Despite all the hype, the UN-sponsored world summit on sustainable development in South Africa in August could not introduce any real constraints because they would have meant re-examining globalisation. So could sustainable development just be a pretext for maintaining a growth that must be, by nature, destructive to the environment?
By Sadruddin Aga Khan
THE dogma of sustainable development is inherently misleading, and now deludes us the way that the flat earth theory once did, but with implications far more dangerous for our future survival. Despite all the rhetoric about basic needs and poverty alleviation, the number of people in extreme or absolute poverty increases over several decades officially dedicated to development. Sustainability has become a pious invocation, rather than the urgent call to action it should be.
Those who promote sustainable development often do so while pretending to provide benefits to the poor nations of the South. Yet 80 countries now have per capita incomes lower than they had a decade ago, and the number of people living in poverty, defined as under a dollar a day, is stuck stubbornly at 1.2bn, while almost 3bn earn less than two dollars a day. On a daily wage of a dollar would take 109 years to earn what an international footballer receives in a day.
Sustainable development has been diverted by business, which has equated it with sustainable growth - an oxymoron that reflects the conflict between a mercantile vision of the world and an environmental, social and cultural vision. It has become a mantra for big business and multi-national corporations, unwittingly encouraging the gradual take-over of the environment movement by "corporate realists". Terms like environmentalist or conservationist are now used even to describe those who indiscriminately clear forests or kill animals for their skins; these activities are obscured by dubious euphemisms such as "yields", or the "harvesting" of natural and wildlife resources.
Sustainable development has also evolved into "sustainable use" - a euphemism invented by the "wise use" movement to hide activities which are the very reverse of wise. The formulation facilitates destructive use, and it has infiltrated key international events, including the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora and the International Whaling Commission (IWC). So sustainable use of marine resources means killing whales and sustainable use of native wildlife has created a multi-million dollar bushmeat industry, particularly in Africa. Those who believe in it hope to convince impoverished Africans and Asians not to kill wildlife for the equivalent of several years’ wages, while rich European and American trophy hunters kill the same animals for fun.
Some conservationists who consider themselves serious and scientific have distanced themselves from ethical causes such as fur and circuses, which are reserved for emotional idealists. But whaling’s economic sustainability does not make it desirable or ethically acceptable. In a speech to IWC delegates, the assistant director general of Japan’s fishery agency - who is also Japan’s IWC commissioner - revealed that Japan had fishing agreements with eight countries and has spent $400m in aid: fishing for votes.
Every year, businesses from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries pay huge amounts to win friends, influence and contracts. These bribes are conservatively estimated at $80bn a year, roughly the amount that the United Nations has suggested is needed to eradicate global poverty. The trade in banned animal products is second only to that in illegal narcotics, and has become a lucrative and low-risk sideline for international crime syndicates, as enforcement is lax and discovery rarely involves more than a nominal fine. Already the trade has pushed species such as tigers and rhinos to the verge of extinction. Sustainable development fosters the corporate takeover of governance.
He who pays the lobbyist
Perhaps the new maxim is he who pays the lobbyist calls the tune. Just look at the corporate quid pro quo exacted after George Bush’s election as United States president. Richard Parsons, head of Time-AOL, speaking at the world economic summit meeting in New York, declared (with no hint of anything worrying in the statement) that: "Once the church determined our lives, then the state, and now it’s corporations." We hear constantly of the advantages of a market-based response to the world’s ills - philanthropy, self-regulation, corporate social responsibility and voluntary codes of conduct. None of these is an acceptable proxy for state responsibility, policy and control.
Even the UN has acceded to this through initiatives such as the global compact with 50 of the world’s biggest, most controversial corporations (1). As the Guardian commented, the UN "appears to be turning itself into an enforcement agency for the global economy, helping Western companies to penetrate new markets while avoiding the regulations which would be the only effective means of holding them to account. By making peace with power, the UN is declaring war on the powerless."
The sustainable development philosophy has also fostered the abhorrent notion of "sustainable consumption", which is sustainability as redefined in Orwellian newspeak. After the Brundtland Report (2), sustainable development means not a continuation of present growth patterns, but a five to ten-fold acceleration of it.
Eight hundred million people suffer from malnutrition while a small percentage of the world’s population crams fast food. The food industry is a good example of consumerism, global disparities and the breakdown of governance. The opening of a great world market in the name of free trade, the rules of the World Trade Organisation and the disposition of grants, all promote the consolidation and centralisation of the food industry: 60% of the international sector in food is controlled by 10 companies dealing in seed, fertilisers, pesticides, processing, manufacture and shipment.
There are now more than 200 treaties on the environment, three-quarters of which have been ratified during the last 30 years. But the commitments made with such publicity in Rio and elsewhere mostly remain a dead letter. Worse, the effectiveness of these agreements is too often undermined by vague commitments and lax enforcement.
I wonder if it is not already too late for sustainable development. Many processes underway are probably irreversible. Climate change won’t wait while we procrastinate for conclusive scientific data. Perhaps the time has come to impose a moratorium on new scientific or technological innovations that have potentially negative implications for the planet and people.
Science, or what we should increasingly call corporate science, always seems to be on the verge of a major breakthrough which, however ominous it may sound, will be accompanied by reassuring noises about its potential to cure cancer, reverse climate change or end world hunger if only we keep the research grants flowing.
Can’t we identify a new direction? One which places greater emphasis on regeneration rather than sustaining an untenable status quo; on sound stewardship rather than development and pursuit of growth? Stewardship goes beyond mere economic values, important as these may be, by restoring equilibrium and emphasising the environmental, ethical and spiritual values that are vital to any true and viable civilisation.
The Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund for the Environment is a centre for environmental activities, formed by the merger of the Bellerive Foundation and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF).
Currently, the Fund's resources are fully deployed in the implementation of selected projects. It therefore is not accepting unsolicited proposals. Further information can be found on the Prospective Grantees page.
The Fund’s activities include natural resource management and security against natural risks such as landslides, rural development in fragile natural environments and related programmers in the fields of health, housing and the built environment, education and the strengthening of civil society. The Fund’s activities highlight the linkages between poverty and the penury of natural resources. It promotes the management and development of sustainable natural resources through education, area development and related research that addresses existing issues in the developing world. The intention is to assist populations that are most threatened by their natural surroundings, while working to protect fragile ecosystems that are vulnerable to the effects of poorly planned human activity. Another goal of the Fund will be to enhance natural environments that can be made more productive.
The Fund strives to maintain the values, philosophy and expertise of the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan and the Bellerive Foundation, the international environmental NGO he founded in 1977 and chaired along with his wife, Princess Catherine.
Writings of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan; A Friend of Endangered Species, the Vulnerable Habitat and the Monk Seal
Editor’s note: The late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 – 2003) had a particular fondness for the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal. Mr. William M. Johnson, editor of the on-line journal The Monachus Guardian, which is dedicated to “Monk Seals and their Threatened Habitats,” had the pleasure of accompanying the Prince on several of his visits to Greece. Below we publish an excerpt from Mr. Johnson’s tribute to Prince Sadruddin, uncle of the current 49th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The excerpt from the obituary is followed by two other interesting pieces which were written by Prince Sadruddin - the first guest editorial for The Monachus Guardian on the subject of the monk seal, and a Preface to Johnson’s book The Rose-Tinted Menagerie, which reveals the history of the exploitation of animals in captivity for public entertainment and profit. Simerg is deeply indebted to Mr. Johnson for permission to produce these pieces here. Links are provided at the end of the post to the original articles as well as the unabridged on-line version of The Rose-Tinted Menagerie.
