Your Excellencies, Secretaries of State, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me begin by saying I’m enormously grateful to Katy Perry for such a kind introduction, which she told me just now that she wanted to make slightly more spicy, but I think she resisted the temptation.
I must say it was a great pleasure to have met her in Mumbai last November at a gathering for British Asian Trust council members on the day before my birthday. Meeting her turned out to be a wonderful birthday present.
Given Katy’s longstanding commitment to charitable causes around the world, I’m delighted to be announcing that she has most generously agreed to become an ambassador for the British Asian Trust’s Children’s Protection Fund for India.
I could hardly be more grateful to Katy for agreeing to take on this vital work and for giving up her precious time to be here this evening. Talking of giving up precious time, I am incredibly grateful to the wonderful comic genius Russell Peters - or as I understand it, we shall be referring to him as the Indian Detective - for making such a huge effort to come all the way from Los Angeles to perform later on for all of you. Incidentally, ladies and gentlemen, I now have my own personal Indian detective in the shape of Detective Sergeant Jag, comic genius in his own right. When he appeared on duty for the first time with me I asked if he knew the way to where he was going and he said I can find my way to the Golden Temple in Amritsar so it shouldn’t be a problem. I should get him on stage really…
Ladies and Gentlemen, there are of course so many here to whom I owe immense gratitude but I particularly want to take this opportunity to express my warmest thanks to both Adar and Natasha Poonawalla for not only introducing Katy to the Trust, but also for making a very generous personal commitment to the Children’s Protection Fund, and for Natasha’s agreement to serve as its Chairwoman. The commitment of the Poonawallas to the Trust, since I first met them seven years ago, has made such an immense difference and I am so very grateful to them for all their efforts.
Over the next ten years, with their support, and in partnership with Sir Chris Hohn and the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, we plan to develop the largest ever anti-trafficking Fund in South Asia in order to make a substantial reduction in child trafficking and abuse across India.
Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, as I have you all conveniently trapped in here this evening, I did just want to outline a few examples of the many ways in which the British Asian Trust has had an impact over the past year.
To start with I wanted to highlight the growing efforts of the British Asian Trust in deploying Development Impact Bonds which offer an innovative and effective means of reaching the targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goals.
As the world looks increasingly to innovate around sustainable solutions for both people and planet, the British Asian Trust, thanks to the efforts of the brilliant Abha Thorat-Shah, has really established itself as a leading social finance organisation for South Asia. As a result of these efforts, we are now close to launching new and exciting impact bonds in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
As many of you will remember, when we gathered at Buckingham Palace last year, I was able to announce the British Asian Trust’s hugely ambitious intention to raise $100 million over five years. This evening I am even more delighted to tell you that we are making great progress and, thanks to your support, it would not surprise me to see this goal reached in less than five years.
During my recent visit to India in November, I had the great good fortune to meet some of the children who have benefitted from the $11 million Quality India Education Development Impact Bond. It was a great treat to meet these charming children on my birthday and wonderful to hear about the beneficial effects from the improved quality of education as a result of this initiative.
Following on from these very encouraging results, I am so very pleased to announce that the British Asian Trust will soon be launching the first ever Development Impact Bond in Bangladesh. Shayan F. Rahman, the Chair of the British Asian Trust’s Bangladesh Advisory Council has, together with a number of his colleagues, agreed to provide the seed-funding for this initiative. This will be a major programme focussed on skills development, which will bring together private capital with philanthropy to improve the livelihoods of 50,000 young people (aged 14-18) in Bangladesh. Remarkably, it will be the largest Development Impact Bond in the world for unemployed youth.
In Pakistan, the Trust’s mental health programme continues to grow and is the only community-based mental health programme in the country. It is funded by the Cosaraf and CareTech Foundations and was further supported by an Iftar with the Pakistani Cricket Team here in London.
This year, I am also very proud to announce the coming together of the British Asian Trust with the Elephant Family – a marvellous charity founded by my darling mehabooba’s late-lamented brother in law, Mark Shand, which holds such a special place in both our hearts. Ruth Ganesh, who has so ably led the Elephant Family, and Richard Hawkes, who brilliantly leads the British Asian Trust, have worked immensely hard over the past year to bring all this together.
I need hardly say how pleased I am that the British Asian Trust has added a conservation programme to its work – an area of vital importance as we face an ever more worrying biodiversity crisis.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I cannot tell you what pride and pleasure it gives me once again once again to see how the diaspora in the United Kingdom joins hands with philanthropists in the region to enable my British Asian Trust to work at scale in support of people and communities across South Asia.
The remarkable impact you are able to have is a testament to all the hard work and generosity of everyone in this room, as well as all the supporters who could not be with us here this evening. But above all, I am especially grateful to the redoubtable and energetic Manoj Badale, Chairman of the British Asian Trust, and to all the Trustees for their leadership and ongoing support.
What started as a very modest initiative has, I am proud to say, flourished into an organization that has changed the lives of so many people in need and, with your help, will continue to make an ever-greater impact in South Asia. For that, I am profoundly grateful to everyone here.