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The Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2019 Presentation Ceremony Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russian Federation Friday, 13 September 2019 1568373300 Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2019 Presentation Ceremony speech Russia 2010s 6926 2019 Cycle 1 Aga Khan Trust for Culture Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA) Architecture

As-salamu ‘alaykum, Peace be upon you

Your Excellency Mintimer Shaimiev,
Your Excellency Eleonora Mitrofanova,
Respected Members of the Government,
Distinguished Guests

What an enormous pleasure it is to welcome all of you to this ceremony.

We gather today with a group of extraordinary people, in an extraordinary place, and for an extraordinary purpose.

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is organised around a series of three-year cycles - each one culminating in the recognition of our Award recipients.

Tonight we celebrate the outcomes of our Fourteenth Cycle. 

This is an extraordinary moment for me as I think back to our decision to launch this programme - more than four decades ago.

What led to that decision? - You may ask - as many have asked, then and since. Just why should the Ismaili Imamat become so deeply involved in the world of professional architecture?

The simple answer lies in my conviction that Architecture - more than any other art form - has a profound impact on the quality of human life. As it has often been said, we shape our built environment - and then our buildings shape us.

This close relationship of architecture to the quality of human experience has a particularly profound resonance in the developing world.  I believe that we all have a responsibility to improve the quality of life whenever and wherever that opportunity arises.  Our commitment to influencing the quality of architecture - intellectually and materially - grows directly out of our commitment to improving the quality of human life.

As you may know, over these four decades, we have recognised a vast array of architectural contributions, including over nine thousand nominated projects.

But the value of this programme goes far beyond recognising specific projects.

The Aga Khan Architectural Award is not simply a prize; it is a process.

This process involves a wide range of conversations - all across the world - that shape the selection process. 

The theme of the Cycle, which culminates today is: “Architecture in Dialogue”.  This theme, which emerged out of the deliberations of the Steering Committee and Master Jury, sees architecture as a robust interchange, one that can embrace a variety of diverse and even divergent perspectives.

A true dialogue requires not only that we articulate one perspective, but also that we listen – attentively - to other perspectives. More than that, it asks us not only to listen to one another, but also to learn from one another.

There are several ways in which architecture can blend different perspectives. Let me briefly describe just four of them, 

First of all, we must foster a healthy dialogue among the actual participants in the architectural process. I do not mean only the skilled architects themselves, but also those who collaborate with them - clients, community leaders, public officials, educators, and the builders, designers, and craftsmen who help realise their plans. Our Master Jury for this cycle paid close attention to this dimension, looking at qualities such as leadership, cooperation, and openness - qualities that help produce creative dialogue.

A second dialogue that advances the best in human architecture is an open dialogue between the past and the future. This means more than simply copying the past - or merely tacking some ancient arch or minaret or calligraphy onto a new building. On the other hand, it also means more than a heedless modernistic approach that ignores our rich heritage. Our realisation, more than 40 years ago, that architectural practice in Muslim societies had recently been forgetting its own history, helped us to shape the nature of this Award.

The dialogue we seek is one that will blend the inspiration of the past with the demands of the future. The demands are many: environmental, social, technological, and economic, not to mention the challenges of political polarisation. In all of these respects, looking back can help us look ahead - and vice versa.

A third dialogue that commands architectural attention is the dialogue between nature on the one hand and human creativity on the other. Both the natural world and the world of human capacities are divine gifts, but it is tempting sometimes to embrace one without thinking much about the other.

The Holy Quran asks Muslims not to be passive recipients of our Natural Habitat but instead to be faithful stewards of the divine creation; we need to expand our commitment in all directions. This means not merely conforming to the power of nature, but actively engaging with its challenges. At the same time we must be careful not to exaggerate the capacities for human mastery – trying to defy nature is counterproductive in many ways. A reflective dialogue between natural realities and human capabilities is also at the essence of architectural excellence.

Fourth and finally, I would emphasise the importance of intercultural dialogue in meeting the Architectural opportunities of our time. I have mentioned how this Award grew out of a concern with the deterioration - what some of us called the “hibernation” - of rich Muslim architectural traditions. But honouring one’s own historic identity, should not imply some sort of narrow isolation.

The rich architectural dialogue we seek to foster should include a renewed respect for the rich diversity of Islamic cultures themselves. As a way to exemplify this concern, we recently opened a new Aga Khan Centre in London in which seven Islamic gardens have been created, reflecting seven different Muslim traditions.

In addition, we should also be working to foster a rich dialogue with non-Islamic cultures - including diverse religious traditions. Architecture can lead the way in this effort - as we listen to one another and learn from one another across old divides.

Pluralism means more than merely tolerating a diversity of influences and ideas.  It also means welcoming the learning opportunities that diversity provides, finding ways to honour that which is unique in our individual traditions as well as those values that connect us to all of humankind.  

We must think of diversity itself as a divine gift, a blessing and not a burden.

I mentioned earlier that we are meeting today in a special place. Tatarstan has, for centuries, been a place of exceptional commitment to pluralistic values. The city of Kazan and the larger region have long been renowned for their rich mix of ethnicities, and cultures, including the impressive way in which their architectural heritage has been preserved and respected. 

It is striking to realise that nearby Bolgar, which I visited yesterday, became a Muslim religious centre as early as 922 - almost eleven hundred years ago. Through the centuries the spirit of pluralism in Tatarstan has known times of difficult challenge and times of inspiring renewal. But through everything, a commitment to inclusiveness has persisted. This spirit was encouraged under the pluralist leadership of several of the Muslim Khanates that governed the area in the 14th and 15th centuries, and also some later Russian rulers, such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. And it has been dramatically evident here in recent years. 

On my visits in Kazan, and in Bolgar, I have seen how committed people can honour the power both of cultural identity and cultural pluralism. It is striking to see how churches and mosques, for example, have been built and preserved right next to one another as powerful symbols of a profound intercultural Dialogue.

I would hope that we all can help point the rest of the world to the powerful pluralistic model of places like Kazan and Bolgar.

The world is in need of such examples. Human challenges seem to intensify at an accelerating pace these days - climate change, economic and technological inequalities, epidemics, political polarisation, population displacements and the daunting task of helping one another to live together in dignity.

I believe deeply in the potential of the architectural world to help inspire and enrich a creative dialogue in all four of the areas I have mentioned: a dialogue between creative architectural partners, a dialogue between past and future, a dialogue between natural reality and human creativity, and a dialogue among diverse cultures.

When I first anticipated this visit to Tatarstan - my thoughts went back to other Award presentations through these four decades. The very first presentations were held in Lahore in Pakistan and I remember expressing my hope that night that these Awards would not be seen as the end of a story but rather as a bold beginning - stimulating further discussion, insights, questions, debates, and “perhaps even more, some worries” – as I put it then - about our architectural future. And I must say today how pleased I am that my hopes I expressed in Lahore four decades ago have been fulfilled.

The fact that our theme today is built around the word “Dialogue” testifies to our continuing aspirations. My thanks go to all of you for being a part of this extraordinary celebration - as we reflect, gratefully, on both the inspiring gifts of the past and the rich possibilities of the future.

speech_236286 English
The Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2019 Ceremony Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan, Russian Federation Friday, 13 September 2019 1568373300 Speech by M. Sh. Shaimiev, State Counsellor of the Republic of Tatarstan, at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2019 Ceremony speech Russia 2010s 236276 2019 Cycle 1 Aga Khan Trust for Culture Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA) Architecture

Your Highness, esteemed Prince Karim Aga Khan
Distinguished participants of the ceremony
Dear friends

The capital of Tatarstan is hosting the ceremony of the world famous Aga Khan Award for Architecture, aimed at preservation and protection of historical monuments and landscape architecture. It is truly a landmark event for all of us.

First of all, please allow me to express my deepest gratitude on behalf of the President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov and myself personally for the recognition given to the programme for the development of public spaces implemented by the Republic and the honour of hosting this ceremony in Kazan. Thank you very much.

The sustainably developing multinational Tatarstan is increasingly frequently becoming the host for large international forums held in the Russian Federation. This trend we believe is evidence of the fact that we are pursuing the right course of transformations taking place in the Republic for the benefit of the welfare of the people.

