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Board of Directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism

Wednesday, 2010, October 6

The inaugural Board of Directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism brings together a group of eminent individuals representing diverse backgrounds and experiences.

His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary spiritual leader (Imam) of the Ismaili Muslims, and founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). Over the past 40 years the AKDN has grown to encompass development agencies, institutions and programs with mandates ranging from health and education to economic development and the revitalization of cultural heritage. All AKDN programmes are conducted without regard to the faith, origin or gender of the people they serve. The Aga Khan has emphasized the view of Islam as a thinking spiritual faith, one that teaches compassion and tolerance and that is inherently pluralistic.

Princess Zahra Aga Khan is the Head of the Social Welfare Department with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), where she has policy and management responsibility for the health, education, and planning and building services institutions, including Aga Khan Foundation. She is on the Board of Trustees for the Aga Khan University. Over the course of her career, she has been particularly active in ventures to promote economic empowerment and self-reliance amongst women in South Asia. Princess Zahra is the eldest child of His Highness the Aga Khan. She holds a degree in Development Studies from Harvard University.

Kofi A. Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, serving from 1997 to 2006. While at the UN Mr. Annan established the Peacebuilding Commission and played a central role in the creation of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. He championed responsibility of states to protect people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Mr. Annan was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace jointly with the United Nations. Since leaving the UN, Mr. Annan has continued to advocate for better policies to meet the needs of the poorest, particularly in Africa. Mr. Annan is the Chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation.

Iain T. Benson is a lawyer, writer, lecturer and consultant. He is a Senior Associate Counsel for Miller Thomson LLP and is Professor Extraordinary in the Department of Constitutional Law and Philosophy of Law, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. His writing on the nature of the “secular” and “secularism” has been cited with approval by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Constitutional Court of South Africa. For several years he has been one of eight members of a Continuation Committee to create the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms.

The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson, PC, CC, CMM, COM, CD, was Canada’s 26th Governor-General from 1999-2005. She was the first visible minority Canadian to occupy the position. Originally born in Hong Kong, the Rt. Hon. Mme. Clarkson and her family settled in Canada as refugees in 1942. She has had an impressive career in the arts as a journalist, novelist, publisher, public servant and television personality, and has received numerous honorary degrees. Her interest in Canada’s North framed much of her tenure as Governor-General as she attempted to forge stronger ties between Canada and northern aboriginal people. Since her time in office she has published an autobiography, Heart Matters and founded the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) with her husband, the author and scholar John Ralston Saul.

Yash Ghai is the head of the UNDP Constitution Advisory Support Unit in Nepal. Formerly he was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia. Mr. Ghai has had an international academic career as a professor of law and as a constitutional expert, beginning with the establishment of East Africa’s first law school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In 1989, he was appointed Professor of Public Law at the University of Hong Kong. He has advised many countries on draft constitutions, including Afghanistan, Iraq and his home country Kenya, where he was chairman of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission from 2000-2004.

Rudyard Griffiths is the Executive Director of the Centre for Civic Engagement, as well as the director of the Munk Debates and the Grano Speakers Series. He is a co-founder of the Historica-Dominion Institute, and sits on numerous boards including the Canadian Institute for Citizenship. In 2008, he was appointed Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the Canadian Forces College. He is the author of Who We Are: A Citizen's Manifesto, and the editor of numerous books on Canadian history, politics and international affairs. Mr. Griffiths is a columnist with the National Post and co-host of the daily Business News Network television show Squeeze Play.

Appointed Chancellor of the University of Ottawa in 1994, Huguette Labelle holds a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Ottawa, and has honorary degrees from a number of Canadian universities. Dr. Labelle was president of the Canadian International Development Agency from 1993 to 1999. From 1973 to 1993 she held several senior positions within government. Among other activities, she chairs the board of Transparency International, is an external advisor to the Implementation of the World Bank Governance and Anti-Corruption Strategy and sits on the World Health Organization’s Migration Technical Working Group. Dr. Labelle has been awarded the Companion to the Order of Canada for her work.

Dr. Azim Nanji is the Senior Associate Director for the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford University. He previously served as the Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies for ten years (1998-2008). He has also held a number of academic and administrative appointments at various American and Canadian universities, and has been the recipient of awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Canada Council, and the National Endowment for Humanities. Dr. Nanji has served as Co-Chair of the Islam section at the American Academy of Religion, and on the Editorial Board of the Academy's Journal. He is currently preparing the Historical Dictionary of Islam to be published by Penguin Press.

Professor Margaret Ogilvie is Professor of Law and Chancellor’s Professor at Carleton University, Ottawa. Dr. Ogilvie is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1993) and a recipient of the David W. Mundell Medal (1996) for legal scholarship, the Law Society Medal (2001) from the Law Society of Upper Canada, and numerous honourary doctorates in recognition of her contributions to the legal profession, both in Canada and abroad. She has served on several boards in the not-for-profit sector in Canada, such as the Centre for Cultural Renewal. In 2008 she was invested into the Order of Ontario in recognition of her lifelong achievement as an educator and legal scholar.

Khalil Shariff is Chief Executive Officer of Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC). Prior to joining AKFC, Mr. Shariff was a consultant with McKinsey & Company where he advised governments, financial institutions, and health care providers on strategy, organization, and operational improvement. He is a graduate, J.D. magna cum laude, of the Harvard Law School. Mr. Shariff served on AKFC’s National Committee for five years, and has cultivated his interest in international development and conflict resolution issues through a variety of activities including as: Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Negotiation Law Review, and Policy Co-ordinator and Research Associate, Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research.

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