Item(s) for the ‘General’ Category

Jul 29,2010

Lawyer honoured for his volunteerism, community service

By Claire Brownell, The Ottawa Citizen

Aly Alibhai’s job as a lawyer helps keep a roof over his family’s head, but his volunteer work pays a different kind of bill.

“I really view this work as the rent I pay for living on this planet,” Alibhai says. “I’m a really big believer in a concept that has existed for a long time, which is the notion of the citizenship role of a lawyer.”

Alibhai, a 45-year-old senior lawyer with the Department of Justice’s international program, has been named the recipient of this year’s Lincoln Alexander Award by the Law Society of Upper Canada. The award, which honours an Ontario lawyer committed to community service, recognizes Alibhai’s volunteer work with more than a dozen organizations.

There’s another reason why Alibhai’s achievement is notable: he is the first non-Torontonian to receive the Lincoln Alexander since the award was created in 2002.

Born in Kenya, raised in Vancouver and a resident of Ottawa since 1993, Alibhai says he’s particularly happy to help the legal community in Canada’s capital get some recognition.

“I’m not one of those people who hate Toronto. I love it,” he says. “But I think, like a lot of other things, the legal profession can be a little too Toronto-centric.”

Alibhai speaks from experience — he began his legal career in Toronto as a civil litigator with a major Bay Street law firm. But he quickly realized private practice wasn’t his calling and moved to Ottawa to take his first public-sector position as a senior policy advisor to Herb Gray, who was solicitor general at the time.

Gray, who was the longest serving MP in Canada’s history, says he remembers Alibhai as a bright and promising employee.

“I found him a very efficient and effective assistant,” he says. “I’m not surprised that he’s earned this award.”

Alibhai’s zeal for public service has always extended beyond his job.

One summer while he was in law school, he worked for a camp in Haliburton for children with learning disabilities. He enjoyed it so much that he was inspired to do more community service.

Today, the list of organizations he has volunteered, fundraised or served on boards of directors for includes Legal Aid Ontario, the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada and the John Howard Society of Ottawa.

Melanie Adams, executive director of the Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation, has worked with Alibhai during his term on the institution’s board of directors. She says he’s especially good at using his contacts to find and organize support.

“He brings a level of professionalism and expertise from his own profession,” she says. “He’ll have different insights from what other people would have when we’re having discussions.”

Alibhai’s volunteer interests are broad, spanning from libraries and children’s choirs to prisoner’s rights. He says the only common thread is a desire to focus his attention where he can make the most difference.

“If there is a connection, I think it’s really helping where I can help those who need it most,” he says.

But balancing a legal career with a heavy load of community service comes at a price. His workday can go late into the evening and his volunteer work can go even later — sometimes as late as 2 a.m. especially when preparing for a board meeting.

Alibhai’s wife also has a busy professional career as a family doctor and they have daughters in Grades 2 and 6.

“You make sacrifices,” he says. “My family doesn’t necessarily see me as often as they’d like and I’d like.”

But family, tradition and faith are major reasons why Alibhai endures the long hours. He was raised an Ismaili Muslim and the importance of volunteerism is one of the major teachings of the religion’s spiritual leader, the Aga Khan.

Alibhai says his parents, who immigrated to Canada when he was 61?2, are proud of how he’s worked their traditional values into his life.

“I think they’re genuinely proud that I’ve chosen a career where I’ve found happiness, where I feel like I’m fulfilled and self-actualized and making a meaningful contribution.”


Jul 23,2010

(Delivered by Prince Amyn Aga Khan
on behalf of His Highness the Aga Khan)

Aga Khan Afghanistan


Mr. Chairman, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of the Aga Khan Development Network, I should like to join the previous speakers in expressing our gratitude and congratulations to the Government of Afghanistan for hosting this impressive gathering in Kabul. We welcome and support the Government’s efforts to bring about real change to the lives of the Afghan people, perceptible change, a tangible improvement in the quality of their daily existences.

