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  • His Highness the Aga Khan and President Barroso, President of the European Commission, make statements after the signing of the Joint Declaration between the European Commission and the AKDN. The Joint Declaration aims to establish a framework for future collaboration.
    AKDN/Gary Otte
European Commission and AKDN sign joint declaration, Aga Khan discusses EU challenges regarding pluralism, civil society and development

Brussels, Belgium, 23 January 2007 - President José Manuel Barroso of the European Commission and His Highness the Aga Khan, Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), today signed a Joint Declaration that aims to broaden the scope of their collaboration on development endeavours, strengthening civil society institutions, promoting governance and social inclusion, in countries of Central, South and West Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

Distinctive in its recognition of the AKDN’s experience, the Joint Declaration seeks to extend the European Commission’s long-standing partnership with the AKDN into areas of common concern and in a number of new fields of activity.

Since 1986, the European Commission has made grants totalling €153 million to AKDN programmes in education, urban and rural development, food security, livelihoods, infrastructure, microfinance, water and sanitation, and disaster preparedness across Asia and Africa.

Acknowledging this engagement, on behalf of millions of beneficiaries, the Aga Khan said “our Joint Declaration represents a commitment to go beyond our common concerns about poverty and the need to improve living conditions in the developing world.” “We now look to enhancing our two-decade long partnership to contribute towards creating stability, mitigating conflict, fostering greater social inclusion and enabling equitable and sustainable human development.”

President Barroso noted that the European Commission and the Aga Khan Development Network had “worked together in some of the most difficult regions of the World.” Citing as examples of “real results” achieved, he mentioned “delivering primary education in Northern Pakistan; improving livelihoods in Central Asia and guaranteeing food security in Afghanistan.” Referring to the need to create “a climate of mutual respect so we can identify common interests”, President Barroso also said, “the European Union in particular must understand and learn more about Islam.”

The Joint Declaration looks to the following areas of collaboration:

Supporting regional or sub-regional cooperation and area-based approaches;

a) Creating and promoting an enabling environment through the promotion of health, education and rural development and institutional building initiatives;

b) Utilising culture as a means for rehabilitation and development;

c) Economic development and the strengthening of local and regional markets through investments in infrastructure, private sector development and microfinance;

d) Strengthening civil society and civil society institutions, and related participatory processes and partnerships with government and the private sector, as enablers of good governance; and

e) Collaborating on conceptual approaches towards urban regeneration and social inclusion.

The AKDN has signed agreements of cooperation and protocols with 15 countries in Africa, Central and South Asia, Europe and the Middle East as well as with international organisations and multilateral and bilateral agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organisation (WHO), Germany’s Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Under an international treaty signed by the Aga Khan and the Presidents of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic, the AKDN is establishing the University of Central Asia, to serve a region of some 25 million people.

During his visit to Brussels, the Aga Khan held discussions with the European Commissioner for Development Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, as well as the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Secretary-General of the European Council, Mr Javier Solana and Mr Pierre Morel, EC Special Representative for Central Asia. He also met with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The Aga Khan called on the President of the European Parliament, Dr Hans-Gert Poettering and had meetings with Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht and Belgian Development Minister Armand De Decker. Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, in Brussels for meetings under Germany’s Presidency of the European Union, also held talks with the Aga Khan.

For further information, please contact:
Nadia Verjee
External Relations and Policy
Aga Khan Development Network
Room 402, 4th Floor, NCI Business Centre
50 Rue Wiertz, Brussels
Tel: + 32 2 401 8779
Fax + 32 2 401 6868

Semin Abdulla
Department of Public Affairs
Secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan
Gouvieux, France
Tel: +33 (0)3 44 58 40 00
Fax: +33 (0)3 44 58 42 79

Notes: His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims, a community comprised of ethnically and culturally diverse peoples living in over 25 countries around the world. A Harvard graduate in Islamic history, the Aga Khan succeeded his grandfather as Imam of the Ismailis in 1957.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is 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 philanthropic activity is in excess of US$ 300 million.