“…civil society [is] a realm of activity which is neither governmental nor commercial, institutions designed to advance the public good, but powered by private energies.” –His Highness the Aga Khan, Enabling Environment Conference, Afghanistan, June 2007
Strengthening civil society to improve the quality of life is a central goal of the AKDN. Civil society is increasingly recognised globally as a building block for democracy and economic development. AKDN understands civil society in the broadest sense of civic institutions working for the public good. A strong civil society can enhance social cohesion and pluralism, advance meritocracy, ethics and standards of quality, act as a bulwark against volatility in times of crisis and protect communities against state failure. It is important to keep in mind that civil society includes a diversity of opinion and action.
As Afghanistan struggles to rebuild a society which can supply its people’s needs after years of conflict, one of the most widespread and persistent complaints is of corruption and the lack of accountability in government. Social audits, which are carried out with the agreement of the community development council and the community, allow local people to "audit" how funds are used, pose questions about the progress of a development project and ask about staffing and maintenance costs. More
AKDN Quality of Life Assessment Programme Brochure
11 February 2013 - The AKDN Quality of Life Assessment Programme brochure encompasses the programme’s core concepts, methodology, the assessment framework, domains and indicators and key principles.
Partnering with Governments
01 April 2007 - In Afghanistan, AKDN is a facilitating partner of the Government’s National Solidarity Programme (NSP). Under the NSP, AKDN assists villages in establishing village-based Community Development Councils, electing an accountable and transparent Council leadership, formulating village development plans, and prioritising village needs.
Responding to Emerging Challenges
01 July 2007 - When restoring Baltit Fort, in Hunza, Pakistan, it was the aim of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture to use the restoration as a catalyst for the generation of new employment opportunities, the provision of training in jobs that were needed for a changing economy and the creation of new forms of governance to maintain and protect the area’s rich cultural heritage.
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AKDN contributes to stronger civil society through its network of meritocratic institutions, including schools, hospitals and universities. This includes an economic dimension through investment in enterprises and financial services that contribute to both social and economic development, underpinning the viability and sustainability of civil society. AKDN through its agencies and programmes supports a range of citizen organisations including professional, cultural, and faith-based associations, NGOs, disaster response teams, housing associations, savings groups and community organisations managing local resources and local governance.
AKDN is a civil society network that supports the conditions that shape the functioning and effectiveness of civil society, also referred to as the enabling environment, through nurturing and advancing:
- Ethical standards and meritocracy;
- Pluralism and cultural diversity;
- Quality services, e.g., in education, health and financial services;
- Protection and management of natural resources;
- Development, improvement and restoration of the built environment;
- Effective and inclusive institutions for local governance;
- Favourable legal and fiscal frameworks;
- Public-private partnership agreements for social, economic and cultural services
- Responsible expression and deliberation in the public sphere, including media;
- Sustainable financing and mobilisation of local resources;
- Knowledge on context and cultures, e.g., through research, teaching and museums.
A robust civil society can help to ensure that there is the necessary capacity for services and support to enable citizens to improve their quality of life. AKDN is working in different contexts including post-conflict, post-Soviet and newly emerging states with fragile government capacity to meet public needs and is engaged in long term thinking around the notion of the key pillars of civil society in specific regions of the world where it has a significant presence. Civil society in its broadest sense is a defining and binding framework. AKDN is positioned in its countries and regions of coverage to map the composition, quality, and effectiveness of civil society within each of its thematic areas through the combination of the collective agencies. Over the long-term, along with other civil society institutions, AKDN aims to assess the effectiveness of actions to strengthen civil society through quality of life indicators and broader measures that reflect a more enabling environment.