Paris, France, 27 April 1999 — France's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hubert Vedrine, and His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (Spiritual Leader) of the Ismaili Muslims, today signed an Accord of Co-operation between France and the Association Aga Khan, whose members include some of the principal agencies and affiliates of the Aga Khan Development Network.
The Accord seeks to strengthen France's co-operation with the Aga Khan Development Network in the social, cultural, economic and humanitarian fields wherever the Network operates. A joint liaison committee comprising three representatives from each of the Foreign Ministry and the Association Aga Khan will determine co-operation priorities and implementation.
The Ismaili Imamat - the office of spiritual leadership of the Ismaili Muslims held by the Aga Khan - is independent of political allegiances, but committed to the Islamic ideal of respect for dignity of the human being and peace among nations. In the Muslim tradition, the Imamat's responsibilities extend beyond the spiritual leadership of the Ismailis to a concern for the quality of life of not only Ismailis but also all those amongst whom they live, regardless of origin or faith.
The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private, non-denominational, international development agencies established by the Aga Khan to improve living conditions and opportunities in specific regions of the developing world. Its agencies have individual mandates that range from health, education and culture to the enhancement of non-governmental agencies, rural development, improved infrastructure and the promotion of private sector enterprise.
Direction and support for these various activities has come from the Aga Khan's office firstly in Paris since the late 1950's and from his Secretariat, at Gouvieux, since 1978.
The Accord builds on collaboration between agencies and affiliates of the Aga Khan Development Network, and national and international organisations, both private and public, including PROPARCO, a member of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Electricite de France (EdF), Université de Paris-Sorbonne, Alcatel, Medecins sans Frontieres, l'Institute du Monde Arabe, Paris, the European Union, UNESCO, the World Health Organisation and the World Bank.
The Aga Khan Development Network's more than fifty partners include governments, multilateral agencies, non-governmental organisations, private sector institutions, communities and individuals. Enabling agreements with governments or development agencies of Bangladesh, Canada, the Cote d'Ivoire, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Pakistan, Uganda, Tajikistan, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the European Union permit optimal use of the Aga Khan Development Network's resources, and in certain cases, authorise the establishment of diplomatic missions to make its humanitarian and development endeavours more effective.
In recent years, the Aga Khan Development Network has disbursed an average of US$140 million annually on development and humanitarian activities. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and affiliated companies control assets in excess of US$1 billion.
THE AGA KHAN DEVELOPMENT NETWORK
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) represents an effort over the past four decades and more to empower disadvantaged communities especially in Asia and Africa, to assure themselves a better future. Having also established a strong institutional presence in Europe and North America, the Network is able to both mobilise resources, technology and manpower and to transfer its benefits to the developing world.
AKDN agencies in South and Central Asia and East Africa have helped some of the most underprivileged populations in those regions not only to meet their basic food, shelter, health, education and infrastructure requirements, but also to develop economically and generate substantial savings.
Access to quality education and healthcare have been pre-eminent goals for the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) and Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) which operate some 500 institutions in Asia and Africa. In addition, AKES support extensive teacher training and school improvement programmes. More recently AKES has sponsored language training and free market Economics at universities in Central Asia. AKHS is leading the effort to enable access from remote areas to specialised health diagnosis and referral services as well as enhanced quality control. It also contributes to the efforts of governments in East Africa and South and Central Asia on issues of health policy reform. The Aga Khan Planning and Building Services provide technical advice and support in housing, construction, sanitation and related services, particularly in rural and seismically-vulnerable areas.
The Aga Khan University (AKU), a self-governing institution with an international charter, and Pakistan's first private university, currently comprising a School of Nursing, a Medical College, a teaching hospital and an Institute for Educational Development is a leading educational and research facility. The University is helping to establish a regional university specialising in the problems of high mountain societies in Central Asia.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which focuses on the built environment in societies where Muslims have a significant presence includes: the triennial Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Historic Cities Support Programme, and as a grantee, the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Over the past 20 years examples of architectural excellence in contemporary design, social housing, restoration, environmental and landscape design and community improvement have been recognised. The Historic Cities Support Programme has worked with local communities to revitalise historic buildings and spaces in parts of the Muslim world as diverse as Zanzibar, Cairo, Samarkand and Hunza.
The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) promotes private sector entrepreneurship in the developing world seeking to respond to national economic priorities. Examples in the industrial sector include the provision of agricultural extension services to tens of thousands of small farmers supporting agro-industry in East and West Africa. Serena Hotels and Lodges, operated by AKFED's tourism development arm in Kenya, Tanzania and Pakistan have generated significant employment and foreign exchange. Small savings institutions and credit and co-operative societies established in the 1930s and 1940s have today become banks, insurance companies and microcredit programmes serving wide publics in East Africa and South and Central Asia, and in some cases are listed on national stock exchanges.
In addition to funding, designing and implementing development programmes in the areas of education and healthcare, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) has had particular success in improving the quality of life of rural populations in Africa and Asia. According to the World Bank, in Northern Pakistan's remote and mountainous valleys, average household income for over three-quarters of a million people has almost doubled in real terms within fifteen years as a result of the work of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP). A national model in Pakistan, AKRSP's lessons have been applied and adapted elsewhere in the country and further afield. They have enabled underprivileged communities in Gujarat, India to demonstrate that environmental degradation can be reversed, seasonal migrations reduced and living standards and incomes enhanced. In Tajikistan, a pioneering agrarian reform programme established by AKF is making it possible for people living in scattered communities across half the country to become food self-sufficient.
Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) is an international group of agencies with charitable status, which was set up to respond to man-made and natural disasters. Through activities and interventions in Afghanistan, Germany, Mozambique, Pakistan, Russia and Zanzibar, FOCUS has been providing urgently needed food, medicines and essential supplies, assisting the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons. FOCUS has collaborated with organisations such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), OXFAM, the Swiss Development Corporation, various United Nations agencies and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
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Photos are available from AFP, Paris
c/o Martina at the International Desk