Civil society

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Civil society

A vibrant and competent civil society is the cornerstone of a healthy and prosperous nation.  It is essential to improving the quality of human life because people themselves know best how to drive progress.  Yet, in many parts of the world, civil society suffers from a dearth of technical knowledge, human resources and financial means.  To address these gaps, for over 100 years the AKDN has been carefully building robust institutions that experiment, adapt and accommodate diversity.

Founded on the ethics and values that drive progress and positive change, these civil society institutions – of education, health, science and research, and culture, to name a few – harness the private energies of citizens committed to the public good.

The AKDN has been building these institutions for over 100 years – including schools, clinics and hospitals, companies offering essential goods and services, early childhood programmes that give poor children a head start, tree-planting programmes that plant millions of trees, public parks and museums, hotels that set standards for environmental stewardship, farmers’ associations that allow farmers to speak with one voice, an architectural award that has influenced architectural discourse for over four decades, universities and nursing schools that provide essential human resources for developing nations, and savings groups that help the poorest of the poor weather financial hardship and build a better future.  Some of these institutions have been setting or raising standards in their fields for decades. The examples below are amongst the 1,000 or so institutions or programmes that the AKDN currently operates in 30 countries.


The Aga Khan Rural Support Programmes have employed grassroots democracy, civil society and pluralism as the springboard for a dramatic improvement in living conditions for people in remote mountain ranges, coastal regions and other poor areas.  Central to this transformation has been the careful development of citizen-led village organisations whose inclusive processes allow diverse communities to seek joint solutions to common problems.  These organisations are helping over 8 million people to attain greater food security, higher household incomes and increased opportunities.


The Aga Khan University has provided quality healthcare services, training and research in the developing world for over 30 years.  Originally chartered in Pakistan to help improve health care in the region, today campuses have expanded to East Africa and teaching sites stretch across three continents.  Over 14,000 alumni including doctors, nurses, teachers and school managers are raising standards and playing leading roles in their respective fields. N ew faculties of arts and science in Karachi, Pakistan and Arusha, Tanzania are underway.  Graduates of these schools will tackle issues crucial to the wellbeing of society: Architecture & Human Settlement; Economic Growth & Development; Government, Public Policy & Civil Society; Law; Media & Communications.

The AKDN also promotes the development of an “enabling environment” that allows the private sector as a whole and civil society in particular make full contributions to the development of a nation.  An effective and functioning state apparatus is essential for any developing country but, in the Network’s experience, complex development agendas cannot be left only to the state.  A nation’s growth – and some would argue its very survival – requires private initiative (both for-profit businesses and non-profit civil society organisations) to make full and effective use of the country’s human potential, generate material resources, and develop a vibrant and robust socioeconomic base.  For these reasons, creating an enabling environment is essential to building civil society – for the Civil Society Programme and for AKDN in general.

More on AKDN Workplace Wellness Programme
More on Creating an Enabling Environment.