Improving the quality of habitat by strengthening civil society
Because disasters resulting from climate change and other factors have increased the risks in urban housing cooperatives in India, the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services have experimented with ways to improve the habitability of these cooperatives.
The AKDN in India Brochure (2011)
On a visit to an AKDN rural support programme in the mid-1980s, His Highness the Aga Khan saw that, contrary to prevailing thinking that suggested rising incomes alone would solve poverty, there was a need to bring a variety of inputs and disciplines to bear in a given area.
Revitalising Zanzibar’s Stone Town
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has been active in Zanzibar since 1989, successfully completing the restoration of 11 landmark buildings (many of them on the point of collapse), upgrading housing and rehabilitating public spaces, notably Kelele Square and Forodhani Park. Inspired by His Highness the Aga Khan’s commitment to the preservation of historic cities in the Muslim world, AKTC has been working to prove cultural heritage can become a catalyst for positive change.
Disaster Resilience and Health
Natural disasters in developing countries can have a particularly devastating effect, taking lives and wiping out the hard-earned assets of poor people in a matter of minutes. Compounding this loss is the destruction of vital buildings, including health facilities that are central to recovery but which are often as vulnerable as other parts of the infrastructure.
Partnering with Governments
In Afghanistan, AKDN is a facilitating partner of the Government’s National Solidarity Programme (NSP). Under the NSP, AKDN assists villages in establishing village-based Community Development Councils, electing an accountable and transparent Council leadership, formulating village development plans, and prioritising village needs.
The Enabling Environment
In every country in which it works, the AKDN seeks to promote an enabling environment – the adoption of laws and policies that allow, favour and mainstream the creation of civil society institutions, promote good governance and foster a socially responsible private sector.
Building Accountable Village Institutions
Identifying leaders, and improving the quality of the leadership, has been an important part of the work of the Aga Khan Foundation. Ultimately, the quality of governance is closely linked to the quality of elected leadership. Therefore, the Foundation works to groom leaders who are part of the village organisation.
The conviction that home-grown intellectual leadership of exceptional calibre is the best driver of society’s future development, and that many developing country education systems are too engulfed by poverty and numbers to develop their talented young people, led His Highness the Aga Khan to found a network of catalytic centres of educational excellence in Asia and Africa, known as the Aga Khan Academies.
Responding to Emerging Challenges
When restoring Baltit Fort, in Hunza, Pakistan, it was the aim of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture to use the restoration as a catalyst for the generation of new employment opportunities, the provision of training in jobs that were needed for a changing economy and the creation of new forms of governance to maintain and protect the area’s rich cultural heritage.
Building Human Resources
The School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE) at the University of Central Asia is the region’s first provider of formal, university-based, non-degree educational programmes, offering vocational, professional development and personal improvement opportunities to youth and adults. Its mission is to foster economic, social and cultural development.
In the mid-1980s, Muslim leaders from Kenya’s coastal region requested assistance in improving the overall level of educational achievement of their children. The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) responded by working with local educators, community leaders and parents to set up the first madrasa pre-schools, so called because they used the facilities of traditional madrasas, or Qur’ãnic schools, which were largely unused in the morning hours.
Pluralism and Governance
Among the many components of good governance is one that is often overlooked: pluralism, which can be defined as appreciation, tolerance, and openness towards other peoples’ cultures, social structures, values and beliefs.
The quality of human resources in a country directly affects the quality of governance. Over the last 25 years, the Aga Khan University (AKU) has been mandated to have an impact on the quality of human resources in the developing world, particularly in the health sciences and education.
Strengthening Civil Society
Although democracy has been growing in the developing world, the UN still categorises 40 percent of its member states as "failed democracies". It has become clear to many governments that successful states require more than the introduction of democratic elections and political parties. Civil society, particularly indigenous NGOs, must play a central role in promoting good governance and accountability.
Educating Future Leaders
If education is considered one of the core components of lasting development, it follows that the quality of that education would be a major determinant of success. For this reason, the international network of Aga Khan Academies offers girls and boys from all backgrounds an international standard of education from pre-primary to upper secondary levels with a rigorous academic and leadership experience.