I was reminded this morning of a very gracious and kind person I had met whilst working in Switzerland, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. I was working working for a multinational at the time and we were expecting a visit to our trade show booth at a trade fair in Davos. I did not know what the prince would look like, but I was expecting an entourage of some sort. While I was waiting for the prince's party to arrive, a gentleman dressed in tweed and with a very British accent approached me and started to ask me questions about our display. He was delightful to talk to and enormously interested in what we were doing. I needed some shots of our stand and since we were getting on so well asked him if he would mind being in them. He very kindly agreed. I noticed that our booth was starting to fill up with people and for some reason many of them were trying to get into the photos I was taking. I didn't think too deeply about this, just found it rather strange. When the impromptu photo session was done, I shook the gentleman's hand, thanking him for being such a good sport. After my visitor had left the booth I wondered aloud when we could expect the prince, only to be told that I had spent the past half hour talking to him! I will always remember how kindly he treated me and how gracious he was. Later we would be introduced more formally and I would go on to help him raise funds for his Alp Action charity. Prince Sadruddin was born a prince, but he was also a prince among men. RIP.
Saving the World One Art Poster at a Time
Posted: 1/20/12 10:59 AM ET
Art is a powerful emotional tool for creating awareness and fostering a commitment to change the world, even if each print makes just a small dent. Think Uncle Sam's "I Want You For The U.S. Army," Apple's "Think Different" and the "Wonderful Copenhagen" poster with a police officer helping a mother duck across the street with her small ducklings. If you want to disseminate information quickly and engage people, thought-provoking art posters are an effective medium.
The "Save The Alps" poster, designed by Per Arnoldi, the Danish designer, artist, and TV and radio host is one such encouraging story. The "Save The Alps" story illustrates how two men engaged the financial elite and made an important and visible difference in a mountain world.
At the World Economic Forum's meeting in Davos, Switzerland, 1990, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, then president of the Bellerive Foundation, solicited Arnoldi to create a limited series art poster to elicit funding for saving the Alps. While mountains may look strong, theirs is a very fragile environment. At that time, there were an estimated 40,000 ski runs throughout the seven Alpine countries, carrying 1.2 million passengers to summits every hour during the peak season, and all this activity was threatening the Alps. Exhaust fumes from the traffic going to and from ski resorts were killing off the wildlife and plant life and fifty percent of the trees were dying, causing soil erosion. As a consequence, trees were being cut down increasing the risk of avalanches. Something had to be done to save the Alps and to make the tourism there sustainable.
What Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan and Per did was both very clever and different. Instead of asking wealthy people to save all the Alps, they broke the momentous job into manageable bites to which people could relate. They called upon the elite to save a specific valley stream from pollution, clean up a selected distance of road, plant trees on a mountainside or fence off a vulnerable area. The sponsor would then knew where their money had gone, so, instead of spending a million dollars to "Save the World" the sponsors could see what they achieved, feel good and brag about it a little. "See, I saved a plant that had almost disappeared," or, "I brought back a butterfly that had nearly vanished."
Per created a beautiful and provocative art poster that depicted a dark blue mountain, framed by a medium blue sky, with a strong contrasting melting white mountaintop. As you close in on the poster, you notice the melting peak's texture and see Per's actual fingerprint all over the white top. The pattern creates a sense of roads, streams and sand erosion patterns in the virgin snow. Man has symbolically and quite literally touched something he should not have touched and if you smudged the mountain, well, it is up to you to right that wrong.
The world is too convoluted for anyone to understand fully. Therefore, we depend on our pattern recognition skills to make sense of it all. Overriding our thinking, we make emotional decisions and then back them up with logic to justify our actions. In this instance, art distilled a complex message to its essence and communicated it to us though visual storytelling and that has made all the difference to a beautiful mountain such as Mont Blanc.
encouraging young people to bring about positive change in their local and global communities
The Earth Focus initiative began in 1992, through a partnership between students and teachers of the International School in Geneva and Bellerive Foundation, with the encouragement and support of the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, as a simple newspaper. It was conceived as a voice for young people, to empower them and stimulate positive action – encouraging young people to become involved in key local and global issues.
Our aim is to provide young people throughout the world with a forum for discussion and serve as a catalyst for action. The magazine Earth Focus has been described as “one of the hardest hitting environmental publications in circulation at the moment”  . The Earth Focus Foundation, founded in Geneva, Switzerland, by Princess Catherine Aleya Aga Khan, the widow of the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, continues to work on developing projects for young people.
Understanding of global issues provides a basis for opinion and the ability to take appropriate action. Opinions form and fix in young minds, so awareness-raising among young people is particularly important, especially when working with schools that educate future opinion leaders and key influencers of society, from diverse social, economic, cultural and educational backgrounds. Young people have the passion and energy to turn opinion into action. The purpose of this project is, therefore, to encourage and assist young people, particularly opinion-leaders of the future from diverse backgrounds, to become empowered and participate assertively in educational, humanitarian, environmental and citizenship-related debate.
An ambitious environmental education centre for sustainable development and human rights is planned in Geneva.
The new centre, which is to focus primarily on education, is the brainchild of the Earth Focus Foundation, a Swiss non-profit organization set up by Princess Catherine Aga Khan in 2005. The ambitious plans include a greenhouse, a planetarium, an aquarium and several conference rooms, newspaper Tribune de Genève reported.
“In this city, there is a lot of knowledge and experience in sustainable development. It must be shared with the world in order to effect the necessary changes to save our planet,” Earth Focus vice-president, Nicola Spafford Furey, told the newspaper.
The project will include tourist attractions such as an aquarium with both marine and fresh water species, and a large greenhouse, which will have exhibits demonstrating the benefits of different farming methods. There will also be a concert hall and a planetarium.
Non-governmental organizations and other businesses will also be offered office space, and it is envisaged that certain shops in the complex will sell organically farmed and fair-trade products.
The costs for the project are estimated to be 200 million francs ($216.4 million), with operating costs of approximately 22 million francs ($23.7 million) per year.
A location for the site has yet to be confirmed, but is likely to be around the town of Lancy, just west of Geneva city.
Man in the middle ... Sadruddin Aga Khan, second from right, at his wedding to Nina Dyer in 1957, straddled the Islamic and Western worlds with skill and aplomb.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, UN high commissioner, 1933-2003
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who has died aged 70, was the uncle of Karim Aga Khan IV, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Shia Muslims, and was himself a philanthropist, collector of Islamic art and the holder of several senior humanitarian posts at the United Nations.
Sadruddin was both the youngest and longest-serving UN High Commissioner for Refugees, taking over the post in 1965 aged 32 and remaining for 12 years. He was praised for the way in which the UN handled major refugee crises in Biafra during the Nigerian civil war in the 1960s, and in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Chile.
Sadruddin was a gentle, urbane man, popular among UN staff and international diplomats. He described himself as "having a foot in the East and a foot in the West". Although Western in appearance, for small dinner parties with his wife Catherine he liked to wear a jellaba. He was just as easy in the company of Islamic as western leaders and was a friend and tennis partner of the senior President George Bush.
After stepping down from the UNHCR in 1977, Sadruddin held a series of other senior UN roles and, in 1981, was the favourite to succeed Kurt Waldheim as UN secretary-general.
