe from tribe, country from country, the private sector from the public sector, those who hold political power from those who are in opposition. In such cases, the fact of being different is often seen as a burden, or a threat, a source of fear and suspicion.

But there is another way to look at our differences. What a wonderful, liberating thing it would be if more of us, more of the time, could see diversity not as a burden but as a blessing; not as a threat, but as an opportunity.

I believe this changing attitude toward diversity is now happening in Africa, in part because of a new sense of African confidence. We see more cooperation today across tribal and religious lines, across political divisions and national boundaries. One powerful example was the tripartite trade agreement signed here in Sharm el-Sheikh last June.

And we have also seen new forms of cooperation among people in the private and the public sectors. The concept of Public Private Partnerships has been a keystone for many of our own Network’s projects in Africa and elsewhere.

Cooperating across traditional lines of division does not mean erasing our proud, independent identities. But it does mean finding additional, enriching identities as members of larger communities, and ultimately as people who share a common humanity. It means committing ourselves to an Ethic of Pluralism.

I would like to mention one particular arena in which Africa’s embrace of pluralism will be tested in the coming years, and where I believe, Africa’s success can be forged. I refer to the ability of African peoples and their leaders to strengthen the institutions of “Civil Society.”

By Civil Society, I mean that range of social activity that does not stem from private business organizations, nor from governmental authority. The institutions of Civil Society are motivated, rather, by voluntary energies, and their purpose is to improve the quality of community life. They are private institutions, devoted to the public good.

When I speak of a vital Civil Society I think of path breaking efforts in the field of education, from early childhood to advanced post-graduate programs. I think of health-related innovators, whether they are extending quality maternal and natal care or creating new tertiary care facilities. I think about efforts to advance the arts and culture, to improve environmental quality and foster scientific research. Civil Society includes a host of professional, labour, ethnic and religious groups and a broad array of non-governmental organizations – NGOs - as well.

I focus on Civil Society because I think its potential is often under-appreciated as we become absorbed in debates about the most effective programs of governments and others, or the most successful business strategies. But, in fact, it is often the quality of the third sector, Civil Society, that is the “difference-maker”. It not only complements the work of the private and public sectors; it can often help complete that work.

Similarly, there is a great deal that leaders in the business sector and in government can do to strengthen the work of Civil Society, to help provide Civil Society with what I have called an “Enabling Environment.”

In sum, I believe that social progress will require quality inputs from all three sectors: public, private and Civil Society. Sustainable progress will build on a three-legged stool. And that progress can be particularly impressive when the three sectors work closely together.

One prominent example of such cooperation that I know well is the Bujagali dam in Uganda - a project in which our Economic Development Fund has joined with the government of Uganda, and a private investment fund based in the United States. All three sectors; public, private and civil society have jointly created this project which, after just three years, provides nearly half of Uganda’s electric power.

Another example is the National Park of Mali - opened in Bamako in 2010 - when our Trust for Culture partnered with the national government to create not only a glorious green space, but also an infrastructure which ensures the Park’s long-term sustainability.

A third example is our own Network’s East African educational initiative, in which we now invest 10 million dollars a year, reaching some 400,000 students and 6000 teachers, and again working closely with government education offices and local community organizations.

The examples could go on and on. But, despite such successes, the role of Civil Society is often misunderstood or taken for granted. At times, Civil Society has been marginalized, discounted, or dismissed. One worrisome development has been the dwindling of international support; some two-thirds of sub-Saharan countries face a reduction in development assistance by 2017.

Even more disturbing have been efforts in some places to constrain or even repress these institutions, stereotyping them as illegitimate, unelected and unaccountable. These attitudes may simply reflect a reluctance to share power and influence, or perhaps a feeling that the creative energy and sheer diversity of Civil Society is daunting and dangerous.

Such attitudes have been exceptional, but they are highly regrettable, discouraging the qualities of vision, innovation and forward thinking that progressive societies so badly need.

But there is good news too. For, at a fundamental level, the cultures of Africa bode well for the future here of a vibrant, healthy Civil Society.

For centuries, African life has been characterized by a vast array of indigenous informal groups, sustained by citizen donations and voluntary service. They include ethnic and kinship groups, councils of elders, religious bodies, and community fora. Many Africans have grown up amid such groupings, learning to emphasize their mutual interests, to pool their resources, and to share in shaping their local communities. It is part of the African Way.

The influence of Civil Society has also been felt at seminal moments in the continent’s recent history, for example: in shaping the Arusha Accords which recently ended 12 years of civil war in Burundi, in the peaceful resolution of the violent clashes in Kenya following the 2007 elections, in the drafting of a new promising Tunisian Constitution, and in the courageous response to the Ebola crisis. I think too of how sophisticated young Africans have been incubating noteworthy internet-based ventures to expand and coordinate a range of civil society ventures, with high social impact.

