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His Highness the Aga Khan

Statement by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Conference on Afghanistan (London, UK)

31 January 2006

 

Please also see: Press Release

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In spite of remarkable progress in Afghanistan since the Bonn Agreement of 2001, daunting challenges remain and the new Compact sets ambitious goals for addressing them.

The Compact is a recognition by the international community that returning Afghanistan to its proud status as a happy and prosperous country, able to contribute to the progress of the region and to desirable global goals, requires the steadfast commitment of our collective will and resources for the long term.

The Compact acknowledges that this rebuilding must be on a solid foundation of fundamental respect for the rich pluralistic heritage, values and peoples of Afghanistan.

I am pleased that the Compact also stresses the valuable role of civil society institutions in the monumental task that lies before us. The Aga Khan Development Network remains dedicated to this mission, operating in an integrated fashion across the broad spectrum of human development: economic, social and cultural. We are investing in sustainable enterprises, building capacity in social services, and restoring monuments and buildings such as Bagh-e-Babur that are part of Afghanistan’s pluralist history and culture.

Our financial pledge of $75 million in 2002 has been exceeded by 60 per cent and along with our donor, lender and investor partners, we have mobilised just under $400 million for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Our experience in Afghanistan, as well as in neighbouring Tajikistan and Pakistan, is that sustainable development is only possible when the community is engaged at the grassroots level and is given the ways and the means to take responsibility for its own future.

This means building the capacity of civil society institutions as well as tapping into the wellspring of individual initiative that has been part of the vigorous Afghan spirit for centuries.

It is therefore critical that the Government of Afghanistan creates the appropriate legal and fiscal framework, the regulatory conditions and the stable democratic institutions - in other words, the enabling environment - that encourages and supports the confidence and growth of private initiative, and also facilitates the development of public-private partnerships.

Because of the extensive presence of AKDN agencies in Afghanistan - engaged in humanitarian assistance, education, health, rural and urban development, microfinance, tourism, cultural revitalization, telecommunications and banking - we have a wide understanding of the redevelopment processes in Afghanistan.

We are thus proposing to work with the Government of Afghanistan, in concert with a wide variety of stakeholders, to support the development and maintenance of an enabling environment. I would like to take this opportunity today to invite our partners - including governments, international and non-governmental organisations, and investors - to work with us and to participate in a conference we are planning in Kabul within the next twelve months to address this critical issue.

The task that lies before us is enormous and governments cannot shoulder the burden alone.

It is my firm belief that if the enabling conditions are in place, private initiative and the organisations of civil society can work successfully, with governments, toward achievement of our common vision for Afghanistan.

Thank you.

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