France has awarded His Highness the Aga Khan, the country’s highest national medal of honour in recognition of his efforts to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable people around the world.
The award is in recognition of the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee, commemorating 60 years as Imam (spiritual leader) of the world’s Shia Ismaili Muslim community.
Presenting the award on behalf of President Emmanuel Macron on September 19, France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, praised His Highness’s commitment to the cause of peace, pluralism and development.
“France wishes to warmly express its gratitude by elevating you to the dignity of the Grand Cross in the order of the Legion of Honour. On behalf of the president of the republic, and by virtue of the powers conferred upon me, we bestow you the dignity of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour,” said Mr Le Drian.
The award ceremony was followed by a dinner hosted by the French government in honour of the Aga Khan. In attendance were government officials and leading members of French social, economic and cultural civil society organisations.
Members of His Highness’s family — his brother Prince Amyn, his son Prince Rahim and his daughter Princess Zahra — were also in attendance together with senior leaders from the Aga Khan Development Network and the Ismaili community.
The occasion also marked the 10th anniversary of the collaboration agreement between the Aga Khan Development Network and the French government signed in the 2008.
The collaboration between AKDN and the French Development Agency covers health, education, infrastructure and rural development. It has made a significant impact on the quality of life of the most vulnerable people in Africa and Asia.
Key examples include the Heart and Cancer Centre at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya; support for the French Medical Institute for Mothers and Children in Kabul, Afghanistan; support for health services in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; the Bujagali hydropower plant in Uganda; and Roshan, the first and largest mobile telephone provider in Afghanistan.
The Aga Khan said he attached a lot of importance to the partnership as it was built on shared values.
“For years, we have worked together in different fields, in France, abroad and always in a close partnership, of common points of view, of common objectives and, above all, respect for all the great values of France. For me this partnership is particularly important. It is a partnership built on historical values. And these historical values have proven themselves around the world. These are values of French origin, but which today are universal values,” he said.
The Aga Khan’s contributions to the preservation of French heritage were also recognised. He is founder and president of the Foundation pour la Sauvegarde et le Développement du Domaine de Chantilly, which has made a significant contribution to the conservation and restoration of the domain, including the Château of Chantilly.
The Grand-Croix de la Légion d’Honneur is the highest French Medal of Honour and was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Previous recipients include Prince Charles, Emperor Akihito (Japan), King Willem-Alexander (Netherlands), Václav Havel (Czech Republic), King Hussein (Jordan) as well as French presidents and former prime ministers.