Monday, October 13, 2008

Conference on Central Asia and Europe, Berlin

Speech by President of the Republic Armando Guebuza, Ponta Vermelha Palace, Official Banquet (Maputo, Mozambique)

20 November 2007

Your Highness the Aga Khan
Dear Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

We give Your Highness and the illustrious delegation accompanying you, our warmest welcome do this Pearl of the Indic. It is our pleasure, above all, to be able to directly reiterate our felicitations on the occasion of the celebration of Your Highness Golden Jubilee as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslim Community.

It is a great satisfaction to be united not only to celebrate the work that has been constructed over half a century of spiritual leadership of this religious community, but also for the projects you are developing in many parts of the world. We extend our wishes for great successes in the pursuance of your role and, in making available more cooperation and support to the various populations of the world, including the Mozambican people.

In your role as Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, you have, with great perseverance and enthusiasm, contributed significantly towards the integrity of mankind and towards the integrated development of the countries in the world.

Amongst us, we have encouraging signs which intensify our certainty that the bases are launched, for a wider, diversified and long-lasting cooperation with the Aga Khan Development Network, whether considering the integrity of mankind or the integrated development of our Mozambique. Let us consider as an example:
The rural and integrated development project of the coast in the Province of Cabo Delgado;
The investments in the Polana Hotel, a touristic and architectural reference, and of great importance in Mozambique;
The project of the Aga Khan Excellency Academy in Matola.

Part of these activities, which also include the areas of health, the development of national entrepreneurship and microfinances, currently benefit approximately 100 000 mozambicans.

Our people have access to these projects and its benefits, regardless of gender, religion and social status and, thus, the Aga Khan Development Network participates, in a sustained manner, in the battle against poverty in Mozambique, in the rural areas and in the city, from Rovuma to Maputo and from the Indic to Zumbo.

The dialogue we maintained this afternoon resulted in the identification of other areas which can be included in the co operation we are developing. Within this context, we underline our interest and commitment in seeing these areas identified and transformed into projects with results that will have a direct impact on the lives of our People.

We are sure that the implementation of the projects currently underway and with the materialisation of those which we identified today constitutes milestones of friendship and compassion amongst this Network and the Mozambicans. They are also a priceless contribution in the reduction of poverty and for the attainment of the Millennium Development Objectives.

It is convenient to recognize and highlight, that this compassion and friendship that the Aga Khan Development Network finds in Mozambique and within the heart of our People is born from a relationship many centuries old, during which the oriental traces and those of Islam were crystallised in our Beloved Motherland. With this exchange, our cultures have mutually grown and, from this relationship both have benefited as has benefited the rest of Mankind.

Your Highness,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mozambique is characterised by Peace, stability and social and economic development. Last October the 4th, we celebrated fifteen years of peace and reconciliation in the breast of the Mozambican Family. One of the most marking moments of the celebration was the religious ceremony during which several religions jointly prayed for a Mozambique that continues do develop the principle that the only alternative to peace is Peace itself.

The stability in this Pearl of the Indic is further promoted by the environment of a multi party democracy, of dialogue, and of the inclusion which we cultivate in our everyday lives. It is equally sustained by the internal partnerships which we establish with several national players who, like us, have worked to transform Peace and stability into another important resource that has been put to work towards our social and economic development.

During these few days of your visit to our beloved Motherland, Your Highness will note that the new social and economical infrastructures are rising in our horizon as monuments that mark the victories we are attaining in our fight against poverty. More schools, more health posts and more fountains of drinkable water that are being introduced, along the height and width of our Mozambique, are having a considerable impact on the lives of our people. Likewise, more locations and Mozambican citizens are benefiting from:
More reconstructed roads and new bridges;
Mobile and fixed telephone network, and energy 24 hours a day;
They benefit, yet, from more work posts that are being created by the public and private investment both national and foreign. Recently, we inaugurated the project of Moma heavy sands which has had a visible impact, inclusively near the local communities.

Your Highness,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The presence of Your Highness the Aga Khan amongst us, is a particularly distinct moment to exchange our views regarding the internal situation of Mozambique, and of the impact of the Aga Khan Development Neworks projects. It is, simultaneously, an opportunity to reiterate our joint commitment to proceed with our share in the construction of a world that is characterized by the culture of peace, solidarity, and prosperity.

Hence, we invite all present to join us in a toast:
For His Highness health and happiness;
To His Highness Golden Jubilee;
For the successes in the cooperation between Mozambique and the Aga Khan Development Network.

Thank you all for your attention.

Inauguration of the Restored Monuments in Darb al-Ahmar

Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Inauguration of the Restored Monuments in Darb al-Ahmar (Cairo, Egypt)

26 October 2007

Your Excellencies
The Minister of Culture
The Governor of Cairo
Distinguished Guests

It is a very particular pleasure for me to welcome you tonight, as we share in a special moment - and the first and most important thing that I want to do is to thank you for what you have done to make this moment possible.

The buildings we inaugurate are central elements in an effort which has given me profound personal satisfaction for nearly a quarter of a century - the revitalisation of Islamic Cairo.

The joy I received from this project stems from at least three of its extraordinary dimensions.

First, I have found that this endeavour has provided for me, personally, a profound sense of connection with my own ancestors, the Fatimid Caliphs, who founded Cairo and who laid its physical and cultural foundations 1000 years ago. To reach back across 35 generations and to be able to engage in the restoration and renewal of their legacy is a rare and stirring privilege. How could I not be affected seeing the remains of the original Fatimid walls and towers that protected this city when they founded it? And this experience has special meaning for me as I mark my own 50th year as Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

Secondly, this entire project, from the time we began, with so many of you, to dream about it, 23 years ago, has provided an inspiring example of broadly based cooperation among diverse people and institutions, working across cultural, religious and national lines, including participants from government, the private sector, and the non-profit institutions of civil society. It has involved people whose homes are thousands of miles away from Cairo and it has also involved, most profoundly, the people of this neighbourhood, those who live and work only minutes away, in the very shadows of these buildings.