But although he obtained more votes in the formal ballot than Javier Perez de Cuellar, he was shot down by a veto from the Soviet Union, which reportedly found him "too Western". Ten years later, in 1991, he failed again and the job went to the Egyptian diplomat Boutros Boutros Ghali.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan was born in Paris, the second son of Sultan Mohammed Shah Aga Khan III, the hereditary Imam of the Ismaili sect of Shiism. The family traces its bloodline back to the Prophet.
Sadruddin, whose name in Arabic means "defender of the faith", recalled recently: "My father insisted that I learnt the Koran and encouraged me to understand the basic traditions and beliefs of Islam but without imposing any particular views. He was an overwhelming personality but open-minded and liberal."
When he was a child, his grandmother, the Begum, used to recite to him the great epic poems of Persia's turbulent history that she knew by heart.
After graduating from Harvard University's School of Arts and Sciences, he attended the Centre of Middle Eastern Studies before beginning his career in the 1950s as publisher of Paris Review. In 1958 he joined the UN as UNESCO consultant for Afro-Asian projects and became involved in setting up a program to preserve the Nubian monuments in north-east Africa. The next year he was appointed head of mission and adviser to the High Commissioner for Refugees, rising rapidly to become the head of the agency in 1965.
After stepping down from the UNHCR in 1977, Sadruddin held a series of other senior UN roles, including co-ordinator for the UN humanitarian assistance programs for Afghanistan (1988-1990) and special UN representative for humanitarian assistance for Iraq and Kuwait after the Gulf War in 1991.
This last assignment required the finest diplomatic skills, as it involved gaining the agreement of the Iraqi regime to a relief program for tens of thousands of Shia Muslims trapped in worsening conditions in the marshlands of southern Iraq. Despite Saddam Hussein's deep suspicions of the UN, Sadruddin was able, after some tough exchanges with Tariq Aziz, to negotiate its presence for the first time in the area. On his return, he urged the swift lifting of sanctions.
In November 1991 Sadruddin's diplomatic skills also yielded the release of the British businessman Ian Richter, who had been jailed for life in 1986 on bribery charges. Sadruddin was able, with the support of King Hussein of Jordan, to persuade the Iraqi regime that the time was ripe for such a gesture.
Richter left the country on the prince's private jet.
After he stood down from UN duties, Sadruddin became increasingly involved in environmental campaigns. In 1977 he had created a think tank, Groupe de Bellerive, which produced numerous reports on threats to the environment.
As a long-time resident of Switzerland, he was particularly concerned about the degradation of the Alps by insensitive tourist development and deforestation. In 1990 he founded the charity Alp Action.
Sadruddin's grandmother, the Begum, had left his father a library of Persian books, mystical texts and astrological treatises, and it was through these that Sadruddin became interested in Islamic art.
At his 17th-century home, Chateau Bellerive on the shores of Lake Geneva, he built up a priceless collection of paintings, drawings and manuscripts dating from the 14th century. In 1997 many items from his collection were displayed in the British Museum exhibition "Princes, Poets and Paladins".
Among many honours, Sadruddin was appointed to the French Legion of Honour, and last year he was appointed KBE for his services to humanitarian causes and the arts.
Sadruddin was married for five years to Nina Dyer, a British former top model and the ex-wife of Baron von Thyssen. Their divorce in 1962 made headlines, as did her suicide in 1965.
Yet, on the whole, he managed to escape the gossip that dogged many members of the dynasty, avoiding the racehorses, fast cars and diamonds favoured by his half-brother Aly, who was briefly married to the actress Rita Hayworth.
Sadruddin and his Greek-born second wife, Catherine Sursock, whom he married in 1972, were well-liked figures on the Geneva social scene.
Prince Sadruddin died in Boston on May 12,2003 at the age of 70.In his obituary published in Al Ahram,writer Amina Elbendary said he had a handsome fortune,but that did not prevent him from working for the disadvantaged throughout the world, which at one point earned him the nickname"" friend of the friendless.""
.....(Book)" A Portrait in Pluralism::Aga Khan 's Shia Ismaili Muslims."
Demise of Prince Sadruddin::
MHI::"" It is with deepest sadness that I inform My Jamat of the passing away of My beloved uncle,Prince Sadruddin,at Boston on the 12th of May 2003.
The Jamat will recall Prince Sadruddin's many years of service to humanitarian causes through the United Nations and in other capacities.He will be particularly remembered for his role as the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees where his services were required in many countries including areas in which Jamat was resident.Thereafter he became assistant to the Secretary General in post-conflict rehabilitation in crisis areas,one of which was Afghanistan.
Prince Sadruddin was also engaged in areas of personal interest,but of global importance,or of particular significance to the Ummah.He was deeply concerned about the quality of the environment in which we live.Just as he was highly respected and knowledgeable collector of Islamic Art.
Prince Sadruddin maintained an abiding interest and the Jamat's progress and wellbeing and for which he extended strong and generous support to the Imamat.It is a source of pride and happiness to Me that My uncle's collection of Islamic Art will be an important part of the new Museum I am founding in Toronto.
I pray that Prince Sadruddin's soul may rest in eternal peace.""
Refugee Saviors – UNHCRs: From Goedhart to Aga Khan to Grandi
UNHCRs’ champion the plight of refugees: From Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan to António Guterres to Filippo Grandi.
In memorium of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s birthday, we share the impact of Prince Sadruddin and his peer UNHCRs’ work in fighting for the peoples without voices, sadly often neglected, but never forgotten by the UNHCR.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, is a United Nations agency mandated to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland and is a member of the United Nations Development Group. The UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, once in 1954 and again in 1981.
The UN refugee agency has had 11 High Commissioners since it was established in 1950.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the highly cultured cosmopolitan, used his position to cajole governments into more funding. For 12 years he reoriented the agency’s focus beyond Europe, shaming the world into watching the plight of Bangladeshi refugees after the breakup of Pakistan, the Asians evicted by Idi Amin in Uganda, those fleeing Pinochet’s Chile, and the human fallout from the breakup of Cyprus.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan - Vancouver, BC (April 22, 1975)
Although 40 years ago, content so relevant today, worth a read. Possibly a repeat, probably has done the rounds, but still a very powerful reminder for the current, daily living, and in all our interactions with the community at large.
An excerpt from a speech given by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, uncle of our beloved Hazar Imam, at a large gathering of Ismailis in Vancouver, BC on April 22, 1975.
As we meet here tonight, a deeply moving occasion for me, my thoughts turned first of all to my late Beloved Father who would have been so encouraged to see such a large gathering of Ismailis concentrated in a new land where they have never been before and as I think of my Late Father, I am greatly encouraged by the strength, the resilience, the tremendous ability to adapt, that all of you here have shown in settling in this great, this wonderful Country.
This indeed is a very small world, one realizes it every day. My remarks this evening are made not in the spirit of the community as regards questions of Jamati interests, religious interests, but mainly as High Commissioner for Refugees. Someone who is deeply concerned with the welfare of the jamat and who at the same time has taken a personal interest in facilitating the immigration of the great many of the new Canadians who live in this Country.
The world is very small, and proof of that is we flew over here in just a few hours from another continent and yet despite the fact [that] the world is small, people still don't have very much understanding of each other's problems and seem to be unaware sometimes of the realities of the situations in other parts of the world.
