21 May 2004 Friday
01 Rabi-us-Saani 1425

Aga Khan underscores need for democracy

OTTAWA, May 20: Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili community and founder of the Aga Khan Development Network, has outlined the need to recognize the fragility of democracy as a form of governance , its virtues in advancing human development, and the necessity for a better understanding of the Islamic world.

In his keynote address at the 2004 Governor General's Canadian Leadership Conference here, the Aga Khan said: "The new issue that demands the attention of the international community is the need to create stable states with self-sustainable economies and stable, inclusive forms of governance."

Describing "a world of increasing dissension and conflict," he attributed the cause in significant measure to "the failure of different ethnic, tribal, religious, or social groups to search for, and agree upon, a common space for harmonious co-existence."

The theme of the conference is "Leadership and Diversity" and it is being attended by 200 future leaders from across Canada. Governor General Adrienne Clarke attended the opening session.

The Aga Khan pointed out "the startling fact that nearly 40 per cent of the UN member nations are failed democracies," and elaborated on three notions that he saw as essential in "creating, stabilizing and strengthening democracy around the world.... meritocracy, pluralism and civil society."

"Perhaps, the greatest obstacle to pluralism and democracy, however," he said, "is the lacuna in the general education of the populations involved." "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."