Entries with content relating to ‘Peace & Conflict’, in chronological order.

Introductory quotes below may not be reflective of the theme selected.
Click here for extended quotes from the theme selected.
Click here for short quotes from the theme selected.

Round Table Discussion with the Press at al-Azhar Park’s opening (USA, United Kingdom, Canada)

The message of [Cairo’s] skyline is the question of whether the inherited institutions and the presence of places of worship are important, or whether it is the urban growth that is going to dominate people’s perception of city life?

The Western world has gone through the same process: church towers became insignificant buildings. That may not be a healthy way of going about things; it may send a message about the wrong values. Here if you look around, you see the mosques, the places where the dead are buried, you see new glass and concrete buildings that are not very good. I think it is important to protect what one has; that is urban planning.

For example, at Bagh-i Babur [Babur Gardens] looking towards Kabul, you say to yourself, God forbid that the skyline should change; it has kept its human dimension; its symbolic spaces are visible. There are ways to modernise cities while keeping their historic values. The West is also working on this, fortunately.

Read more »

DD TV (Delhi Doordarshan) Interview, Rajiv Mehrotra (New Delhi, India) ·· incomplete

I think one of the specifics of Islam is that you live your faith. And you are not one day in your faith and the next day out of your faith. It is a permanent presence. It is a presence which brings you happiness. It brings you objectives in life and therefore, I don’t think that one can make this sort of dichotomy. It is a permanency of thought, of attitude, of ethics…. It’s not that if you are in a meeting on a given issue, that you forget that behind these decisions you are taking are the ethical principles of your faith. And they have to be there all the time. Whatever you do….

[Democracy] is a form of government is now becoming very prevalent. But it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily good government. It doesn’t mean that it is necessarily government which is effective for the people that it is supposed to serve…. But the bridge between the notion of a modern democracy and issues of public consultation, meritocracy, these are all issues which bridge Islamic ethics and modern governance. And that is a very important area which I have been working in.

Read more »

Keynote Address to the Annual Conference of German Ambassadors (Berlin, Germany)

I would like to focus today on what I believe are three essential pre-conditions for the successful transition of the poorest areas of the world into modern, peaceful societies. They are:

  • First, stable and competent democratic governance;
  • Second, an environment that respects and encourages pluralism;
  • And third, a diverse and engaged civil society.

In my view, these must be critical components of any global development policy. Not only are they mutually reinforcing, they also permit developing societies to gradually become masters of the process and to make that process ultimately sustainable.

Read more »

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Convocation Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

Whatever definition is used, a quality civil society is independent of government, pluralist and led by merit-based educated leadership. Not only does Canadian civil society eminently meet these three criteria of being non-governmental pluralist and merit-led, I know of no country where civil society is more empathetic with the needs of civil society of the countries of Africa and Asia in which I have been working for some 45 years. I have, therefore, asked myself, not once, but hundreds of times, if and how Canadian civil society can mobilise its resources more vigorously to help improve the quality of life of the peoples of Africa and Asia.

Read more »

Keynote Address to the Governor General’s 2004 Canadian Leadership Conference: ‘Leadership and Diversity’ (Gatineau, Canada)

[D]emocracy cannot function reasonably without two preconditions. The first is a healthy, civil society…. The second precondition is pluralism….

The rejection of pluralism is pervasive across the globe and plays a significant role in breeding destructive conflicts. Examples are scattered across the world map: in Asia, in the Middle East, in Africa, in Europe, in the Americas. No continent has been spared from the tragedies of death, of misery and of the persecution of minorities. Are such high-risk situations predictable? If the answer is, “Yes”, then what can be done about them, to pre-empt the risk that the rejection of pluralism will become the spark that sets human conflict aflame? Is the onus not on leadership, in all parts of the world, to build a knowledge base about such situations and consider strategies for preventing them? For, I deeply believe that our collective conscience must accept that pluralism is no less important than human rights for ensuring peace, successful democracy and a better quality of life.

A secure pluralistic society requires communities that are educated and confident both in the identity and depth of their own traditions and in those of their neighbours. Democracies must be educated if they are to express themselves competently, and their electorates are to reach informed opinions about the great issues at stake. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to pluralism and democracy, however, is the lacuna in the general education of the populations involved.

Read more »

Address to the Berlin Conference ‘Afghanistan and the International Community – A Partnership for the Future’ (Berlin, Germany) ·· incomplete

Social and economic reconstruction must be based first on the engendering of hope and trust in new, realistic opportunities [and the need to] build for the continuity of such efforts by the beneficiaries themselves.

