Berlin, Germany, 31 March 2004 - “Social and economic reconstruction must be based first on the engendering of hope and trust in new, realistic opportunities” and the need to “build for the continuity of such efforts by the beneficiaries themselves.”
Addressing representatives of over 60 states and international organisations at a major conference here, His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, today highlighted to the international community key issues for continued and enhanced progress in Afghanistan, based on the Aga Khan Development Network’s extensive experience of reconstruction and development in the country and the region more broadly. The Aga Khan drew on the Network’s learning from its focus on the ultra poor in Afghanistan as well in the surrounding region, particularly in Eastern Tajikistan and North West Pakistan.
His Highness the Aga Khan with United States Secretary of State Colin Powell and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at the Berlin Conference on "Afghanistan and the International Community - A Partnership for the Future" The first of the issues was the need to build a vibrant civil society to help develop economic, social and cultural institutions, and the necessary enabling environment of proper legal and fiscal frameworks for the birth and growth of sustainable national institutions. Fostering and legitimising pluralism was, the Aga Khan noted, “a paramount challenge.”
In addition to paying continued attention to addressing basic needs, support was required, said the Aga Khan, for the secondary and tertiary sectors through intermediary instruments that link people’s needs to national systems and institutions. Given the critical lack of needed human resources, the Aga Khan underlined that “it is continuing education, particularly for women, which is the most immediate need.”
Having noted the obvious priorities of restoring security and protecting Afghanistan from becoming the world’s leading narcotics economy, the Aga Khan proposed an area-based approach under which a full “package” of benefits was “simultaneously and harmoniously” made available so that basic services, income opportunities (especially non-farm ones), provision of credit and strategic small-scale infrastructure investments could complement security and interdiction of narcotics.
The Aga Khan announced that the Network had exceeded the US$75 million dollar pledge it had announced in Tokyo in early 2002 and will by end 2004, together with its partners, have expended US$140 million of which US$80 million has come from the Network’s own resources. Some US$70 million of these funds have gone for humanitarian assistance, rural development, health care, education and cultural revitalisation. Another US$70 million will have been spent on productive economic investments. The Network, said the Aga Khan, remained committed to these endeavours and to expanding them as circumstances allowed.
Notes: The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies whose mandates range from the fields of health and education to architecture, rural development and the promotion of private-sector enterprise. They collaborate in working towards a common goal – building institutions and programmes that can respond to the challenges of social, economic and cultural change on an ongoing basis. Active in over 20 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, the Network’s underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies and institutions work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of origin, gender or religion. The Network’s agencies have been present in Central Asia since the early 1990s and undertake a wide range of activities in several countries in the region.
The AKDN’s engagement in Afghanistan is extensive. Area development programmes covering 21 districts in six provinces with a total population of about 1.25 million have focused on improving food security through better productivity and new income opportunities, but also through building new social capital for men and women. These programmes have created social community assets (e.g. schools, clinics, feeder roads, etc.), ensured substantial increases in crop yields and expanded crop diversification to enhance income. Rehabilitation of physical infrastructure is essential to support economic growth. In addition to enabling the construction of two bridges across the Pyanj to Tajikistan, the AKDN has rehabilitated secondary and arterial roads, numerous bridges as well as four basic airstrips and it rehabilitating hydro-power and energy projects in Bamyan and Baghlan.
The Alternative Livelihoods programme in Badakhshan is seeking to provide licit and sustainable income opportunities through a packaged set of social and economic services to communities. Collaboration and research between the Network and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK) and GTZ, the German development agency, is helping provide a better understanding of the wider challenges relating to narcotics. Water and sanitation programmes aimed initially at decreasing diarrhoeal morbidity especially for children under five have longer-term objectives to ensure continuous supplies of safe drinking water, hygienic waste disposal, improve health practices and to enable communities themselves to manage the supply infrastructure. The 719 wells and 9 piped water supply schemes installed benefit over 96,000 people. Female health and hygiene education reached over 20,000 women.
Education, and especially for girls, has been a priority. Besides support to the Department of Education, AKDN is establishing two Teacher Training Colleges (particularly with facilities for women), 647 schools impacting some 292,000 students and 10,000 staff. Emphasis is placed on improving the quality of teaching, getting communities to strengthen local schools and rehabilitating educational infrastructure. During 2003, the Network began work on 16 schools and plans to work with another 16 this year. AKDN has launched not-for-profit private health care systems in Bamiyan, Baghlan and Badakhshan provinces which aim ultimately to serve 330,000 people. The focus is on primary health care, building facilities for village clusters and strengthening a referral system in partnership with government.
Urban regeneration and rehabilitation of cultural assets in Kabul have progressed in parallel. The Bagh-e-Babur is flowering again along the outlines of what we have discovered to be the original Moghul design. Around these gardens and in the bazaar surrounding the Timur Shah mausoleum, the AKDN is beginning to work with commercial and residential occupants to facilitate improvements in their respective environments.
Employment, skills development and revival of artisanal traditions are key objectives for the US$28 million investment in Kabul Serena Hotel expected to open in 2004. Enabling widespread communication, Roshan, the mobile telephone and GSM services company that the AKDN launched last year now serves 70,000 subscribers in six cities having created direct employment for over 200 (20% women) and indirect employment for over 2,000. Roshan has invested US$120 million over two years, against an initial commitment of some US$30 million. Microcredit programmes supporting entrepreneurs and rural populations have disbursed over 3,000 loans and The First MicroFinance Bank of Afghanistan has commenced operation with the AKDN contributing US$4million of its US$5.8million capital.