On working in fragile contexts – perspective and experiences from the Aga Khan Foundation

“We are inclusive in what we do. Our ethics require it.”

Michael Kocher, General Manager, Aga Khan Foundation

Working in areas of crisis and fragility

His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. His Highness founded AKDN, including AKF  50 years ago, to support the commitment to improving the quality of life of their community and of all humanity.

This brings me to my topic: working in areas of crisis and fragility.

It so happens several of the countries where Ismailis live are areas of significant isolation, poverty and deprivation, and social tension, insecurity, or fragility. These are also many of the places where AKDN is present and active.

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I’m often asked whether we only work with Ismailis. It’s a natural question, since our geographies often overlap with places where Ismailis either live today or were present.

The answer is clear and categorical: absolutely not. In development, to focus only on one community to the detriment or exclusion of others would undermine everything we and our agencies are trying to achieve. A large percentage of our beneficiaries are in fact not Ismaili.

We take a community-based approach. In a fragile or conflict-prone area, and in development generally, the worst possible thing you could do is focus your activities on a subset of the population to the exclusion of others. That is the surest way to generate resentment, division and further conflict.

We are inclusive in what we do. Our ethics require it.

And so at AKDN, we’ve made it a founding principle to work with all people, of whatever background, wherever we’re present.

Before joining AKDN, I spent most of my career working for the International Rescue Committee – now headed by the UK’s former Foreign Secretary, David Miliband – in places of extreme fragility.

I joined the Aga Khan Foundation six years ago because I knew it took a long-term approach, focused on high-quality and on results, and had a deep reservoir of local legitimacy. I wanted to address the root causes of poverty, inequality, intolerance and strife.

As I think about the lessons we’ve learned in places of fragility, it is vital that I start with that – local roots, local legitimacy. It’s the heart of what we do, and critical to our success in difficult places.

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Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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