Overview of the unit
4.1 A network of care and support
In this unit, we are presented with an overview of the work of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). We learn what the AKDN is, why it was setup, and how it has developed in recent decades. We find out in which regions of the world the AKDN operates, and some of the organisations that are its partners.
4.2 Many ways of reaching out
In this section, we explore the three main areas in which AKDN agencies are actively involved: economic deve1opmcnt, social development, and culture. We are introduced to the key institutions in the AKDN that are engaged in each of these areas of activity, and some of the programmes and projects undertaken by them.
4.3 Helping people help themselves
The final section of the unit makes us aware of the broad principles that inform the approaches of AKDN projects, and practical outcomes they seek to achieve. We also examine the connection between these principles and the ethics of Islam.
4.1 A network of care and support
The Aga Khan Development Network
In the previous unit, we learned how Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah set up institutions to meet the needs of the Ismailis and other communities in parts of Asia and Africa.
Under the leadership of Mawlana Hazir Imam, these institutions were strengthened and many new ones created. As they expanded to provide services to other regions of the world, their work increased and they grew in size. The Imam brought all these institutions together under one framework to create the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
The AKDN represents an endeavour in modern times by the Imamat to realise the social conscience of Islam through institutional action. The main aim of the AKDN is to improve the living conditions of the people suffering from poverty, disease and illiteracy, without regard to their faith, origin or gender.
Each institution within the AKDN is concerned with a specific area of development. These areas include health, education rural development, private enterprise, and architecture and culture. While each agency is responsible for a specific area, all of them work together in ways which can integrate and reinforce their activities.
Together, the AKDN institutions share the common goal of responding to the challenges of social, economic and cultural change on an on going basis.
A tradition of service
The institutions of the AKDN reflect the long tradition in the Ismaili community of volunteer service, self-reliance and generosity inspired by the guidance of the Imam.
The Imam guides the AKDN with the aim of realising the ethical principles of Islam. He provides regular funding for the running of the institutions, for new programmes, and for core activities.
The Ismaili community also contributes to the institutions and programmes of the AKDN through volunteer support, professional services, and financial resources.
Other funding sources for the activities of the AKDN include income from investments, grants from governments and partner institutions, as well as donations from individuals around the world.
The work of the AKDN is made possible by the energy, dedication and skill of both volunteers and professional staff. The agencies draw upon the talents of people of all faiths.
Geographica1 areas in which AKDN operates
The AKDN consists of international and non-denominational agencies working in specific regions of the world. The services of the AKDN are open to people of all faiths and origins.
The work of the AKDN is heavily concentrated in areas inhabited by a percentage of the world’s poorest people. These areas are located in South Asia, Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Individual agencies also have activities in other parts of the world, such as the Middle East, Europe and North America.
AKDN is concerned with the quality of life of people in both urban and rural areas. Network organisations are present not only in many parts of expanding cities of Africa and South Asia, but also in rural, often remote, areas.
The AKDN also acts as an important bridge between the countries of the North, and the poor nations located in the South. This bridge is made possible by the spread of the Ismaili community in both regions of the world. Its presence in North America and Europe, as well as in Africa and Asia, has created a unique bridge between the developed and the developing worlds that is one of the Network’s greatest strengths.
AKDN institutions work in close partnership with the world’s major development agencies.
AKDN agencies actively cooperate with organisations with similar aims and approaches in mounting innovative projects. With the help of programme partners, they try to make a contribution to the well-being of large number of people. The partner organisations provide valuable support, knowledge and resources to achieve this goal.
Many of AKDN’s partners are governments of various countries. The AKDN has signed agreements of co-operation with governments around the world, including Bangladesh, Canada. Cote d’Ivore, France, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. AKDN agencies work closely with national and local governments in each country in which they are active.
The AKDN also works with large number of non- governmental organisations (NGOs) in selected areas of development. Some of the NGOs are well known international bodies, while others are local organisations.
Examples of partner institutions
Some of the partner institutions of the AKDN include:
Review questions and activities
Reflecting on the text
What is the AKDN? How was it established?
What is the main aim of AKDN?
How are the AKDN’s programmes supported?
What role do the Imam and the Ismaili community play in relation to the AKDN?
In which areas of activity is the AKDN involved?
Which kind of people receives help from the AKDN agencies?
How does the AKDN act as a bridge between the North and South?
Give some examples of AKDN partner organisations. What benefits arise from this form of co-operation?
Make a publicity brochure about the work of AKDN. Provide information in the brochure about the aims of the AKDN, the work in which it is involved, and the regions of the world in which it operates?
Read some of the speeches of Mawlana Hazir Imam that refers to the work of AKDN. Summarise the main points that the Imam is making in these speeches about the AKDN.