Now, who for instance, among all of you here knew really about Canada before arriving? Before being landed immigrants? Before becoming Canadian Citizens; and very few people in this great Country know a great deal about India or about Pakistan or about East Africa, and this is something which happens in such a small world. The world which you can really visit in just a few hours by jet plane. You can go round the world today if you happen to be an astronaut in a space ship in just a few minutes and yet people find it difficult to understand each other.
If I mention this, it is because I feel that we have to learn from such experiences. I feel very strongly now that history has brought you together with Canadians from different parts of the world, who originally came also from overseas, from Europe, and other parts of the world, that you have to learn this - from this accident of history, to get to know the Country in which you live, to get to know it really well and to get the people here to understand where you come from, who you are, and what your thoughts and beliefs are.
I would like to see every Ismaili and particularly every young Ismaili become an Ambassador, a real Ambassador of the community. And I mean active Ambassadors, Ambassadors who really work hard. I want you to be active Ambassadors. I want you to explain to your Canadian friends, to your neighbours, to the people that you work with, people you live with, people that entertain you, or those you will be entertaining, what you are, where you come from, about your traditions, about your culture, about your religion, about the way in which the community functions. This is something which is extremely important and which all of you should remember. What we have to seek, I think, is not only the physical integration in the economy and the social structure of the Country but we have to seek a kind of integration of ideas in the small world that we live in. This is what we have to aim for, an integration of ideas.
If you know this Country well, you will find it much easier to settle here and I urge you to study Canada's history. Not only the history of the Nation as a whole, but the history of your Province. To have interest in the history of this Country and its background. To understand how it functions. In exchange, you should explain to your Canadian friends what the Ismaili Community is all about. Explain the role of the Imam, not only his religious functions but also the economic and social advice that you receive from the Imam and what has happened to the community as a result of its unity in other parts of the world without forgetting that the community always owes allegiance, above all, to the Country in which it lives, which is something also that the Canadians should understand - that you are going to be good Canadians and that your allegiance will be first and foremost to the Country which has opened doors to you.
For this reason, you must be law abiding, for this reason, you must be good citizens. To become a Canadian is a privilege, and a privilege that you should be proud of. You have to have a civic sense. You should abide the laws of the Country. This is particularly important to remember at a time when so many people are still trying to come to Canada.
As High Commissioner for Refugees, I can assure you that one should not encourage any clandestine immigration. One should not encourage people to come here unless they are properly sponsored, unless they have submitted to the Immigration formalities, unless they have been given clearance through the proper channels. There should be no hurried, uncoordinated decision to try to get people to come here at all cost and to jump the line, jump the queue because this will give you, the community, and the new immigrants a bad name. So you have to be patient and you have to understand the laws in this Country. This is extremely important also for us in the United Nations who are working so closely with the Canadian Authorities to make sure that immigration, family reunion and the humanitarian practice of the Canadian Government continues to be generous particularly with regard to refugees.
In the field of economy, I would advise you very strongly to understand the opportunities given to you, whilst at the same time being conservative and reasonable about expenses. There are many institutions in the Western world, many institutions in Canada, many institutions in the United States which give extended credit facilities which makes it very easy for people to buy without paying immediately, giving them the impression that consumer goods are available and that they can always do everything on credit. You must remember this is very dangerous at times. You must always live within your means, because as my father used to say, "a man who spends one cent more - one cent more than his income, finishes a pauper." Therefore with these extended credit facilities and all the various opportunities given to you by financial establishments, banks, etc., you have to be very careful always to live within your means and to live simply.
You should not be concerned about keeping up with your neighbours, keeping up by always trying to do better, having a bigger house, having a bigger car, and generally leading a more affluent existence. I think you should try to remember that today in the world that we live in, there is a need for simplicity, to live within one's means and not to fall a victim of these tastes for consumer goods and excessive affluence.. You should think not only of material goods, you should think also of other things. You should think very much of your minds. You should think of your souls. You should think of so many other interests. I do not want the Ismailis to be known in their new countries only because of their business qualifications, only because they are clever businessmen, only because they are good at getting along on business. I want Ismailis, especially the young people, to be known for their culture, for their extra curricular interests, for their sporting activities, their religion, for their intellect - and young people have so many opportunities here.
You have a wonderful Country, a big Country, you can spread out. You can look for opportunities elsewhere. Not just always remain together, always in groups. I flew over parts of this Country and I saw how beautiful nature is. How the Canadians love their Country. You must love it too. Go out and camp; go visit the lakes and the forests. Go out and find out what nature has to offer you also. The young people should get interested and involved in conservation, in ecology, in all the things that the Canadians attach such an importance to and which are so important in a highly industrialized world. Don't think only all the time about business, about your own family interests, or your own community interests. Try to raise your sights, try and look beyond and especially the young try to be ambitious not only in the field of business but all the other callings which are available here in the Country.
I would advise the young people here also to learn other languages. This is a bilingual country and I was very happy earlier today when I met students separately in a separate group to see many of them especially those who came from Zaire are keeping up with their French. I think it is very important in Canada to be able to speak French. I would like to be able to come back here - although I know that British Columbia is largely British and therefore English speaking, unlike Quebec, Montreal. But I would like to come back here and speak to you in French and to have everybody understand when I come here, I will speak in French. When I go to Montreal or Quebec, I will speak in English. Canada is a bilingual country and it is absolutely essential for the new generations who want to travel in this Country and explore the immense possibilities which it offers, to speak French as well as English even if they speak it with a Canadian accent.
So, in conclusion, I would like very much for you to bring the qualities of your culture to this new land. At the same time to recover the qualities, the advantages, the assets which Canada offered you so generously. Please try and learn from the mistakes of the past. Please remember that sometimes in the past, we. like other people, tended to be parochial, isolated, living too much in our own closed units. Instead of looking outwards, we tended to look inward.
Now that you are in a great Country with boundless horizons, I want you to look outward, to think about all the opportunities which you have here and especially the young people, find out what democracy is all about. Very few of you really had this opportunity, if you think closely about it, to live in a true democracy before. Some of you may have come from the United Kingdom. You have a certain experience in democracy. But, those of you who either came from India or even Pakistan or Bangladesh, and certainly those of you who came from East Africa, you only have had a very short experience of true democracy, and in some East African countries this has not lasted, as we know, unfortunately.
Now that you are in a Country which is truly democratic and which truly practices democracy, you have to learn about democracy and young people must know what these responsibilities entail. What it means to vote, what it means to participate in the life of the Country. You have to learn the good things of democracy. Not the futile and superficial things but the good things of democracy. Participation in the life of the Country. This is what I mean when I say that you have to be grateful for the right to be a Canadian citizen. It allows you to participate fully in the democratic process in this country. As you go ahead, think of your minds, think of your children, think of their minds, how can they develop their minds, how can they develop their education and don't stand in the way of your children's education and their progress. Don't be selfish about your children. Give them a chance to develop in the way they like, to follow the right path of education, vocational training so they can really integrate in their new Country.
My wife joins me again in thanking you for your welcome. We wish you all happiness, prosperity, a very happy life in Canada and remember that it is by becoming a better individual, by trying to improve as a single human being, that you can do more for your community and your Country in general.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary
The book traces the life of a high-born humanitarian, visionary and environmentalist, the second son of the once very well-known Aga Khan III.
Diana begins by looking at his earlier life and studies in Switzerland and the USA. In these early years she also looks at the tasks that he undertook for the United Nations. She later discusses his strenuous efforts to make known the dangers of nuclear proliferation and the hazards of destroying the environment are interspersed with descriptions of unique missions the prince undertook.
