June 26 2004
TORONTO, Canada: Prince Karim Aga Khan has called for a "wide civil society partnership" between the developed world and the developing world, saying that it was "especially critical where governments are weak or non-performing, as in situations of failed democracies or post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction."
He was addressing the convocation of the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, after being conferred with an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree in recognition of his outstanding contributions to community service, higher education and philanthropy. "The nature of the true regime change we need," said the Aga Khan, "is where the civil society of the industrialised world gives wide and encompassing support to that of the developing world."
Noting that civil society was broadly defined to cover "a wide array of organisations that have a presence in public life but are not affiliated to the state," the Aga Khan said that it "embraces an even wider diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms that vary in their degree of formality, autonomy and power." "Whatever definition is used," he said, however, "a quality civil society is independent of government, pluralist and led by merit-based educated leadership."
Canadian civil society, said the Aga Khan, both met these criteria and was empathetic to the needs of civil society in countries of the developing world. "Canadian civil society can mobilise its resources more vigorously to help improve the quality of life of the peoples of Africa and Asia," he continued, by "sharing the many forms of human knowledge and experience that create, and then sustain a civil society of quality" rather than by the massive injection of monetary resources.