Speech: Remarks by Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary

“And how appropriate it is for this tribute to be taking place in the building that Prince Sadruddin saw under construction when he was a little boy of three, who was present a year later at its inauguration by his father, the Aga Khan, President of the League of Nations in 1937, and who later worked within its walls for years almost without number.”

 

-Diana Miserez,

author of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary

Ismailimail is grateful to Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan for providing us permission to share her bilingual remarks in both English and French.

Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary (Image credit: Anvar Nanji)
Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary (Image credit: Anvar Nanji)

Bilingual Remarks in English

Thursday 20 April 2017, Palais des Nations Library

Your Excellencies, Mr High Commissioner, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is the greatest imaginable honour to stand here today, as together we pay tribute to a very great man. And how appropriate it is for this tribute to be taking place in the building that Prince Sadruddin saw under construction when he was a little boy of three, who was present a year later at its inauguration by his father, the Aga Khan, President of the League of Nations in 1937, and who later worked within its walls for years almost without number.

It has also been a great honour for me to portray the professional life and the personality of a man of such tremendous distinction. You may well wonder how, as a junior staff member of UNHCR, I came to know Prince Sadruddin, and how this book has come about 50 years later. We have just had the benefit of hearing from the High Commissioner how Prince Sadruddin was a dynamic and inspiring leader – as he already was as Deputy High Commissioner, when in the 1965 General Assembly the chief delegate of Tanzania, Mr. Mwaluko, said this:

“Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the diplomat, the leader of men, the accomplished artist and the humanitarian, combines all these qualities with the same humility that characterises his community.”

That day, the General Assembly by acclamation elected the 32-year-old prince UN High Commissioner.

Eighteen months earlier, the prince had visited the small group of his colleagues at the first UNHCR regional office in Africa, immediately after one of the team had been killed in the Congo. I can never forget how one day Prince Sadruddin came unexpectedly into my little back office, sat on the edge of my desk and talked with the friendliness one can normally expect only from a close friend or a brother. Although I came to be away from UNHCR for some years after that, the prince kept in touch with me and later showed me, as he did to so many others, the utmost kindness, concern and friendship.

The year after the prince left us, a visitor from London suggested I write his biography, but I did not entertain the idea for a moment. Of course, there had to be a biography: a man so outstanding, so valuable to the world, so much loved and admired in his lifetime, should not be allowed to sink into oblivion. The moving 2003 tribute of the Chancellor of State of Geneva, Maître Robert Hensler, showed how deeply the prince had been appreciated by the Geneva hosts of the United Nations, as by countless people all over the world.

I wrote to several eminent publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, urging them to consider the idea of a biography. While several agreed that there was indeed a case for one, not one of them offered to take it on. You will hear the rest from my friend Nicola Spafford-Furey.
Prince Sadruddin had said to me on the last occasion that we met, in February 1994, that he hoped that by the time he was seventy, there might be a start on one. And at the age of 70 he died…

I received invaluable encouragement and help from some former colleagues. For example, Guy Goodwin-Gill, a senior law professor at Oxford, wrote the Foreword. Georges Koulischer, a retired senior director, contributed his extensive experience of Sadruddin’s work to do with Latin America. And we know the rest.


Prince Sadruddin’s father, the Aga Khan, imam of the Ismailis and father to Aly (at that time nearly twenty), proposed marriage to a young resident of Aix-les-Bains, Andrée Joséphine Carron, and they were married two years later. On 17th January 1933, Sadruddin was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a Paris suburb. In his early years, his father being at assemblies of the League of Nations in Geneva as head of the Indian delegation, the little boy spent most of his time with his mother, who took him into the mountains where they often stayed. He started school in Paris, but when he was seven, the little family became refugees when Nazi Germany overran France, and spent the war years in Gstaad, in the Bernese Oberland. Sadruddin was at school there until he was fourteen, when he went to the École Nouvelle, Lausanne, by which time he had acquired an incomparable understanding and love of nature. From there, he went to Harvard University, returning with two degrees, some most beautiful Islamic and Indian paintings dating from the 16th century – and … a fiancée!