The Aga Khan Development Network welcomes a strong continued support for the development of a stable, progressive and pluralistic Afghanistan. Pluralism-ethnic, linguistic, cultural and confessional- is critical for this country: mutual trust and respect amongst ethnic groups are essential if peace, stability and equitable development are to be achieved. In diversity lies strength.

It is also vital for local government and development actors to work closely with local communities to identify and to meet pressing needs. Low execution of the development budget must be a cause for concern. The Government’s ability fruitfully to absorb outside funding is dependent on the creation of Afghan-driven mechanisms to address security, justice and socio-economic growth. Not only should Community Councils be responsible for the stability of their respective communities, but communities themselves need to be engaged in the process of prioritization of programmes as well as in the delivery of those programmes.

Initiatives such as the National Solidarity Programme, which promotes the direct involvement of communities, has demonstrated tangible progress in improving the quality of life of the Afghan people, arousing their strong spirit and their entrepreneurial instincts. Results change minds, not rhetoric. We must avoid that there be to the Afghan citizen a visible gap between the promise of services and their actual delivery on the ground. The philosophy, the policy must be to under-promise and to over-deliver.

The Community Development Councils, which are elected by the communities themselves, are part of a civil society that must make an essential contribution to human development, to nation building and to ensuring that an insurmountable gap does not develop between Government on the one side and the business sector and private enterprise on the other. AKDN is of the view that investing in the institutions of civil society and in their capacity to deliver services deserves far greater priority, attention, support and resources than has hitherto been the case, even as investments in rebuilding the State’s institutions continue. Civil society institutions are best able to take into consideration, to reflect, specific provincial or local political situations and socio-economic needs and opportunities. They are well placed to ensure that progress is both public and transparent, that good governance is observed as the norm, just as they are the best tools for ensuring better impact and for hastening visible socio-economic development. There is need for a sub-national governance structure that is clear, efficient and transparent. There is no reason why planning or programming at the provincial or local level need either contradict or undermine central authority. On the contrary, bankable programmes need to be evolved and implemented that are synchronized with sub-national governance and policy and with the reintegration programme.

Afghans must take increasing responsibility for their affairs. In this regard, strengthening the police force and equipping it are vital if civil society is to function effectively and civilian order is to be ensured. It is my personal view that military withdrawal and meaningful reintegration can only take place when Afghanistan has a sufficient and sufficiently equipped police force.

In areas of the country which have remained relatively stable, we hear concern from the local residents that resources are increasingly being directed away from them towards the less secure parts of the country. We believe that ensuring equity of investment across the country is essential. The Afghan Constitution itself requires this. Accelerating development where conditions are most propitious creates beacons of success for the other parts of the country and can catalyse progress in those more challenging districts and provinces by showing that progress, stability and security are possible.

The Government should also give priority focus to creating an enabling environment for private sector development. The Enabling Environment Conference held in Kabul back in June 2007, co-hosted by the Government of Afghanistan, the AKDN, the World Bank, UNDP and ADB, defined a Roadmap of specific, practical actions for private sector and economic and social development, which Roadmap has, I believe, largely been adopted in the Afghan National Development Strategy.

The Roadmap was intended to provide a preliminary framework for engaging the private sector more in impact oriented and effective programmes and for providing concrete regulatory and other conditions to attract and support private investment. Due to constraints within the banking and land registration regulatory frameworks entrepreneurs still have difficulty accessing credit to enable them to transform from micro-enterprises into small and medium-sized enterprises, although it is generally acknowledged that the creation of a solid structure of SME’s underpins most healthy economies. We believe that implementing the priority issues identified in the Roadmap will accelerate existing and unleash new socio-economic growth and development in Afghanistan.

