Unless a continuous, problem-oriented discussion about the practical issues of development of the Third World continues and unless good, effective solutions are found, the majority of the world in the next 10 to 25 years is going to be increasingly instable and demanding.

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Interviewer: Michael McDowell

28 April 1983: The Aga Khan’s Mission

His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, who claims direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad and is the spiritual leader of 15 million Ismaili Muslim across the world, is an elegant figure of 46, who speaks softly and answers questions in an ordered style.

The Harvard-educated prince acknowledges that he has little time for “misconceptions” about his lifestyle.

It is the gap between the rich nations of the North and the poor countries of the South — the so-called “North-South dialogue” — which preoccupies 95 per cent of his time, he said.

If the Western media have certain misconceptions, it has not, until recently, been a matter which concerns me because I am answerable to the Third World and not to the media.

(He added:) Unless a continuous, problem-oriented discussion about the practical issues of development of the Third World continues and unless good, effective solutions are found, the majority of the world in the next 10, 25 years is going to be increasingly unstable and demanding.

The interview was the only one he would grant while in Canada. It took place in his spacious suite in Toronto’s King Edward Hotel.

(The prince is visiting Canada’s 30,000-strong Ismaili Muslim community as part of his silver jubilee tour celebrating his accession to the Imamat. He leaves Toronto today for Boston.)

… He said that more nations are questioning whether they were right to totally nationalise education and health, rather than keep some part of both services private.

The Aga Khan rejected the suggestion that his philanthropy could be seen as the paternalism of a rich man and said that it was his policy and that of his foundation staff to undertake extensive consultation, working closely with the governments and people concerned, after carrying out surveys of schemes.

3 May 1983: Prince with a Purpose

… The Harvard-educated prince, reared in both Eastern and Western traditions, is a dedicated bridge-builder between North and South. In a recent interview with this newspaper, he warned:

Unless a continuous, problem-oriented discussion about the practical issues of development of the Third World continues and unless good, effective solutions are found, the majority of the world in the next 10 to 25 years is going to be increasingly unstable and demanding.

His emphasis is on “the practical,” and he is encouraged, as are we, by the observation that many developing nations now are looking at the management of their economies from a more practical perspective. The doctrinaire socialism of the early post-colonial years is less in vogue (witness India) and nationalised industries are being regarded more sceptically by Third World elites.

I am not willing to say that the same economic philosophy can be applied to all the developing countries

the Aga Khan cautions, lest anyone jump to the conclusion that he is embracing Ronald Reagan’s “magic of the marketplace” as the panacea for Third World ills.

What I am willing to question is whether genuine performance and efficiency standards … are not today a lot more part of economic thinking.

SOURCES

  • Globe and Mail, The Aga Khan’s Mission, 28 April 1983, pp 6
  • Globe and Mail, Prince with a Purpose, 3 May 1983, pp 6

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