His father’s death and his wedding to Nina Dyer occurred in the same year, milestones that preceded the start of Prince Sadruddin’s remarkable international career, with UNESCO and UNHCR – in turn, following in his father’s footsteps and believing passionately in the United Nations. He went on to serve in many other capacities over the 20 years that followed his 12 years as High Commissioner, for he accepted missions to the Middle East, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan that required both his diplomatic genius and his operational gifts. But the Prince was in addition engaging in countless other activities, having created his own foundation and “think-tank”, the Bellerive Foundation, recruiting exceptional staff and launching their international careers. Let me speak of one of them, Michael Keating, once serving in Afghanistan under the prince, as did other brilliant men such as Steffan de Mistura. Now Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Michael emailed me the following lines from Mogadishu that testify to Sadruddin’s many-sided, very rich personality :

Sadruddin introduced me to the world of international affairs in a way that no-one else possibly could. He hired me as his Special Assistant when I was in my mid-twenties, and installed me in a converted attic in his elegant offices near the Old Town in Geneva. He was unbelievably well connected at the highest levels on all continents, north and south, on an astounding range of issues, including conservation, animal rights and environmental protection, cultural heritage and fine arts, refugees and humanitarian law, food security and green economics, nuclear proliferation and terrorism, religious tolerance, racism and identity politics, multilateralism and UN reform – to name a few. His views on all these subjects were rarely conventional, always deeply held and, as it turned out, way ahead of their time. He had exacting standards, great attention to detail and high expectations of me – including the terrifying assumption that I was familiar, or would be able to make myself familiar, with all these issues so as to be useful to him. I survived because association with him opened doors and because of his willingness to share knowledge. I was very privileged to have such an induction, and still bump into people all over the world who tell me how much they valued meeting him and were influenced by him.

Other former recruits have said that the best years of their careers were those spent with Prince Sadruddin. To what these people have said of their brilliant, statesmanlike leader, I wish to add the prince’s qualities of loyalty, intuitiveness, gentleness, humility, warmth, generosity and humour. His sense of humour and phenomenal memory led him, I believe, to tell the funniest stories, while his gift for mimicry convulsed family and friends. But the man to whom we now bear tribute cared above all for the poor and the uprooted, and died grieving that all too little was being done for them.

Your Excellencies, Mr. High Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen:

I hope that in time, not only will there be others who will write about the late prince, but that there will be very many who will try to follow his outstanding example.

Bilingual Remarks in French

Bibliothèque du Palais des Nations, jeudi 20 avril 2017

Excellences, Mr le Haut Commissaire, Mesdames et Messieurs,

C’est pour moi le plus grand honneur que d’être ici aujourd’hui, rendre hommage avec vous à la mémoire d’un très grand homme.  Et comme il est approprié que cet hommage au Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan ait lieu dans le bâtiment qu’à l’âge de 3 ans il a vu en construction, présent aussi à inauguration l’année suivante par son père, alors président de la Société des Nations du bâtiment où, beaucoup plus tard, le prince a travaillé pendant d’innombrables années.

Un grand honneur aussi de décrire la vie professionnelle et la personnalité d’un homme d’une aussi grande distinction. Vous pourriez bien vous demander comment une jeune assistante administrative du HCR ait pu faire la connaissance du prince Sadruddin, et comment elle a écrit ce livre 50 ans plus tard. On vient d’avoir le plaisir d’entendre, grâce au discours de M. le Haut Commissaire, comme le prince Sadruddin était un dirigeant dynamique et exemplaire. Voici ce qu’a dit en 1965, Mr. Mwaluko, chef de la Délégation de Tanzanie à l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies:

“Le Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, le diplomate, le leader, l’artiste accompli et l’humanitaire, combine toutes ces qualités avec la même humilité que celle qui caractérise sa communauté.”