Another concept that our Network is coming to resort to more and more is what we call Multi-Input Area Development (MIAD). Our experience has illustrated to us that when we work simultaneously and synergistically on several fronts (economic, social and cultural), progress on one front spurs progress on the other fronts. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. An example has emerged from our work on restoration and reutilization of historic monuments: while undertaking the restoration work of, say, a monument or an historical building, one can create nearby a minor medical facility, launch educational programmes for adult education, literacy and early childhood education, undertake to improve the infrastructure around that monument, provide microfinance to the local citizens, help them maintain or upgrade their dwelling, and their shops, etc. Such MIADS repeated elsewhere by others, in urban areas as in rural areas, can play a part in overcoming long-standing problems and can have an immediate impact on the quality of life of the citizens benefitting from these MIADS, thus generating greater public confidence in the future and in the inputs which have generated positive change.

Afghanistan is recognised as a regional land bridge, east to west, north to south. However, few tangible projects as yet speak to the realisation of this regional potential. The AKDN, in partnership with the Governments of Afghanistan and Tajikistan and the provincial governments of the Badakhshans of the two countries, has taken a regional approach to health, education, tourism, trade, energy and infrastructure, which has begun to yield tangible improvements in the lives of the local communities. Surely connecting Kabul to China through Tajikistan should open new trade corridors and multiply social and economic fallout benefits for the communities of those areas and thereby for the country as a whole.

How can we link the poor to growth and growth to the poor? There needs to be a willingness to support small-scale and medium-level investments in the short term that may not immediately be considered financially sustainable by conventional measures, but which experience demonstrates are necessary to achieve medium to long-term returns and benefit.

It is our hope that the forthcoming parliamentary elections will be carried out in a climate of peace and with the security and supervisory agencies indeed satisfied that these elections can be carried out peacefully. It is of the utmost importance that in the post-election Afghanistan development should be stimulated and accelerated rather than delayed.

The Aga Khan Development Network remains committed to the stability and growth of this important country and its people and we strongly support a significant acceleration of socio-economic development process. We stand ready to do whatever we can with that objective.


Jul 19,2010

The Donor: Gulnar Carlisle

The Gift: $52,000 and climbing

The Cause: The Aga Khan Foundation

The Reason: To support development projects in Kenya

When Gulnar Carlisle was 21 years old her parents made a fateful decision.

It was 1977 and Ms. Carlisle and her family were living in Kenya. Neighbouring Uganda was in turmoil at the time because of the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin. Fearing the trouble might spread across the border, Ms. Carlisle’s parents sent her to Vancouver to live with an uncle.

Over the next 30 years, Ms. Carlisle built a new life, family and career in Canada, never returning to her native country. That changed in 2008 with news that a global Ismaili sports festival, sponsored by the Aga Khan, was going to be held in Nairobi. Ms. Carlisle jumped at the chance to visit Kenya and entered the tennis competition, winning a place on the Canadian team.

Before she went to the games she decided to raise some money for Kenyan development projects run by the Aga Khan Foundation. “When I had the opportunity to go there I knew I had to make some difference in the level of poverty in Kenya because I had seen that first hand,” she recalled.

Ms. Carlisle raised $17,000, which was used to build a water reservoir and a school in a remote village called Chanzou. During her trip to Nairobi for the competition, Ms. Carlisle and her husband, Jack, visited the village to see the projects. “I was actually blown away by how these villagers had become completely self-sufficient on such little money from the Aga Khan Foundation,” she said.

After returning home to Vancouver, Ms. Carlisle started raising more money for the foundation. She raised $35,000 last year and hopes to raise $25,000 this year at the upcoming World Partnership Walk, which takes place on May 30 in several Canadian cities.

Ms. Carlisle, a financial planner with Investors Group, said the trip to Kenya left a deep impression. “It was unbelievable how poverty had just taken over the country,” she said. “When we went to these really, really remote villages that’s when it hit me. They live on less than $2 a day. It really inspired me that I have to do something to make a difference for these people.”