The Aga Khan has said that improving the quality of life was the most important component of a successful democracy.
“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 makers hosted 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 for a better quality of life is essential in providing 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 understanding.