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|New printing press for Nation Media Group||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/events/2016/2016-03-kenya-ai2_1713.jpg||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||1||Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development,Kenya,Media||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/events/2016/2016-03-kenya-ai2_1713.jpg||Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development||Nation Media Group||Media||
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.
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||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/events/2016/2016-02-uk-_b0a1491_r.jpg||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||1||Aga Khan Foundation||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/events/2016/2016-02-uk-_b0a1510_r.jpg||conferences||Civil society||
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.
|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||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/events/2016/2016-0-2-egypt-zr1_9824_edt_sent.jpg||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||1||Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development,Aga Khan Foundation,Egypt||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/events/2016/2016-03-africa02-zr5_0506.jpg||Civil society||
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.
|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||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/2015-11-usa-57442.jpg||Cambridge, MA, USA||Monday, 15 February 2016||1447344000||Aga Khan’s interview at Harvard University||interview||United States of America||2010s||0||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.
|Land grant and initiation ceremony for the Aga Khan University hospital||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/2015-12-uganda051.jpg||Nakawa, Uganda||Monday, 21 December 2015||1450361700||Remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan at the land grant and initiation ceremony in Nakawa, Uganda||Development,Education and Knowledge Society,Health||speech||Uganda||2010s||6926||His Highness the Aga Khan speaking at the initiation ceremony of the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nakawa.||1||1||Education||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/2015-12-uganda051.jpg||Aga Khan University||Education,Health||
Mr President, Prime Minister, Guests,
This is an important day for me because it represents an opportunity to contribute to Uganda’s development, to my community’s integration within the institutions of Uganda and in East Africa more widely.
Higher education and science are two of the most important factors in development. And Africa requires having institutions that will assist in the development of those resources.
It isn’t only sufficient to create the resources but we have to be able to measure them against global standards, so that the institutions of Africa – whether they be in healthcare or in other areas – come up to global standards and indeed will, I hope, meet global standards in time.
So the creation of the Aga Khan University Hospital in Uganda has a purpose not only in serving Uganda, but has the purpose of serving East Africa, and bringing knowledge and competence of sophisticated science on an ongoing basis.
I underline the issue of ongoing knowledge, because healthcare and medicine are moving very quickly and it is essential that the institutions of healthcare in Eastern Africa should keep up to date with modern science. So the faculty of medicine at the Aga Khan University is not only going to provide service, it is also going to provide research, it is going to provide continuing education to the nursing and medical communities in East Africa.
I want to thank the President for making this site available. Because when all is said and done, the institutions also depend on their location. And this location is one of the best locations we could have asked for in this wonderful city of Kampala.
Your President is a man of action – he likes results! I have to tell you Sir, I don’t have a magic wand, but I will move as quickly as I can!
And we will build this institution quickly but we will not compromise on quality; we will not short-cut difficult decisions and we will prepare our work with great intensity using knowledge from here and knowledge from other areas of the world. And I hope that in due course, our Ugandan graduates will stay in Uganda.
You know the expression “golden handcuffs”? Well the one thing I don’t know how to make is golden handcuffs! But I hope that the institution which will come up here will be so important that our graduates will actually choose to be here, because that is the best form of loyalty that we could expect.
President thank you for the land, thank you for the support of your government and I hope that we will have a long long ongoing partnership so that the private sector higher education in Africa can work in absolute intense empathy with national goals.
|speech_24431||"Higher education and science are two of the most important factors in development. And Africa requires having institutions that will assist in the development of those resources."||English|
|Statement at the Fifth Ministerial Conference Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/akdn-tajikistan-afghanistan-vanj_bridge-1402.jpg||Istanbul, Turkey||Monday, 21 December 2015||1450710000||Fifth Ministerial Conference Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process||speech||Pakistan||2010s||22711||The Vanj Bridge joins six bridges constructed by AKDN over the Pyanj river linking Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the latest two built with support from the German Government through the PATRIP Foundation.||1||0||Pakistan||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/akdn-tajikistan-afghanistan-vanj_bridge-1402.jpg||conferences||
Delivered by Mrs. Nurjehan Mawani, Diplomatic Representative of His Highness the Aga Khan to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
On behalf of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), allow me to extend my sincere appreciation to the Government of Pakistan for hosting the Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) and for the gracious hospitality extended to us. AKDN is honoured to participate in this important regional initiative.
AKDN is a long-standing partner to the peoples and Government of Afghanistan, to the peoples and Government of Pakistan, and indeed to the peoples and governments of the region. We are honored to be a supporting organization of the HoA-IP since its inception in 2011. To this end, we have engaged in activities of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) for Education; Trade, Commerce and Investment; and Disaster Management led by the Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of India and Islamic Republic of Pakistan respectively.