Ethics in Economic Life
The ethical underpinnings of the AKDN require that its component institutions operate with the highest ethical standards. The administrative structures that are put in place, the strict codes of conduct that are enforced and the benchmarks which are used to measure performance are also meant to provide examples of good governance that can be emulated, whether it is in the management of finances at the village level or on a national scale.
Improving Diagnoses with Better Laboratory Testing
Laboratory testing is the basis of most medical diagnoses, but in many developing world contexts, reliable laboratory testing is the exception rather than the rule. The Aga Khan University (AKU), as part of its outreach programme, has worked in recent years to solve this problem in Pakistan.
Advanced Nursing Studies Programme in East Africa
The effectiveness of healthcare management and delivery is closely linked to the availability and quality of nursing. Yet in many places, there is little investment in the in-service support and training of nurses. Without recognition and a clear career path, many nurses leave their countries to take up opportunities overseas.
Rationalising Pharmaceutical Use
When subsidies for the health sector were withdrawn following the demise of the Soviet Union, the Tajik health system faced collapse. The hospital-based curative care programme was costly – and unsustainable in many areas. In response, AKDN worked with the Tajik government in poor areas, such as the remote Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, to make the transition to community-based primary preventive care.
Sanitation and Health in India
Water supply and sanitation programmes have been central to most AKDN environmental health efforts. Programmes in sanitation and hygiene promotion are particularly important. In the Indian state of Gujarat, for example, a government programme to bring sanitation to all the state’s 18,000 villages features an annual “Nirmal Gram”, or Clean Village, award.
Nutrition and Healthy Behaviours
Primary healthcare measures, such as immunisation, are essential components of community health, but often overall health only improves when the community understands the causes of illness, knows how to avoid them and is open to changing behaviours. Knowledge about the advantages of breastfeeding and the need for vitamin-rich foods are two examples of how awareness campaigns can have a significant impact on overall health.
A Regional Centre of Medical Education in East Africa
The “brain drain” of medical professionals from developing to developed countries hampers the delivery of quality health programmes in many developing countries, but its cause is not simply the attraction of better paying jobs abroad. The quality of the equipment and the facilities, the availability of advanced training, and opportunities for research and career advancement also play a role in retention.
Culture and Health: Azhar Park and Darb al-Ahmar
Al-Azhar Park has proven to be a powerful catalyst for urban renewal in the neighbouring district of Darb al-Ahmar. But the stunning park is only the most visible part of a broad programme created to revitalise what was once one of the poorest districts in Cairo.
Research on the Urgent Health Issues of Developing Countries
The major determinants of health may be well known, but the relative importance of each – and the amount of resources dedicated to them – is often determined at the local level. Not surprisingly, the health concerns of the developed world – where much of cutting-edge research is conducted – are not always the same as the developing world.
Health and the Built Environment
In Mali, AKDN’s health efforts concentrate on infant and maternal health. In the picture above, traditional midwives (in yellow and orange) greet the newly arrived matrone, or midwife (in green), in a case de santé, or health post, in Guidiowel, near Mopti, Mali. The matrone has been trained with the support of the Aga Khan Foundation and certified by the Ministry of Health.
Rebuilding Afghanistan's Health System
Among Afghan women of childbearing age who die each year, almost half die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Nearly 90 percent of these deaths are preventable.
The Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, upgraded to a University teaching hospital in 2005, is at the centre of a major expansion of the Aga Khan University (AKU) in East Africa. A US$ 250 million Faculty of Health Sciences (AKU-FHS) is being created alongside the AKU teaching hospital in Nairobi. The AKU-FHS will be East Africa’s first private medical school of the first rank.
Knowledge and Resource Sharing through Partnerships
Partnerships between like-minded institutions can have enormous benefits – for scaling up proven programmes, reinforcing programme elements and, not least, for sharing best practices. For example, a group that is innovative but inexperienced in scaling up a project can call on another organisation’s expertise.
Integrating Culture in the Development Process
An important lesson arising from AKDN experience has been that there are few area development contexts in which a single institution can have the necessary impact on the quality of life. Rather, a broad spectrum of national and international partners must be engaged in the process of area development.
