AKDN Statement at the “Heart of Asia” Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in Beijing, China
Delivered by Mrs. Nurjehan Mawani, Diplomatic Representative of His Highness the Aga Khan to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Honoured Co-Chairs, Excellencies Mr. Wang Yi and Mr. Zarar Ahmad Osmani,
On behalf of His Highness the Aga Khan and the Aga Khan Development Network, allow me to extend my sincere appreciation to the People’s Republic of China for hosting this fourth Ministerial meeting of the Istanbul Process and for the gracious hospitality extended to us.
AKDN joins the Heart of Asia countries and supporting organizations in congratulating Afghanistan for the successful conclusion of the elections and the establishment of the National Unity Government. It is our hope and prayer that Afghanistan’s progress is marked by peace, stability and prosperity.
Mr. Chairman, AKDN remains a long-term and committed partner to the peoples and Government of Afghanistan and the peoples and governments of the region, and is proud to be a supporting organization of the Istanbul Process. To this end, we have engaged in activities in the Education, and Trade, Commerce and Investments confidence building measures (CBMs) led by the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of India respectively. We commend all the lead countries on the progress of the implementation of the CBM activities thus far. We look forward to supporting their continued implementation so that they result in tangible improvements in the quality of life of the peoples of Afghanistan and the region.
AKDN offers additional assistance as a technical partner of reference in two areas of significant importance for the region, one is economic and social development through the revival of cultural heritage and two, securing of development gains through disaster risk reduction.
“Cultural heritage can itself be a ‘trampoline’ for social and economic development, in the same way that agriculture, water resources, power supplies or transportation systems have traditionally been perceived.”
– His Highness the Aga Khan, 2013 UNESCO Conference, Hangzhou, China
Over the last two decades, the AKDN, through the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), the Aga Khan Fund for Economic development (AKFED), and the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) has worked in numerous projects, many of them at World Heritage Sites through public private partnerships and equity investments.
These investments have helped reduce poverty and improve the quality of life in the affected communities, and well beyond. Many of these projects are interlinked on the Silk Route in the Heart of Asia countries and include rehabilitation and conservation of monuments, for example the 900 year old Altit Fort, and the 400 year old Shigar Fort in the Hunza Valley, for reuse as lodges or as objects of historic interest. Both the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) are eager to extend their presence through similar projects in areas of the Silk Route.
Mr. Chairman, AKDN’s approach from the outset is that each reconstruction project includes a broad plan for development. We call the approach Multi-Input Area Development that includes an effective and efficient combination of interventions (economic, social and cultural) working with a wide range of stakeholders including government, private sector and community organisations.
For example in Afghanistan, projects include restoration of thirty buildings, monuments and public spaces in the heart of Kabul with similar efforts in Herat and Balkh. The historic Babur Gardens and the ancient Mausoleum of Timur Shah were among the first historic sites to be restored.
Since its completion in 2007, the Bagh-e-Babur monument and the surrounding gardens have attracted over 400,000 annual visitors (2.8 million visitors from 2008 -2013) generating surplus of revenue over expenditure. Bagh-e Babur and other AKDN park projects present a model of cultural development in conflict and post-conflict regions that have a dramatic impact on the lives of those who visit and live around these spaces.
In India, another complex illustration is the major restoration of the Gardens of the Tomb of the Emperor Humayun. The project combined disciplines such as archaeology, conservation science, soil analysis, stone carving and hydraulic engineering, drawing as well on local artisanal skills.
As a result, the special grandeur of past centuries is today part of public life. The life of the neighbourhood has also been revitalized through important initiatives in health, education and sanitation.
And in Tajikistan, AKDN has restored the Khorog City Park, which has provided a revived green space for interaction; leisure and cultural events once again making this place the heart of the social fabric of the city.
These are case studies from our experience that demonstrate how cultural heritage can act as a catalyst for economic and social development; however it requires engagement from governments and other stakeholders in a partnership underpinned by shared commitment to create an enabling environment for cultural development.
Mr. Chairman, cultural heritage is already recognized in some national policies as an economic asset and today we urge Afghanistan and the Heart of Asia countries to establish cultural heritage as a key area of investment in relevant national development strategies underpinned by practical national policies and priorities.
AKDN commits its support to such initiatives.
A second area of importance in which AKDN can provide technical expertise and experience is in the Disaster Management CBM. As we know, the region is highly exposed to natural disasters such as floods, prolonged droughts, landslides, avalanches, and earthquakes.
… Today we are honoured to commit our support to the Disaster Management CBM led by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of Kazakhstan. We also call upon the Heart of Asia countries and supporting organizations to prioritize disaster risk reduction initiatives in their development strategies.
Read the full speech at the source AKDN Statement at the “Heart of Asia” Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in Beijing
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