Kabul, Afghanistan, 23 March 2002 — His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and Mr. Hamid Karzai, Chairman of the Interim Authority of the Government of Afghanistan, today signed an Agreement of Cooperation for Development that establishes an operating framework for the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in Afghanistan.
The Agreement, the first of its kind signed by the Interim Authority, enables the Network to move from the provision of humanitarian assistance to the establishment of long-term development programmes similar to those that have been successfully implemented in India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and other countries in Asia and Africa. In view of the importance of the Loya Jirga Commission’s mandate in helping to create a future representative government for Afghanistan, the Aga Khan also announced a grant of US$2 million to enable the Commission to complete its work.
In meetings with Chairman Karzai, members of the Cabinet of the Interim Authority, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi and the Loya Jirga Commission, the Aga Khan reiterated the following features of this collaboration:
- The urgency of restoring peace and domestic security and facilitating the re-integration into civil society of former combatants.
- The imperative of putting in place permanent, competent, transparent and accountable institutions that will build confidence, foster development and strengthen democracy.
- The importance of ensuring that the demography of the country is re-established through the repatriation of the millions of refugees outside Afghanistan in a way that recognises and respects their ethnic and religious diversity and enables them to claim back lost assets.
- The need to ensure that careful investment in countries around Afghanistan afflicted by poverty, isolation and lack of opportunity can help create stability in the region.
In outlining specific initiatives, the Aga Khan indicated that rural development designed to promote food security and begin the revitalisation of Afghan agriculture was a top priority. The establishment of village organisations to undertake and manage local infrastructure projects such as irrigation works, village roads, schools and clinics will be central to the long-term sustainability of these efforts. The AKDN’s programmes in Bamyan, Baghlan and Badakhshan provinces currently benefit some 500,000 people. These programmes will be expanded and technical missions sent to the provinces of Takhar, Kunduz and Parvan/Kapisa to initiate similar programmes.
Joining Chairman Karzai at the launch of the “Back to School” initiative led by UNICEF, the Aga Khan expressed the hope that this campaign would “serve as the foundation for propelling Afghanistan into a new world of peace, development, social harmony and pluralism.” The Aga Khan announced that the AKDN would provide significant support to the Pedagogical Institute in Kabul and to other pedagogical institutes across the country. He also outlined the Network’s plan to assist rural communities to build their own schools “so that education can become a right for all children whether they live in the cities, or in the valleys or in the mountains.”
The Aga Khan also discussed plans to establish a Centre for Continuing Education in Kabul concentrating on English language, computer skills, development management and training in business skills.
In his various meetings, the Aga Khan pointed out that the health of the population was both an immediate and a longer term concern. He described the Network’s plan to establish a comprehensive educational resource centre at the Intermediate Medical Institute in Kabul to strengthen training for nurses from across the country giving them the benefit of the skills, expertise and experience that the Network has built up through the Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing. The Network will also establish medical centres in Bamyan and Baghlan.
During his visit to Kabul, the Aga Khan also saw some of the destruction of the past two decades. “The AKDN,” he said, “also proposes to use the resources and experience of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in improving urban environments around sites of historic interest through specific restoration projects.” “Amongst the sites we are examining,” said the Aga Khan, “are Babur’s Garden and the surrounding area, as well as the Mausoleum of Timur Shah and the area adjacent to it.”
Referring to “exploratory work for investments in telecommunications and in tourism,” the Aga Khan saw these as “stimulating a multiplicity of ancillary industries at the same time as serving an urgent need in the hospitality industry.” A major national initiative in microcredit to promote entrepreneurship and build capital is under consideration with the possible involvement of the International Finance Corporation.
The Aga Khan underlined that “in each of these areas where we feel the greatest need for capacity building, we have been extremely conscious of the fact that opportunities must be created for women.” “This is why,” said the Aga Khan, “we are targeting women as major beneficiaries with regard to the income generation activities related to agriculture, the training of nurses, the professional education of teachers and for receipt of microcredit.” The announcements by Aga Khan follow on recommendations made by missions that have been conducting extensive surveys across the country during the two months since the announcement at the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan in Tokyo, of a multiyear commitment of US$75 million by the AKDN.
The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies and institutions that seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities. Established by the Ismaili Imamat (office of spiritual leadership) and working in over 20 countries, 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.
For further information, please contact:
Mr. Aly Mawji