Tokyo, Japan, 21 January 2002 — His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, today announced at the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan a multiyear commitment of US$75 million by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to help re-build Afghanistan.
The recovery, reconstruction and long-term development programme will “span many regions of the country and range in scope from agriculture-based rural development, food and seed security, rehabilitation of capital infrastructure, to the provision and upgrading of health and education services from the primary to the tertiary levels, institution and capacity building, especially at the community-level, and the restoration of cultural heritage for social inclusion.”
“Since the start of our institutional work in Afghanistan seven years ago,” said the Aga Khan in a statement delivered to the Afghan Interim Administration, the organisers of the Donor Conference on Afghanistan and the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Japan, “our primary interest has been, and remains, to enable the people of Afghanistan to decide their future, to rebuild their nation, relieved of the continuing risk of starvation, and economic and social collapse.”
Mr. Hamid Karzai, Chairman of the Afghan Interim Administration, responded to the announcement saying that “coming as it does from someone whose institutions have valuable proven experience and a genuine commitment to improving the lives of all in this region, this pledge has encouraged us greatly. We hope others will come forward and join the Aga Khan Development Network in helping us build capacity for the future.”
Mr. Mark Malloch-Brown, as chairman of the UN Development Group, stated that “this is an extraordinary commitment by a leader who understands this region intimately and speaks to the solidarity and hopes that we all have for Afghanistan. The UN System is proud to be planning to work as partners with the Aga Khan Development Network.”
In welcoming this contribution, Mr. James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank said that he has “long admired the humanity and the leadership of His Highness the Aga Khan. This gift confirms not only my opinion but clearly places him and the Aga Khan Development Network at the forefront of the reconstruction efforts.”
Sir Christopher Patten, European Commissioner for External Relations remarked “I very much welcome this important commitment by His Highness. We have great appreciation for the Aga Khan Development Network’s engagement in many parts of the world. We have over the years developed a very close relationship with the AKDN. We are actually co-financing a substantial share of AKDN’s activities. AKDN’s profound knowledge of the region and its professionalism make it a privileged partner for us in Afghanistan and we will certainly explore ways of further strengthening our excellent co-operation.”
The Aga Khan’s statement, delivered on his behalf by Mr. Aly Mawji, AKDN Country Co-ordinator for Afghanistan highlighted three additional dimensions of the challenge:
· First, the necessity of creating a “safety belt” through selective investments in areas in the region around Afghanistan struck by poverty, isolation and lack of opportunity.
· Second, the imperative of re-establishing the demography of the country 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, and also of reintegrating former combatants into civil society.
· Third, the establishment of new competent, stable, transparent and accountable institutions through which the processes of building confidence, strengthening democracy and fostering development can occur.
Making specific reference in his statement to the AKDN’s experience in post-conflict reconstruction, particularly in Tajikistan and its experience of development in multi-ethnic and multi-religious environments in Pakistan, the Aga Khan emphasised the Network’s potential for contributing to the recovery and rehabilitation process in Afghanistan. He also made specific reference to the potential for Afghanistan’s association with the University of Central Asia, recently established by international treaty between the Ismaili Imamat and Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The University will be the first private regional university in the world dedicated to studying and improving the livelihoods of people living in high mountain areas.
Through its emergency relief affiliate, Focus Humanitarian Assistance, the AKDN has expanded its humanitarian effort into a growing rehabilitation programme whose 2002 budget is approximately US$25 million with support from international donors.
The AKDN 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.
The AKDN has nearly 25 years of experience in rural development in Asia and since 1993, has launched a number of successful initiatives in Central Asia in areas ranging from agrarian reform to education and infrastructure.
For further information, please contact: Mr. Aly Mawji
The Information Department
60270 Gouvieux, France
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.akdn.org