Partnership worth emulating

Business Recorder; Feb 5, 2002

EDITORIAL : The opening of World Economic Forum in New York last Thursday, with a marked change in outlook on international economic co-operation, may make many feel as if the industrialised West was seized with a vague vision of a silent revolution.

This, of course, has reference to articulation of a seemingly new, revolutionary, thrust in the rich nations' policies and programmes. For one, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, echoing ideas of some other speakers from among the 2,500 participants, declared that United States stands committed not only to fighting terrorism but also to battling poverty and hopelessness that tend to breed terrorism.

He asserted that it needs to be ensured that "as we fight terrorism using military means and legal means and law-enforcing and intelligence means, we also have to put hopes back in the hearts of the people who might move in the direction of terrorism, that there is a better way."

Evidently, in so saying he had more eloquently voiced a discernible change in their attitude, as apparently sparked by the urge to demonstrate, in its own way, that the developed world is genuinely interested in the developing world.

It will be noted that economists and business leaders converging this time on terror-stricken New York, instead of the usual rendezvous in Davos, appeared influenced by an understandable consciousness right in the thick of a global emergency touched off by the ghastly events of 11 September. On the very first day of the five-day mammoth moot, they seemed to have derived consolation from the perception of capitalism having survived the big blow, threatening its very existence.

However, the focus seemed to have shifted on to the urgency of averting wider spread of the cult of terrorism, as spurred by perceptions of discrimination on political, religious and ethnic grounds. All this, put together, would point to the need of launching a sagacious revolution with a view to ensuring lasting peace and security all over the world.

However, coming at the heels of Prince Karim Aga Khan's official visit to Canada, the urge for a big change will serve as a reminder of what they should have started doing much earlier.

This, of course, has reference to the outcome of a strongly motivated journey of the revered leader of a Muslim sect to Canada at the invitation of Prime Minister Jean Creitien.

For, at the end of the short visit, the two leaders called for an increased commitment to fostering pluralism in societies across both the developing and the developed worlds.

Notable, in the present day context, is the Aga Khan's expression of gratitude to the Canadian Government for "an outstanding partnership," obviously referring to the programmes on which the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) have worked together over the past twenty years.

Having closely reviewed the progress of the quiet revolution they have been waging all this long in Africa and South Asia, they felt encouraged enough to extend it further in Central Asia and Afghanistan.

It is noteworthy also that prior to his Canada visit, the Aga Khan had a meeting with Hamid Karzai, head of the Afghan interim administration, stressing respect for the rights of each ethnic and religious group in the emerging new Afghanistan.

Earlier, at the Tokyo Pledging Conference he had committed $75 million to the reconstruction effort in the war-devastated country. An idea of how Canada values his contribution to balanced, purposeful, development in a fast changing world may be had from the Prime Minister's laudatory remarks on his arrival in Ottawa.

This should be evident from reference to his contribution, among other things, to the advancement and stability in Asia and Africa while promoting Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith that teaches compassion.

Contrasted with the philosophies and functioning of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and similar other outfits, such honest recognition to Aga Khan's services will certainly be seen as beckoning the presently harassed world leadership to emulate the example set by this hope-inspiring partnership.

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