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US State of Illinois and the Ismaili Imamat sign Cooperation Agreement

Chicago, USA, 4 November 2011 - Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois and His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, who is also founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), today signed an historic agreement to expand collaboration in the areas of education, environmental stewardship and management, health sciences, library and information sciences, infrastructure development, agricultural sustainability and culture.

Governor Quinn remarked that the people of Illinois would contribute their “great skills and warm hearts” to fulfilling the mission of the AKDN which includes among other critical areas, early childhood education. He made the remarks during a signing ceremony, attended by representatives of the Government of Illinois, the University of Illinois, University of Chicago and Northwestern University.

"I think, over the years, we’ve seen, in the developing world, government fragility,” said His Highness the Aga Khan. “And where government is fragile, what sustains human development is civil society. In order to develop civil society in the countries in which we work, in Africa and Asia, we have to bring knowledge, because if we don’t bring knowledge to civil society it cannot fulfill its role."

The Aga Khan added, "The agreement we are signing today between the state of Illinois and the Network brings exactly that. It brings access to that knowledge.”

In its preamble, the agreement notes that the State and the Imamat share a commitment to confronting persistent, varied and large scale material poverty, recognizing it alongside education as one of the greatest challenges facing the global community. It further stipulates that Illinois and the AKDN will support partnerships between their respective educational institutions such as the University of Illinois and the Aga Khan University to address these challenges.

In the area of energy and environmental management, the agreement envisions partnerships through sharing in research and innovation in natural resource conservation and renewable and alternative energy initiatives. It also evokes the experience of Illinois and AKDN in the area of promoting agricultural sustainability, stipulating that the two partners will work together to share best practices and raise awareness of export-import opportunities in agribusiness, especially among small- and medium-sized enterprises in Illinois and their counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central Asia.

Other areas of cooperation include media and communications and culture and environment. In recent years, Illinois museums and universities have hosted a series of AKDN exhibitions, lectures and concerts. The accord is designed to promote a better understanding and appreciation of Muslim civilisations and their historic, cultural and geographic diversity.