We commend the lead countries on the progress of the activities undertaken within the CBMs as reported at the Senior Officials Meeting, and encourage them to extend their reach further to the supporting countries and organizations to build upon the outcomes achieved thus far. We urge Afghanistan as the ‘Heart of Asia’ to develop mechanisms for enhancing greater synergy and coordination between the CBMs so as to hasten the impact on the quality of life of the peoples of Afghanistan and the region. The CBMs, when applied synergistically have the potential to contribute significantly to the objective of the HoA-IP, namely to “galvanize regional cooperation and development in Afghanistan and its near and extended neighborhoods”.
With programmes and investments in partnership with governments across the Heart of Asia region, AKDN seeks to improve the quality of human life, in health, education, cultural and economic development, with a “core conviction that human progress depends on human cooperation, even across difficult lines of division”.
Mr. Chairman, the Heart of Asia region is a flourishing economic hub with a global reach and vibrant entrepreneurial spirit. Recognising the important role of the private sector in supporting regional economic development, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and the Aga Khan Foundation are both helping to strengthen regional cooperation through investments in critical infrastructure, linking communities across borders through bridges, cross-border markets, energy, telecommunications, financial services, health and education initiatives, cultural exchanges and tourism.
Today we have discussed major infrastructure projects - roads, rails and ports. With your permission Mr. Chairman, l would like to highlight yet another example of infrastructure which can be implemented quickly and can have an immediate impact on the quality of life.
The example is bridges - building bridges across frontiers helps open up the region to new development and improved prosperity. The six bridges constructed by AKDN over the Pyanj river linking Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the latest two with support from the German Government through the PATRIP Foundation, demonstrates concrete expressions of regional cooperation and partnership. In addition to inspiring a sense of confidence and progress, these projects also have tangible economic value in enabling expansion of productive exchange and innovation, granting access to markets beyond their immediate border and reducing the cost of essential commodities. Through the use of the bridges, each year over one million dollars of goods are exchanged at cross-border markets.
These bridges have transformed the lives of some of the most isolated and fragile communities in the region through increasing food security and providing access to essential services such as healthcare and education. AKDN recognizes the many partners, who are here at the table today, for working with us in this shared endeavor.
Mr. Chairman, the bridges do more than simply facilitate commerce. They play another important role – in enabling the exchange of ideas and experiences among communities across borders, supporting them to get to know one another better, finding solutions to common challenges and building trust through this process. In this way these bridges contribute to regional confidence building and are worthy of replication.
The second example which I would like to share with the conference today relates to a regional initiative which supports the development of critical human capital to multiply the socio-economic impact of other investments in the region. This is the University of Central Asia (UCA), which was established through an international treaty between Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, and His Highness the Aga Khan. UCA which has an increasing presence in Afghanistan, is providing critical demand-driven and market responsive training and education to build human resource capacity to catalyze economic growth in remote communities. To date, over 80,000 learners from Tajikistan, the Kyrgz Republic, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan have benefited from UCA’s programmes. Of note is the alumni survey showing that over 70% of UCA learners have found employment, been promoted, or have started their own businesses.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, allow me to touch on another example of an important AKDN intervention which promotes confidence building within the region through support to Afghanistan, Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Pakistan in strengthening health human resources through the exchange of knowledge and best practices. In partnership with Canada and France and in close collaboration with relevant ministries, AKDN is providing e-Learning and offering Post Graduate Medical Education through its various partner health agencies and institutions. The Aga Khan University (AKU) based in Karachi with campuses in several countries plays an important role in providing learning opportunities to doctors and other health professionals in Afghanistan and the region, enabling the transfer of knowledge and building of specialized skills. Close to 2,000 Afghan health professionals, 1,400 community nurses and midwives and 70 doctors have received specialized training in their respective medical fields, through the combined efforts of AKU, Aga Khan Health Services, and the French Medical Institute for Children.
In conclusion Mr. Chairman, I would like to express AKDN’s deep appreciation for the opportunity to contribute to this Heart of Asia conference and to promote Afghanistan’s development within its regional context. We remain committed to the Istanbul Process to support a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
|speech_24331||"On behalf of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), allow me to extend my sincere appreciation to the Government of Pakistan for hosting the Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) and for the gracious hospitality extended to us."||English|
|Creation of the Aga Khan University hospital||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/events/2015/2015-12-uganda061r.jpg||Kampala, Uganda||Monday, 21 December 2015||1450362600||Remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan regarding the creation of AKU hospital, Kampala||Health,Education and Knowledge Society,Development||speech||Uganda||2010s||6926||His Highness the Aga Khan speaking at the initiation ceremony of the Aga Khan University Hospital, Kampala.||1||0||Education||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/events/2015/2015-12-uganda061r.jpg||Aga Khan University||Education,Health||
Right Honorable Prime Minister,
I’d like to begin my comments this morning by expressing my very great gratitude for the warmth with which I have been received here in Uganda, the support that the President and the Government have been offering to this new project of creating an Aga Khan University Hospital here in Kampala.