In conclusion, there are many reasons to believe that this is Africa’s Moment and that Africans will seize it. Among those positive elements is a growing sense of confidence that encourages Africans to work together across old lines of division, including cooperative engagements with the institutions of Civil Society.

The growing vitality of Civil Society should be a key source of encouragement when it comes to investing in Africa. When it is advanced and enabled, it is the best underwriter of development. It can, I know, be a key force in seizing Africa’s Moment and making the most of it.

Thank you.

speech_26576 "What I see emerging today is a refreshingly, balanced confidence in Africa - a spirit that takes encouragement from past progress, while also seeking new answers to new challenges - understanding that the best way to move into the future is to walk hand-in-hand with partners who share one’s goals. And we are all here to fulfil that role." English
His Highness the Aga Khan’s interview with Professor Diana L. Eck of Harvard University Cambridge, MA, USA Monday, 15 February 2016 1447344000 Aga Khan’s interview at Harvard University interview United States of America 2010s 1 pluralism Civil society,Education

Cambridge, MA, USA, 12 NOvember 2015 - After delivering the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture, His Highness the Aga Khan sat down with Harvard University Professor Diana L. Eck for an on-stage conversation.

Diana L. ECK: Your Highness, thank you for that speech. It was a great pleasure to listen to, and I think I feel, especially honored because there are hundreds of people here who would like to be asking you questions this afternoon, and I’m the person who is sort of appointed to do so, and I am delighted and deeply honoured.

AGA KHAN: Thank you very much.

ECK: You ended with what is a remarkable theological foundation of pluralism. You began with the political situation of the world, and the multicultural situation of the Ismailis. So from all standards you have a basis for underlining pluralism as one of the most important issues in our world. But I think the theological understanding is one that may be new to many people who think primarily in terms of the practical issues of day-to-day life.

AGA KHAN: Right, right. Well I think that’s absolutely correct, and in fact this notion of one humanity in the faith of Islam is a very, very powerful force. But it’s not always presented in the form that I tried to present it today. And it is there, it is clear for those who wish to see it and understand it, but not all Muslim societies take that on board.

ECK: Well, it is interesting because Jewish, Christian and Muslim societies all are founded on theological principles that stress the oneness of God and also that begin with the theology of creation in the way in which you had. So there should be — and I think there has been — a kind of theological reaching out. I think especially of the Amman Declaration that you were part of, and of the message that was delivered called A Common Word Between Us and You, from so many Muslim leaders to Christian leaders across the country.

AGA KHAN: I hope that is true. I have been watching in parts of the world that has become a thought process. I am fearful of the parts of the world where that is not part of let’s say government philosophy, but I think that in time this understanding of unity of human society will end up by being seen as a condition sine qua non of good governance. I think you will see governments fail because they do not practice this principle. They will have so many divisions within them, so many attempts at achieving positions of power by certain groups or influence by others, that it will be impossible to create a sense of nationhood, a sense of building around common values, which after all is what most governments would wish to have.

ECK: I think one of the most striking things about the writings you’ve done on these issues and speeches like we’ve heard today, is your relentless linking of issues of poverty and education and human development with the foundation of pluralism as you’ve just articulated.

AGA KHAN: Well, if you try to analyse the causes of poverty in the developing world, as we have tried, there is absolutely no doubt that the marginalisation of communities is one of the fundamental causes of this poverty. And this marginalisation is so structured in society that minorities find it very difficult to break out of that situation. And the work that you are doing here in your field of pluralism, teaching about pluralism, having people understand that it is not a threat, on the contrary it is a foundation of civil society in the modern world. These things I think are absolutely essential. I think the more we have seen societies work, which are fractured, putting little groups of people in one box or another box, that is a way of guaranteeing conflict and poverty.

ECK: One of the things I think that we take from this, is because your Centre for Global Pluralism really looks at global issues which are so important, it also is the case that so much has changed in the United States and indeed in Canada and indeed at Harvard, since the days that you were in Leverett House with two secretaries, and that is the tremendous movement of people as migrants, as refugees from one part of the world to another, and in the US with the 1965 Immigration and Nationalities Act the opening of the US to immigrants really from all over the world, so that’s really changed the face of Harvard, and the message that you bring is one that is very relevant to universities today. I’m not sure how large the Harvard Islamic Society was when you were here.

AGA KHAN: Well in fact, it didn’t exist I think until Sir Hamilton Gibb came to teach here at Harvard. My recollection is that he was the juried professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford if I’m not wrong and he came to Harvard from Oxford and he started the program here at Harvard. But that’s my recollection — that’s a long time ago.