Identify one of the countries in which the AKDN is actively involved. Write an account of the various ways in which the AKDN is assisting the people of that country.
Select one of the partner organisations with which AKDN works. Find out more about the aims of this organisation and its programmes.
What is Aga Khan Development Network?
WORDS TO LOOK UP
- non-governmental organisation (NGO)
- partner institutions
- private enterprise
Find out what organisation of the AKDN operate in your country or region. What kind of work are they involved in?
Compare the work of AKDN with the work of another development agency or NGO you have studied at school. What are some of the similarities and differences between the two organisations?
What are some of the difficulties that development organisations like AKDN encounter in assisting people in developing countries? How can some of these difficulties be overcome?
Why is AKDN involved in the area of culture? What is the relation between culture and the quality of life of a people?
The AKDN is a group of agencies established by Mawlana Hazir Imam that are involved in helping the poorest people in different parts of the world, regardless of their faith or origins.
4.2 Many ways of reaching out
The AKDN institutions
The AKDN consists of a group of institutions that are involved in three main areas of development. The first is the economic development. The institution responsible for this area is AKFED.
The second sphere of the activity is social development. Several institutions are involved in this area, such as the AKF, AKU and UCA.
The third area addresses culture headed by AKTC.
The diagram below shows the organisation of the AKDN. In this section, we will be examining those three areas which form the main focus of development work of AKDN agencies.
Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development
Economic Development is one of three areas of AKDN’s activities. The agency that oversees this area is AKFED. It consists of following network of institutions:
- Industrial Promotion Services
- Tourist Promotion Services
- Financial Services
- Aviation Services
- Media Services
Through the above institutions, AKFED operates more than 90 separate project companies and employs over 18,000 people around the world. Its activities are located in East Africa, West Africa, South Asia and Central Asia.
AKFED concentrates on projects that help people in developing countries. The aim is to help poor nations develop economically through a variety of ways:
- assisting small businesses with loans;
- helping create local jobs through the setting up of industries;
- developing skill in the work force
- and introducing new technology to improve people’s quality of life.
The projects are sensitive to the environment and are intended to benefit as wide a population as possible.
Financial Services FS
One of the major activities of AKFED is to provide financial services such as banks and insurance companies in East Africa, Central Asia and South Asia.
Many of these companies were founded in the first half of the twentieth century. With AKEFD’s help, they have grown into important national and regional banks and insurance companies in the developing world. They include, for example, the Diamond Trust Bank and Jubilee Insurance Company in Kenya.
Reaching Out to poor communities
For many years, AKFED has supported institutions in India and Pakistan that can help poor communities. By making credit available to them. In Central Asia a new bank has been opened in Kyrgyz Republic to help the growth of businesses. In Afghanistan, small loans are provided to returning refugees and farmers in the northern province of Badakhshan. In Syria, craftsmen are given loans to help them preserve their homes, traditions and skills.
Industrial Promotion Services IPS
IPS was set up in 1963 to encourage economic in the sub Saharan Africa and South Asia. Over 70 projects have been launched since it was set up, in the areas of food and agriculture, printing and packaging, metal products and textiles.
Investing in industry
Examples of projects include:
- Sugar cane plantations and a sugar refinery in Burkina Faso;
- manufacture of plastic bags and carton packaging in Kenya;
- and production of plastic packaging in West Africa for the food and cosmetic industries.
AKFED companies also produce household utensils, corrugated sheets for roofing, window frames and wire products. Other companies produce fishnets and medical drugs.
Water, electricity and telephones
AKFED is mounting projects in the poorest regions of the world to develop communications, water and sewerage, and power generation.
IPS assisted in the building of the Azito power plant in Ivory Coast, which generates 288 megawatts of electricity for the sub- Saharan region. Other energy projects include Tsavo Power in Kenya and an energy- water facility in Mali.
AKFED is also helping to develop a new electricity generation plant in a remote eastern province of Tajikistan. The plant will boost the region’s electricity supply, improve health conditions, reduce environmental damage, and help the economy.
In telecommunications, AKFED is bringing mobile phone services to Afghanistan, a country whose telephone lines have suffered severe damage from years of conflict.
Tourist Promotion Services TPS
AKFED promotes tourism by building and managing hotels and lodges in East Africa and Asia. They contribute to economic growth in an environmentally and culturally sensitive manner.
TPS supports awareness that raises awareness of the environments of developing countries and improves appreciation of their cultural traditions. These projects aim to promote local architectural traditions and crafts.
Preserving the environment
TPS projects are sensitive to the environment. In Tanzania, for example, prior to building of properties, four studies were carried out that led to more efficient use of water in the hotels. At the Serena Inn in Zanzibar, special equipment burns waste to provide energy for the hotel.