It is very clear that without this partnership between the Government and AKDN it would be impossible to realise the sorts of things, the sorts of initiatives that we have been able to implement during the last 50 years here in Uganda. These initiatives cover enormous areas, not just in health care, but in education, in economic development, in cultural activities – in other words, in all the key endeavors that governments and civil society invest in.
I am here today as the Chancellor of the Aga Khan University. And it is in this role that I can officially announce the establishment of an Aga Khan University Hospital in Kampala.
We started the Aga Khan University in Pakistan some 32 years ago and it has grown into a truly international institution, with major campuses in Africa as well as in Asia, and with programmes in many fields. But right at the centre of its mission, from the very start, has been one principle goal: to help ensure the people living in the developing world are able to access international standards of health care.
We are here today because of this common conviction. We have to bring to Africa and Asia global standards of health care. The populations of these countries cannot be isolated from the best simply because they have been born in countries outside the Western world.
It’s clearly a challenge to build institutions of global quality in environments which haven’t had those institutions before. And in order to achieve that goal the essential is human resources – men and women who are educated to perform to the highest standards of their profession. And that is why the Aga Khan Health Network has invested, and will continue to invest, in education.
It adds cost. It adds management issues. It is not entirely satisfactory, in the sense that graduates leave, they go to other parts of the world, and they don’t always return. But the fact is that we have to educate on an ongoing basis in Africa, in Asia, to global standards of medicine and nursing, and that is our goal.
Now these standards cannot be maintained without research. Therefore the Aga Khan University is investing – and will continue to invest very heavily – in research, in postgraduate studies, not undergraduate studies. It is this research which will enable the Aga Khan University and others in the area to bring new knowledge, appropriate knowledge to Africa, Asia, which we desperately need.
Now you certainly remember that at some time medical care in Sub-Saharan Africa was solid. But there have been moments of difficulty, and we now have to rebuild in a number of countries in Asia and Africa, standards of institutional performance, which will bring these institutions back to global standards. And that means harnessing the youth to our future. And I would like to emphasise to you how important it is that you should bring to bear on young men and young women a commitment to serve at home, and not to leave home in a position where the homeland does not have the benefit of the knowledge which has been imparted.
It’s important to keep in mind that disease is changing in its nature. We are more and more confronted in modern society by non-communicable disease and therefore in the decades ahead we will be concentrating through the Aga Khan Health Network and other medical institutions in dealing with non-communicable diseases. And I refer to diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, mental and neurological illness, cancer and others. These are the areas where we must concentrate properly, to serve future generations of society.
There is no doubt that developing countries need to improve health standards and the hospital will therefore seek to treat everyone who needs care. Modern medicine is expensive, but it is our responsibility to make it available to all the population, and we undertake to do that.
As I said earlier, training doctors, nurses, therapists, bio-medical engineers, laboratory technicians, and other medical professionals is a long, complex exercise, but our health institutions in Africa and Asia are committed to doing that so that our institutions have a complete educational process and we train people for all the different needs in serving health care around the world.
Let me come back to Uganda. Uganda has doctors and nurses who are successful in their professions but who are not in Uganda. It is my hope that by building the Aga Khan University Hospital here in Uganda, the wonderful doctors and nurses who are Ugandans, who are working outside Uganda, will come back and work here in an institution which not only will welcome them, but give them the best professional conditions in which they can work.
Let me spend a very short time and explain to you what it is that we are seeking to achieve in East Africa through the Aga Khan Health Network. Essentially we are trying to build a network of tertiary care hospitals, teaching hospitals, throughout Eastern Africa. We are trying to add to that network of teaching hospitals, medical units which are part of the educational system, but which will become referral institutions to our major network institutions. And our hope is that over the years we will have a system covering East Africa where an individual needing care will be able to enter the system at any point and receive the appropriate health care, whether it be in Uganda or in Kenya or in Tanzania or even further afield.
So we are working on the concept of an integrated regional health system. That will be supported by e-medicine, and that e-medicine will be supported by international relationships. So in order that we be able to educate properly, we are not depending on our own resources. We are looking to other partners to work with us from around the world to educate our students, to keep our faculty up to speed, so that in the new areas of, for example, stem cell technology, we can bring through our institutions to Africa the best of modern science.
