Ladies and Gentlemen, can I just welcome you all to Windsor Castle this evening and say what a joy it is to see so many of you here. Quite a lot of you, I suspect, were here last year so I’m very worried and very anxious that what I say may be not entirely new to quite a lot of you so you must forgive me if possibly I may repeat myself.
I’m also slightly anxious because the last time you were here I have a ghastly feeling that I bored the lady who was sitting next to me to death during dinner, who then collapsed but anyway let’s hope tonight I’ve improved my technique substantially.
But it is so good to see you all and I’m hugely grateful to you for making such an effort to come here because I know many of you have come from all over the world, have flown in from Dubai or Bangladesh, and it is incredibly good of you to take such trouble.
As I think I said last year I’m one of those people of course who was brought up surrounded by so many objects and pictures and stories about the sub-continent and about South Asia. So perhaps you can imagine why I’ve developed such an interest going back such a long way. I happen to have a particular affection and interest in that part of the world and indeed, as far as I’m concerned, it has been remarkable how many people have come from that part of the world and established themselves here and have contributed so much to the life in this country and made it a huge success in so many ways and are a very important part of our country- all the British Asians.
I know also from the visits I’ve made to South Asia over the last 40years, I’ve come across so many fascinating examples of really worthwhile activity being carried out by all sorts of different organisations. Having encountered at first-hand some of the very real challenges faced by so many who obviously wish to give their children and grandchildren the same opportunities that we often take for granted, things like a decent environment, basic education and opportunity for meaningful work.
So having thought about these issues for quite a long time I turned to the entrepreneurial spirit of the British Asian Diaspora. I wanted to see if there was a way of linking them with the wonderfully innovative local social entrepreneurs and grassroots charities I have encountered across South Asia.
The result was The British Asian Trust which has successfully linked the two groups to help transform the lives of thousands of people in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom. Interestingly the Trust has been able to help more than a million of the world's poorest people in five years. Indeed, a fascinating report, which details the impact of this work, is being launched tonight. I wanted to reiterate my enormous gratitude to those people in my Trust who have made all this possible, Manoj Badale and Hitan Mehta for instance and their team, which is very small but it has been enormously effective and I’m hugely grateful to them.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, The Trust has identified projects that are in need of very significant support in many fields. These include mental health in Pakistan, entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka and empowering girls and young people to move into employment in India. The Trust’s work is always about finding the best models that address these issues, through rigorous due diligence and then nurturing them in the long-term.
I have always believed that it is not just the British Asian community who could be supporting this work but it’s important to work in collaboration with in-country supporters to help us leverage funding that in turn would further assist those in the greatest need.
With this in mind, my Trust as worked very hard to galvanize support in the countries in which my Trust operates. Philanthropists in those countries have now come together, I’m delighted to say, to establish Advisory Boards, not only to help my Trust find the most successful delivery partners, but also to co-fund and bring others together to join the cause. I am hugely grateful to Mukesh Ambani - who has offered his support in India, also to Arif Naqvi in the lead in Pakistan, His Excellency Dr Chris Nonis in Sri Lanka and Tom Singh here in the U.K. We are incredibly lucky to have such important and supportive people.
But of course Ladies and Gentlemen, there is much to be done. In the next five years, we should hope to do more and, if we can, on a larger scale with a particular focus on women and girls, together with support for improving and caring for the natural environment in the whole region. In doing this, we will help to empower future generations, who can in turn facilitate long-term improvement in South Asia’s health and prosperity.
So finally I just wanted to say once again, just how much I value and appreciate your enormous support and interest that you show in what we try to do and just finish by stressing how my British Asian Trust is also helping U.K based corporate companies to identify how they can support the most disadvantaged people in South Asia, those who are investing in that part of the world. So it is important, I think, for members of the Diaspora to know that my British Asian Trust is there at the end of the day to support them in their charitable giving. So I hope you’ll remember that Ladies and Gentlemen as I hope we manage to improve the way in which my Trust can be even more effective in South Asia. We can’t do without all of you. So for that, as I say, I am deeply grateful.