We build on the rich historical and cultural heritage of our people and their contribution to the common heritage of all mankind, and we proclaim it loudly. We pay special attention to the preservation of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional peace and harmony, the revival of spirituality. The Muslim shrines of the ancient Bolgar, the Orthodox sites of the island-town of Sviyazhsk, and the Kazan Kremlin are equally valuable and important for us. These three historical sites are inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. This work, as I have repeatedly stated, is Republic-wide done whole-heartedly “from soul to soul”.

Taking advantage of the fact that at tonight’s ceremony we have the pleasure of the company of the former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and the Head of Rossotrudnichestvo, the former Permanent Representative of Russia to UNESCO, Eleanora Mitrofanova, I would like to thank them on behalf of the people of Tatarstan for their fruitful cooperation in reviving this historical heritage. Thank you very much. Today we also share constructive understanding with the new leadership of UNESCO and its institutions.

I want to note that the Republic “Revival” Foundation, of which I chair the Board of Trustees, this year completed a nine-year (2010-2018) project on the revival of historical monuments of the ancient city of Bolgar and the island-town of Sviyazhsk. Most recently, we embarked on a project to create multilingual educational complexes where children will be educated in three languages: Russian, Tatar and English.

We are very pleased to know that you, Your Highness, as a public figure and person who has founded many educational institutions around the world, feel strongly about these problems. Once you said: “We live in a knowledge society today where access to good quality education and research leads to sustainable development.” It is impossible to disagree with this. We fully share this thought. Moreover, you are implementing the largest charitable, educational and humanitarian projects, support proactive, creative people, regardless of nationality or confession. Your peacekeeping mission, your commitment to bringing civilisations closer and achieving unity in diversity are consonant with our goals, especially to mine, as the UNESCO Special Envoy for Intercultural Dialogue. The same ideas were highlighted during the high-profile and much publicised Kazan Forum, which we held in September last year.

Many projects implemented in Tatarstan are aimed at addressing the most relevant life problems of the population. These are the programmes focused on eradicating the problem of dilapidated housing, continuous gasification and IT development in the settlements and villages of the Republic, construction of roads and many other initiatives. When we travelled by helicopter in Bolgar yesterday, you could see what I'm talking about now. All of the settlements, even the most remote, have access to gas and roads are under construction. 

The 2015 initiative of the President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov to implement the Programme for the Development of Public Spaces became a valuable continuation of our aspirations. Now there are beautiful parks and squares in all major cities and most regions of the Republic. These are the places where everyone will find something to their liking, where the people would feel comfortable and safe.

It is a rather challenging and important work, which cannot be done without professionals. Therefore, we conduct ongoing training of specialists, work with local craftsmen, and businesses, which allows us to use resources more efficiently, develop the local economy and create new jobs. All this is done by a young ambitious team that works for the benefit of the Tatarstan people - and they feel it.

A lot has been accomplished over the period of five years. More than 330 embankments, boulevards, parks and squares were built, another 60 sites will be commissioned soon. Development of comfortable public spaces is, above all, our concern and care for people. It breeds love and respect for the native land.

Dear participants of the ceremony,

It is a great honour and pleasure for us to receive the Aga Khan Award for Architecture along with five other important projects from Bangladesh, Palestine, the United Arab Emirates, Senegal and Bahrain. We congratulate you from the bottom of our hearts for this achievement.

It gives us confidence that we are following the right path, and inspires us to develop. Currently, a new three-year project on landscaping the grounds around blocks of flats is being launched in the Republic, so that they also could become an oasis of coziness and comfort, something that we lack in the metropolitan areas. We will invest about 50 billion rubles for these purposes over the coming few years. It was announced during the sucessful election campaign. People made their opinion on how the project should be realised. It is the first time that we are engaging in a social project such as this.

Your Highness, we regard this Award as a high assessment of all the multifaceted activities carried out in the Republic in the interests of the people. Thank you very much! Bik zur rәkhmәt!

In conclusion, I want to say that we are open for cooperation with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. At present, scientists from the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tatarstan and the Kazan Federal University are actively engaged in the scientific study of the Great Silk Road and Great Volga Route. Since the early 2000s, scientific conferences, seminars and round tables have been held on this topic. The theme of the Great Silk Road is also relevant for Tatarstan. Scientists have determined that the Volga, Caucasus and Siberian corridors are most important for the Russian Federation and we started active collaboration with the countries of Central Asia - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. In 2018, our expert representative participated and made a presentation at the 5th meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the countries participating in the UNESCO Great Silk Road cross-border nomination, which brings together more than twelve countries. By the end of this year, a meeting of the 6th Coordinating Committee is scheduled in Iran.

Given the fact that Tatarstan has highly qualified specialists and  scholars, recognised experts of UNESCO institutes, Your Highness, we could take part in the joint work on the development of a project to study specific corridors of the Great Silk Road. I hope that we will find common ground in the implementation of a number of other projects aimed at realising our common noble goals.

Yesterday in Bolgar, we discussed how we could use your great knowledge of architecture. I would say that you very wisely interpreted the meaning of modern architecture in conjunction with nature, landscaping and the environment, so as to serve the needs of humankind. That's why the meeting with you  and your wonderful team encourages us to seek ways to collaborate on great new projects. Most importantly, as we say, develop and prosper. 

Thank you to all.

speech_236281 English
Aga Khan Museum opens "Seeing Through Babel" exhibition in London London, United Kingdom Friday, 5 July 2019 1562258700 Remarks by Henry S. Kim, Director and CEO of the Aga Khan Museum, at the exhibition "Seeing Through Babel" in London speech United Kingdom 2010s 233291 1 Aga Khan Trust for Culture,United Kingdom,Culture Aga Khan Trust for Culture Aga Khan Museum Culture

Good evening, and welcome all.

When the opportunity arose to bring an exhibition to London, to the Zamana Space in the Ismaili Centre, I was really intrigued by this possibility. London is after all such an important forum for contemporary art from across the Muslim world. With the work the Aga Khan Museum has undertaken in just under five years with contemporary artists, I felt it was imperative to bring something we have created, a process we have created to London to show the London audience what the Museum stands for. And that’s what exactly we have done today.

Before I introduce the artist, I would like to acknowledge a number of people who have helped to make this happen. And first of all, I’d like to acknowledge the President and Vice-President of the Ismaili Council of the United Kingdom, as well as their leads for outreach and community relations, and their project managers, all of whom are volunteers, for their leadership and support in realising this vision. Without your leadership, none of this would have happened. I would also like to thank the management and staff of the Ismaili Centre who have helped in so many ways to make this exhibition happen, from building scaffolding, to patiently listening to crazy ideas about hanging objects from their ceilings, straight through to dismantling things saying ‘we’ll put them back at some later point.’ I would like most of all to thank the many volunteers who will be part of the manning of this exhibition and the shop over the next six weeks, also for the dozen or so students from the University of the Arts London who assisted Kevork in developing his work. And of course I would like to thank our many supporters here in London. Our patrons, our director’s circle members, our donors, who have steadfastly supported the museum since opening. And I am very pleased to say that this Museum, from about three years ago, has a chapter of Patrons, based here in London, led by Faisal Lalji and our steering committee, and with this presence in London, we are able to offer programming about the arts of the Muslim world, about what happens in Toronto for people who live here in London. And for us, this is a very important point because the Aga Khan Museum, even though it is based in Toronto is a museum that has true international aspirations. We are a Museum that is present here in London, also Dubai, also in the States, also across Canada. And this is a very important point about what the Museum us all about, because we cannot simply talk about Islamic art just in one city, we need to be able to spread this message across all the cities we can. And so thank you very much for all of your help and support, because with it, we could not have created this exhibition in London right now.

Now I would like to introduce the man of the moment, the artist Kevork Mourad. Kevork is a remarkable artist who is Syrian, Armenian and American. And I think it is very interesting that Kevork views himself in a sense as a double refugee, as his family had to flee to Syria from Armenia back in the easier part of the 20th century. There has of course been Syrian refugees in the last seven or so years, and creating identity for oneself as you move from one country to another is very very important. How much of your past do you take with you? How much of your present do you now incorporate into your lives? And I think if an artist is the sum of all of his moments and all of his pasts, Kevork is a very good example of an artist who does look forwards as well as backwards. And so when you look at his work, not only look at the creativity that a contemporary artist brings to bear, but also look at this historic ideas that are in his mind that he transfers onto the medium in which he works.