This ceremony today marks a long engagement in healthcare in Eastern Africa and it may amuse you that it is exactly 27 years ago that the President and I had our first meeting here in Uganda. Those 27 years have resulted in multiple agreements. So we had protocols of agreement in 1989, in 1999, in 2002, and we have an agreement in place today. So we are working in a context of an ongoing partnership, and that brings to us as a network of non-governmental capacity, a great sense of comfort that we are working in a long-term structure, in a structure, which is related to the public sector here in Uganda.
When this institution is built, it is my hope that it will have brought to Uganda modern medicine in the best conditions, in intimate partnership with public sector healthcare. We see the system working as one system, building on capacity, human resources, programming, and forward thinking.
And I take this occasion to thank the President for the land that he has made available for our new institution, and to all of you I say, please join us in this exciting journey.
|speech_24446||"I am here today as the Chancellor of the Aga Khan University. And it is in this role that I can officially announce the establishment of an Aga Khan University Hospital in Kampala."||English|
|Land grant and initiation ceremony for the Aga Khan University Hospital||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/2015-12-uganda060r-ruhakana_rugunda.jpg||Kampala, Uganda||Monday, 21 December 2015||1450361700||Remarks by PM Rt. Hon. Dr Ruhakana Rugunda at the Land grant and initiation ceremony for Aga Khan University Hospital||speech||Uganda||2010s||24376||Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda speaking at the initiation ceremony of the Aga Khan University Hospital, Kampala.||1||0||Education||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/2015-12-uganda060r-ruhakana_rugunda.jpg||Aga Khan University||Education,Health||
Your Highness the Aga Khan,
On behalf of President Yoweri Museveni, I would like to thank His Highness the Aga Khan for your long-standing commitment to the social and economic development of Uganda.
This morning, HE President Museveni conducted a very significant ceremony of breaking the ground for the construction of Aga Khan University Hospital. It is significant because Government is committed to providing quality healthcare to our citizens—and this collaboration with the Aga Khan is part of that endeavor.
I would like to salute the Aga Khan, because in every area that His Highness works, whether it is building the Bujagali dam, or the Serena Hotel, we always see a mark of excellence. I am confident that the Aga Khan University Hospital will be at the same level of excellence, if not even higher.
We have had an opportunity to witness the great quality of service of Aga Khan enterprises and have no doubt that the Hospital will be in the same league. For instance, in 2013, while in the Ministry of Health, I led a senior ministerial delegation to visit the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi and the University’s regional campus site in Arusha. This is where we saw first hand what an institution of this nature can do to raise healthcare standards in a country.
We expect this Hospital to be completed as quickly as possible so that Ugandans can start to enjoy gold standard health services the Aga Khan is well known for.
We believe that with investments such as this, and many others by the Government and other private sector actors, we shall soon be able to have all healthcare needs attended to from within Uganda, with no need to spend time and money going for treatment abroad.
The Aga Khan hospital will save lives. Its impact will be felt not only in Uganda but in the entire region. The Aga Khan University Hospital will do for healthcare what the Serena has done for hospitality in Uganda.
I welcome this investment which will have a ripple effect on development throughout the country, improving quality of life for all.
I thank you
|speech_24381||<span style="line-height: 1.53em; font-size: 13px;">"I would like to salute the Aga Khan, because in every area that His Highness works, whether it is building the Bujagali dam, or the Serena Hotel, we always see a mark of excellence."</span>||English|
|Vote of thanks by Aga Khan University President Firoz Rasul in Uganda||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/2015-12-uganda063_r.jpg||Kampala, Uganda||Monday, 21 December 2015||1450360800||Vote of thanks by AKU President Firoz Rasul||Health||speech||Uganda||2010s||8941||1||0||Education||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/2015-12-uganda063_r.jpg||Aga Khan University||Education,Health||
Your Highness the Aga Khan
As a regional university in East Africa, today marks a major step for the Aga Khan University as we establish a much larger presence in Uganda, in addition to our growing footprint in Kenya and Tanzania.
The Aga Khan University, as a young institution celebrating 15 years in East Africa, has already made a major contribution in developing leaders in both health care and education.
Our Institute for Educational Development in Dar es Salaam has graduated nearly 200 individuals with a master’s degree in education, and trained thousands more through certificate and short courses. Last year, the Institute worked with the Government of Uganda and the World Bank to train more than 800 secondary school head teachers from across the country in leadership and management.
Our School of Nursing and Midwifery here in Kampala has graduated more than 500 nurses, and we have Schools of Nursing and Midwifery in Kenya and Tanzania as well.
Our postgraduate medical education in Kenya and Tanzania has produced surgeons, paediatricians, radiologists, obstetricians, and other specialists who are badly needed in those countries – well, we plan to do the same in Uganda.
Our Graduate School of Media and Communications is helping journalists, communications experts and media managers enhance their professional competencies.