Ce jour-là, l’Assemblée générale a élu le jeune prince de 32 ans Haut Commissaire par acclamation.

Dix-huit mois plus tôt, le prince était venu rendre visite au petit groupe de ses collègues à la première délégation régionale du HCR en Afrique, tout de suite après la mort de l’un de notre équipe, tué au Congo.

Je n’oublierai jamais le jour où le prince Sadruddin est venu dans mon petit bureau, s’est assis au bord de ma table et m’a parlé avec l’amabilité qu’on attend seulement d’un ami proche ou un frère.  Plus tard, malgré le fait que pendant quelques années j’étais loin du HCR, le prince a gardé le contact avec moi et plus tard, il m’a montré, comme à beaucoup d’autres, la plus grande gentillesse, prévenance et même amitié.

Une année après que le prince nous ait quittés, une amie de Londres m’a proposé d’écrire sa biographie, mais sur le moment, pas un seul instant ai-je considéré cette idée. Bien sûr, il fallait une biographie : il ne fallait pas qu’un homme aussi extraordinaire, aussi important, tant aimé et si admiré de son vivant, tombe dans l’oubli. L’hommage émouvant du Chancelier d’État de la Ville de Genève, Maître Robert Hensler, en mai 2003 avait indiqué à quel point le prince avait été apprécié par les hôtes genevois des Nations Unies, comme par d’innombrables personnes de par le monde.

J’ai écrit à plusieurs maisons d’édition éminentes des deux côtés de l’Atlantique, en leur priant de considérer l’idée de la biographie. Plusieurs ont confirmé qu’une biographie devrait être écrite, mais aucune n’a proposé de la faire. Madame Spafford Furey vous dira le reste.

Le prince Sadruddin m’avait dit, lors de notre dernière rencontre en février 1994, qu’il espérait que lorsqu’il aurait 70 ans, quelqu’un s’en occuperait…et à 70 ans, il est mort…

Le moment venu, j’ai reçu énormément d’encouragement et d’aide de quelques anciens collègues. Par exemple, la Préface a été écrite par Guy Goodwin-Gill, professeur de droit international à Oxford. Georges Koulischer, ancien directeur du HCR, a partagé son importante expérience du travail du prince concernant l’Amérique latine. Et voilà…la vie du prince.

En 1928, le père du Prince Sadruddin, l’Aga Khan, Imam des Ismailis et père d’Aly, proposa le mariage à une jeune résidente d’Aix-les-Bains, Andrée Joséphine Carron. Ils se sont mariés deux ans plus tard, et le 17 janvier 1933, Sadruddin est né à Neuilly-sur-Seine, commune de la banlieue ouest de Paris. L’Aga Khan devant être présent à Genève aux assemblées de la Société des Nations, où il était à la tête de la délégation de l’Inde, le petit garçon était la plupart du temps seul avec sa mère, qui l’emmena dans les montagnes, où souvent ils passaient plusieurs jours.

Sadruddin a commencé sa scolarité à Paris, mais lorsqu’il avait 7 ans, la petite famille s’est réfugiée en Suisse quand l’Allemagne nazie a envahi la France. Elle a donc passé les années de guerre à Gstaad, dans l’Oberland bernois. Sadruddin y a été scolarisé jusqu’à ses 14 ans, quand il a été inscrit à l’École Nouvelle, Lausanne – ayant acquis un amour et une compréhension de la nature sans égal. De là, il est parti à l’Université de Harvard, rentrant avec deux diplômes, de très belles miniatures du 16e siècle– et…il s’était fiancé ! La mort de son père, la même année que son mariage à Nina Dyer, a précédé ses débuts aux Nations Unies – à tour de rôle à UNESCO et au HCR ! – suivant l’exemple de son père, et ayant une foi profonde dans les Nations Unies.