Kevork has been involved with the Aga Khan Museum, with projects over the last three years, and this installation is his fourth project with us. In 2016 he performed with the clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, also a Syrian artist, to create a sound and visual performance in which the music of Kinan was combined with Kevork’s graphic art in a way that is very similar to what you are going to see in just a few moments. Based on that, we invited them back in 2017 to create the centrepiece of our exhibition called the Syrian Symphony, which broke new ground on how contemporary artists from Syria are responding to and expressing the thoughts of a nation and people gripped by years of civil war. This last February, Kevork returned as artist-in-residence in the Museum, creating a three dimensional work which was installed in February, and which I am pleased to say we re-installed just about 3 weeks ago.

His work is, I think, truly extraordinary. And I think you will agree with us when you see not only the process by which he creates, but also the work itself.

What I have found most pleasing about the interaction between Kevork and the Museum, is that we have seen real progression in his artistic practice over the course of the three years we have known each other. As a Museum, we are not simply keen to display the works of contemporary artists, instead we want to work collaboratively with them on the intellectual ideas of a work or display. Our chosen angles as a Museum are to explore the connections between cultures or the links between artistic practices of the past and the present. We have artists study objects in our collections, or work with local area students, or watch the performances that take place in our auditorium.  The more that we can integrate the various art forms together, whether music, visual arts, dance, poetry, the written word, the better. Because as we all know, the arts are not monolithic, they are truly diverse, and the more that we can find the links between the arts, the more creative I think the process will be.

With Kevork, we found an artist who has been intellectually curious, to explore themes of migration and displacement, or the links between the past and the present. His expression of these ideas were accompanied by changes in his creative process, as his graphic art began to move away from the two-dimensional into what you see today which is better described as a graphic sculpture, rather than simply a print or a drawing.

And so it is with great pleasure that I introduce Kevork Mourad, who will provide us with some idea of the way he creates the art that he does, because music is essential to his process. And as you’ve heard from those who spoke before, what is important about his work is that with Seeing Through Babel he explains the beginnings of diversity, and that is through the multiple languages that were created through the Tower of Babel, and this I think is an important theme in today’s day and age. So without further ado, Kevork Mourad.

speech_233286 <p dir="RTL">عندما أُتيحت الفرصة لإقامة معرض في صالة "زمانا" في المركز الإسماعيلي في لندن، كنت مفتوناً حقاً بهذا الحدث، لأن لندن في النهاية منتدى مهم للفن المعاصر من جميع أنحاء العالم الإسلامي. عبر العمل الذي قام به متحف الآغا خان خلال أقل من خمس سنوات مع الفنانين المعاصرين، شعرت أنه من الضروري إحضار شيء قمنا بإنشائه إلى لندن لتمكين الجمهور هنا من رؤية ما يمثله المتحف، وهذا بالضبط ما فعلناه اليوم.</p> English
Aga Khan Museum opens “Seeing Through Babel” exhibition in London London, United Kingdom Friday, 5 July 2019 1562255100 Remarks by Prince Amyn Aga Khan at the exhibition "Seeing Through Babel" in London speech United Kingdom 2010s 227931 1 Aga Khan Trust for Culture,United Kingdom,Culture Aga Khan Trust for Culture Aga Khan Museum Culture

Thank you very much, and it is with great pleasure that I open this exhibition.  

Your Worships,
My Lords,
Ladies, and Gentlemen,

I had to ask how to read this particular speech because I was not sure one could pluralise Worships and Councillors.

When the Ismaili Centre opened in 1985, it was designed with a purpose built space, called the Zamana Gallery. With its independent entrance on Cromwell Road, directly across from the V&A, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, it was designed to be part of this rich cultural corridor. Complementing the haute couture, Renaissance sculpture, dinosaurs, bees, cogs and computers of its neighbours, the intention was that Zamana would foster dialogue among communities about the art, society and culture of the Muslim world and that it would reflect the dialogue between cultures that has always existed as a result of man’s urge and need to travel, to discover, to conquer, or to sell his goods and buy others.

I had urged Sir Roy Strong, all those years ago, to use this gallery to show the V&A’s remarkable collection of works of art from the Muslim world, at the time largely kept in the Museum’s reserves and he had agreed in principle with the idea. However, nothing came of it. Later, I made the same suggestion to the then Minister of Culture. But again, nothing actually took place. So it was with some sadness that I saw this gallery go into hibernation those some twenty-five years ago. Since then, appreciation of the arts from the Muslim world has, I think, grown and flourished. Galleries have been created or re-developed at great museums such as the V&A and the British Museum.  Festivals have been created to showcase the arts from the Arab world, South Asia and the Muslim world in general. Many foundations have been created to support artistic practice. And artists have flocked to London, for its art-schools and opportunities to pursue their practices in the rich milieu of this city. I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that during this time London has in many ways become a centre for both the historic and the contemporary arts of the Islamic Muslim world.

Which brings us to today, and the reopening of the Zamana Space. I am pleased that the Ismaili Centre chose to revive the space in partnership with the Aga Khan Museum, a museum based in Toronto, for which I serve as Chairman of its Board, for better or probably for worse. Although it is less than five years old, the Museum has begun to make a mark for itself as one of the leaders in the arts of the Muslim world. Its mission is to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the contributions that Muslim civilisations have made to world heritage, by showing their arts in their many and varied forms from across the world. Its exhibitions have begun to gain notoriety, mostly, I am happy to say, in the good sense of that word, including the current and successful exhibition on the Moon. And the Museum’s work with the artists, whether musicians, dancers or visual artists, has, I believe, begun to break new ground.  

I am very keen that the arts should speak to each other. The arts reflect our senses, and as our senses talk to each other, so the arts should talk to each other. It is in my view a mistake to show one art totally independent of all other arts. So as often as possible, I like to see a dialogue between the arts.

This gallery in the Ismaili Centre was one of the first locations where the Aga Khan Museum’s collection was displayed following the announcement of the building of the Museum in Toronto. In 2007, a dozen years ago, a selections of treasures of the Museum's collection was displayed in the Social Hall here, attracting 50,000 visitors during its run.

As you will have no doubt guessed, now that the Zamana is operating again, and we even have exhibition spaces available in the new Aga Khan Centre up in Kings Cross, it is my hope that the Aga Museum will be able to mount interesting temporary exhibitions with the V&A, and the other major British institutions having important places of works of art from, or related to, the Muslim world. Thus reinforcing, which I think is important, the message that culture unites rather than divides.

I will leave the introduction of the work you will see and the artist you will meet to the Director and CEO of the Museum, Henry Kim, and the artist Kevork Mourad. However, I will say that they have shown great imagination in how they have used the Space to create this exhibition of sound and visual art. I am also extremely pleased that the Space is not only the host to the exhibition, but also to a small retail shop from the Museum. This must be one of the few times when cultural dialogue and commercial dialogue actually get together. The shop is home to a unique collection of jewellery, fashion, ceramics, textiles and books that have been developed and sourced from traditional and contemporary artists from throughout the Muslim world, after long hours of searching and researching, that has been both fun, and in many ways inspiring.

The Shop too has its roots in cultural dialogue. So I hope that you will all enjoy the show, and I hope that inshallah we will meet again for the next show - nice and soon please Mr Kim.

Thank you.

speech_233271 <p dir="rtl">"أتمنى أن يتمكن متحف الآغا خان من إقامة معارض مؤقتة مثيرة للاهتمام بالتعاون مع متحف "فيكتوريا وألبرت" وغيرها من المؤسسات البريطانية الرئيسية التي لديها أماكن مهمة فيما يتعلق بالأعمال الفنية، أو تلك ذات الصلة بالعالم الإسلامي، وبالتالي فإن تعزيز الرسالة، التي أعتقد أنها تشكل أهمية، تتمثل في توحيد الثقافة بدلاً من تقسيمها."</p> English
Signing of MoU between the Nova University and the Aga Khan University Lisbon, Portugal Tuesday, 18 June 2019 1560412800 Remarks by Mr. Firoz Rasul at the signing of MoU between the Nova University and the Aga Khan University speech Pakistan 2010s 8941 1 Aga Khan University,Pakistan,Education,Health Aga Khan University Education,Health

Professor João Sàágua, Rector of the Universidade NOVA de Lisboa,
Aga Khan University Trustee Professor Antonio Rendas,
Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network and the Ismaili Imamat, Mr Nazim Ahmad,
Leaders, faculty, and staff of NOVA and Aga Khan University,
Distinguished guests,

Partnerships between institutions, like friendships between individuals, are built on shared values. And there can be no doubt that the Aga Khan University and the Universidade NOVA de Lisboa share important values.