And in total, more than 2,300 men and women have graduated from the Aga Khan University in East Africa. In addition, the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi and its clinics receive and treat over 600,000 people each year. And as you have heard from our Chancellor, this form of service is something we also hope to bring to Uganda.
On behalf of the Aga Khan University, I want to begin by thanking – as part of this vote of thanks – President Museveni and the Government of Uganda for their strong support and encouragement for building a University Hospital in Kampala.
Without this support in the form of the grant of the land, we would not be here today. So Right Honourable Prime Minister, if you would please express to His Excellency, that we understand very clearly that Uganda urgently needs a hospital that is equipped to provide advanced care, that meets the highest quality standards, that can educate health professionals who are prepared to act as leaders within Uganda’s health sector – we clearly understand that.
I would like to express our profound gratitude to His Highness the Aga Khan, the Founder and Chancellor of our University for his unwavering commitment to providing world-class health care and education in the developing world, and in East Africa in particular. Without His Highness’s commitment we would not be here to build a new University Hospital in Kampala.
I would also like to express our deep appreciation to the University’s many donors and partners. Your support is enabling us to make an impact, and today’s announcement is another example of the difference the University is making thanks to your generosity.
I want to convey special thanks to all those who have assisted the University in our efforts to date. From those who helped us identify and assess options for land, to those who’ve conducted extensive site and market research to inform our feasibility studies, and those who’ve assisted in negotiating this historic agreement. We could not have done this without you.
And I cannot forget all the volunteers who have helped organise these two ceremonies that you have witnessed today – at the Nakawa site and at the Serena here today. I can tell you that the transformation of the two sites is absolutely remarkable, and befitting of this important occasion that we are celebrating today.
For us, now the hard work begins. At the same time that we move forward with the site planning, design and construction, we will be recruiting and training doctors, nurses and other health professionals. And seeking donors and supporters interested in the realisation of this vision.
We look forward, as you have just heard from our Chancellor, to undertaking this journey for the establishment of the Aga Khan University Hospital. Thank you.
I would now like to invite His Highness the Aga Khan and the Right Honourable Prime Minister to unveil the plaque, which marks this historic day.
|speech_24386||<span>"The Aga Khan University, as a young institution celebrating 15 years in East Africa, has already made a major contribution in developing leaders in both health care and education."</span>||English|
|Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University||http://www.akdn.org/sites/akdn/files/media/events/2015/2015-11-usa-57414.jpg||Cambridge, MA, USA||Monday, 21 December 2015||1447334100||His Highness the Aga Khan delivering the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University||Culture,Development,Ethics,Islam and Muslim Civilisations,The Ismaili Imamat,Pluralism||speech||United States of America||2010s||6926||0||0||Lecture,pluralism,ethics||Architecture,Education,Health||
Mark Elliott, Vice Provost
Thank you for your warm welcome.
It is indeed a great pleasure for me to return to Harvard and this wonderful campus. And it is a particular pleasure to be welcomed here by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program — two of the world’s leading forces for informed global understanding.
I am honoured as well, to be giving the Jodidi Lecture for 2015, and to join the distinguished list of those who have given this lecture over the past 60 years.
Believe it or not, the Jodidi Lecture actually was founded during my freshman year at Harvard — but I had nothing to do with that! I would note, too, that the Harvard Center for International Affairs was also founded while I was a student here, although it did not yet have the illustrious Weatherhead name.
Now I must admit in all candour that I do not recall attending the Jodidi Lecture when I was an undergraduate, although I am sure I would have benefited from doing so! I was probably having too much fun at Wigglesworth or Leverett House to venture out to something so serious as the Jodidi lecture. On the other hand, I wonder what I might have thought if some seer had looked into a crystal ball and told me that some 60 years later I would actually be giving this lecture. I might have immediately transferred to Yale!
My ties to Harvard have been re-enforced in many ways through the six decades since my graduation, including the fact that my brother and my daughter also received their undergraduate degrees here at Harvard. And I was deeply gratified to come back to receive an honorary degree in 2008.
Whenever I return to Harvard I am impressed both with the wonderful qualities that have stayed the same over time, and also by some of the things that have changed. Surely one of the most notable changes has been the remarkable success in recent years of Harvard’s athletic teams all across the board: individual competition, team competition, women’s and men’s teams. Bravo Harvard!
Of course one cannot arrive in Cambridge this week without noticing that the football team — to mention just one example that remains undefeated again this year.
But it was not always that way. In fact, during the years that I was at Harvard, the football team never had a winning record.
Of course, I am referring here to the “American” football team. Coming from European schooling, what I called the football team is what you probably call the soccer team. And I must tell you that for the men’s soccer team; those were golden years at Harvard — including two Ivy League championships. Goodbye Yale! And I must also tell you, with all due humility, that I was a happy member of that championship team.
