Why the world needs more Canada – Vancouver Sun by Khalil Shariff, ceo of Aga Khan Foundation Canada

Why the world needs more Canada.

Khalil Shariff is the CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada.  On June 12th, he gave a talk for the Canadian Club Vancouver titled “Global Citizenship: Canada, the world and you.”

It was an inspiring and touching talk that provided insight on Canada's role in international development.

Shariff spoke that Canadians and Canada don't often understand or acknowledge their gifts to the world.

He recounted a discussion with an East African colleague about the generosity of a lot of nations who give more than Canada –  for example, the
Scandinavians are more prolific donors.  But his colleauge told him “No one goes to bed at
night dreaming that one day they might be Swedish…. They go to bed at night dreaming that one day they might be Canadian.”

The Vancouver Sun's Don Cayo attended the Canadian Club luncheon and wrote:
Focusing on what is done right in the fight against poverty

Here is the special editorial that Khalil Sharrif wrote for the Vancouver Sun, published on June 12, 2008.

Why the world needs more Canada – Khalil Shariff writes in Vancouver Sun 

June 12, 2008

Posted by ismailimail in Aga Khan Foundation, Canada, Ismaili Muslims in the News, North America.


Why the world needs more Canada
Our history of international development assistance has resulted in marked improvements around the world

Khalil Z. Shariff is chief executive officer of the Aga Khan Foundation in Canada.
Special to the Sun

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The statistics are well-known and don’t require repeating: The
extent of poverty in the world is widespread and troubling. Half the
world — nearly three billion people — lives on less than $2 a day.

What is less clear is how to address the dilemma.

The answer is complex, and demands efforts along many dimensions.
One part of that answer, though, is rooted in Canada’s own history of
supporting international development.

Twenty-five years ago, in the geographically isolated and
economically marginalized regions of northern Pakistan, Canada —
through funding from the Canadian International Development Agency and
the Aga Khan Development Network — began an ambitious development
effort. Built on the premise that beneficiaries, over time, must become
the masters of the development process, the program brought together
communities in local village organizations and helped them to define
priorities and begin working towards achieving them.

Vancouver Sun

Communities began to invest in small infrastructure to increase
agricultural productivity and link their villages to markets. They
started modest savings programs and lending activities to increase
income for their families, made the education of the next generation —
especially girls — a priority, and focused on improving maternal and
child health care, housing and living conditions.

This development experiment revealed that community organizations
and the vibrant civil society which they represented were a key to
lasting improvements in quality of life.

When village organizations were patiently nurtured, incredible
things started to happen: Incomes tripled, infant mortality dropped 25
per cent and literacy for women and men increased to unprecedented
levels, outpacing human development indicators in other parts of the

These small village institutions created the capacity for
self-development that ensured outside help was effective and its
benefits were sustainable.

Over time, many Canadians and Canadian institutions contributed to
this experiment, including our universities, which contributed to
educating a generation of leaders in the area.

They, too, recognized that change is a long-term process — one that
must begin from within communities, one that cannot be imposed or
dictated by outsiders or experts.

This experience is not unique. With the Aga Khan Development Network
and other partners, Canada has used these principles and values to work
in many different contexts: From the semi-arid areas of coastal Kenya
to the lush but isolated villages of northern Mozambique; from the
harsh mountainous regions of Tajikistan to the remote valleys of
Afghanistan, emerging from decades of conflict.

From improving rural livelihoods to building institutions that
educate world-class leaders in areas such as nursing and teaching, to
spurring the growth of a strong civil society and thriving private
businesses, we have stayed true to these basic values and adopted a
long-term horizon, and we have seen important and sustainable results.

We have seen examples of development that works, and more Canadians need to know about them.

In fact, it is clear that Canadians are going to be called upon to
be more sophisticated in our understanding of the nature of global
poverty and instability, and to demand intelligent international
development from our leaders. In places like northern Afghanistan, our
work with Canadians shows that success is possible if we bring our
accumulated expertise to bear in support of the processes of
reconstruction and development.

Bridges that Unite, a travelling exhibition sponsored by Aga Khan
Foundation Canada that opens today at the Roundhouse in Vancouver, is
an effort to strengthen exactly this kind of educated and engaged
citizenry when it comes to Canada’s role in international development.

Visitors will encounter questions and images that are designed to
challenge simplistic ideas of what development looks like, herald the
accomplishments that Canadians can rightly be proud of, and inspire new
visions of Canadian global leadership in the future.

They will also be invited to consider how a ring of chairs and a
flipchart, which is the setting for social change in communities around
the world, can replace our idea of development as hand-outs to the poor.

Above all, Bridges that Unite hopes to stimulate a conversation in
this country about what Canadian global leadership will look like in
the 21st century.

At its best, Canada has helped communities in the developing world
lift themselves out of poverty, with their dignity and pride intact,
and their pluralism strengthened. These contributions have helped
Canada to be seen not only as a generous country, but as a thoughtful
and humane global leader.

That’s a Canada that the world could certainly use more of.

Khalil Z. Shariff is chief executive officer of the Aga Khan Foundation in Canada.

Vancouver Sun

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