Let me offer just one example: the mottos of our two universities. NOVA’s motto is taken from the New Testament: “Every city divided against itself shall not stand.” That of AKU, which you will find inscribed in the University’s seal, is taken from the Qur’an. It urges us: “Be not divided among yourselves…for God joined your hearts in love.”

Is that not remarkable? Here we have two universities, separated by 9,000 kilometres, citing two different holy scriptures to express their deepest values – and choosing verses that articulate an identical desire for unity.

Moreover, we both act upon these mottos in a similar fashion. We see them as a summons to reach across borders and boundaries to form partnerships and advance knowledge.  

AKU and NOVA are also lucky to share a great friend: Professor Antonio Rendas, former Rector of NOVA, and a member of AKU’s Board of Trustees. Thank you, Trustee Professor Rendas, for everything you have done to bring our institutions together and make the signing of this agreement possible.

I know I speak for everyone at AKU when I say: We are excited about this partnership. We believe it is full of promise, and we are eager to see it succeed, expand, and endure.

One reason for our enthusiasm is that our collaboration is off to a strong start. We have gathered an exceptional group of scientists and scholars for today’s inaugural Symposium on Stem Cell Science, Regenerative Medicine, Ethics, and Society. Our discussions are sure to stimulate fresh thinking. And they are sure to fuel further conversations about how AKU and NOVA can learn from one another and contribute to the progress of this extraordinarily important area of scientific inquiry.

As you know, AKU is an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network. The partnership between NOVA and AKU is part of the Network’s larger commitment to Portugal – a commitment that was sealed by the signing of the agreement between the Ismaili Imamat and the Portuguese Republic to establish the Seat, or Diwan, of the Imamat in Portugal.

As AKU’s founder and Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, who is the Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, said in accepting an honorary doctorate from NOVA: “We hold an enduring affinity for Portugal and its institutions, its history, and its people.”

The signing of this agreement is yet another expression of that affinity, and its power to bring people together to pursue knowledge, improve quality of life around the world, and enhance understanding of the value of pluralism.

Thank you.



speech_232646 <p dir="rtl">"تتشابه الشراكات بين المؤسسات مع الصداقات بين الأفراد، فهي مبنية على القيم المشتركة، وليس ثمة شك بأن جامعة الآغا خان وجامعة نوفا لشبونة تشتركان بالعديد من القيم الهامة."</p> English
GCP Annual Pluralism Lecture 2019 Lisbon, Portugal Tuesday, 11 June 2019 1560269700 Introductory remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan at the GCP Annual Pluralism Lecture 2019 speech Canada,Portugal 2010s 6926 1 Canada Global Centre for Pluralism


Ms. Mohammed,
Your Excellency, the President of the Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you, on behalf of the Board of the Global Centre for Pluralism, to the 2019 Pluralism Lecture here at the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon. 

I am delighted that this seventh annual Lecture is being delivered in Portugal. And I say that not only because this beautiful country is steeped in global history and culture, and usually drenched in sunshine. For those of us who believe in the bridge-building work of pluralism, Portugal has much to teach, even as it confronts its own challenges.

This country is blessed with a long history of productive co-existence among Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The History of Al-Andalus was written here, on the Iberian Peninsula, between the 8thand 16thcenturies. This blending of cultures, religions and languages brought innovations in architecture, agriculture, medicine and even cuisine that are woven now into the very fabric of modern Portugal.

In July last year, the Global Peace Index ranked Portugal amongst the five most peaceful nations in the world. And for good reason. At a time of rising intolerance, this country has established some of the most welcoming policies for migrants in Europe. As populations in many Western countries are aging, and even dwindling, Portugal is among the few that recognise that newcomers are essential to secure the country’s future.

This welcoming attitude is one of the most strongly associated with pluralism, which is the core mission of the Global Centre for Pluralism. As a beacon of research, education and dialogue, the Centre is drawing lessons from the political, social and cultural dynamics in diverse and divided societies around the world. I encourage all of you to explore what the Centre has to offer. By learning from others’ successes, we may help our own societies to “inoculate” themselves against the temptation to set various people against one another – including the temptation to exclude marginalised populations.

Tonight’s speaker, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, has had an extraordinary life journey, and we are all privileged to be able to benefit from her insights. Thank you.

Ms. Mohammed’s active involvement with global development, and her passionate commitment to girls’ education – both go back almost twenty years, when she coordinated the Task Force on Gender and Education for the United Nations Millennium Project. In 2005, as Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the Millennium Development Goals, she was charged with steering Nigeria’s debt relief funds toward achieving those Goals.  The MDGs, in shorthand, refer to the eight Goals that gave the world a blueprint for tackling its greatest social and economic challenges from 2000 to 2015.

Ms. Mohammed at first described herself as something of a sceptic about that project – how could one possibly reduce the worlds challenges to eight goals? – she asked. Nonetheless, she embraced the cause. With dogged persistence, she helped to ensure that some one billion dollars a year went where it was needed and intended − to reducing maternal mortality, giving communities safe water access, and providing good schools and teachers for Nigerian students. 

In 2012, Amina Mohammed took on another global role as Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the next stage of the United Nations Development Planning – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Her new challenge was to work with, a small number, 193 nations to replace the MDGs with a new overarching framework for global development up to 2030.

In characterising this new framework era, Ms. Mohammed has said and I quote:  “Development is no longer an issue of the Global South. It is an issue of the Global North, South, East and West.” Indeed, all member nations of the United Nations − including Canada, Portugal and Nigeria − and 190 other countries, have accepted the Goals as their own national objectives. Agenda 2030 calls for action by all countries for all people.

Ms. Mohammed then stepped from the conceptual stage at the United Nations back into the implementation area at home. As Federal Minister of Environment, she steered Nigeria’s action on climate change and resource conservation for sustainable development.

Ms. Mohammed is an outspoken advocate for global action on climate change, for children’s education, and for the protection of human rights. Above all, she has described gender equality − Sustainable Development Goal number 5 − as the quote “docking station” for all the other Goals, an essential conduit for their achievement.

She has served as Director, Governor or Advisor on numerous Boards, including the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, Canada’s International Development Research Centre, and the Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And she has received too many honours and awards for me to name, for I fear I will leave no time for her lecture.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my very great privilege to welcome our annual Pluralism Lecturer for 2019, Ms. Amina Mohammed.

Thank you.

speech_232421 English
Global Centre for Pluralism’s Annual Pluralism Lecture 2019 Lisbon, Portugal Tuesday, 11 June 2019 1560268800 Annual Pluralism Lecture by Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General speech Canada,Portugal 2010s 232406 1 Canada Global Centre for Pluralism

Your Highness the Aga Khan, 
The President of the Assembly
Ladies and gentlemen,
And I see many friends in the audience as we came through this evening

It is really a great pleasure and a privilege to be here with you to talk about pluralism and its central place in the work of the United Nations and especially in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is also wonderful to be in this Centre, a really beautiful building and the gardens, the courtyards and the two research institutions helping us to bridge the gulf between Islam and western cultures. I thank the GCP and you know the event is full of acronyms so I am going to give you another one here but the Global Centre for Pluralism, and the Ismaili Imamat, for this opportunity, and for all the incredible work that you do to promote pluralism, diversity, inclusion, and a better and more peaceful world for all of us. 

The tension between unity and pluralism, between the whole and its constituent parts, has been debated by thinkers and philosophers for thousands of years. 

Two millennia ago, the Indian emperor Ashoka the Great called for harmonious relations between people of all religions and respect for each other's scriptures. 

And at the United Nations there is a magnificent carpet, a gift from the people of Iran, inscribed with the poem known as Bani Adam, the Children of Adam, by the great Persian poet Sa'adi. And part of it reads: 

"If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,
You are unworthy to be called by the name of 'a Human'"

At this gathering last year, the religious scholar Karen Armstrong said that the first thing that appealed to her about Islam was its pluralism and the fact that the Holy Quran not only praised all the great prophets of the Abrahamic religions, but accepted them as prophets of Islam. Indeed, pluralism, respect for difference and the ethics of a shared common humanity are features of many of our different cultures and religions.  

My own continent Africa includes some of the most pluralist societies in the world, with a diversity of tribal, ethnic, cultural and religious groups, different traditions, and people that are divided along urban and rural realities. 