ECK: You know the thing that’s amazing today, as you would walk around Harvard you would see dozens and dozens of women going just from here to Leverett House wearing hijab, that you would find a very active Islamic prayer space just next door, in one of the floors of the freshman dormitory and some places were the Juma prayers every week are in the largest lecture halls where they can remove all the chairs. So the transformation of our university from being a rather parochial university in some ways, to a global and cosmopolitan university is something that has not only to do with the fact that people come here from all over the world, but that our own nation has changed so much and these issues of marginalisation that you speak of, that are divisive in so many ways, are issues that that America faces profoundly in dealing with race and culture, and indeed with a multi-religious society.

AGA KHAN: Well I’m deeply pleased that Harvard has, is moving towards what Harvard wants to be, even when I graduated. And I remember President Bok telling me extensively about, how he was seeing Harvard becoming a global university rather than a US university. That was in his mind at the time, the goal for this university, and what you are saying today is that that goal is in the process of being achieved. So I have to say well, alhamdulillah.

ECK: Well it’s been achieved but we haven’t really moved in some ways from what our current President Drew Faust calls the necessity of moving from diversity to belonging. To a sense of really creation of a community that is respectful of our differences, which are so many, and that move, I think one of the profound things that I hear you say time and again is that pluralism doesn’t just happen by itself. It requires a certain amount of conviction and support of institutions across the spectrum of civil society.

AGA KHAN: I think that’s absolutely right. And indeed I would encourage education on pluralism even in secondary education and in fact neuroscientists are saying that newly born children recognise the pluralism of other children being next to them in a cot even if they can’t see the child. So the individual, the human individual, has extraordinary means of sensing somebody who is from a different society. But that sensing has nothing negative in it. It’s a constatation — I can’t find the word in English, but you know what I mean. So I find that very, very exciting that when children are born the notion of differences in background or race, is not at all a feature which has value attached to it, neither negative nor positive. It’s aconstatation.

ECK: That issue that you have raised again and again, that our differences are part of the richness that we bring to life, we could say from a theological standpoint that’s a God-given difference from scattering of people from this one soul.

AGA KHAN: But I have to nonetheless point out that many countries in the developing world where we have been working were governed on the principle of divide of communities. For years we worked in countries where the educational system was African, Asian or European. There was no single educational system in those countries. So that is the phenomenon which people have inherited even today and which is difficult to overcome. I can remember situations where hospitals were not entitled to take people of different backgrounds.

ECK: In the development network that you have created spanning the world, I know education is a very big piece of this, from the Aga Khan Universities to local education that must be a daunting task. A few years ago, your daughter Princess Zahra was here and spoke at the Harvard School of Education about her role in this with a great attention to women’s education. I’m not sure if that is a particular emphasis that you bring, but it certainly is one that is profoundly important.

AGA KHAN: Well my grandfather in fact pushed very hard to have women’s education as part of our overall educational process, so that’s part of the way we think, the way we live today. Now you were talking about universities etc. And it’s clearly a critical issue that in the developing world, the universities should upgrade their performance and that their degrees should be recognised, that their research should be of global importance and I was taught when I came to Harvard that plagiarism was a bad thing, well I am here to plagiarise (laugh) and I don’t hide it from Harvard.

ECK: When you talk about the cosmopolitan ethic that emerges from this recognition of difference and yet a foundation in human oneness, the elements of that are what? What would you say are the elements of a cosmopolitan ethic?

AGA KHAN: I think the first of all you need to accept the premise that human society is pluralist, and it has been pluralist for as long as we know about the human race if I’m not wrong. So there is a basic premise that has to be accepted, that issue of accepting pluralism also means that you need to attach equity to that notion. If there is no equity in pluralist societies, then you don’t have functioning pluralist societies, you don’t have institutions that function properly etc. And I have admired a number of governments in developing countries for example, where without saying it, they have fought very hard to create equal opportunity for various communities in various parts of the country, whereas that was not the case in colonial societies.

ECK: So equity would be one element of that ethic…

AGA KHAN: Equity would certainly be one element.

ECK: And a respect for justice would be another piece of it?

AGA KHAN: Respect for justice and I would say equal opportunity for the intelligentsia… I have seen situations where there has been an attempt to marginalise the intelligentsia of a given community and that of course is an extremely unwelcome feature of a society.

ECK: One of the things I recall from having been involved with interfaith leaders, not that I am one myself, but I’m an observer of these events, was the effort over a number of years ago, to create a global ethic, out of the distinctive ethical norms of different religious traditions and even of secular traditions and there were certain things everyone could agree on. And I think equality, justice, opportunity, dignity, etc. were very much agreeable. When it came to what equity meant, I hesitate to say the biggest issue in equity among these dignified religious leaders was the issue of women and men, and whether gender equity, whether that really meant gender equity. It seems to me that is an issue to a great extent and yet my own impression of the Ismaili community is that leadership in Jamatkhanas and other elements of the Development Network and leadership in these positions is shared by women and men. Am I right about that?

