His Highness the Aga Khan delivered an important speechÂ at the Annual Athens Democracy Forum where he posited that democracy in contemporary world should be to improve the quality of life of citizens of the world.
â€œI believe that the progress of democracy in our world is fundamentally linked to improving the quality of human life,â€ 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.
â€œDemocracy can only survive if it demonstrates, across the years and across the planet, that it is the best way to achieve that goal,â€ he said.
The Aga Khan, who owns several media outlets, including being the highest shareholder of Kenya’s Nation Media and Uganda’s Daily Monitor, made the remarks while giving keynote speech at Athens Democracy Forum,Â an international gathering of diplomats, business leaders and opinion makers hosted by the International New York Times and the United Nations Democracy Fund.
“I believe that the progress of democracy in our world is fundamentally linked to improving the quality of human life,â€
He said democracy becomes detrimental to communities and societies when political concepts and constitutional systems are poorly understood.
â€œThroughout history, the same tools â€“ the printing press, the telegraph, the microphone, the television camera, the cell phone, the internet â€“ that promised to bring us together, have also been used to drive us apart,â€ he said.
â€œOne problem is a poor understanding of comparative government systems.Â 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,â€ 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 for a better quality of life is essential in providing genuine hope for the future.Â 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 understanding.
The Aga 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.