Now, you may have been wondering just what I have been doing over these past six decades since I left the Harvard playing fields. Let me begin by saying a word about that topic.
What does it mean to become an Imam in the Ismaili tradition? To begin with, it is an inherited role of spiritual leadership. As you may know, the Ismailis are the only Muslim community that has been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from Prophet Muhammad.
That spiritual role, however, does not imply a separation from practical responsibilities. In fact for Muslims the opposite is true: the spiritual and material worlds are inextricably connected. Leadership in the spiritual realm — for all Imams, whether they are Sunni or Shia — implies responsibility in worldly affairs; a calling to improve the quality of human life. And that is why so much of my energy over these years has been devoted to the work of the Aga Khan Development Network.
The AKDN, as we call it, centres its attention in the developing world. And it is from this developing world’s perspective that I speak to you today. So what I will be referring to is knowledge that I have gained from the developing world of Africa, Asia, the Middle East. What I will be speaking about has little to do with the industrialised West.
Through all of these years, my objective has been to understand more thoroughly the developing countries of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and to prepare initiatives that will help them become countries of opportunity, for all of their peoples.
I returned here after that experience with a solid sense of the issues I would have to address, especially the endemic poverty in which much of my community lived. And I also returned with a vivid sense of the new political realities that were shaping their lives, including the rise of African independence movements, the perilous relations between India and Pakistan and the sad fact that many Ismailis were locked behind the Iron Curtain and thus removed from regular contact with the Imamat.
When I returned to Harvard, it was not only to complete my degree, but I was fortunate to audit a number of courses that were highly relevant to my new responsibilities. So as an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to benefit from the complete spectrum of courses offered by this great university.
Incidentally, I must have been the only Harvard undergraduate to have two secretaries and a personal assistant working with me. And I have always been very proud of the fact that I never sent any of them to take notes for me at my class!
Harvard has continued to be a highly valued partner for our Network since this time. The University played a key role in developing the blueprint thirty years ago for the Aga Khan University — working first in the fields of medicine and nursing education, and now offering a broad variety of degrees on three continents. Another close Harvard relationship has involved the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, launched here and at MIT in 1977.
My concern for the future of Islamic architecture grew out of my travels between 1957 and 1977 in countries with large Muslim populations. What I observed was a near total disconnect between the new built environment I encountered and Islam’s rich architectural legacy. There was no process of renewal, no teaching in architectural schools, no practices that were rooted in our own traditions. Except for the occasional minaret or dome, one of the world’s great cultural inheritances was largely confined to coffee-table books. It seemed to me that this state of affairs represented a monumental menace to our world’s cultural pluralism, as well as a dangerous loss of identity for Muslim communities.
The Aga Khan Programme for Islamic Architecture was one response to this situation, as was the creation of the Aga Khan architectural award, which also continues today.
Today, the Aga Khan Development Network embraces many facets and functions. But, if I were trying to sum up in a single word its central objective, I would focus on the word “opportunity”. For what the peoples of the developing world seek above all else is hope for a better future.
Too often however, true opportunity has been a distant hope — perhaps for some, not even more than a dream. Endemic poverty, in my view, remains the world’s single most important challenge. It is manifested in many ways, including persistent refugee crises of the sort we have recently seen in such an acute form. And of course confounding new challenges continue to mount, such as the looming threat of climate change. My interest in climate change has been sharpened by recent studies linking it to the threat of earthquakes. This could be an issue in the high mountain areas of South Asia for example, where so many Ismailis live and are concentrated.
Sixty years ago as I took up my responsibilities, the problems of the developing world, for many observers, seemed intractable. It was widely claimed that places like China and India were destined to remain among the world’s “basket cases” — incapable of feeding themselves let alone being able to industrialise or achieve economic self-sustainability. If this had been true, of course, then there would have been no way for the people of my community, in India and China and in many other places, to look for a better future.
Political realities presented further complications. Most of the poorest countries were living under distant colonial or protectorate or communist regimes. The monetary market was totally unpredictable. Volatile currencies were shifting constantly in value, making it almost impossible to plan ahead. And while I thought of all the Ismailis as part of one religious community, the realities of their daily lives were deeply distinctive and decidedly local.
Nor did most people yet see the full potential for addressing these problems through non-profit, private organisations — what we today call “civil society.”
And yet, it was also clear that stronger coordination across these lines of division could help open new doors of opportunity. We could see how renovated educational systems, based on best practices, could reach across frontiers of politics and language. We could see how global science could address changing medical challenges, including the growing threat of non-communicable disease. We could see, in sum, how a truly pluralistic outlook could leverage the best experiences of local communities through an effective international network.