AGA KHAN: Absolutely, and in fact I have spent considerable time trying to make sure that whether it’s leadership amongst women... the community could benefit from that. Leadership qualities is not gender driven so actually, if you don’t respect the fact that both genders have competencies, outstanding capabilities, you are damaging your community by not appointing those people.

ECK: So as we think about, I’m thinking now about the kind of responsibility that you have both for the spiritual as well the material well-being, the welfare of the Ismaili community — but as you put it, it’s not just the welfare of the Ismaili community but those with whom they share their societies as well.

AGA KHAN: Absolutely.

ECK: So in those, are there societies in which you find it almost impossible to have leadership of women in your own community rise?

AGA KHAN: No, not really I think. I think people tolerate our decisions, I’m not sure they are always welcome (laugh).

ECK: That seems to have struck a chord here.

AGA KHAN: I think the women in the audience know what I mean. (Laughter and applause)

ECK: So as you think about your successor, is there any chance that Princess Zahra could, or would not that be tolerated —

AGA KHAN: No that would not be tolerated.

ECK: We were very impressed with her here. But we have not met your two sons.

AGA KHAN: Well she is the first member of my family who’s received a University degree. So she is an important member of my family because the gender balance is all now Harvard related. (laugh) Not Radcliffe.

ECK: One of the things that has been so, I’m sure very much on people’s mind, is that to intentionally cultivate pluralism in a society, there are some societies in which the civil society and our educational institutions are welcoming of this. But of course, pluralism within our own religious communities is often a very difficult thing, and I speak as a Christian who knows perfectly well the number of anti-pluralists there are within the Christian tradition and people who are convinced that the only possible way of conceptualising religious truth is through the lens of the Christian tradition. This also is probably true in the Muslim tradition and the effort that must be made to cultivate the kind of appreciation of mutual respect and difference is certainly a huge task.

AGA KHAN: I would strongly agree that pluralism is a subject that is taught; it’s not instinctive in a human society.

ECK: It’s not instinctive.

AGA KHAN: It’s not instinctive. So I would strongly support any initiative at any level of age that is from the newly born child up to the post-graduate student, that there should be continuous exposure to the notion of pluralism in society. It’s much easier with children obviously than with grown ups. But to me, it must be a feature of any modern society in any part of the world. I can’t travel in any part of the world today, without observing the amazing mix of backgrounds of people today that wasn’t there years ago. And that is happening more and more through happy events, unhappy events — you can see what is happening with refugees today. But I am more worried about societies preparing themselves to accept foreigners. That’s not a big story of success in my mind. The only country that I can think of that actually has a process is Canada.

ECK: And you have lived certainly in France, and have deep connections in England as well. And you have seen the ways in which they are struggling with the diversity of their own societies.

AGA KHAN: Absolutely and for different reasons, but they are struggling, and in many ways I consider them somewhat unprepared.

ECK: I think the preparedness here in the United States is also very much, I mean the Pluralism Project has been studying the changing religious landscapes of the US for 25 years. And I think, along the lines of your point, if I had been teaching Kindergarten in Houston, Texas, I would have realised far earlier how much our society had been changing. But it wasn’t until till the 1990s that the children of this new immigration came to college and began transforming our own demographic and university in which we live and teach.

AGA KHAN: Well I think that your point is very important, because what you are effectively saying is awareness in United States of the issue. I am thinking of countries where there has not been that awareness until much too late.

ECK: Yes and among some Americans as well, even though scarcely, you can’t really find a state in the US where the Muslim and Hindu and Sikh presence hasn’t become a significant one. But still, we hear this in some of our public leaders this is only a slow dawning awareness. They sometimes don’t like it, as well.

AGA KHAN: Yes, I realise that, but I mean I think these are people who are thinking against or in contradiction with a roadmap that you can extend from history and you extend that road map and you reach the correct conclusions.

ECK: You have often said, and I think it’s right, as we look at the world today that the instability and divisiveness of societies is infectious, and at the same time you say so is hope. So can you give us in conclusion just a sense of the infectiousness of hope from your experience.

AGA KHAN: Well, I think I mentioned in my comments, to me one of the most important issues for society in any part of the world, is that it should be driven by hope. The moment that people of any generation, of any age, lose hope, it is a very, very damaging thing for that community, that society. So creating circumstances of hope, is to me very, very important indeed. And much of the Aga Khan Development Network their work is to try to assist countries to become countries of opportunity. That is one of the main goals that I have is that as many countries where the community is living should be countries of opportunity. Definition of opportunity of course is a different thing, but a life that sees itself with no opportunity is a very, very sad prospect.

ECK: Your Highness this has been a great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with you and thank you for your return to Harvard for this afternoon. Thank you very much and may you come again and again.

AGA KHAN: Well thank you for your generosity and your questions.

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