Among the partnerships I would note today are the ones we have enjoyed with the Egyptian Government, the Ministry of Culture, the Governorate of Cairo, the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the Social Fund for Development, the World Monuments Fund, the Swiss Egyptian Development Fund, the Ford Foundation, the French Institute of Archaeology, the American Research Centre and the United States Embassy in Cairo, as well as the city of Stuttgart. And I would also note with gratitude the signing, this past July, by the Governorate and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, of a formal Public-Private Partnership (PPP) linking Al-Azhar Park with the ongoing projects in Darb al-Ahmar and adjacent areas. Whatever barriers history might possibly have put in our way have been removed by our common will to achieve a remarkable goal.

These diverse interactions are particularly fitting, of course, as we remember the origins of this city. The Fatimids, after all, prided themselves on a broadly inclusive approach to knowledge. What they founded here would become a truly global city to use contemporary parlance. Pluralism was indeed the hallmark of a Golden Age of the City Victorious 1000 years ago. I am happy that I can feel in this time also, like during the time of my predecessors, that there is true pluralist consensus surrounding our endeavours all of us working together - to revive the Islamic city.

The first two reasons, then, for my special identification with this undertaking are its historical connections to the past, and the diverse and plural dimensions of its present. The third element, however, has to do with its sustainability in the future - and in discussing that future, two important questions come to mind.

They are: first, at what point of physical improvement can we consider that the areas of the Islamic city most at risk have been restored, rehabilitated and returned to their residents in a secured manner? And secondly, what can and should we do to ensure that the more than one million visitors per year who are likely to visit the Azhar Park in the future become an economic benefit rather than a potential economic burden for the residents of Darb al-Ahmar?

If we are able to develop and implement strong and fulfilling answers to these questions, then my third reason to view this as a thrilling project will be fulfilled: It will constitute an extraordinary gift to the future. Even as we look back over many centuries today even as we have reopened and literally uncovered gifts from the past as this project has developed so we can also look far ahead in time. We are aware today of the connections we are establishing to generations yet unborn, those who will live here and those who visit from afar, and who will treasure these sites as precious gateways to their history.

Let me attempt briefly to suggest some responses to the two questions I have asked earlier, the first being to define when sufficient physical work will have been completed for us to consider the core of the Islamic city restored. Logically, we must complete the work which is already underway, and which has produced such magnificent achievements as the restoration of the Kheyrebek Complex, where we are gathered today, and the Umm al Sultan Shabaan Mosque through the close collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and its Supreme Council of Antiquities. The ambitious conservation programme that lies ahead contemplates interventions in the Alin Aq Palace, the Tarabay Mausoleum, the Aslam Mosque, and in due course in the Blue Mosque. We must finish the restoration of the Ayyubid wall, and the most important open spaces along it. And we must complete the archaeological site at the North-west edge of the Park with its Fatimid and Mamluk excavations. This site, in turn, will be tied into the new museum of historic Cairo being created in collaboration with the Supreme Council of Antiquities, as well as the new Urban Plaza and the significant underground parking which are both part of the programme agreed by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture with the Governorate of Cairo.

To complete this list of future tasks, I should add that along the historic wall there are several hundred houses that remain to be restored, just as the Early Childhood Centre and the Vocational Training Centre remain to be completed. Finally, I cannot see how this enormous endeavour, which still lies ahead, could be considered complete without serious attention being given to the areas ongoing infrastructure, such as the road surfaces, the sewage disposal system, the distribution of water and electricity, and signage and public lighting.

The second question I have raised was how we increase the impact of the new economic life generated by the Azhar Park to the benefit of the people of Darb al-Ahmar.

In responding to this question, I would note that special emphasis has been placed by our planners on sustainability. It has always been clear that a strong financial base must be created just for maintaining the accomplishments we note today. The project must be compatible with the long term health of this neighbourhood and its community. For any important work of restoration to survive and to thrive into the longer-range future, it must contribute to the well-being of those who live in its presence so that they in turn will have reason to safeguard its enduring viability.

We have two opportunities to strengthen the economic life of this part of Islamic Cairo which I want to highlight today: The first is to encourage a higher number of the visitors to the Park to come to Darb al-Ahmar to see its historic buildings and to acquire goods and services. It is therefore essential that the North-west and South gates of the Park should be completed and opened as soon as possible, and that the visitors should be encouraged to walk to the restored wall, and then through it, into this unique historic area of Cairo, Darb al-Ahmar with its remarkable concentration of monuments and open spaces.

There is another way, a second way, to support the economic enhancement of the population of Darb al-Ahmar. I believe much more can and should be done with our micro-credit programme, by developing new products, better adapted to local needs, and making them more easily accessible. This work is ongoing, but it must be completed and put in place early enough so that the service providers and traders of Darb al-Ahmar can prepare themselves in good time for the increased number of visitors that will come from the Park.

A long and strenuous journey began when we gathered here back in 1984 to hold a seminar on the growth of Cairo. What we mark today is another milestone along that path not the first nor the last, but an important reminder of how far we have come and an added moment of encouragement as we continue the demanding journey which lies ahead of us.

I know you join me in feeling that we have been extraordinarily blessed in the heritage that has been given to us as well as in the friends and collaborators who now share our life and work all of us striving together to be good stewards of our inheritance as we pass it on to the future.

Thank You.