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International Conference on School Safety: Towards Building Safer Schools


Islamabad, Pakistan, 17 May 2008 - A three-day International Conference on School Safety was held here to address the weakness of the school buildings in which 17,000 school children lost their lives during the devastating October 2005 Kashmir earthquake. The conference was organized by Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, Pakistan (AKPBS,P) and Focus Humanitarian Assistance Pakistan (FOCUS Pakistan), between 14 and 16 May 2008 at the Islamabad Serena Hotel.

The International Conference on School Safety aimed to highlight the major risks inherent in the construction and design of current school structures and the devastating consequences that befall them following natural disasters. The Conference also aimed to identify ways in which school safety could be further enhanced to help better protect school communities.

An official outcome was declared through the Islamabad Declaration on School Safety which called on governments and private stakeholders to develop mechanisms to provide technical, financial and human capacity support for the implementation of School Safety Action Plans. The Islamabad Declaration also set forth practical recommendations for civil society and private organizations to act as critical partners in the implementation of the action plans.

Conference partners included the Pakistan Ministry of Education, United Nations Habitat/ One UN Program in Pakistan, United Nations International Secretariat for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR), Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, United Nations Center for Regional Development, Building Advisory Service and Information Network - South Asia, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Austrian Development Agency, Institute of Architects Pakistan, Aga Khan Foundation (Pakistan) and Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan. Nearly 125 participants from 15 countries represented policy think tanks, government agencies and ministries, academic institutions, disaster management agencies, local and international NGOs, donor agencies, the private sector and civil society organizations.

Speaking at the Conference launch, Chief Guest, Ms. Sherry Rehman, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, requested AKDN to continue its support and cooperation in providing physical and human resources to ensure the construction of safer buildings and design of policies in this regard, not only for schools but also for hospitals in Pakistan.

At the closing ceremony, the Key Note Speaker, Mr. Salvano Briceno, Director of the Secretariat of UN/ISDR emphasized the importance of retrofitting schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructures in earthquake prone areas. Chief Guest, Professor Ahsan Iqbal, Member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, conveyed his gratitude to AKDN for organizing the Conference and affirmed that the conference proposals on enhancing school safety would be of immense significance and an important source of reference in designing future policies for safer schools.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Hafiz Sherali, Chairman AKPBS, P, highlighted the work of the AKDN and its vast experience in handling sustainable development in challenging environments as well as its long-standing experience in building strong partnerships with civil society organizations and governments.

The event was also held as part of the series of commemorative events in Pakistan marking the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan’s fifty years of Imamat of the Ismaili Muslims. The Golden Jubilee year includes a number of initiatives, programmes and development projects which are being organized nationally and internationally.

Notes:
Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), is an international disaster risk management and crisis response agency. It provides humanitarian relief and support during and following natural disasters, primarily in the developing world. FOCUS also aims to provide disaster mitigation and preparedness programmes in vulnerable communities through community based awareness, training and education initiatives. Currently, FOCUS has offices in Central and South Asia, Europe and North America.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) was founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims. It is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion.

Aga Khan Planning and Building Service, Pakistan (AKPBS, P) has been working to improve the built environment in Pakistan since 1980. Its areas of focus include housing design and construction, institutional construction management, village planning, natural hazard mitigation, water supply and sanitation, and improved indoor living conditions for the most disadvantaged members of society. AKPBS, P achieves its goals by providing material and technical expertise and training to rural and urban areas. Currently, AKPBS, P is focusing on developing technology related to earthquake-resistant buildings, solar energy use, thermal efficiency, village planning, and other quality-of-life issues.

For further information, please contact:
Asif Merchant
Aga Khan Planning and Building Service
Pakistan
Telephone: +92 (0) 21 5361802 - 06
Facsimile: +92 (0) 21 5361807
E-mail: akpbsp.k@akpbsp.org  

Ghulam Panjwani
Focus Humanitarian Assistance
Pakistan
Telephone: +92 (0) 51 2294024; 2294051
Facsimile: +92 (0) 51 2294036
E-mail: ghulam.panjwani@focushumanitarian.org

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