Pendant les 20 ans qui suivaient ses 12 ans comme Haut Commissaire, le prince acceptait des missions qui utilisaient ses dons diplomatiques et son expérience d’opérations de toutes sortes – au Moyen Orient, au Kuwait, en Iraq et à l’Afghanistan. Mais en plus, il s’est engagé dans des activités presque sans nombre après avoir créé sa propre fondation, la Fondation Bellerive et recruté des personnes exceptionnelles. L’un d’entre eux, Michael Keating, autrefois à côté du prince en Afghanistan, à présent le Représentant spécial du Secrétaire-général de l’ONU en Somalie, m’a fourni le témoignage que voici. Vous le trouverez sans doute saisissant :

Sadruddin m’a présenté au monde des affaires internationales d’une façon que personne d’autre n’aurait été capable de le faire. Il m’a recruté comme Assistant spécial quand j’avais environ 25 ans, et m’a installé dans le grenier reconverti de ses bureaux élégants dans la Vieille Ville de Genève. Il avait un vaste réseau sur tous les continents au niveau le plus élevé, nord et sud, sur un éventail de questions, y compris la conservation, les droits des animaux et la protection de l’environnement, l’héritage culturel et les beaux-arts, les problèmes de réfugiés et le droit humanitaire, la sécurité alimentaire et l’économie verte, la prolifération nucléaire et le terrorisme, la tolérance religieuse, le racisme et la politique identitaire, le multilatéralisme et la réforme de l’ONU – pour n’en citer que quelques-unes.  Son point de vue sur toutes ces questions n’étaient que rarement conventionnel, toujours profondément ancrée et il s’est avéré, très en avance de son temps. Il était rigoureux, prêtait beaucoup d’attention aux détails, et il attendait beaucoup de moi – y compris la terrifiante supposition que je m’étais déjà familiarisé, ou allais me familiariser, avec toutes ces questions afin de lui être utile. J’ai survécu parce que l’association avec lui a ouvert des portes, et parce qu’il était toujours prêt de partager ses connaissances. J’étais très privilégié d’être formé de la sorte, et encore maintenant, je croise des gens dans toutes les parties du monde qui me disent à quel point ils appréciaient l’avoir rencontré, et comme ils avaient été influencés par lui.

D’autres recrus ont dit que les meilleures années de leurs vies professionnelles étaient celles passées auprès du prince. J’aimerais mentionner ses activités sportives (le ski, les randonnés, le tennis, la voile) et ajouter ses qualités de loyauté, d’intuition, de douceur, d’humilité, de chaleur, de générosité et de courage. Son sens de l’humour et sa mémoire phénoménale l’ont amené à raconter les histoires les plus amusantes, tandis qu’étant doué pour les imitations, il faisait tordre de rire la famille et les amis. Mais l’homme à qui nous rendons hommage aujourd’hui se préoccupait surtout des pauvres et démunis, et il est mort affligé que si peu ne soit fait pour eux.

Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs,

J’espère qu’avec le temps, non seulement il y en aura d’autres qui écriront au sujet du prince, mais surtout, beaucoup qui essayeront de suivre son exceptionnel exemple.

 

3 ways to get a copy of Prince Sadruddin’s biography

 

 


Research, Insight & Perspective by A. Maherali


 