Diana uses the later chapters to relay the Princes’ activities in relation to our natural world and his overall outlook.
Throughout the book, the Prince’s exceptional personality is reflected throughout the book through the use of radio interviews and press cuttings. Diana hopes that this book will inspire younger generations, those that the Prince looked toward with regard to the destiny of our planet.
Homme parmi les plus remarquables de notre époque, Aga Khan, né à Paris, a longuement servi les Nations Unies aux plus hauts niveaux. Sa famille fuit la France en mai 1940 et Sadruddin est scolarisé en Suisse. Plus tard, il accomplit des missions pour le HCR et l’UNESCO. Devenu haut- commissaire pour les réfugiés, au moment d’exodes importants en Afrique, Amérique latine et Asie qui nécessitaient de nouvelles approches, il se distingua particulièrement dans sa fonction. Ses dons diplomatiques s’avérèrent indispensables dans les situations critiques. Visionnaire sur l’état du monde et la situation des réfugiés, Sadruddin décrit et prévoit quarante ans plus tôt les exodes de masse actuels. Passionné par la nature, tout comme fortement engagé sur la question de la menace nucléaire, il organisa des colloques internationaux d’importance sur ces sujets. Il mit également sur pied de nombreux projets en faveur des Alpes dans les sept pays de l’Arc alpin. Jusqu’à sa mort, sa préoccupation demeura le sort des populations dans les pays pauvres.
Motivation de l’auteur
Reconnu comme un grand homme déjà de son vivant, le prince Sadruddin méritait que sa vie consacrée à la protection des hommes, des arts et de la nature soit connue, en anglais et en français. À une époque où les modèles de valeur font défaut, cette personnalité internationale et hors du commun s’offre comme une source d’inspiration pour les jeunes de tous pays et de toutes origines.
Diana Miserez, née à Londres, après avoir côtoyé à l’Université des réfugiés de pays de l’Est, fut nommé au HCR (Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les Réfugiés). À Genève comme sur le terrain, elle connut Sadruddin Aga Khan, adjoint puis haut-commissaire.﻿﻿
Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin's biography and Nicola Spafford Furey, VP of Earth Focus Foundation reminiscing about Aga Khan and Ismailis ahead of Prince Sadruddin's book launch at the UN in Geneva.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Humanitarian and Visionary
The younger son of the late Aga Khan III was such an outstanding man in every way, in particular because of his untiring work at the highest level for the United Nations, but also because of his many initiatives to draw the attention of the world to the dangers of nuclear proliferation, the destruction of our environment and globalisation, that I was convinced that someone would write his biography. After appealing to several established publishers on both sides of the Atlantic and finding that none of them could sponsor a biography, I gave in to unrelenting encouragement from others and decided to do my best to depict the extraordinary work and equally extraordinary personality of Prince Sadruddin. The book has been published very recently, in January in Great Britain and in March in Switzerland. Both language versions are shortly to feature in a launch at the Palais des Nations, Geneva on 20 April 2017.
This long needed biography seeks to do belated justice to a great humanitarian, who saw what was coming down the line and what would be needed, and who never abandoned his commitment, not just to principles, but to the capacity for men and women and their institutions to make the world a better, safer place, not least for the uprooted.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan – Humanitarian and Visionary, published by The Book Guild Ltd, Great Britain 2017, with a foreword by Professor Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, All Souls College, Oxford. A Swiss publisher, Editions Cabédita, has brought out this book in French (March 2017).
This is a biography of the personality and achievements of a great humanitarian who served the UN for well over 30 years, from 1958 to the mid-1990s. He was appointed UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees in 1962, and from 1966 to 1977 he was the High Commissioner for Refugees. In 1981 as a special rapporteur to the UN Commission on Human Rights he rendered a study on the relationship between massive exoduses and the violation of human rights. Over the following 15 years he undertook crucial UN missions, initially in relation to the humanitarian assistance needed in the aftermath of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 – 2003) was extremely well equipped to become one of the leading figures in the United Nations, as it evolved after the Second World War. His father, Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan had been President of its forerunner, the League of Nations, created after the First World War. Sadruddin, rooted in one of the richest families in the world, decided to offer his services to the UN and to other causes, declining any remuneration. His father had been the Imam of the Nizari Ismaili Muslims, an estimated 15- 25 million people residing in a large number of countries in Asia and Africa and had appointed his grandson, Sadruddinn’s nephew, Imam in 1957. Sadruddin, whose mother was French, held an Iranian passport, while living most of his life in Europe. He could truly say, as he often did, that he was a man of both East and West. He was also a prince, because Queen Victoria had bestowed a hereditary royal title on his father, a fact that in many circles added to his prestige. Mentally he carried a strong baggage, having studied for seven years at Harvard, one of the best universities in the USA, and being conscious of the rich philosophical heritage of the Ismaili Muslim tradition of adherence to rationality and social justice. All this contributed to the unique and remarkable personality, a combination of charisma and an eminent ability to bring people together to shoulder the most difficult challenges, as emerges from the book by Diana Miserez.
The author, in the absence of a biography of Sadruddin Aga Khan that she had expected would be published after his death, finally took the pioneering task upon herself. Having in her background a deep commitment to the plight of the word’s refugees, and the experience of having worked in the “field” herself, she was equipped to appreciate, admire and relate the ways in which Sadruddin performed as the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees. The fact that influential media around the world on several occasions recommended him for the office of the Secretary General of the UN, and that in 1981 a majority of the Security Council members voted for him, demonstrate the wide acceptance of his unique abilities as a mediator.
The book have as its sources of information published material: documents, reports, books and newspaper articles related to the activities of Sadruddin Aga Khan as well as official records of some of his speeches. Interviews conducted by various media also give glimpses of Sadruddin’s thinking. The author always places him in the wider context of the work in which he was engaged. The reader meets the complex world of what has given rise to displacement and thousands desperately fleeing their countries as well as the practical challenges of assisting them. She also goes beyond Sadruddin in describing what happened for instance in Afghanistan and Rwanda after he left office, and she throws light on the need for Sadruddins’s humanitarian engagement and visions by recording the events connected to the refugee crisis erupting from the war in Syria during just one week in August 2015.
The objective of the UN is to promote peace, security and human rights to all human beings in the world, and the mandate of the High Commission for Refugees, underscored by the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, is to protect and assist refugees and to facilitate their repatriation. The UN General Assembly envisaged that the task would be completed once the refugee problem in Europe had been solved in the aftermath of the Second World War. (The Palestinian refugees had their own UN organization). However, the immensity of the problems connected to the flow of refugees only increased over the years by catastrophes in Eastern Europe, in Indo- China, in Chile, on the Indian subcontinent, and elsewhere related to decolonization and new weak states in Africa. Under the leadership of Sadruddin Aga Khan UN HCR vastly expanded in its ability to understand the causes underlying the crises and in assisting the needy. International law prohibits intervention from outside in sovereign states. He developed thinking about how this constrained the international community from protecting people driven from their homes due to internal conflicts. All through his life Sadruddin was deeply concerned with the poverty of the Third World and predicted that if the gap was not narrowed between the rich and the poor, the rich countries would in the end suffer.
