Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
My wife and I could not be more delighted to be with all of you this evening in order to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of my British Asian Trust. It hardly seems possible that a decade has passed since we launched the Trust on a rain-sodden cricket pitch in Glasgow on what might be called a typical Summer's day in July 2007…
When I first had the initial idea for the Trust, following my visits to India and Pakistan in 2006, I could scarcely have dared to dream that it would have the remarkable success that it has since enjoyed and that it would touch the lives of so many people in need across South Asia.
And yet, perhaps, I should not be surprised that it has succeeded as it has because, at its heart, the Trust is driven by the extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit of the British Asian Community – and, of course, it has been incredibly fortunate, as have I, to have both Manoj Badale and Hitan Mehta to drive it forwards from the start and now with Richard Hawkes playing such a key role. That British Asian community has excelled in almost every area of life – whether it be academia, the arts, media or, of course, business – and has made a profound and indispensable contribution to the United Kingdom for many decades.
Furthermore, what is clear to me, as I reflect on ten years of the British Asian Trust, is that the Diaspora is characterized – perhaps above all – by an extraordinary generosity and a deeply-held desire to help those who are most vulnerable and in need.
I now need hardly say that it gives me the greatest possible pleasure and pride that, in its own small way, my British Asian Trust has been able to offer a conduit for this generosity, working through trusted local delivery partners to ensure that your money has maximum impact where it matters most. As I heard when I met members of the Trust's Advisory Council earlier today, the strong network of partnerships the Trust has built across South Asia ensures that, together, we are making the greatest possible difference.
With your invaluable support, the British Asian Trust has so far improved the lives of close to four million people across the region. This really is a remarkable achievement in which we can all take great pride and which – it perhaps won't surprise you to hear – inspires me to believe that, together, we can do much, much more to transform lives across South Asia.
This is why I am so profoundly grateful for the support the Trust receives from so many of you – for instance, from British Asian family businesses such as Caretech and the Sheikh brothers, who are partnering with us over the next three years to support a major mental health programme in Pakistan; from multinationals like the Lyca Group, who have once again supported our work so generously, and household names such as John Lewis and British Telecom. And, of course, from the extraordinary generosity of individuals whose personal commitment to the work of the Trust makes such a notable difference.
I am therefore delighted to announce that this evening we are launching the Founder's Circle of my Trust. The Circle is the backbone of the core support that is required to do all this significant work, so I hope that in the months ahead the Circle will continue to grow and to enable us to reach more people in more places.
Ladies and Gentleman, the passion that my mehbooba and I feel for the work of my British Asian Trust is driven by what we have seen for ourselves during our visits to South Asia when, as most recently in India last November, we have both been so deeply touched by the tremendously positive impact that the Trust is having on the ground. Meeting a group of bright, happy, motivated primary school children, to whom the Trust's Peepal Foundation has offered not just a quality education, but the chance of a secure and productive future, was a wonderful example I think of what we can achieve together. Knowing how frequently so many of you travel, I can only encourage all of you to find the time to visit some of the projects you have supported and to see with your own eyes the impact you have made.
So, as we celebrate all that we have achieved together over the past ten years, I am delighted to assure you that even greater things lie ahead. For quite some years now, and more recently with Sir Ronald Cohen's help, I have been a strong advocate of Social Finance, especially through what are known as Development Impact Bonds. These bonds are an innovative and I think a tremendously effective way of raising the funds needed to address some of the greatest challenges in the region at the kind of scale necessary to make a significant difference.
I am, therefore, delighted to announce that thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the Tata Trusts, together with the support of the Department for International Development, Comic Relief, the Mittal Foundation and the UBS Optimus Foundation, we are launching a $10 million Development Impact Bond that will improve education for more than 200,000 children in India. Ladies and Gentlemen, this will be the largest Bond of its type in the region and will, I hope, offer a compelling model for a more effective approach to philanthropy at scale.
I am also pleased to share with all of you the news that my British Asian Trust is to begin work in Bangladesh and that Richard Hawkes, our C.E.O., will be leaving for Dhaka next week to launch our operation there. I can only say that I am enormously grateful to Shayan Rahman, the Chair of our Bangladesh Advisory Council, for the support he is providing with this.
None of these new initiatives – or indeed any of the remarkable achievements of the past decade – would be possible without the support of so many of you. There are, I fear, far more people deserving of my special gratitude than I could ever mention tonight without keeping you all here until well after midnight. But, in marking ten years of the British Asian Trust, I particularly want to thank all of the Trustees who have devoted their time and energy to making the Trust a success and, in particular, to Manoj Badale who, I understand, has just turned fifty, but some how he seems to have discovered the secret of eternal youth over the past decade..! Not a grey hair in sight. Quite how he has managed this remains a mystery as I rather thought that working for me in any capacity was bound to age anybody extremely rapidly!
Ladies and Gentlemen, the remarkable generosity and commitment you have shown to my British Asian Trust over the past decade is, I can assure you, deeply appreciated and I can only hope that you will feel able to continue on this journey with us. There is still so much we can do together to make a difference in South Asia, a region which remains close to my and my wife's heart, just as I know it does to all of yours.