The projects in East Africa also try to protect the natural parks near the hotels and lodges. In Mara, Kenya, after a devastating forest fire, guests helped plant 200, 000 trees. In the East African game parks, income earned from entry fees is used for the upkeep of the parks. These measures have helped earned the Serena chain many environmental awards.
Aga Khan Foundation AKF
The Aga Khan Foundation is an international, non – profit development agency established by Mawlana Hazir Imam in 1967. It seeks solutions to long term problems of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and ill health in developing regions of the world. It places special emphasis on the needs of rural communities in mountainous, coastal and other resource poor areas.
AKF’s projects on education aim to increase student’s access to schools. They try to raise the attendance rates and the number of years pupils stay in school. To improve the quality in schools, parents and communities are encouraged to participate in developing curricula and managing schools.
The goal of the health programme is to improve the health and well being of the remote rural communities with special attention to women and children. AKF is involved with programmes that deal with the health of mothers and their children, family planning, control of infectious disease and nutrition.
AKF had supported development programmes for over twenty years, beginning with Aga Khan Rural Support Programmes in Pakistan and India in the early 1980s. the experience gained in these programmes has been adapted and applied to rural projects in other parts of Asia and Africa.
Aga Khan Education Services AKES
AKES operates schools and other educational services in over three hundred facilities in the developing world. They range from day care centers to higher secondary schools. During the first half of twentieth century, over a hundred schools were established by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah in East Africa and South Asia.
In the 1950s under Mawlana Hazir Imam, the school system expanded to cater to more students and provide education to new areas. Today, AKES is constructing new schools in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Madagascar and Mozambique.
Improving the quality of education
Ways are continually being sought for improving the quality of education in schools. Some of these approaches include the training of teachers in class rooms. It also includes school improvement programmes, child centered teaching method and the use of computers in the class rooms.
Centre of excellence
The AKES plans to build educational centres of excellence in South Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Africa. These private schools will be open to students of all backgrounds, regardless of their financial situation. They will be selected on the basis of merit. The centres will offer both national and international curricula.
Aga Khan Health Services AKHS
AKHS provides health care in rural and urban areas of Asia and Africa. It operates over 325 health centres, six general hospitals and three women hospitals. Over one million people benefit from its services annually.
Health care priorities
The main aim of AKHS is to promote health and prevent diseases, especially among rural communities and those with low income in urban areas. Some of its main priorities include protecting mother and children from fatal illness. Adult health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and mental illness, are also treated.
The doctors, nurses and health care workers in the AKHS have professional qualifications that are recognized internationally. They receive regular training so that they can upgrade their skills.
Contribution of volunteers
In addition to professional staff, volunteers are also essential to AKHS. Many of its programmes were originally set up through the energy, dedication and skills of volunteers. The running of AKHS institutions in various countries depends on volunteers, who are involved tin day to day tasks in these institutions.
Aga Khan Planning and Building Services AKPBS
AKPBS works to improve the built environment. It is involved in designing and constructing housing, village planning, environmental sanitation, setting up water supplies and other factors that improve living conditions. Mawlana Hazir Imam has said that ‘a proper home can bridge across that terrible gulf between poverty and better future.’
Water and sanitation programmes in rural areas
An improvement priority of AKPBS is mounting water and sanitation programme in rural areas. It is also involved in schemes to protect these facilities from natural disasters such as landslides, flooding and earthquakes. The local communities are actively involved in these programmes.
AKPBS has also been involved in developing appropriate technology that can be produced at low cost and used by communities. This technology is directed at building structures from earthquake, the use of solar energy and natural lighting, increasing heating efficiency and ventilation devices for residential dwellings.
Aga Khan University AKU
Mawlana Hazir Imam founded the Aga Khan University in 1983. Its aim is to promote the welfare of human beings by spreading knowledge through training, research and services in health sciences, education and other disciplines. Like other AKDN institutions, AKU is open to students and staff from all backgrounds. The university places special emphasis on the education of women in developing countries.
The School of Nursing
The AKU School of Nursing began operating in 1980. It trains nurses to provide nursing care that can act as model in developing countries.
The Medical College at AKU was set up in 1983. It enrolls students in a five year programme that leads to degrees in medicine and surgery. It focuses on developing medical skills that can be applied in community settings as well as hospitals.
Institute for Educational Development
The institute was set up in 1993 to improve educational standards in primary and secondary schools by training teachers in class room settings. Its programmes are intended for teachers working in public and private schools in developing countries. The institute also provides training to heads of schools and carries out research on education.
Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations
The institute was launched in 2002 to further the study of Muslim societies. It will engage in research and teaching on various aspects of Muslim societies and all their diversity: their history and culture, their religious and ethical thought, their methods of governing themselves and their artistic and creative expressions. Scholars will also try to contribute to a greater understanding of the relation between Muslims and other societies.