Read more »

Aga Khan Academy, Kilindini, Opening Ceremony (Mombasa, Kenya)

In the long history of the Ismaili Imamat’s engagement with education, covering well over a 1000 years and numerous countries past and present, few days can have been as important as this one….

As the young men and women from this Aga Khan Academy, and over time from its sister schools, grow and assume leadership in their societies, it is my hope that it will be members of this new generation who, driven by their own wide knowledge and inspiration, will change their societies; that they will gradually replace many of the external forces that appear, and sometimes seek, to control our destinies. These young men and women, I am sure, will become leaders in the governments and the institutions of civil society in their own countries, in international organisations and in all those institutions, academic, economic and artistic that create positive change in our world. It is my strongest hope that you who carry on the great mission of teaching them will take pride in the confident, resilient minds that you have nurtured.

Read more »

2003 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

[AKU] must continue to expand its programmes of research. The true sign of maturity and excellence in a university is its ability to contribute to the knowledge of mankind, in its own society and beyond. It is equally essential that its faculty be challenged, as a matter of university policy, to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. Any vestige of dependence is cast off, any suspicion of a young scientist or scholar that he or she may sacrifice intellectual excitement by leaving the West is allayed, when a university becomes known for generating new ideas, making new discoveries and influencing events….

Much AKU research, however, will focus on pressing issues of public policy. This naturally follows the precepts of Islam, that the scientific application of reason, the building of society and the refining of human aspirations and ethics should always reinforce one another…. So important is this growing research capacity and informed discourse with policy makers, that the university must strengthen its public policy commitment…. AKU will pledge its energies and imagination to advancing effective public policy.

Read more »

Reuters Interview, Penny MacRae (USA) ·· incomplete

Baghdad is one of the greatest historic cities of our globe and therefore what was there [and lost in the war] was totally irreplaceable…. [T]here are few cities in the Islamic world (than Baghdad and Damascus) that you could damage which would be more painful [to Muslims].

Read more »

Restored Humayun’s Tomb Gardens Opening Ceremony (New Delhi, India)

In the troubled times in which we live, it is important to remember, and honour, a vision of a pluralistic society. Tolerance, openness and understanding towards other peoples’ cultures, social structures, values and faiths are now essential to the very survival of an interdependent world. Pluralism is no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for progress and development, it is vital to our existence. Never perhaps more so than at the present time, must we renew with vigour our creative engagement in revitalising shared heritage through collaborative ventures such as the project we are inaugurating today.

Read more »

Vist to Kazakhstan; ‘State Award for Peace and Progress’ Presentation Ceremony (Astana, Kazakhstan)

Kazakhstan has the potential to guarantee stability across the Central Asian region. By carefully positioning and investing its human and material resources, the country can help assure both social harmony and economic prosperity in one of the world’s most vulnerable regions…. I firmly believe that peace will be possible only when the pluralistic nature of human society is recognised, seen as a source of strength rather than weakness, and used as a basis for the formulation of policies and structures at all levels of governance.

Read more »

New York Times Interview, Dana Micucci (New York, USA) ·· incomplete

Philanthropic initiatives cannot be contemplated exclusively in terms of economics, but rather as an integrated programme that encompasses social and cultural dimensions as well….

[Strengthening pluralism] is critical to the development of peace and humankind in the 21st century. [But] we must educate for it.

Read more »

Bishkek Global Mountain Summit Keynote Address, Plenary Session (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)

AKDN’s work in mountain communities has shown that attention to a combination of critical elements at the field level can make a powerful difference. These factors include: working with or creating community organisations that can progressively operate on their own; providing matching funds for community level infrastructure projects, selected and built in large measure by the community; supplying credit and improved inputs to agriculturalists; and providing technical assistance to support agriculture and construction projects.

Read more »

Prince Claus Fund Conference on Culture and Development, Concluding Address (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

[T]he strengthening of institutions supporting pluralism is as critical for the welfare and progress of human society as are poverty alleviation and conflict prevention. In fact all three are intimately related…. The actions to enhance pluralism have to be matched in the developing world by programmes to alleviate poverty because, left alone, poverty will provide a context for special interests to pursue their goals in aggressive terms…. [Emphasis original]

Is it not high time — perhaps even past time, that a systematic effort be undertaken to document “best practices” by looking closely at the array of public policies and structures that support pluralism in particular national settings? As lessons are extracted and models identified, should not a process be put in place to share them widely for replication? Should not this effort reach out to as many countries as possible, and in as many organisational and institutional settings as can be mobilised? …

My hope is that society as a whole will not only accept the fact of its plurality, but, as a consequence, will undertake, as a solemn responsibility, to preserve and enhance it as one of its fundamental values, and an inescapable condition for world peace and further human development. [Emphasis original]

Read more »

Aga Khan Development Network and Government of Afghanistan ‘Agreement of Co-operation for Development’ Signing Ceremony (Kabul, Afghanistan)

Referring to “exploratory work for investments in telecommunications and in tourism,” the Aga Khan saw these as “stimulating a multiplicity of ancillary industries at the same time as serving an urgent need in the hospitality industry.” A major national initiative in micro-credit to promote entrepreneurship and build capital is under consideration with the possible involvement of the International Finance Corporation.