Pluralism is the DNA in the United Nations. The Charter, our founding document, refers to "We the peoples" of the United Nations, and says who are "determined to practice tolerance and to live together in peace with one another as good neighbours". 

Today, I will not add to the philosophical debate around pluralism. I believe the argument has largely been fought, and won - although we must always remain vigilant. 

But while the theoretical argument may be over, we still have a long way to go before we can say that our world is living up to this promise. In some cases, there are historical and cultural obstacles or a lack of knowledge or misunderstanding; in others, it is a question of political will and I may even say today the generation gap.

What I would like to talk about today is the gap between the words and the actions; between the ideal of pluralism, and the policies and strategies that will enable us to reap its benefits in our daily lives. 

I would like to link pluralism to the work of the UN on the ground, around the world, promoting human rights, inclusion and respect for diversity - the only way, I believe that we can leave no one behind and effectively address the global challenges we face and further peace and prosperity for everyone. 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, friends,

In the framework of the UN , and our current Global Agenda - the Sustainable Development Goals - we have embedded the principle of inclusion, a word that is largely synonymous with pluralism. In fact one of the 17 goals is dedicated to building peaceful and inclusive societies. I would say that the two are not separate, but the societies are more peaceful because they are inclusive. We have growing evidence that greater diversity and inclusion, particular in relation to the inclusion of women, is correlated with higher GDP, more responsive governments, better bottom lines, greater stability, and more sustainable peace and development. But if the business case for inclusion is clear, certainly today we would say that our actions fail to reflect this. 

While many leaders may pay lip service to inclusion, the fact is we are living the consequences of exclusion. Intolerance, exclusion, the need to dominate, a lack of respect for difference are deeply rooted in many of our policies and systems - political, economic and social. 

We have created a world in which, according to recent analysis, by 2030, the richest one percent of people could control two-thirds of the planet's wealth. Economic and, in many cases, political power is often concentrated in the hands of the few. The rights of women and girls, and of minorities and marginalised people of all kinds, are routinely disregarded. In many cases those in power hang on by any means for far too long, and often I believe out of fear of themselves being excluded.

Inequality is at extraordinary levels and is growing, both within and between our countries. After a decade of decline, the number of chronically hungry people in our world recently began to rise again - despite there being abundant food for everyone. 

We have created a world in which we define security as the enforcement of borders, exclusion of others, and amassing of weapons. We see this in the estimated $1.8 trillion in military spending just last year, a fraction of which would provide dignity and opportunity for the most vulnerable. 

We have created a world in which there is growing ethno-nationalism, intolerance, discrimination and violence that targets women, our mothers, our sisters, our grandmothers, minorities andmigrants, refugees and anyone that is perceived to be different or "other". Civic space is shrinking; basic rights are under attack; things we have often taken for granted; activists and journalists are targeted; misinformation campaigns and hate speech spread like wildfire on social media. 

Hate speech is moving into the mainstream in many countries and regions - liberal democracies and authoritarian states alike. Constitutions that are founded on pluralism and respect for difference are undermined as different groups and minorities are attacked. 

Access to information is curated individually, so that we are living atomised lives, in our own echo chambers, where news and advertising reflect and reinforce our presumed perspective of the world. Unless we ourselves choose to seek out others, we may not be exposed as we have been before to alternative viewpoints and arguments that challenge our beliefs. 

Attacks on places of worship are some of the most egregious examples of a lack of respect for each other and for our common humanity, and they are rising. In the past few months alone, we have seen horrific attacks in mosques in New Zealand, in churches in Sri Lanka and in synagogues in the United States. 

Record numbers of people are on the move around the world, fleeing conflict, drought, poverty and a lack of opportunity. At the same time, refugees and migrants are attacked both physically, and rhetorically, with false narratives that link them with terrorism and scapegoat them for many of society's ills. 

Millions of women and girls face insecurity and violations of their human rights every day. Violence is used to enforce patriarchy and gender inequality and police women's role in our society. Excluding half our population not only affects our mothers, daughters, and sisters; it affects every one of us and distorts our societies and economic systems. 

We have created economies that value sometimes dubious or even destructive activities, but place zero monetary value on the daily work that happens in our homes - where the very production and reproduction of the quality of our society occurs. 

We see the same devaluing of the foundations of society in our longstanding treatment of our natural environment, our homes. Trees are worth more as construction materials than they are standing in the forest. Deforestation, overfishing, climate change and pollution are causing unprecedented damage to our natural safety net, but they are driven by the logic of economic models and incentives. As a result, we now face an existential crisis as a species, and are directly responsible for the threat to one million other species who may be pushed to extinction in the next few years.

The climate crisis is wreaking havoc on some of the most vulnerable countries and regions, while others continue to burn fossil fuels and add to greenhouse gas emissions. No one would light a cigarette today in a room where a child is struggling to breathe, but developed countries are contributing to conditions that are causing droughts and floods halfway around the world, with complete disregard for the rights of others. We have lost sight of our common humanity and our interdependence - on each other, and on the planet that gives us life. 

I would like to stress that none of this has been an accident. It is the end result of systems that have been built by men--and I am going to underscore men here because if we had had women in charge we probably would not have been in the same mess--largely based on the basis of exclusion, marginalisation and discrimination; and of the prioritisation of short-term profits for a few over the long-term rights and interests of all future generations. 

It is clear that we need a fundamental reordering of our priorities, and a reorganisation of our economic, political and social systems, if we really are to reap the benefits of inclusion and save ourselves and our planet from further inhumanity and degradation. 

Excellencies, friends, ladies and gentlemen, 

We are living in troubled times, and many many headwinds. The news, however, is not all bad. There is plenty of evidence that global efforts have worked, and that further damage to societies and our planet can be prevented and reversed. After all, as I have said just a little earlier, it was, and is, manmade.  

As Stephen Pinker has argued, our world is getting better - but not as quickly as we might hope. So, much of the evidence that we see for progress is not catching up with the reality of the challenges and we are, in many cases, just flatlining. Violence has steadily declined over time and life expectancy is up, extreme poverty is declining, and literacy is at historically high levels. There is greater awareness of human rights, and in some countries at least, minorities of all kinds enjoy greater legal protection than ever before.

Let's take the Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer. This international treaty entered into force in 1989, after climatologists discovered a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Since then, the hole has gradually started recovering and projections indicate that the ozone layer will return to 1980 levels between 2050 and 2070. This is global cooperation.

The Millennium Development Goals, and as His Highness reminded me I was not very pleased with them, but I, in the end, embraced them as the baseline and not the ceiling of where we wanted to go to. They were agreed by all countries in 2000. They created one of the most successful anti-poverty movements in history; at least in my country we benefited from a savings of a billion dollars a year that we were able to put into people's lives. They have helped to lift more than a billion people out of extreme poverty, to make inroads against hunger, to enable more girls to attend school than ever before, and to protect our planet. The MDGs generated new partnerships and galvanised public opinion, reshaping decision-making in developed and developing countries alike. 

Global pluralism, in the form of multilateralism, achieved these things. And I believe it can achieve so much more. 

Since the founding of the UN, there has been wide and growing recognition that major challenges cannot be solved by countries acting alone. As we face a growing number of issues that do not respect national borders, from climate change to spreading conflict and outbreaks of disease, we need regional and global institutions more than we have ever done before, and this I believe to strengthen our collective response.

But multilateralism may be a victim of its own success. We have stopped seeing it as a priority and an evolving challenge that we need to tend, promote and reinvigorate. We have started taking it for granted. We see this in societies and communities that are turning inward, forgetting the lessons of the past. Global institutions must hold the line for global values. And to do so in these institutions, as well as our partners, we need to transform. To be fit, as I would say, for purpose in the 21st century. 

His Holiness the Pope has spoken of the globalisation of indifference. And I believe that we must replace that with the globalisation of solidarity.

Four years ago in 2015, as we reached the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, the UN initiated and coordinated a global conversation about our priorities. All countries agreed that we needed to do better. 

This resulted in an agreement by all of our 193 countries of the United Nations to the 2030 Development Agenda - our transformational roadmap for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships over the next 15 years. Already we are four years into that. 

This shared agenda reflects an important paradigm shift. The Sustainable Development Goals are human-centred, they are interconnected. More importantly they are universal, integrated, inclusive and mutually reinforcing. No goal stands alone; each goal is inextricably linked with the rest for its full implementation. Although I must say I do take goal five and make that as the docking station for 16. It is so important to our humanity.