The title of the book describes Sadruddin as a visionary and much of the book is about his being ahead of his time when it came to the preservation of the environment. He created his own foundation, The Bellerive Foundation, that addressed a large number of issues, “Alp action” being one of them, dealing with the problems of deforestation, pollution, community decline and agricultural depression due to the expanding tourist industry. He called for a code of ethics relating to the mountains as well as a commitment for the preservation of animal and plant diversity. His Bellerive Foundation convened a large number of conferences, many of them on the nuclear arms race and on finding effective measures towards nuclear disarmament. A chapter of the biography further reveals Sadruddin’s rich personality by writing about his large collection of Islamic art and Quranic manuscripts from all over the Muslim world.
Diana Miserez knew virtually at first hand some of the work of Sadruddin Aga Khan. An example of her admiration, confidence and trust in him is revealed in the way she deals with the genocide in Rwanda, in which 800 000 people were slaughtered in 1994 (“to the eternal shame of the UN” p.260). He was familiar with the history of the long –term ethnic conflict, and the author regrets that he was not in charge of the UN before the conflict escalated, as “he and his brilliant associates would have devised measures to temper the escalating Hutu extremism”.
The author makes extensive use of long quotations from her research material. In order to ease the reader’s access to Sadruddin’s own voice, his statements and writings are rendered in italics all through the text.
This is an accomplished, well documented and highly readable biography of a good person in high office, truly dedicated to make the world a better place. The themes of uprooting, displacement and flight as well as the environmental issues makes the book speak directly to our time.
Randi Rønning Balsvik
Professor of history, University of Tromsø, Norway
Opening remarks by Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary at the UN Library, Palais des Nations, Geneva
Speech: Remarks by Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary
Bilingual Remarks in English
Thursday 20 April 2017, Palais des Nations Library
Your Excellencies, Mr High Commissioner, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is the greatest imaginable honour to stand here today, as together we pay tribute to a very great man. And how appropriate it is for this tribute to be taking place in the building that Prince Sadruddin saw under construction when he was a little boy of three, who was present a year later at its inauguration by his father, the Aga Khan, President of the League of Nations in 1937, and who later worked within its walls for years almost without number.
It has also been a great honour for me to portray the professional life and the personality of a man of such tremendous distinction. You may well wonder how, as a junior staff member of UNHCR, I came to know Prince Sadruddin, and how this book has come about 50 years later. We have just had the benefit of hearing from the High Commissioner how Prince Sadruddin was a dynamic and inspiring leader – as he already was as Deputy High Commissioner, when in the 1965 General Assembly the chief delegate of Tanzania, Mr. Mwaluko, said this:
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the diplomat, the leader of men, the accomplished artist and the humanitarian, combines all these qualities with the same humility that characterises his community.
That day, the General Assembly by acclamation elected the 32-year-old prince UN High Commissioner.
Eighteen months earlier, the prince had visited the small group of his colleagues at the first UNHCR regional office in Africa, immediately after one of the team had been killed in the Congo. I can never forget how one day Prince Sadruddin came unexpectedly into my little back office, sat on the edge of my desk and talked with the friendliness one can normally expect only from a close friend or a brother. Although I came to be away from UNHCR for some years after that, the prince kept in touch with me and later showed me, as he did to so many others, the utmost kindness, concern and friendship.
The year after the prince left us, a visitor from London suggested I write his biography, but I did not entertain the idea for a moment. Of course, there had to be a biography: a man so outstanding, so valuable to the world, so much loved and admired in his lifetime, should not be allowed to sink into oblivion. The moving 2003 tribute of the Chancellor of State of Geneva, Maître Robert Hensler, showed how deeply the prince had been appreciated by the Geneva hosts of the United Nations, as by countless people all over the world.
I wrote to several eminent publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, urging them to consider the idea of a biography. While several agreed that there was indeed a case for one, not one of them offered to take it on. You will hear the rest from my friend Nicola Spafford-Furey.
Prince Sadruddin had said to me on the last occasion that we met, in February 1994, that he hoped that by the time he was seventy, there might be a start on one. And at the age of 70 he died…
I received invaluable encouragement and help from some former colleagues. For example, Guy Goodwin-Gill, a senior law professor at Oxford, wrote the Foreword. Georges Koulischer, a retired senior director, contributed his extensive experience of Sadruddin’s work to do with Latin America. And we know the rest.
Prince Sadruddin’s father, the Aga Khan, imam of the Ismailis and father to Aly (at that time nearly twenty), proposed marriage to a young resident of Aix-les-Bains, Andrée Joséphine Carron, and they were married two years later. On 17th January 1933, Sadruddin was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a Paris suburb. In his early years, his father being at assemblies of the League of Nations in Geneva as head of the Indian delegation, the little boy spent most of his time with his mother, who took him into the mountains where they often stayed. He started school in Paris, but when he was seven, the little family became refugees when Nazi Germany overran France, and spent the war years in Gstaad, in the Bernese Oberland. Sadruddin was at school there until he was fourteen, when he went to the École Nouvelle, Lausanne, by which time he had acquired an incomparable understanding and love of nature. From there, he went to Harvard University, returning with two degrees, some most beautiful Islamic and Indian paintings dating from the 16th century – and … a fiancée!
His father’s death and his wedding to Nina Dyer occurred in the same year, milestones that preceded the start of Prince Sadruddin’s remarkable international career, with UNESCO and UNHCR – in turn, following in his father’s footsteps and believing passionately in the United Nations. He went on to serve in many other capacities over the 20 years that followed his 12 years as High Commissioner, for he accepted missions to the Middle East, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan that required both his diplomatic genius and his operational gifts. But the Prince was in addition engaging in countless other activities, having created his own foundation and “think-tank”, the Bellerive Foundation, recruiting exceptional staff and launching their international careers. Let me speak of one of them, Michael Keating, once serving in Afghanistan under the prince, as did other brilliant men such as Steffan de Mistura. Now Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Michael emailed me the following lines from Mogadishu that testify to Sadruddin’s many-sided, very rich personality :
Sadruddin introduced me to the world of international affairs in a way that no-one else possibly could. He hired me as his Special Assistant when I was in my mid-twenties, and installed me in a converted attic in his elegant offices near the Old Town in Geneva. He was unbelievably well connected at the highest levels on all continents, north and south, on an astounding range of issues, including conservation, animal rights and environmental protection, cultural heritage and fine arts, refugees and humanitarian law, food security and green economics, nuclear proliferation and terrorism, religious tolerance, racism and identity politics, multilateralism and UN reform – to name a few. His views on all these subjects were rarely conventional, always deeply held and, as it turned out, way ahead of their time. He had exacting standards, great attention to detail and high expectations of me – including the terrifying assumption that I was familiar, or would be able to make myself familiar, with all these issues so as to be useful to him. I survived because association with him opened doors and because of his willingness to share knowledge. I was very privileged to have such an induction, and still bump into people all over the world who tell me how much they valued meeting him and were influenced by him.
Other former recruits have said that the best years of their careers were those spent with Prince Sadruddin. To what these people have said of their brilliant, statesmanlike leader, I wish to add the prince’s qualities of loyalty, intuitiveness, gentleness, humility, warmth, generosity and humour. His sense of humour and phenomenal memory led him, I believe, to tell the funniest stories, while his gift for mimicry convulsed family and friends. But the man to whom we now bear tribute cared above all for the poor and the uprooted, and died grieving that all too little was being done for them.
Your Excellencies, Mr. High Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen:
I hope that in time, not only will there be others who will write about the late prince, but that there will be very many who will try to follow his outstanding example.
