Founded and guided by His Highness the Aga Khan, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) brings together a number of development agencies, institutions, and programmes that work primarily in the poorest parts of Asia and Africa. AKDN is a contemporary endeavour of the Ismaili Imamat to realise the social conscience of Islam through institutional action. AKDN agencies conduct their programmes without regard to the faith, origin or gender. For more information about the ethical framework of the AKDN's work, please see AKDN: An Ethical Framework.
The Social, Economic and Cultural Aspects of Development
AKDN agencies operate in social and economic development as well as in the field of culture. The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), Aga Khan Education Services (AKES), the Aga Khan Academies (AKA), the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM) and the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services (AKPBS) operate in social development. Two universities are also part of the Network: the Aga Khan University (AKU) and the University of Central Asia (UCA). An affiliate, Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), provides emergency response capabilities in the event of disasters and services to help people make the transition to sustainable self-reliant, long-term development.
The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) with its affiliates the Tourism Promotion Services, Industrial Promotion Services, Aviation Services, Media Services and Financial Services, seek to build enterprises in parts of the world that lack sufficient foreign direct investment. It also makes bold but calculated investments in situations that are fragile and complex as a way of stimulating further investment and development. The Fund and the Foundation also encourage government policies that foster what the Aga Khan first called an "enabling environment" of favourable legislative and fiscal structures.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) co-ordinates AKDN's cultural activities. Its programmes include the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Historic Cities Programme, the Aga Khan Music Programme and the Museums and Exhibitions Unit. The Trust also provides financial support for the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the on-line archive of materials concerning Islamic architecture, ArchNet.org.
While each agency pursues its own mandate, all of them work together within the overarching framework of the Aga Khan Development Network so that their different pursuits can interact and reinforce one another. Their common goal is to help the poor achieve a level of self-reliance whereby they are able to plan their own livelihoods and help those even more needy than themselves. A central feature of the AKDN's approach to development is to design and implement strategies in which its different agencies participate in particular settings. To pursue their mandates, AKDN institutions rely on the energy, dedication, and skill of volunteers as well as remunerated professionals, and draw upon the talents of people of all faiths.
Development models require time to demonstrate their effectiveness and to enable local communities to take on full responsibility for their own future development. The AKDN agencies, therefore, make a long-term commitment to the areas in which they work, guided by the philosophy that a humane, sustainable environment must reflect the choices made by people themselves of how they live and wish to improve their prospects in harmony with their environment. Sustainability is, thus, a central consideration from the outset.
The experience of the past three decades of development effort shows that even when government, non-government, commercial organisations, and international development agencies work together, they are not able to meet most, let alone all, of the needs for shelter, health, and sustenance of the world's populations. AKDN institutions work in close partnership with the world's major national and international aid and development agencies. (See Partners for more information.) The AKDN itself is an independent self-governing system of agencies, institutions, and programmes under the leadership of the Ismaili Imamat. Their main sources of support are the Ismaili community with its tradition of philanthropy, voluntary service and self-reliance, and the leadership and material underwriting of the hereditary Imam and Imamat resources.
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