Your Excellency President General Pervez Musharraf,
Your Excellency Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Aga Khan Development Network is honoured to have been invited to participate in this international Conference that the Government of Pakistan has convened to address the vital long-term needs of rehabilitation and reconstruction following last month’s catastrophic earthquake. The presence of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and representatives of leading international agencies and of many governments, is an assurance to the people of Pakistan that the world community stands by them, in word and deed, as they seek to rebuild their lives, while still facing basic immediate needs of vast proportions.
Among the first on the scene, thanks to the Aga Khan Foundation’s helicopter wing, the Aga Khan Development Network – the AKDN – has been privileged to cooperate with the Government of Pakistan, the agencies of the United Nations, and other relief organisations in bringing a contribution, we hope significant, to the continuing national and international relief efforts for all the peoples of the affected areas.
The Ismaili Imamat has a long history of deep and close engagement in Pakistan. The AKDN’s presence in the country and the region is firmly established. Pakistan is home to a number of the most significant AKDN initiatives, such as the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, the Aga Khan University, the First MicrofinanceBank, Habib Bank, and the Serena Hotels, in Islamabad and elsewhere, amongst others. Our commitments to the people of Pakistan are built on long standing relationships and strong fraternal bonds.
In collaboration with the Government of Pakistan, as well as the international community, the AKDN will be privileged to contribute the extensive experience it has gained over these past decades in many different environments, especially in the mountainous terrains of the Hindu Kush, the Pamirs, and the Tien Shan, spanning northern Pakistan, northern Afghanistan, and parts of Central Asia. This includes lessons we have learned on issues ranging from the special needs of village and urban planning in complex mountain habitats, to the development of energy and water and sanitation infrastructure and resources, to seismic-resistant construction. Our overall goal has been to build new capacity and pluralist civil society institutions for the transition from humanitarian relief to a sustained self improvement in quality of life, characterised by a freedom of choice and opportunity that is offered to each individual.
In order to enable the AKDN, in collaboration with its partners, to support rehabilitation and capacity building efforts, I am happy to say that my brother, His Highness the Aga Khan, will be committing $50 million, in a combination of financial and technical support, over the next three years. This is an addition to his donation of $500,000 to the government of Pakistan for immediate emergency assistance, and the more than $3 million that AKDN agencies have put towards relief efforts so far.
Based on our preliminary assessments and planning, AKDN will seek to make a critical contribution in a number of areas, including:
- Requalifying the habitat, in particular public buildings, and individual homes, through training and education in seismic-resistant construction; physical planning for urban and rural settlements; reviewing building codes and practices; and building institutional and civil society capacity to ensure that the consequences of any future earthquakes can be mitigated to the greatest extent possible.
- Community mobilisation for rehabilitation and socio-economic development, including support for re-establishing agricultural, livestock and related activities; as well as disaster preparedness and response, which is especially crucial in a region that remains naturally fragile.
- Providing and helping set up community-based healthcare and training programmes, including in-service training, of health and education professionals to serve remote and isolated communities.
- Strengthening education curricula to equip young people and, through them, families and communities, to prepare and respond to disasters.
- Helicopters, and in due course tilt rotors, are likely to remain the most immediate means of access to the remotest settlements in the area. AKDN will offer its continued air support through its Pakistan-based helicopters, and others in the region if necessary, as well as assistance to improve the quality and safety of vital air transport infrastructure, including, for example, helicopter landing pads, approach guidance systems, refuelling bases, updating maps to indicate cables across gorges and other helicopter hazards, and landing facilities immediately adjacent to hospitals and medical centres.
We sincerely hope that the international community will respond generously to the appeal for support for long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction in the areas that have suffered such vast devastation from the earthquake, and that the commitments made, and realised, will be a strong foundation on which the people will be able to build and to enhance their capacity for self reliance and advancement.