Bilingual Remarks in French
Bibliothèque du Palais des Nations, jeudi 20 avril 2017
Excellences, Mr le Haut Commissaire, Mesdames et Messieurs,
C’est pour moi le plus grand honneur que d’être ici aujourd’hui, rendre hommage avec vous à la mémoire d’un très grand homme. Et comme il est approprié que cet hommage au Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan ait lieu dans le bâtiment qu’à l’âge de 3 ans il a vu en construction, présent aussi à inauguration l’année suivante par son père, alors président de la Société des Nations du bâtiment où, beaucoup plus tard, le prince a travaillé pendant d’innombrables années.
Un grand honneur aussi de décrire la vie professionnelle et la personnalité d’un homme d’une aussi grande distinction. Vous pourriez bien vous demander comment une jeune assistante administrative du HCR ait pu faire la connaissance du prince Sadruddin, et comment elle a écrit ce livre 50 ans plus tard. On vient d’avoir le plaisir d’entendre, grâce au discours de M. le Haut Commissaire, comme le prince Sadruddin était un dirigeant dynamique et exemplaire. Voici ce qu’a dit en 1965, Mr. Mwaluko, chef de la Délégation de Tanzanie à l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies:
Le Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, le diplomate, le leader, l’artiste accompli et l’humanitaire, combine toutes ces qualités avec la même humilité que celle qui caractérise sa communauté.
Ce jour-là, l’Assemblée générale a élu le jeune prince de 32 ans Haut Commissaire par acclamation.
Dix-huit mois plus tôt, le prince était venu rendre visite au petit groupe de ses collègues à la première délégation régionale du HCR en Afrique, tout de suite après la mort de l’un de notre équipe, tué au Congo.
Je n’oublierai jamais le jour où le prince Sadruddin est venu dans mon petit bureau, s’est assis au bord de ma table et m’a parlé avec l’amabilité qu’on attend seulement d’un ami proche ou un frère. Plus tard, malgré le fait que pendant quelques années j’étais loin du HCR, le prince a gardé le contact avec moi et plus tard, il m’a montré, comme à beaucoup d’autres, la plus grande gentillesse, prévenance et même amitié.
Une année après que le prince nous ait quittés, une amie de Londres m’a proposé d’écrire sa biographie, mais sur le moment, pas un seul instant ai-je considéré cette idée. Bien sûr, il fallait une biographie : il ne fallait pas qu’un homme aussi extraordinaire, aussi important, tant aimé et si admiré de son vivant, tombe dans l’oubli. L’hommage émouvant du Chancelier d’État de la Ville de Genève, Maître Robert Hensler, en mai 2003 avait indiqué à quel point le prince avait été apprécié par les hôtes genevois des Nations Unies, comme par d’innombrables personnes de par le monde.
J’ai écrit à plusieurs maisons d’édition éminentes des deux côtés de l’Atlantique, en leur priant de considérer l’idée de la biographie. Plusieurs ont confirmé qu’une biographie devrait être écrite, mais aucune n’a proposé de la faire. Madame Spafford Furey vous dira le reste.
Le prince Sadruddin m’avait dit, lors de notre dernière rencontre en février 1994, qu’il espérait que lorsqu’il aurait 70 ans, quelqu’un s’en occuperait…et à 70 ans, il est mort…
Le moment venu, j’ai reçu énormément d’encouragement et d’aide de quelques anciens collègues. Par exemple, la Préface a été écrite par Guy Goodwin-Gill, professeur de droit international à Oxford. Georges Koulischer, ancien directeur du HCR, a partagé son importante expérience du travail du prince concernant l’Amérique latine. Et voilà…la vie du prince.
En 1928, le père du Prince Sadruddin, l’Aga Khan, Imam des Ismailis et père d’Aly, proposa le mariage à une jeune résidente d’Aix-les-Bains, Andrée Joséphine Carron. Ils se sont mariés deux ans plus tard, et le 17 janvier 1933, Sadruddin est né à Neuilly-sur-Seine, commune de la banlieue ouest de Paris. L’Aga Khan devant être présent à Genève aux assemblées de la Société des Nations, où il était à la tête de la délégation de l’Inde, le petit garçon était la plupart du temps seul avec sa mère, qui l’emmena dans les montagnes, où souvent ils passaient plusieurs jours.
Sadruddin a commencé sa scolarité à Paris, mais lorsqu’il avait 7 ans, la petite famille s’est réfugiée en Suisse quand l’Allemagne nazie a envahi la France. Elle a donc passé les années de guerre à Gstaad, dans l’Oberland bernois. Sadruddin y a été scolarisé jusqu’à ses 14 ans, quand il a été inscrit à l’École Nouvelle, Lausanne – ayant acquis un amour et une compréhension de la nature sans égal. De là, il est parti à l’Université de Harvard, rentrant avec deux diplômes, de très belles miniatures du 16e siècle– et…il s’était fiancé ! La mort de son père, la même année que son mariage à Nina Dyer, a précédé ses débuts aux Nations Unies – à tour de rôle à UNESCO et au HCR ! – suivant l’exemple de son père, et ayant une foi profonde dans les Nations Unies.
Pendant les 20 ans qui suivaient ses 12 ans comme Haut Commissaire, le prince acceptait des missions qui utilisaient ses dons diplomatiques et son expérience d’opérations de toutes sortes – au Moyen Orient, au Kuwait, en Iraq et à l’Afghanistan. Mais en plus, il s’est engagé dans des activités presque sans nombre après avoir créé sa propre fondation, la Fondation Bellerive et recruté des personnes exceptionnelles. L’un d’entre eux, Michael Keating, autrefois à côté du prince en Afghanistan, à présent le Représentant spécial du Secrétaire-général de l’ONU en Somalie, m’a fourni le témoignage que voici. Vous le trouverez sans doute saisissant :
Sadruddin m’a présenté au monde des affaires internationales d’une façon que personne d’autre n’aurait été capable de le faire. Il m’a recruté comme Assistant spécial quand j’avais environ 25 ans, et m’a installé dans le grenier reconverti de ses bureaux élégants dans la Vieille Ville de Genève. Il avait un vaste réseau sur tous les continents au niveau le plus élevé, nord et sud, sur un éventail de questions, y compris la conservation, les droits des animaux et la protection de l’environnement, l’héritage culturel et les beaux-arts, les problèmes de réfugiés et le droit humanitaire, la sécurité alimentaire et l’économie verte, la prolifération nucléaire et le terrorisme, la tolérance religieuse, le racisme et la politique identitaire, le multilatéralisme et la réforme de l’ONU – pour n’en citer que quelques-unes. Son point de vue sur toutes ces questions n’étaient que rarement conventionnel, toujours profondément ancrée et il s’est avéré, très en avance de son temps. Il était rigoureux, prêtait beaucoup d’attention aux détails, et il attendait beaucoup de moi – y compris la terrifiante supposition que je m’étais déjà familiarisé, ou allais me familiariser, avec toutes ces questions afin de lui être utile. J’ai survécu parce que l’association avec lui a ouvert des portes, et parce qu’il était toujours prêt de partager ses connaissances. J’étais très privilégié d’être formé de la sorte, et encore maintenant, je croise des gens dans toutes les parties du monde qui me disent à quel point ils appréciaient l’avoir rencontré, et comme ils avaient été influencés par lui.