It does reflect the reality of development challenges on the ground, where people living in poverty and hunger are also the most likely to suffer from poor access to quality housing, education, healthcare, water and sanitation. A girl is less likely to attend school, for example, if her parents cannot afford to pay for school supplies, or if she does not have secure housing. 

The 2030 Agenda addresses these issues together, tackling the root causes in a much more holistic way. The Sustainable Development Goals were prepared by all countries, requiring contributions from all - including developed and developing countries - and we will improve the lives of all, so that in the end no one is left behind. 

The emphasis in the 2030 Agenda on inclusion and interdependence, as well as a moral obligation to the most vulnerable members of our society through the principle of "leaving no one behind" does offer a counterweight to the forces that are leading increased polarization, tribalism, social fragmentation. They are a conscious effort to build and replenish the world's democratic infrastructure, our relationship, social contract and obligation to each other. 

The ultimate ambition of the 2030 Agenda is a world that provides dignity for all, well-being and opportunity - qualities that do not come under the GDP measure that we have, but that are finally being recognised as critical measures of successful governance. The introduction of quality of life and wellbeing considerations into many budgets around the world and the country is one of those that we believe is an encouraging sign for our human family. 

The 2030 Agenda will require shifts in mindsets, to go beyond GDP to how we also measure our wellbeing. It will require a reprioritisation of economic systems so that they improve the lives and make them much more meaningful. The main requirement is the political will in the leadership to push through changes in the governance of our economies and trade systems to make them more inclusive and equitable. 

While the SDGs are global, they also reflect both universal values, local and traditional cultural institutions and traditions. To take one example, we can see the values of the Islamic faith, my own faith, reflected in many of the goals which stress environmental justice, nature and the interdependence of things. 

The UN itself is changing to support countries as they take this ambitious global project, being fit for purpose. We are reforming under the leadership of Antonio Guterres the Development System, and also the peace and security so that we are better-placed to help governments and accompany them in delivering on the 17 transformational goals and targets. From providing access to technical expertise to reaching global agreement on the financial arrangements that will be critical to success, the UN is at the heart of helping to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. 

We are reforming to ensure more diverse representation, a new gender parity strategy for recruiting and retaining women staff at all levels, particularly in leadership, that we have parity already in our management and greater efforts to ensure much more equitable geographic representation, meaning that all persons of the world should be part of the United Nations and be actively represented in the leadership at the country level. We are just months away from achieving parity in our senior leadership for the first time in seven decades. We will be 75 next year. We need to lead by example and demonstrate the importance of diversity and inclusion that reflect the reality of our world. 

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, friends, 

That is the big picture. But it will only succeed if each and everyone of us, individually and collectively, would become a part of this effort. 

Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals must start from every space in which people connect: the family, the community, the workplace, schools and medical clinics, small businesses, media, academia.

It is here that we will need to make the radical shift needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda - a shift in mindsets away from accumulation by a few and exclusion of the many, to a paradigm based in interdependence with each other, and with our environment. A shift in policy solutions that are based on mutual gains rather than the zero-sum thinking, and from a definition of security that is based on an ever-increasing stock of weapons and stronger borders, to one that is based on resilient societies and mutual respect for each other and particularly our planet. 

This shift needs to start from our education systems. And as we discussed over the last two days, education is one place that we really need to rethink how that happens for us in our world today. We continue to build schools of bricks and mortar and to teach rote learning uncritically from outdated textbooks. We are preparing our young people for a world that has passed, rather than the use of technology, critical thinking skills, well-being, and the ethic of shared responsibility needed for the world of today and of tomorrow. 

While the 2030 Agenda is global and all-encompassing, it will require actions at every level. It particularly needs the leadership and the guidance of faith-based and philanthropic institutions who work with the local, national and regional levels but exist in many international levels, who can re-instill a sense of our common humanity. 

The philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah has written of membership of "a family, a neighbourhood, a plurality of overlapping identity groups, spiraling out to encompass all humanity." This concept asks us to be many things, he says, because we are just that many things. 

I am very familiar with these ideas. My personal story is one of multiple identities, from Nigeria to the United Kingdom and back again, from the private sector to government and the United Nations. 

I am an African mother and a grandmother, and I have to tell you that my children, Nigerian, British, Syrian, and it goes on, Brazilian grandchild, I am also a former government minister, one that I never thought I would be, I always wanted to go home and implement the SDGs, but to be given the ministry of Environment, which in my country was considered for want of a better word "the dustbin lady", it was really only about waste, but for within 18 months Nigeria producing for the continent the first national domestic green bond and I heard last week that we just had the second and again it was over subscribed, so the impossible can become possible. So, as a former government minister, a survivor of gender-based violence, a faithful Muslim, the granddaughter of a Presbyterian minister; and the second-highest international civil servant I am humbly in the world. I also received a basic education. And I think this is important because often we do not look back in history to see what is it that created the sense of insecurity that we have today, the conflict, the terrorists. But my basic education was in Neduguri. Neduguri is a town in the Northeast of Nigeria where today Boko Haram thrives. Where a chard hardly exists, for its shrinking and so we see the exacerbation of poverty, climate change.

While Anthony Appiah and I may be the poster children for pluralism, we all embody many different identities. The growth of DNA-testing proves this in the most literal way, but it is also true socially and culturally. There is no homogenous culture in our world; there are simply those that are more and less honest about their history. And I am happy to say that our hosts today, Portugal and Canada, are amongst the most honest and I congratulate you for that, this is the kind of leadership that we truly need today.

Portugal, the seat of the Ismaili Imamat, has made many significant contributions to openness, to diversity and pluralism in our world. Portugal's history of discovery, of reaching out and connecting, has a central place in its culture. The Iberian Peninsula was for many centuries a battleground between two of the world's three major religions, and this has left a legacy of interdependence and a deep respect for cultural difference. 

I cannot talk of course about Portugal without referencing our Secretary-General, my colleague, my friend Antonio Guterres, a proud Portuguese citizen, I can tell you that, who never fails to remind us of your country's special and unique qualities, and sometimes on a bad day at the UN its food! Wants to come home! But this is not just to him, I have to tell you that even I look for Nigerian food some days in the UN.

I would also like to mention Canada, host of the Global Centre for Pluralism, as a leader with respect for diversity, honoring the values of pluralism in its institutions, across the entire fabric of its culture. Canada's pluralist national identity is reflected in its approach to welcoming refugees and is fundamental to the relationship between Canada and His Highness the Aga Khan and of course, the Foundation. No society is perfect. Most, if not all, nations have forged their borders through war or conquer, leaving a set of historical injustices that really do challenge our identities. It is how these challenges are confronted that makes clear its values. 

Canada's efforts to address their own relationship with the indigenous First Nations people in a spirit of honesty and reconciliation, and difficult as that can be, is one example of this leadership. 

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the Aga Khan Development Network and the institutions, for its work on behalf of some of the poorest and most marginalised communities in the world. You combine a strong ethical foundation with respect for the environment and a commitment to supporting societies in which every citizen, every person, regardless of cultural, religious or ethnic differences, can reach his or her full potential, truly showing the strength in diversity

The approach to supporting all members of a community so that everyone is stronger as a result, exemplifies the words of His Highness the Aga Khan, who once said that pluralism is not simply an asset, or a prerequisite for development, but a vital necessity for our existence. And I agree wholeheartedly. You have been a consistent voice promoting pluralism, inclusion and respect for diversity over the decades. We need you now more than ever. So, if you were just thinking of retiring, no ...!

And I really do thank you for your commitment and look forward to working with you, the Foundation, the Global Centre for Pluralism, and for many of you that we already started with some very, very powerful partnerships who are in the room today and hope that we can broaden that base because there is never a time like now to try to make what seems incredibly impossible with the headwinds that we face. We need to face realities boldly with courage. We need to see the aspirations as doable because we have the means. And in the end we need to come together to close that gap and we need to continue to give hope to those many that today would be hopeless. It is possible, as Nelson Mandela said "it becomes possible after you have addressed how impossible it is, you make it happen." And I think we can make that happen. So thank you so much for giving me the honour to speak with you today. 