The destruction of the agricultural infrastructure and a lack of training during the years of war in Afghanistan have severely hampered the country’s ability to feed itself. Compounding this problem are the market distortions caused by the drug trade, which have led farmers to abandon production of certain foods and gravitate towards production of opium. Until recently in northern Afghanistan, for example, most eggs were imported from Pakistan.
Comprehensive Solutions to Urban Poverty
As societies become increasingly urban, there is a growing demand for a better understanding of – and solutions to – the conditions of urban poverty. In AKDN’s experience, urban poverty requires multi-input, multisectoral solutions. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s (AKTC) work in urban regeneration and revitalisation of culturally significant sites in the Islamic world is therefore linked with the Aga Khan Foundation’s social programmes and the work of project companies of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development.
Providing Education in Remote Regions
In the remote mountains of the Kyrgyz Republic, AKDN is active in a variety of sectors. While the Aga Khan Agency for Microfi nance offers credits for livestock purchases and small enterprises, for example, the University of Central Asia’s School of Professional and Continuing Education provides formal, university-based, non-degree educational programmes, including vocational, professional development and personal improvement opportunities for youth and adults.
The Raha Leo Community Health Programme, a public-private partnership (PPP) between the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW), the Government of Zanzibar and the Aga Khan Foundation, serves the health needs of over 13,000 people living in Zanzibar. The programme focuses on improving the quality of general health services, introducing HIV/AIDS voluntary counselling and testing services (VCT), facilitating youth, community and school outreach programs, and piloting approaches to cost sharing in line with the Government’s Health Sector Reform efforts.
A Process Leading to Self-Reliance
In AKDN’s experience, a process of positive change sparked by AKDN agencies can gain its own momentum and become selfsustaining if – and this is where experimentation and innovation are important – there is both a correct mix, and a critical mass, of coordinated development activity. The components of this “correct mix” and “critical mass” can vary from area to area. In ultra-poor areas, agricultural inputs that lead to higher yields of cereals may be the best way forward.
Mobilising New Economic Drivers
In many remote areas, development arrives at a stage when further progress becomes dependant on larger infrastructure issues, such as roads, telecommunications and electric power. In Uganda, for example, only five percent of the population has access to electricity. Rural electrification and the creation of electricity-generating plants then become vital to progress.
Raising Rural Incomes While Revitalising Local Culture
The vast majority of AKF beneficiaries are small producers whose livelihoods depend on income from selling their crops or the products they make. Their incomes are strongly affected by factors such as the level of technical knowledge, physical distance to markets, uneven competition due to national and international trade policies, devastation of war and limits on productivity caused by environmental degradation.
Multi-Input Area Development
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) consists of a constellation of development agencies set up to bring the necessary resources and expertise to bear on a given area. Each agency is meant to interact with, and reinforce, the others.
Cultivating a Comparative Perspective
The demise of the Soviet Union brought with it a withdrawal of much-needed resources and a pressing need for new institutions that could respond to the dramatic changes underway in Central Asia. There was clearly a need for new educational endeavours and curricula that would both address the economic and cultural needs of the region and teach the skills needed to compete internationally.
Museums as Educational Institutions
Museums are no longer merely repositories of culture, but vital educational institutions that can have a profound effect on public discourse. Museums can testify to the existence of other cultures and faiths in ways that go beyond the written or spoken word. They provide evidence of other realities, other histories and other influences beyond the ones we might have learned or perceived.
Combining Local and International Knowledge
The call for a Green Revolution in Africa is not new, but up until now, the prospects of bringing it about did not seem realistic. However, recent programmes undertaken by the Aga Khan Foundation in Madagascar have shown that the combination of traditional local knowledge and best international practices can create a green revolution in a rice-growing area of northern Madagascar.
Building for Better Health
The Northern Areas and Chitral are amongst the most remote areas of the high mountain regions of Pakistan. Living conditions are harsh, with an average household income of US$ 0.50 per capita per day and an unemployment or underemployment rate of about 70 percent. The poverty is reflected in deteriorating living conditions, which have led to major health-related problems.