“[I]n each of these areas where we feel the greatest need for capacity building, we have been extremely conscious of the fact that opportunities must be created for women. This is why we are targeting women as major beneficiaries with regard to the income generation activities related to agriculture, the training of nurses, the professional education of teachers and for receipt of micro-credit.”

Read more »

Globe and Mail Interview (3rd), John Stackhouse and Patrick Martin (Toronto, Canada)

I have to tell you this is my own direct experience, many, many of these situations [of conflict] can be avoided [if] addressed in good time. Many of them. And I really assure you that this is the case. These pockets of extreme poverty, of frustration, of fear of some of these minorities, can be addressed by a direct, focused programme to bring them back into civil society so that they understand that they are not isolated and thrust outside the context of national mainstream.

And it is amazing how much can be done if you will go in with economic support, social services, dialogue, bringing communities together, focusing on hope in the future rather than looking backwards in despair. That looking backwards in despair is probably one of the most divisive forces that you will ever find in Third World countries….

I think that when you look at the development process, its strength is based on the people’s will to work for themselves. That’s clear. And we’ve seen that.

Read more »

CNN Interview, Judy Woodruff (USA)

I think there is a much better understanding of the sensitivity of these conflicts and how they become internationalised, how they go far beyond the frontiers of the area. I’m thinking of places like Sri Lanka, and I’m thinking even Northern Ireland. It’s not just the Islamic world. It’s these conflict situations which pollute and the disease just grows and grows and grows. And I think the lesson is that the civilised world today has to be a lot quicker to go into those areas and try to find workable solutions.

I am talking about diplomatic and economic solutions. Many, many of [these] issues or these areas are caused by communities who feel victimised who feel they are unable to achieve justice and so they turn to rebellion. Armed rebellion. And many of them really have historical roots. If you look at the Philippines, that situation’s been there since the mid-60s. You look at Kashmir, you look at the Middle East, you look at Northern Ireland — these are all situations which have been there for much too long, in my view.

Read more »

International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan (Tokyo, Japan)

His Highness the Aga Khan would like to announce today a multi-year financial commitment, which will be no less than U.S. $75,000,000, to enable the Aga Khan Development Network to conceptualise and implement a recovery, reconstruction and long-term development programme that will span many regions of the country. It will range in scope from agriculture-based rural development; food and seed security; rehabilitation of capital infrastructure; to the provision and upgrading of health and education services from the primary to the tertiary levels; institution and capacity building especially at the community-level; and the restoration of the cultural heritage for social inclusion. In this task, we will draw on our long experience, going back some 25 years, of the neighbouring region, including post-conflict Tajikistan, and the extreme poverty and inter-communal tensions of the isolated mountain regions of Northern Pakistan In all these areas, we will continue to work closely with other members of the international community.

Read more »

Philip Jodidio Interview (1st) published in Connaissance des Arts, ‘Bridging the Gulf’ (Paris, France)

The press, at least, gives the impression that similar radical attitudes exist in other Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia.

You are right. There are parts of the Muslim world where those tendencies are present and parts of the Muslim world that have sustained the Taliban. That just goes to confirm that there is no unanimity in Islam with regard to this form of interpretation. Generally speaking, you will see as much diversity in the Islamic world as you do in the Christian world today. That is one of the big problems. The West does not really understand the pluralism of the Islamic world. Things will continue this way.

The Islamic world has been exposed to your pluralism; we have been colonised for decades. We know a certain amount about the different interpretations of the Christian faith. Take the example of the Iranian revolution. Was the word “Shia” in the common language of the Western world before that? If you went around the West and asked what the difference between the Shia and the Sunni interpretations is, how many people could answer? Reverse the question, go into the Muslim world and ask what basic differences there are between Catholicism and Protestantism, for example, and many people would know. There is a gulf of misunderstanding, which is very deep indeed. It is very damaging because the Western world tends to interpret things on the basis of a lack of information and understanding of what is really happening.

Read more »