Shamsh Kassim-Lakha delivered a talk at the Ismaili Centre, London in which he emphasised the strategic importance of the Central Asian region in a globalised world.
The Executive Chairman of the University of Central Asia Board Executive Committee and Aga Khan Development Network Diplomatic Representative to the Kyrgyz Republic discussed economic opportunities and quality of life issues prevalent among high mountain populations in the region.
“There is resilience and initiative within mountain communities,” said Kassim-Lakha. He described “an inverse ratio between the height of the mountain and the economic status of those who inhabit it,” noting, “the higher the mountain, the lower the economic status.”
“Education bridges the divide,” he said. “We want to give communities the opportunity to reverse this risk of marginalisation through higher education.”
The University of Central Asia was founded in 2000 by the Presidents of Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan and Mawlana Hazar Imam. It will welcome the inaugural class of undergraduates to Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic in September 2016. UCA is building three campuses of equal facility and standards in Naryn; Khorog, Tajikistan and Tekeli, Kazakhstan.
Titled Creating Opportunity on the Roof of the World, his talk on 20 May 2016 was part of the Aga Khan Foundation UK’s Breaking the Cycle of Poverty lecture series, and presented in conjunction with the Ismaili Council for the United Kingdom.
His Excellency Robin Ord-Smith, British Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic and past Ambassador to the Republic of Tajikistan, delivered opening remarks before an audience, which included representatives from government, the diplomatic corps, media, and the donor community. The Ambassador, who visited the Naryn Campus in February 2016, praised the University, calling it “a great, visionary, and extraordinarily important project” that the region needs.
An open discussion and audience question and answer session followed the talk, led by Gulnara Kasmambetova, Senior Producer with the BBC Kyrgyz Television, Radio and Online services. A BBC news documentary, produced after an earlier visit to the Naryn campus by the BBC Kyrgyz team, was also premiered before the Ismaili Centre audience.