Thank you. 

speech_232411 <p dir="rtl">"ما أود التحدث عنه اليوم يتمثل في الفجوة بين الكلمات والأفعال؛ بين المثل العليا للتعددية والسياسات والاستراتيجيات التي ستمكّننا من جني ثمارها في حياتنا اليومية".</p> English
Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad Graduation ceremony Hyderabad, India Tuesday, 28 May 2019 1558791900 Speech by Sam Pickens at the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad Graduation ceremony speech India 2010s 231806 1 Aga Khan Academies graduation ceremonies Education

Director of Academies, Salim Bhatia
Head of Academy, Dr Geoffrey Fisher
Distinguished guests
Good evening parents and Class of 2019

I am neither a celebrity nor a VIP, so I would like to start by listing my qualifications to give this talk. I grew up in south India when Indira Gandhi, Rahul’s grandmother, was in power. MGR, whose action films I loved as a boy, was Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. I studied the miridungam.

I went to a residential school in India rather like yours. I was an ambitious young man and went to study literature in the United States. I then moved to Switzerland. Along the way, I worked in publishing, in marketing for the commercial sector and in communications for the Aga Khan Development Network. I published two books on the cultural history of Morocco. I had two sons. My first wife died. I suffered a heart attack. I remarried and added two more sons. I am almost 60 years old.

So this serendipitous but full life suggests I should have learned a variety of important things along the way and therefore have something to impart to you, as graduation speakers tend to do, something valuable – an approach to life that may speak to you.  

At this pivotal moment in your lives, I would like to impress upon you the importance of being ethical throughout your life. I have learned in my life that it is far better – for your own self and for society – to do the right thing, even when the right thing is hard to do.

Since many of you will now go on to higher education, I would like to start by talking about an experiment at Princeton Theological Seminary, in the United States, in the 1970s. The experiment is about the Good Samaritan story, which is about someone who is beaten up by thieves and left for dead. He is ignored by others, but then someone stops and tends to the beaten man. You might already know the story, as it has become a standard in many societies. There are laws that are, appropriately, named “Good Samaritan” laws…   But back to the Princeton story.

After telling everyone that they were to write an essay about the Good Samaritan, students in this particular class were told that they had to go over to the other side of the campus and present their essays. Some were told to hurry; others were told that there was plenty of time.

As they made their way across campus, a man who appeared to have been beaten up by thieves and possibly dying was placed in their path.  

The experiment was to see who would stop and help the man – who would be the proverbial “Good Samaritan”. The researchers found a correlation between the haste of the students and the percentage of people who helped the man. Students in a hurry did not stop often: Only 10% helped the man. 40% of the students who were not in a hurry helped the man.  

Perhaps most surprising is that 60% of the students who had time to help did not stop to do so.

The research begs the question: Is it more important to help another human being … or to help yourself?  I would argue that in the era that we now face, it is more important than ever to be the person who takes time for a stranger in need – the person who does the right thing. This is at the heart of being an ethical person.

So how exactly do we define what it means to be an ethical person?  My parents, a surgeon and a nurse, provided a quiet, humble example. The Golden Rule, which suggests that you  should treat others the way you would like to be treated, is another example. A guide that has attracted me is the ethical framework of the organisation I work for - the Aga Khan Development Network.

The first ethic contained within in it is Compassion. It says that the “poor, the deprived and those at the margin of existence have a moral right to society's compassion". Think about that revolutionary principle: Poor people have a moral right to compassion. This principle applies to many places and things: Hospitals and schools, for example, as well as the conduct and work of government, of NGOs, of businesses.

The related conclusion is that compassion should be applied in ways that do not compromise a person’s dignity. We must respect a person’s dignity and avoid creating a culture of dependency by giving. I am reminded of Amartya Sen, who published “Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation” in 1981.

In studying the Bengal famine of 1943, during which 3 million people died, Sen felt that the famine did not occur only because there was a lack of food, but because of the inequalities of food distribution. It was a landmark contribution to the study of famine. It is important to note that after that famine, some people in the Indian government worked out these inequalities in distribution and saved many millions of lives in the process. There have been no GREAT famines like the Bengal famine in India since Independence.

Working out these solutions requires smart people – and I would count each one of you among that group. Be grateful for the intelligence that has got you to this point in life. Remember that being an ethical person includes taking care of your bright mind and your mental health. Many of you are going on to lives that will be important to all of us. Your brain is your gift to the world.

Your responsibility, as smart people, is also to be involved in the issues of the day. To do this effectively, you must have the leadership skills, the wisdom and the knowledge – not to mention a clear mind – to make the decisions that impact the lives of millions of people – in India, and around the world.

The Academy has been put here, I believe, for that purpose. Society is best served when it provides the space and the means for human beings to reach their fullest potential, regardless of their background. Education, and research, are the means by which individuals and societies reach that full potential. This school is therefore a means for you – and society at large – to reach both your – and its – full potential.

I should add that, in my experience, maximising everyone’s potential is best achieved in societies that welcome diversity – so we need to advocate for diversity. When we do not celebrate diversity, we are shutting out certain people who may contribute something vital to society. In the Upanishads, it says, “when he sees all creatures within his true Self, then jealousy, grief and hatred vanish.” In the Quran, it says that humankind has been created from a single soul, as male and female, communities and nations, so that people may know one another. The greatest commandment for Christians is to “love your neighbour as yourself”.   

A diverse and inclusive society also means one we can live in. Simply put, we should not ruin the planet. It is vital, now more than ever, to change our thinking about how our decisions impact the environment. I was pleased to run into kids from the junior school campaigning against the use of plastic.

If we want to save our home and leave your generation with a wholesome and sustainable social and physical environment, we need your help. Your solutions will help us get out of this mess. I am pleased to say that I met several students yesterday who I think can, and will.

And when we arrive in a position of power to do something – when we have the means to save our planet, or to have a positive impact on our world – it is our responsibility to not only act, but to be good trustees of resources that are meant for the benefit of others. We should be trustworthy and accountable.  

I think I have covered the ethical framework that guides our work.  

But back to the Good Samaritan story. People usually focus on the story, but they do not look into the person who helps. Did you know that Samaritans, who were once a fairly large group of people, were killed when they rebelled against the Byzantine Empire?   Conversion to Christianity and Islam reduced their numbers even more. By the 12th Century, their numbers had dwindled to less than 2000 worldwide.  

But their story of selflessness lives on. Think of the Good Samaritans of more modern times, like Ghandi, or Nelson Mandela. We are attracted to these people because they embody what it means to be ethical in life. They chose to do the right thing and made great sacrifices in the process …

They advanced the common good rather than in helping themselves. They did not choose what was easy; they chose what was right. It is that spirit, of giving generously of oneself, that will make our world a better place.

As His Highness the Aga Khan said over 40 years ago:

“We have all seen examples of God’s most wonderful creature, the person, whether in a government bureau, a business, or a private development agency, who is inspired to give generously of himself, to go beyond the mechanical requirements of a task. Such men and women, paid or unpaid, express the spirit of the volunteer, literally the will to make a product better, a school the best, a clinic more compassionate and effective. Their spirit, generating new ideas, resisting discouragement, and demanding results, animates the heart of every effective society.”

I think the messages in that quote are clear:

  • be an ethical leader
  • be humble
  • and give generously of yourself.

As I conclude these thoughts and congratulate you on your impressive achievements and bright futures, I thought I would connect you back to how I began this speech, which was a recitation of the ups and downs of my life. Most people will live lives that contain both good times and bad times. So I would like to leave you with a little Rumi, the great 13th century Persian poet. This is a poem I have sent to my own sons when they have faced challenges in life - when they did not get into a particular university, or failed at a job interview or were not getting along with their girlfriend – and I hope that it will inspire you, on both the good days and the bad, as you continue on your own path. It is called “The Guest House”:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

(translation by Coleman Barks (The Essential Rumi))

Thank you.


speech_231811 English
Aga Khan Academy Graduation ceremonies in Hyderabad and Mombasa Mombasa, Kenya & Hyderabad, India Monday, 27 May 2019 1558795500 Speech by Salim Bhatia at the Aga Khan Academy Graduation ceremonies in Hyderabad and Mombasa speech Kenya 2010s 225076 1 Aga Khan Academies graduation ceremonies Education

Distinguished Guests, families, colleagues and members of the Graduating Class of 2019,

This year, I have the privilege of congratulating our 159 graduates in Hyderabad and Mombasa, who will hopefully indulge me as I take advantage of this opportunity to share a few thoughts while they are still officially Academies’ students.

