Austin, Texas, 30 October 2009 — Governor Rick Perry of Texas and His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, today signed a historic agreement to expand collaboration in the areas of education, health sciences, natural disaster preparedness and recovery, culture and the environment.
“Working together we can address poverty, disaster preparedness and response, the spread of disease, and access to education,” said Governor Perry. He made the remarks during a signing ceremony at the State Capitol, attended by representatives of the Government of Texas, the University of Texas and Texas A&M University.
“I think our experience has been that it is civil society which is the greatest underwriter of development in the developing world. The political constructs are essential but civil society has demonstrated itself to be able to continue to sustain development of poor people in complex situations in Asia and in Africa,” said the Aga Khan, who is the founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) — a global system of development agencies.
“The agreement that we are signing today opens for us the opportunity to build bridges to the best of civil society in Texas and in the United States and in that sense it is a partnership which we want to now translate into effective action in various parts of the world,” added the Aga Khan.
In its preamble the agreement notes that education is critical to overcoming cultural barriers and that an educated population is a great antidote to economic uncertainty. It stipulates that Texas and the AKDN will support partnerships between their respective educational institutions such as the University of Texas at Austin and the Aga Khan University.
In the area of health sciences, the agreement envisions partnerships on biomedical technology research, telemedicine and maternal and child health. It also evokes the experience of Texas and AKDN in the area of risk mitigation and disaster preparedness, stipulating that the two signatories will work together to reduce the loss of life in natural disasters by focusing on best practices, technologies and research.
Other areas of cooperation include culture and environment. In recent years, Texas museums and universities have hosted a series of AKDN exhibitions, lectures and concerts. The accord is designed to promote a better understanding and appreciation of Muslim civilisations and their historic, cultural and geographic diversity through expanded collaboration with the UT Muslim Histories and Cultures Programmes.