Brussels, 6 October 2016 — “Since 2001, AKDN and its partners have channelled over $1 billion to enhance self-reliance and improve the quality of life of Afghans,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam yesterday, and he indicated that more will follow in the years ahead.

“Between now and 2020, AKDN plans similar investments in cultural heritage, education, energy, health, and poverty alleviation.”

Mawlana Hazar Imam was speaking at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, co-hosted by the European Union and the government of Afghanistan. Hazar Imam reiterated that AKDN and the Ismaili Imamat have an “enduring commitment” to the country.

Although the AKDN’s work there began in 1996 with the distribution of food aid during the civil war, its contribution towards rebuilding the country has grown massively in scope and impact. It now has economic projects in over 240 cities and towns spread throughout the 34 provinces. Its social development and humanitarian work has touched over 3 million people. It has also restored over 90 historic sites, revitalising the nation’s cultural heritage while upgrading local infrastructure and training local journeymen.

Among the attendees at the Brussels conference were the President of Afghanistan, Dr Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and United States Secretary of State John Kerry.

On the sidelines of the conference, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Afghan Ministry of Urban Development signed an agreement that will facilitate the conservation and restoration of key historic areas in Kabul. The memorandum of understanding furthers AKDN’s commitment to preserving Afghanistan’s built heritage and developing sustainable models of urban planning, upgrading and conservation.

In his remarks at the Brussels conference, Mawlana Hazar Imam expressed his support of the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework, and spoke about three areas that are crucial to its success.

“First, it is urgent to drive efforts to sustain and develop Afghanistan’s human and social capital,” said Mawlana Hazar Imam. To this end, AKDN is supporting the Afghan Ministry of Education in over 850 schools, has provided medical treatment to 1.6 million Afghans and has trained 13,000 doctors, nurses and health workers, he noted.

The second area is civil society, said Hazar Imam. “Decades of experience have taught us that effective civil society is fundamental to lasting progress, helping ensure development that is inclusive and participatory,” he explained. “Civil society can unleash constructive talents from a broad spectrum of organisations and individuals, including the private sector.”

Third, Mawlana Hazar Imam talked about regional development with Afghanistan’s neighbours. He pointed at the example of Pamir Energy, which is based in neighbouring Tajikistan yet supplies electricity to some 35,000 people on the Afghan side of the border. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and the government of Tajikistan run the power utility under a public-private partnership.

“Finally,” concluded Mawlana Hazar Imam, “I would reiterate my profound belief in the power of sustained, long-term, multi-dimensional development that empowers individuals and communities to improve their quality of life.”

“It is with that conviction that I support this meeting and reconfirm our commitment to Afghanistan’s future.”