Before doing so though, I would like to recognise some of the very important people who have made this day possible for our graduates.

Clearly, that starts with His Highness the Aga Khan and his vision for this ambitious programme of an integrated network of Academies, launched just over fifteen years ago.

His Highness’ remarkable vision has enabled, and will continue to enable, meritorious students to access education of the highest international standard, regardless of their culture, religion, language or family’s financial circumstances.

I would like to recognise our Heads of Academy – Alison Hampshire in Mombasa for whom this is the first Academy graduation and Dr Geoff Fisher in Hyderabad for whom this is the fifth and last, as he goes on to pursue new adventures in the up-coming school year.

I would like to recognise our teachers, school leaders and support staff. Their work in our classrooms, on our playing fields, around the campus, in workshops and at meetings, all has one essential goal – to ensure that our Academies’ students receive the best education we can give you, including through the latest innovations in teaching and learning.

Beyond the Academy gates, we are grateful for the commitment our parents have made, not only to their own children’s minds and futures, but also to the betterment of the societies in which they live.

We also sincerely appreciate our alumni, our volunteers and other supporters here and across the globe whose generous gifts of time, knowledge and financial assistance for the Aga Khan Academies mean that we can realise His Highness’ vision to select and support talented students to attend our Academies, independent of their families’ means.

Please join me in thanking and applauding all of these people who have helped make today a reality for our 2019 graduates.

Today, at our Academy in Hyderabad or here in Mombasa, one of these 159 Academies’ graduates will be the one thousandth young person to receive an Aga Khan Academies’ diploma. I’m sure that you will agree that one thousand is a pretty impressive number, and one thousand graduates represents a significant achievement for our growing network.

Our culture recognises the value of one thousand as being more than simply a number change from three digits to four.

One thousand is considered a major milestone.

In time, we call it a ‘millennium’.

In money, we call it a ‘grand’.

In science, it even has its own prefix – ‘kilo’.

We say that a successful person is ‘batting a thousand’,

that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, and

that ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’.

Of course, a favourite of both parents and teachers alike seems to be, “if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times...”

To be honest with you, I could have looked at our list of graduates in Hyderabad and in Mombasa, taken into account the precise timing of the graduation ceremonies, and figured out exactly which one of you is number one thousand.

However, I did not do that, because one thousand is not one of you, it’s all of you.

One thousand is not impressive because of the one that takes the number from 999 to one thousand but because of all of the individual ‘ones’ that built up to one thousand and the immensity it represents as a total quantity.

When thinking about our Academies’ graduates and this milestone in our development as a network, I couldn’t help but think of American author C.S. Lewis who first wrote the phrase a “thousand points of light”, which later re-emerged in popular culture in a speech by former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.

In both instances, the “a thousand points of light” referred to the stars in the sky. A thousand points of light – it’s such a vivid image, and we can all picture in our minds the beauty of a starry night, with all those points of light, against the backdrop of the infinitely dark sky.

The more I thought about it though, and the more I thought about you, our graduates, the less I felt that those thousand points of light in a faraway night sky represented you.

While vivid and beautiful, when I stand here on the ground, the sky seems so far away. And when we study the sky in astronomy, we realise those points of light are even further away than we see with our eyes.

However, you, Academies’ graduates, are not far away. You are here.

Some of our previous graduates are also here with us today to celebrate this momentous occasion.

In all of you, I do not see far-off points of light but instead nearby beacons of hope.

  • Beacons of hope who have been educated to the highest of international standards.
  • Beacons of hope who, while highly talented and meritorious, demonstrate personal humility in their thoughts and deeds.
  • Beacons of hope who not only respect, but also embrace, diversity.
  • Beacons of hope who are making a difference in the countries where they are studying and then returning home to make a difference there.
  • Beacons of hope who are living alongside their neighbours and fellow citizens, trying to make this planet a better place for all, wherever they may be.

You are not points of light that simply add beauty to the darkness but beacons of hope who possess a social conscience and lead by example.

You are beacons of hope who inspire, encourage and care.

Graduating in this Class of 2019, which includes the one thousandth Academies’ graduate, is especially exciting since the next big milestone like this will be 10,000 Academies’ alumni.

And, while that is closer than we think with Maputo and Dhaka soon graduating students, it still seems far away.

But, really, beyond being a big number, what does reaching one thousand Academies’ alumni really mean?

As His Highness the Aga Khan said at the 2013 inauguration of the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad, “Our engagement in education has been a long, continuing story. It is a hopeful and exciting story, a story of expanding impact all around the world.”

If we look at one thousand Academies’ alumni with regards to expanding impact, this impressive number means that we visibly have a critical mass.

For those of you who have studied physics, you will recall that a critical mass is the minimum amount of material needed to maintain a nuclear chain reaction.

As you know, the business world has co-opted the phrase to refer to the minimum size required to maintain a venture.

For our network of Aga Khan Academies, a critical mass means that we now have enough alumni out in the world continuing in their tertiary studies or in employment, to diffuse and prove the concepts that first inspired His Highness the Aga Khan’s vision for our schools.

It means that you, our beacons of hope, are putting into practice what you have learned as members of the Aga Khan Academies about the values we hold dear, including pluralism, ethics and civic engagement.

Graduates, I conclude my remarks today by challenging you to take that social conscience that you have developed as an Academies’ student to wherever your path may take you.

Your parents, your teachers, your fellow classmates, as well as those who have come before you and those who will follow you – all of us, in fact – are counting on you.

You will shape the future of our society and world, and we all have great faith in your ability to rise to that challenge and make a positive impact on humanity.

You, members of the Class of 2019, give us hope. Congratulations to you all!

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Resilient Housing Challenge in Geneva, Switzerland Geneva, Switzerland Wednesday, 15 May 2019 1557759600 Speech by Prince Hussain Aga Khan at the Resilient Housing Challenge in Geneva, Switzerland speech Switzerland 2010s 9221 1 Habitat Aga Khan Agency for Habitat Habitat

Friends and colleagues from the United Nations,
The World Bank,
and various other international organisations and NGOs,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here today and see the fantastic results of the Resilient Home Challenge.

At the Aga Khan Development Network we have worked for decades to respond to innumerable earthquakes, avalanches, floods, and landslides. The countries that fall in the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat’s remit have suffered 847 major disasters over the last 28 years, accounting for over 243,000 lives lost. As all of us know, these disasters often cause families to lose their most valuable asset: their home. Time and again we have worked to put people in tents in the response phase, then in shelters, to keep them warm and safe during winter. Each time we found that it was very difficult to find affordable and practical solutions to the logical next step: to put them in new homes so that they could resume their normal life.

As we all know, natural disasters are increasing in both frequency and severity because of climate change. They have become more devastating than in the past. Both in mountainous and coastal areas, effects are especially strong. While the coastal impact is well known, and gets lots of publicity, as was the case with Cyclone Fani just ten days ago, the same is not true of mountainous areas. Yet, the same hill a villager might have heard from his grandfather was the site of  a devastating avalanche or flood in the past, now seems to cause trouble every few years. And glaciers that were there forever, now pose immediate threats of glacial lake outburst floods that wipe away people’s homes and livelihoods. The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat was created specifically to find ways to deal with these increasing threats. Its mission is to find innovative ways to address the threat of natural disaster and work to make communities resilient, building on the decades of experience of various AKDN agencies.

It was therefore an easy decision for us to partner with the World Bank and others in support of the Resilient Home Challenge. Creating contextual, affordable and easy-to-build home designs is one of many important steps toward a more effective approach to disaster preparedness, response and reconstruction.

I want to thank in particular my friend Saurabh Dani, who started the Challenge, as well as all those who contributed innovative designs, including those we can see here today. I also want to assure all of you that the AKDN, and in particular the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat is keen to develop future partnerships to help us meet the challenge of keeping communities resilient and as safe as possible from natural disasters.

Thank you very much.

speech_231396 <p dir="RTL">"لذلك كان قراراً سهلاً بالنسبة لنا أن نتشارك مع البنك الدولي ومع آخرين لدعم التحدي في إنشاء منزل يتسم بالمرونة. يُعتبر إنشاء تصميمات منزلية ملائمة من حيث السعر، وسهلة البناء من الخطوات العديدة الهامة نحو اتباع نهج أكثر فاعلية في الاستعداد للكوارث والاستجابة لها وإعادة الإعمار".</p> English