Expanding Academic Activities
According to the European Community’s INE PEA programme, “Worldwide there are 11 million deaths of children under five each year. As many as 65 percent of these could be prevented by known and affordable interventions. This failure to apply knowledge to action, known as the ‘Know-Do Gap’, is particularly high in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, where 100 million people are served by only 7,500 doctors and 70,000 nurses and midwives”.
Promoting Sustainable Cultural Tourism
The essence of the act of travel is necessarily hopeful. It is an expression of interest in different cultures. At its best, it allows the diversity of the world to be experienced at first hand – through food, architecture, music, language, customs and rituals. In the process, travellers begin to understand the differences among cultures while coming to know their common humanity.
Accessing Digital Knowledge
For some time, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have been considered the potential catalyst for breaking socio-economic barriers. But, in reality, the digital divide continues to keep the power of ICT out of reach for a large majority of people, often times exacerbating inequalities.
Over the last 40 years, fostering the growth of transparent, democratically elected village organisations has been at the centre of the efforts of AKDN agencies, particularly in rural development.
Building a Global Community
In many architecture departments in the developing world, resources for the teaching of architecture were once severely limited.
Revitalising Citadels in Syria
For the past few years, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has been restoring three citadels in Syria - in Aleppo, Masyaf and Salah ad-Din - under a partnership agreement with the Syrian General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums. The scope of conservation at the sites has varied, but at each site the work has been closely linked to the generation of socio-economic benefits.
A "Green Lung" for Cairo
In 1984, His Highness the Aga Khan announced his decision to finance the creation of a park for the citizens of the Egyptian capital. The only central location that was of suitable scale was the derelict Darassa site, a 30-hectare (74-acre) mound of rubble that had been a debris dump for 500 years. Al-Azhar Park, undertaken by the AKTC, has since proven to be both a popular open space for the people of Cairo and a powerful catalyst for urban renewal in the neighbouring district of Darb al-Ahmar.
UCA's SPCE Teaches Critical Skills for Central Asia
The University of Central Asia’s (UCA) School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE) is training adults and young people in the critical skills needed in the new Central Asia economies, including accounting, business English and mountain guide training.
Habitat Initiative in Mozambique
The Habitat Initiative in Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique, is working to enhance the quality of life of communities by empowering them to undertake significant improvements to their built environment, with a focus on building skills in improved ecological construction.
Andhra Pradesh Relief-to-Development Projects
In the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami, AKDN went to work on the coast of the eastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Building on its experience in post-disaster reconstruction and area development, it supported community-based projects that helped restore livelihoods while decreasing the vulnerability of communities in the tsunami-affected area.
Improving the Quality of Life
A number of AKDN agencies create low-cost products and technologies that both improve the quality of life in human habitats and reduce the pressures on the natural environment. The Building and Construction Improvement Programme (BACIP), for example, has created over 70 products ranging from smoke-free stoves to earthquake-resistant construction methods.
Preparing Communities for Disasters
When the devastating earthquake of 8 October 2005 hit Kashmir, AKDN agencies responded immediately. AKDN affiliate Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) deployed search-and-rescue teams in Islamabad on 8 October and on 10 October to the worst-affected areas in Kashmir. His Highness the Aga Khan pledged US$ 50 million for relief and reconstruction efforts.
In the age of the Internet, knowledge about institutions and their effectiveness are only a click away. Information becomes viral, following vectors that take it anywhere there is Internet connectivity.
Partnering for Urban Renewal
The complexity of conserving and revitalising an historic neighbourhood requires diverse knowledge and many disciplines, ranging from archaeology to engineering, from horticulture to preservation, from social mobilisation to public health. In successful projects such as Azhar Park in Cairo, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has brought a variety of knowledge to bear by creating informal partnerships with foreign and local experts, academic institutions, the private sector, government ministries and local communities.
Investing in Early Childhood Education
By the time a child reaches school age, most key brain wiring, language ability and cognitive foundations have been set in place.
14 August 2014
The Board of Trustees of the Aga Khan University (AKU) last week concluded a week of meetings in Tanzania.
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