What was required — and is still required — was a readiness to work across frontiers of distinction and distance without trying to erase them. What we were looking for, even then, were ways of building an effective “cosmopolitan ethic in a fragmented world.”
This often meant working from the bottom up, learning to follow what was sometimes called “field logic.” Most of our initiatives began at a local, community level, and then grew into regional, national and international institutions.
As we moved forward, we learned a number of important lessons. We learned that lifting health and education services to world class standards was a global promise that could inspire local support. We learned to attack poverty simultaneously with multiple inputs, on a variety of fronts. We learned to work with effective partners — including the not-for-profit institutions of civil society. We learned to see our role as one of supporting the public sector, not competing with it. And we learned the importance of measuring carefully the outcomes of our efforts, and then applying that knowledge.
All of these approaches were facilitated by a determination to overcome linguistic barriers through a language policy that promoted better use of the national language, and network-wide English as a strong connecting tool.
And so our Network grew. Today it embraces a group of agencies — non-governmental and non-denominational — operating in 35 countries. They work in fields ranging from education and medical care, to job creation and energy production; from transport and tourism, to media and technology; from the fine arts and cultural heritage, to banking and microfinance. But they are all working together toward a single overarching objective: improving the quality of human life.
Meanwhile, in the Industrialised West, many things were happening that paralleled our AKDN experience. For one thing, an impulse for international cooperation was advancing in the late 1950s at an impressive pace. After half a century of violent confrontation, determined leaders talked hopefully about global integration. New international organisations and cross-border alliances blossomed. And Harvard University decisively expanded its own involvement in world affairs.
When the Jodidi Lectureship was established here in 1955, its explicit purpose (and I quote) was “the promotion of tolerance, understanding and good will among nations.” And that seemed to be the way history was moving. Surely, we thought, we had learned the terrible price of division and discord, and certainly the great technological revolutions of the 20th century would bring us more closely together.
In looking back to my Harvard days, I recall how a powerful sense of technological promise was in the air — a faith that human invention would continue its ever-accelerating conquest of time and space. I recall too, how this confidence was accompanied by what was described as a “revolution of rising expectations” and the fall of colonial empires. And of course, this trend seemed to culminate some years later with the end of the Cold War and the “new world order” that it promised.
But even as old barriers crumbled and new connections expanded, a paradoxical trend set in, one that we see today at every hand. At the same time that the world was becoming more interconnected, it also becomes more fragmented.
We have been mesmerised on one hand by the explosive pace of what we call “globalisation,” a centripetal force putting us as closely in touch with people who live across the world as we are to those who live next to us. But at the same time, a set of centrifugal forces have been gaining on us, producing a growing sense — between and within societies — of disintegration.
Whether we are looking at a more fragile European Union, a more polarised United States, a more fervid Sunni-Shia conflict, intensified tribal rivalries in much of Africa and Asia, or other splintering threats in every corner of the planet, the word “fragmentation” seems to define our times.
Global promise, it can be said, has been matched by tribal wariness. We have more communication, but we also have more confrontation. Even as we exclaim about growing connectivity we seem to experience greater disconnection.
Perhaps what we did not see so clearly 60 years ago is the fact that technological advance does not necessarily mean human progress. Sometimes it can mean the reverse.
What all of this means is that the challenge of living well together — a challenge as old as the human-race — can seem more and more complicated. And so we ask ourselves, what are the resources that we might now draw upon to counter this trend? How can we go beyond our bold words and address the mystery of why our ideals still elude us?
In responding to that question, I would ask you to think with me about the term I have used in the title for this lecture: “The Cosmopolitan Ethic.”
For a very long time, as you know, the term most often used in describing the search for human understanding was the word “tolerance.” In fact, it was one of the words that was used in 1955 text to describe one of the objectives of this Jodidi Lecture.
In recent years our vocabulary in discussing this subject has evolved. One word that we have come to use more often in this regard is the word “pluralism.” And the other is the word “cosmopolitan.”
You may know that our AKDN Network, a decade ago, cooperated with the Government of Canada to create a new Global Centre for Pluralism based in Ottawa, designed to study more closely the conditions under which pluralist societies can thrive.
A pluralist, cosmopolitan society is a society which not only accepts difference, but actively seeks to understand it and to learn from it. In this perspective, diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity to be welcomed.
A cosmopolitan society regards the distinctive threads of our particular identities as elements that bring beauty to the larger social fabric. A cosmopolitan ethic accepts our ultimate moral responsibility to the whole of humanity, rather than absolutising a presumably exceptional part.
Perhaps it is a natural condition of an insecure human race to seek security in a sense of superiority. But in a world where cultures increasingly interpenetrate one another, a more confident and a more generous outlook is needed.
