Governments must improve quality of life for democracies to
succeed, says Aga Khan
Chitral Times Report
Athens: His Highness the Aga Khan today said improving the
quality of life was the most important component of a successful
“I believe that the progress of democracy in our world is
fundamentally linked to improving the quality of human life,” he
said. He cited the ability to understand constitutional systems,
independent and pluralistic media, strong civil society and
commitment to diversity and social dialogue as key elements in
achieving the goal of improved quality of life.
“Democracy can only survive if it demonstrates, across the years
and across the planet, that it is the best way to achieve that
goal,” he said.
The Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and founder and chairman of
the Aga Khan Development Network made the remarks in a keynote
address to the Athens Democracy Forum, an international gathering
of diplomats, business leaders and opinion makershosted by the
International New York Times and the United Nations Democracy Fund.
The Aga Khan said political concepts and constitutional systems
were often poorly understood to the detriment of democracy.
“One problem is a poor understanding of comparative government
systems. That subject is not part of most educational curricula,
and, in the countries I know best, the media rarely explain the
logic, or the options, of constitutional change,” he said.
The Aga Khan also argued that at a time when many citizens are
losing faith in all forms of government, finding common ground
around the global aspiration fora better quality of lifeis
essential inproviding genuine hope for the future.
While emphasising the need for pluralistic and independent media,
he cautioned that quantitative advances in communication technology
have not necessarily produced qualitative progress in mutual
“To be sure, each improvement in communications technology has
triggered new waves of political optimism,” he said.“But sadly, if
information can be shared more easily as technology advances, so
can misinformation and disinformation. If truth can spread more
quickly and more widely, then so can error and falsehood.
Throughout history, the same tools – the printing press, the
telegraph, the microphone, the television camera, the cell phone,
the internet – that promised to bring us together, have also been
used to drive us apart,” he said.
TheAga Khan called for a renewed emphasis on civil society
organisations, a sector that he felt was deeply undervalued and yet
essential to democracy. He argued that key elements of civil
society ranging from education,to healthcare, to the environment
cannot thrive and grow unless governments themselves support a
healthy enabling environment.
Speaking at a time when society is witnessing increased
polarisation,the Aga Khan underlined the importance of fostering a
democratic ethic, at the heart of which is a commitment to genuine
dialogue about the means of achievinga better quality of life.
“This means a readiness to give and take, to listen, to bridge the
‘empathy’gaps – as well as the ‘ignorance’ gaps– that have so often
impeded human progress,” he said. “It implies a pluralistic
readiness to welcome diversity – and to see our differences not as
difficult burdens but as potential blessings.”