18 April 2005
"Canada has for many years been a beacon to the rest of the world for its commitment to pluralism and for its support for the multicultural richness and diversity of its peoples," said the Aga Khan. "Canada has embraced pluralism as a foundation for strength and growth. Therefore, I am extremely pleased that the Government of Canada under Prime Minister Paul Martin's leadership has joined us in this important global venture."
The mission of the Global Centre for Pluralism will be to promote pluralist values and practices in culturally diverse societies worldwide to ensure that every individual has the opportunity to realize his or her full potential as a citizen, irrespective of cultural, ethnic or religious differences. His Highness the Aga Khan -- the spiritual leader (Imam) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim community and founder of the AKDN, the world's largest, private international development network -- has promoted pluralism for many years as an "integral component of peace, security and human development."
"Tolerance, openness and understanding towards other peoples' cultures, social structures, values and faiths are now essential to the very survival of an interdependent world," he said. "Pluralism is no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for progress and development, it is vital to our existence." The Aga Khan has described Canada's experience with pluralism as "a global asset which must be shared for the benefit of the world."
The decision to locate this permanent AKDN institutional capacity in Canada's capital city was therefore a natural one and was the result of consultations with and encouragement from Canadian Heritage, CIDA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several NGOs, community groups and religious organizations. The Global Centre for Pluralism will draw from Canada's successful record in constructing and sustaining pluralist civil society. Working closely with governments, with academia and with civil society around the world, the Centre will seek to foster legislation and policy to strengthen developing countries' capacity for enhancing pluralism in all spheres of modern life: including law, justice, the arts, the media, financial services, health and education.
The Global Centre for Pluralism will undertake research, deliver programs, facilitate dialogue, develop pedagogical materials and work with partners worldwide to build the capacity of individuals, groups, educational institutions and governments to promote indigenous approaches to pluralism in their own countries and communities.
The mission of the Centre is consistent with several key Canadian international policy objectives, among them the promotion of democracy and good governance, a more equitable sharing of the world's resources between developed and developing countries, and the projection of Canadian values, such as the rule of law, human rights and respect for diversity.
His Highness the Aga Khan has observed, "pluralist societies are not accidents of history. They are a product of enlightened education and continuous investment by governments and all of civil society in recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the world's peoples." The Global Centre for Pluralism will be a long-term, multifaceted and robust collaboration between Canada and the AKDN in support of these goals.
Founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, the AKDN is the world's largest private international development network. The Network's agencies and institutions undertake a wide-ranging, humanitarian agenda of social, economic and cultural development work -- with individual mandates ranging from education and health to architecture, rural development and the promotion of private sector enterprise.
For several decades, the AKDN has actively fostered social cohesion among multi-ethnic, multi-faith communities in a way that protects and enhances unique cultural identities. Operating in over 30 countries -- in many of the poorest areas of Asia and Africa, which are also among the most ethnically, religiously and linguistically diverse societies in the world -- AKDN programs and initiatives in each setting are open to all without regard to ethnicity, race, gender or religion.
The Government of Canada and the Aga Khan Development Network have a longstanding and successful partnership that extends across many fields and countries. For example, for more than 20 years, Aga Khan Foundation Canada has been an important partner with the Canadian International Development Agency in a series of development programs ranging from rural development in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Tajikistan, to early childhood education in East Africa.
For further information: please contact: Media Profile, Patrick Gossage, Susan Reisler, Myra Reisler, (416) 504-8464; Note: Firoz Rasul represents the Aga Khan Foundation in Canada. He is in Ottawa today and will be available for phone interviews. Secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan, Aiglemont, 60270 - Gouvieux, France, Telephone: +220.127.116.11.40.00, Fax: +18.104.22.168.42.79, E-mail: email@example.com, Website: www.akdn.org; Aga Khan - Foundation Canada, 360 Albert Street, Suite 1220, Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7X7, CANADA, Telephone: (613) 237-2532 ext 109, Fax: (613) 567-2532, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org