What this means, perhaps above all else, is a readiness to participate in a true dialog with diversity, not only in our personal relationships, but in institutional and international relationships also. But that takes work, and it takes patience. Above all, it implies a readiness to listen.
What is needed, as the former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson has said, and I quote, is a readiness “to listen to your neighbour, even when you may not particularly like him.” Is that message clear? You listen to people you don’t like!
A thoughtful cosmopolitan ethic is something quite different from some attitudes that have become associated with the concept of globalisation in recent years. Too often, that term has been linked to an abstract universalism, perhaps well-meaning but often naïve. In emphasising all that the human race had in common, it was easy to depreciate the identities that differentiated us. We sometimes talked so much about how we are all alike that we neglected the wonderful ways in which we can be different.
One result of this superficial view of homogenised, global harmony was an unhappy counter-reaction. Some took it to mean the spread of a popular, Americanised global culture — that was unfair and an assessment that was erroneous. Others feared that their individual, ethnic or religious identities might be washed away by a super-competitive economic order, or by some supranational political regime. And the frequent reaction was a fierce defence of older identities. If cooperation meant homogenisation, then a lot of people found themselves saying “No.”
But an either-or-choice between the global and the tribal — between the concept of universal belonging and the value of particular identities — was in fact a false choice. The road to a more cooperative world does not require us to erase our differences, but to understand them.
A responsible, thoughtful process of globalisation, in my view, is one that is truly cosmopolitan, respecting both what we have in common and what makes us different.
A cosmopolitan ethic will also be sensitive to the problem of economic insecurity in our world. It is an enormous contributing factor to the problems I have been discussing. Endemic poverty still corrodes any meaningful sense of opportunity for many millions. And even in less impoverished societies, a rising tide of economic anxiety can make it difficult for fearful people to respect, let alone embrace, that which is new or different.
This problem has been compounded by the very advances that have long been the source of so much hope. I am thinking here for example about medical advances that have dramatically increased human longevity. People live longer, but they often find that they have outlived their resources.
The developing world is now facing a major challenge: how does it care for the elderly? Even in more developed societies, social changes have eroded some of the domestic support that once eased the burdens of the aging. How, we must all ask, will we manage the new challenges of longevity?
All of these considerations will place special obligations on those who play leadership roles in our societies. Sadly, some would-be leaders all across the world have been tempted to exploit difference and magnify division. It is always easier to unite followers in a negative cause than a positive one. But the consequences can be a perilous polarisation.
The information explosion itself has sometimes become an information glut, putting even more of a premium on being first and getting attention, rather than being right and earning respect. It is not easy to retain one’s faith in a healthy, cosmopolitan marketplace of ideas when the flow of information is increasingly trivialised.
One answer to these temptations will be found, I am convinced, in the quality of our education. It will lie with our universities at one end of the spectrum, and early childhood education at the other — a field to which our Development Network has been giving special attention.
Let me mention one more specific issue where a sustained educational effort will be especially important. I refer to the debate — one that has involved many in this audience — about the prospect of some fundamental clash of civilisations between Islam and the West. In my view, the deeper problem behind any prospective “clash of civilisations” is a profound “clash of ignorances”. And in that struggle, education will be an indispensable weapon.
Finally, I would emphasise that a cosmopolitan ethic is one that resonates with the world’s great ethical and religious traditions.
A passage from the Holy Quran that has been central to my life is addressed to the whole of humanity. It says: “Oh Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women…”
At the very heart of the Islamic faith is a conviction that we are all born “of a single soul.” We are “spread abroad” to be sure in all of our diversity, but we share, in a most profound sense, a common humanity.
This outlook has been central to the history of Islam. For many hundreds of years, the greatest Islamic societies were decidedly pluralistic, drawing strength from people of many religions and cultural backgrounds. My own ancestors, the Fatimid Caliphs, founded the city of Cairo, and the great Al Azhar University there, a thousand years ago in this same spirit.
That pluralistic outlook remains a central ideal for most Muslims today.
There are many, of course, some non-Muslims and some Muslims alike, who have perpetrated different impressions.
At the same time, institutions such as those that have welcomed me here today, have eloquently addressed these misimpressions. My hope is that the voices of Islam itself will continue to remind the world of a tradition that, over so many centuries, has so often advanced pluralistic outlooks and built some of the most remarkable societies in human history.
Let me repeat, in conclusion, that a cosmopolitan ethic is one that will honour both our common humanity and our distinctive Identities — each reinforcing the other as part of the same high moral calling.
The central lesson of my own personal journey — over many miles and many years — is the indispensability of such an ethic in our changing world, based on the timeless truth that we are — each of us and all of us — “born of a single soul.”