D’autres recrus ont dit que les meilleures années de leurs vies professionnelles étaient celles passées auprès du prince. J’aimerais mentionner ses activités sportives (le ski, les randonnés, le tennis, la voile) et ajouter ses qualités de loyauté, d’intuition, de douceur, d’humilité, de chaleur, de générosité et de courage. Son sens de l’humour et sa mémoire phénoménale l’ont amené à raconter les histoires les plus amusantes, tandis qu’étant doué pour les imitations, il faisait tordre de rire la famille et les amis. Mais l’homme à qui nous rendons hommage aujourd’hui se préoccupait surtout des pauvres et démunis, et il est mort affligé que si peu ne soit fait pour eux.
Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs,
J’espère qu’avec le temps, non seulement il y en aura d’autres qui écriront au sujet du prince, mais surtout, beaucoup qui essayeront de suivre son exceptionnel exemple.
Speech: Remarks by Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice President of Earth Focus Foundation at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography
Thursday 20 April 2017, Palais des Nations Library
Your Excellencies, Mr High Commissioner, Ladies and Gentlemen:
When Princess Catherine Aga Khan gave me a copy of a children’s book – “The Three Little Fox Cubs”, written, in three languages by Diana Miserez with her daughter, Claudia, who did the illustrations, and dedicated to the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. I immediately ordered from her, eight copies of the book for my family and grandchildren. Diana delivered them to the prince’s town offices. She told me of her experiences, during her remarkable career, that involved working with Prince Sadruddin and how she had spoken with him about a biography when he was alive, he had told her that he did not want a biography before he was seventy years old.
Remarks by Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice President of Earth Focus Foundation at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography (Image credit: Anvar Nanji)
Remarks by Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice President of Earth Focus Foundation at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography (Image credit: Anvar Nanji)
I became involved with the Bellerive Foundation as a volunteer with the Earth Focus publication. I was, at that time, very involved with the country of Belize and visiting schools in and around Geneva to raise awareness to the Rainforest and the Programme for Belize, to save half a million acres of rainforest in that small and beautiful country. I often had the opportunity of speaking in schools and after arranging a visit to Belize for the teacher David Batten and his family I was invited to a role-playing debate with his class of twelve year olds, on the rainforest, they were dressed up for the event as indigenous people, environmentalists, miners and dam builders and the young man in a suit and tie with a big briefcase who took out a paper and said, “I’m from the World Bank and I have the cheque”. Well, after much discussion, the decision was made – no thank you we keep our rainforest pristine. The other guests were Barry Gilbert-Miguet from the Bellerive Fondation, Mr. David Pitt with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and several parents. The students then wanted a newspaper, Barry approached the Prince and David got behind his computer and off it went – Earth Focus Magazine written ‘by young people for young people of all ages’ . It became a glossy magazine and, thanks to the understanding and support of the Prince was published in 36 issues, shared worldwide.
I had the honour of meeting the Prince because of Earth Focus, as a child I had seen his Father at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and at Windsor Great Park when he came to the polo match with the Queen after the races at Ascot, he was an impressive figure you do not forget. I first met the Prince in1994 when I introduced, Mr. Martin Gordon who became the publisher for the Earth Focus Magazine, from then on I was always amazed at his great respect for the young, he said, “we must empower young people and help them to be heard”, he supported our activities with Earth Focus and was always enthusiastic. I remember an event in Geneva, the Prince was there as the students were arriving, on seeing five young Africans arrive he immediately went up to them, shaking their hands and making them feel at ease, then as he spoke he discovered there were several young Ismailis in the group and the conversation turned to how difficult it was to be an Ismaili, how many responsibilities there were to fulfil, all the students were fascinated. He had such an art of making people feel at ease and valued. The Prince looked at the world holistically, in our specialised society, sadly, too many people do not have this gift. When I shared with him the project of building a Buddhist centre in Geneva he said I must keep him informed, sadly he departed before the Centre was finished. He was the person who invited the Dalai Lama to Geneva when so many people enjoyed the gathering behind the Perle du Lac and the inter-faith ceremony in the Cathedral.
The Policing the Global Economy Conference was another remarkable feat when we all experienced the visionary and humanitarian qualities of the Chairman and his chosen panel that included many true activists.
As the Earth Focus Magazine developed I realised, as I visited schools, how little the students knew of what happened in their international City, if it is not in the curriculum it is not taught. So, with the Earth Focus team and the help of the lovely Susanna Trachea, who was bravely running Alp Action, we arranged some more role-playing debates, on mountains, water, human rights, rights for the environment, the students were wonderful and delighted to play the roles of government officials, one debate even finished with a coup d’état when the Prime Minister told the President that he was going to take over the government because he, the President, did not know what he was doing! Thanks to the Prince these young people had memorable experiences and I know some who have continued their careers in humanitarian or environmental actions.
I was working at the Foundation when the Prince left us and so I offered to organise and archive the cupboards and under-eave spaces that were full of the long and amazing history from the time of the Bellerive Group and before.
Following the activities and achievements of Prince Sadruddin, sorting the photographs, following the projects, reading the correspondence, the speeches and thus understanding the great loss that our World, in so much need of help, had just suffered, made me want to see this knowledge shared and respected. I was glad when all was packed into boxes and taken off to be stored by the Aga Khan Foundation but knew that I was not capable to see how this amazing man’s humanitarian and visionary feelings and actions could be shared.
An album of photographs of Prince Sadruddin’s whole and very varied life. including quotations and anecdotes from his or others’ speeches was put together, with which I was quite involved, but that could not explain to the World the comprehension, vision and feeling of such a wise man. So when Diana spoke of her ardent wish that a biography be written, but made it clear that she felt quite unequal to the task of attempting it herself, I believed – and I told her – that her experience, knowledge and writing ability would surely suffice to report and explain the whole incredible history of the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. She needed a lot of convincing! But I didn’t give up, and here we have this book, in both French and English, that will bring amazement and admiration to many and I hope encourage actions that should have been taken when first put on the table and shared.
Perhaps the world could be a different place, for all of us know if only he had been listened to and allowed to act, take over the United Nations for example, he predicted where humanity is now and was not heard, the truth hurts and too many people have replaced responsible actions with greed and egoism. Let us hope that this book will give food -for-thought to many, especially young people worldwide and each of us can do an action that when brought together will make a true difference.
The Earth Focus Foundation is working hard to continue bringing knowledge, sharing, experience and tools for action to ‘young people of all ages’, thus building on the history and respect that Prince Sadruddin deserves.
About Nicola Spafford Furey
Vice-President of the Earth Focus Foundation
Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice-President of the Earth Focus Foundation (Image credit: Nicola Spafford Furey)
Nicola Spafford Furey, Vice-President of the Earth Focus Foundation (Image credit: Nicola Spafford Furey)
With a leading Canadian forester for her Grandfather, the person who was the first to introduce re-afforestation in Quebec, Nicola has always been motivated, active and close to Nature. Born in Oxford and lived in the countryside nearby.
She promoted the Programme for Belize in the schools in Geneva and, half a million acres of rainforest have been protected in perpetuity for the Belizean people.
With diplomatic and business experience in Geneva she has been involved with Earth Focus since its conception in 1992. Her great admiration for the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who used to say “we must empower young people and help them to be heard” has been a guiding factor in her dedication to the Earth Focus Foundation, raising awareness to sustainable development and all it involves for “young people of all ages”, as a Mother of four and now with four grandchildren these feelings become more and more strong. The Earth Focus magazine was printed in thirty-six copies, articles written by students and professionals, many role-playing debates and conferences have encouraged many young people to dedicate their lives to the subjects discussed and we all continue believing that raising awareness to sustainability with learning and action is vital for now, the future and for all.
Uploaded on Nov 6, 2015
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