Damascus, Syria, 26 August 2008 - The Syrian Government and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) yesterday signed three landmark agreements designed to strengthen collaboration in the areas of microfinance, healthcare, and cultural tourism.
Syria’s Prime Minister, His Excellency Mohamed Naji Al-Otri and His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual Leader) and founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network attended the signing ceremony at the Prime Minister’s office in Syria’s capital, Damascus.
In the area of microfinance, the Governor of the Central Bank of Syria, Dr Adeeb Mayaleh and the Chief Executive Officer of the First Microfinance Institution (FMFI), Mr Jean Lorenz Ehrentrant signed an agreement recognising the FMFI as the first microfinance institution to operate in the country. The agreement follows several years of experience in the area of microfinance. Since 2003, approximately 45,000 loans have been disbursed, amounting to nearly two billion Syrian Pounds (US$ 40 million), generating and developing over 35,000 new and existing business opportunities. FMFI will operate as a traditional banking institution, while remaining focused on poverty alleviation and sustainable economic development in accordance with the mandate of the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM).
A second agreement was signed to further develop the healthcare sector in the country. The Memorandum of Understanding, signed by Dr. Maher Al-Housami, Syria’s Minister of Health, Dr. Ghiath Barakat, Syria’s Minister of Higher Education and Mr. Firoz Rasul, President of Aga Khan University, provides a framework for cooperation in nursing education and hospital quality assurance.
The third agreement, signed by the Governor of Damascus and Mr Mahmud Janmohamed, Managing Director of Tourism Promotion Services, an agency of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), announces the investment of approximately $20 million towards the building of a 5-star hotel that will involve the restoration and adaptation of three houses in Old Damascus, namely Beit Nizam, Beit Sibai and Beit Kuwatli as well as an adjacent school. The restoration project will also generate employment and train local communities in the development of various skills.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, His Excellency the Prime Minister, Eng Mohammed Naji Otri praised the work of the AKDN in Syria, highlighting its exemplary role in the field of restoration of historic buildings and the revival of Muslim civilisations. Expressing his gratitude towards the partnership between the government of Syria and the AKDN, the Prime Minister said: “These agreements come as part of both the government’s and AKDN’s approach to support social, cultural and economic development in Syria.”
The Aga Khan thanked the Prime Minister and the Syrian Government for the warm welcome accorded to him on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee visit. “The Aga Khan Development Network is only effective when there is an open, frank and sincere dialogue with the decision makers in every country where we work- and you have provided that open, thoughtful dialogue for us,” he said.
“The AKDN operates in a number of different fields and does so because these areas over the years have appeared to us as critical areas for development processes in various parts of the world. The signing ceremonies we see today are an example of how these multiple partnerships come into existence,” he said. “Institutions that teach best practices, measured in global terms, are critical for any country in the world, however well developed it is,” he added.
Upon his arrival in Damascus yesterday, the Aga Khan met with Dr. Bashar Al Assad, President of the Syrian Arab Republic to discuss various issues related to development in Syria.
The Aga Khan will travel to Aleppo on Thursday to inaugurate the Aleppo Citadel Project, marking the completion of the cultural revitalisation work on the Citadels of Aleppo, Salah ad-Din and Masyaf, carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in partnership with the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums. An agreement will also be signed for the development of a 5-star hotel in Aleppo.
The Aga Khan is in Syria on a 6-day official visit to the country at the invitation of the Government. He is celebrating his Golden Jubilee - the Aga Khan acceded to the Ismaili Imamat on 11th July 1957 and is visiting some 30 countries around the world which have long-standing and close relations with the Imamat to express his gratitude and friendship with governments, leaders, and other partners of the AKDN.
For more information, please contact:
M. Adham Al-Sayed
Aga Khan Development Network, Syria
Abou Rumaneh, Rawda Square
Abdul Kader Al-Jazairi St., Bldg No. 15
Damascus - Syria
Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan His Highness the Aga Khan completed his 50th year as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims on 11th July 2007, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah. The Aga Khan leads a community of 15 million Ismaili Muslims living in some 25 countries around the world and is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family). In the Ismaili tradition, the Imam’s Jubilee celebrations offer occasions to launch new social, cultural and economic development projects. In keeping with the ethics of the faith, these projects aspire to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable in society. During the Jubilee year, the Aga Khan will travel to a number of countries to meet with members of the Ismaili community, visit projects of the AKDN and announce the creation of new development institutions and projects and the significant expansion of existing ones.
The Aga Khan Development Network His Highness the Aga Khan is founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion. The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for social development is in excess of US$ 300 million.
AKDN in Syria In Syria, programmes of the Aga Khan Development Network AKDN span six provinces (Aleppo, Damascus, Hama, Lattakia, Sweida and Tartous), serving both rural and urban populations. AKDN programmes in Syria focus on healthcare, education, microfinance, culture, cultural tourism, rural development, institution-support and the promotion of economic development. All activities undertaken by the AKDN in Syria are implemented under the Framework of a Development Agreement signed in November 2001 by His Highness the Aga Khan and the Government of Syria.