the East African
Regional News
Monday, April 25, 2005

Canada gives $23.7m boost to Aga Khan's Centre for Pluralism

The EastAfrican

The Aga Khan last week welcomed the announcement by the government of Canada of its intellectual, institutional and financial contribution to become a partner in the new Global Centre for Pluralism in co-operation with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).

Founded by the Aga Khan and to be based in Ottawa, the Global Centre for Pluralism will be a non- denominational, not-for-profit Canadian organisation with global reach. The government of Canada said in Ottawa on April 18 it will contribute CAD$30 million ($23.7 million) to the Centre. The initial investment by the AKDN will be CAD$40 million ($31.6 million).

"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 realise his or her full potential as a citizen, irrespective of cultural, ethnic or religious differences."

The Aga Khan – the spiritual leader 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 organisations.

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, media, financial services, health and education.

The Global Centre for Pluralism will undertake research, deliver programmes, 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.

Meanwhile, Hilde F. Johnson, Norway's Minister of International Development, and the Aga Khan have signed an agreement to enhance collaboration on development issues and programmes in Africa, Central and South Asia.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the government of Norway and AKDN will explore and strengthen co-operation in the areas of culture, health and education, rural development, capacity building, human resource development and economic recovery.

The Aga Khan thanked the government of Norway for its continued collaboration with the AKDN. "I am very pleased about the partnership that this agreement furthers – a partnership grounded in common principles of human security, conflict prevention, cultural promotion and community development," he said. "This agreement builds on a 20-year-long relationship and sets in place a framework for future growth."

Ms Johnson elaborated on the aim of the collaborative agreement, stating, "The Norwegian government views the Aga Khan Development Network as a 'likeminded' development actor. Both believe in democratic governance and empowerment of the poor."