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s Book Launch

UN Library Geneva book of the month: Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary by Diana Miserez UN Library’s book of the month: Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary by Diana Miserez - Now the United Nations (UN) Library at Geneva features the biography - Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary as the book of the month.
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Edward Girardet during the panel discussions at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary (image credit: Anvar Nanji) Video: Remarks of Edward Girardet, journalist at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography - Remarks by Edward Girardet during the panel discussions at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin…
Dr. Philippe Roch with fellow panelists during the panel discussions at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary (image credit: UN Library) Video: Remarks of Philippe Roch, Swiss WWF ex-Director at the book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography - Remarks by Dr. Philippe Roch during the panel discussions at the book launch of Prince…
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(L-R) Dr. Philippe Roch, Diana Miserez, Edward Girardet (image credit: Anvar Nanji) Video: Remarks by Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary at the UN Library Geneva book launch - Thursday 20 April 2017, UN Library, Palais des Nations, Geneva Speech extracts & YouTube video…
Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary (Image credit: Anvar Nanji) Speech: Remarks by Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary - “And how appropriate it is for this tribute to be taking place in the building…
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Social Media: Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan's Book Launch Social Media: Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s Book Launch - Social Media Posts. Live from UN Geneva - Book launch - Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary By Diana Miserez
The late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan with Secretary-General U Thant at his home on 23 June 1971. (Image credit: Teddy Chan, United Nations via Simerg) What people are saying about the Prince Sadruddin biography by Diana Miserez - "This long needed biography seeks to do belated justice to a great humanitarian, who saw what was coming down the line and what would be needed..."
Talking to Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin’s biography and Nicola Spafford Furey, VP of Earth Focus Foundation one day before the book launch event at the UN - Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin's biography and Nicola Spafford Furey, VP of Earth Focus Foundation reminiscing about Aga Khan and Ismailis ahead of Prince Sadruddin's book launch at the UN in Geneva.
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Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Sadruddin Aga Khan UN High Commissioner for Refugees 1965-1977. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadruddin Aga Khan being interviewed in front of the "City of Galway". (Image credit: UNHCR / D. Vittet / June 1971) Contemplate: Prince Sadruddin’s inspiring 1975 address to the newly settled Ismaili community in Canada - Excerpts from Prince Sadruddin's address delivered to the Ismaili Muslim community on Wednesday, 22 January 1975 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
French Minister of Culture pays tribute to Prince Sadruddin as he decorates His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan and Prince Amyn with honors Reflection: French Minister of Culture pays tribute to Prince Sadruddin as he decorates His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan and Prince Amyn with honours - About 7 years ago, French Minister Frédéric Mitterrand paid an elaborate tribute to the Aga Khan family highlighting the contributions of Prince Sadruddin and the Noorani family.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan poses for photographers 12 July 1988, as he arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris, to be received as UN coordinator for Afghanistan. Son of Aga Khan III, Sadruddin worked 12 years as UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Graduated from Harvard, he was named in 1988 coordinator of United Nations Organization (ONU) for the rebuilding of Afghanistan, and, in 1990, as personal representative of General Secretary of ONU, Javier Perez de Cuellar, for the humanitarian assistance during the Gulf War. Aga Khan is also the Bellerive Foundation president founded in 1977 to study scientific, technological and peace issues. (Image credit PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images) Retrospective: 1988 Interview with Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Co-ordinator for United Nations Humanitarian and Economic Assistance Programmes relating to Afghanistan - Following the historic agreement signed in Geneva on April 14, 1988 between Afghanistan and Pakistan, on May 11, the U.N. Secretary General appointed Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan to the position of Co-ordinator for United Nations Humanitarian and Economic Assistance Programmes relating to Afghanistan.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary by Diana Miserez eBook of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s biography now available worldwide - In parallel with English and French editions of the biography of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan made available in the UK and Switzerland, an eBook version is now available worldwide
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary by Diana Miserez UN Library hosts book launch of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan at the Palais des Nations, Geneva on April 20 - Join us for this book launch and enjoy stories about Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s outstanding personality told by his friends and colleagues.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary by Diana Miserez French edition of a new book- Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humaniste et Visionnaire – a Biography by Diana Miserez - The biography of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan has been published very recently, in January in Great Britain and in March in Switzerland. Both language versions are shortly to feature in a launch at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary by Diana Miserez featured in the alumni news of University of Bristol University of Bristol’s Alumni and Friends feature biography of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan by Diana Miserez - In this biography, Diana Miserez traces the life of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 1966 to 1977, a humanitarian, visionary and environmentalist.
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