Over the years, AKU has expanded to become an international university by setting up institutions in Pakistan, East Africa and Britain. At the same time, it is extended the range of its activities and programmes. It is now planning a major faculty of Arts and Sciences at a new campus on the outskirts of Karachi, as well as setting up other important institutions.
University of Central Asia UCA
The University of Central Asia was founded in 2000 by presidents of Kazakhstan, the Kygryz Republic and Tajikistan, and Mawlana Hazir Imam. Its aim is to promote economical and social development through out the vast mountain zones of Central Asia. It recruits men and women of all backgrounds who are committed to improving the lives of mountain people.
UCA will offer programmes that are of importance to the lives of people in mountainous areas. These programmes will be based on;
- Resource development and environmental protection
- Tourism and leisure industry
- Business and economic development
- Public administration
- Rural development
These programmes will help mountain people improve their lives through education, agricultural reform, enterprise, and the wise use of resources. They will encourage participation and decision making at the local level. The university will try to help people living in harsh conditions to address economic and social challenges they face. The research carried out will seek practical solutions to development problems faced in mountain zones.
Preparation for the opening of UCA
The university will be open to students from all parts of the Central Asia. Students will be admitted on merit. Those who are in need of financial help will be supported with loans and scholarships.
UCA is hiring and training local staff of men and women who will meet a high international standard in their fields. Links will also be made with teaching staff from other universities in Asia, North America and Europe.
The Aga Khan University will act as a special resource for the new university. UCA will also draw on the experience of other branches of the Aga Khan Development Network in the region.
The new university is being funded by individual donors, private foundations, international co-operations and development agencies and national governments in the developed world. The three states in which the university will be located are providing land for campuses and various other forms of support. Mawlana Hazir Imam contributed $15 million to the university’s endowment fund when the treaty to establish the university was signed in 2000.
Aga Khan Trust for Culture
The third area which forms the focus of AKDN programmes is culture. The agency that is responsible for this area is the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Its activities are concerned with the culture and heritage of Muslim societies. It seeks to create greater awareness of the diversity in the Muslim world. Its programmes include;
- The Aga Khan Award for Architecture
- The Historic Cities Support Programme
- The Education and Culture Programme
The Aga Khan Award for Architecture
The award was created by Mawlana Hazir Imam in 1977 to recognize outstanding examples of architecture in the Muslim world. It also aimed to highlight the vital role architecture played in the life of communities.
The Award identified projects that have impact on the way people think about the built environment in Muslim societies and through out the world. It seeks to recognise projects that offer creative and replicable solutions to problems of social development.
The Award has been granted to municipalities, house owners, technicians and master masons. Winning projects have included housing developments, restoration of individual buildings, conservation projects, landscape designs and programmes aimed at improving the urban environment.
The Award ceremony takes place every three years. Several other buildings and other architectural spaces are identified, from which the winners are selected by a master jury. Since 1977, information on over six thousand building projects has been collected. Eighty four of these projects have been selected to receive awards.
Historic Cities Support Programme HCSP
The Historic Cities Support Programme was set up in 1992. it is involved in conserving and restoring historical buildings and urban spaces. Since its founding, HCSP has been involved in over twenty projects in different regions of the Muslim world.
In Kabul, Afghanistan, HCSP is leading a project to restore he Babar Garden, which contains the tomb of the sixteenth century emperor Babur. It is also working on the mausoleum of the fourteenth century emperor, Timur Shah, while improving the surrounding area.
In the historic city of Cairo, HCSP has transformed a vast barren site into 30 hectre urban park. In zanzibar, the programme has been involved in preserving and restoring the Old Stone Town, a major World Heritage Site. An important part of the project has been to train local craftsmen in skills such as carving and stone work, which has largely been forgotten.
In the Northern Areas of Pakistan, HCSP has rehabilitated historic forts, places, land mark buildings and traditional settlements. It has also promoted traditional crafts and building techniques. These activities have helped to create work and generate wealth for poor communities.
In Samarkand, HCSP assisted in preparing a new master plan for the Timurid city, including proposals for the improvement of both the historical and modern city centres. In Syria, HCSP has provided help and training in the conservation of the city of Aleppo and the fortress of Masyaf and Saleh ed-Din.
Education and Culture Programme
The Education and Culture Programme consists of several major areas of activity. The Aga Khan Programme for Islamic Architecture ( AKPIA) is based at Haward University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. It aims to improve the teaching of Islamic art and architecture, promote research and explore Islamic architecture and urban spaces in relation to issues of development.
ArchNet is a website on internet (www.ArchNet.org) that makes available a vast collection of material on architecture, urban development, and relates issues connected with the Muslim world. The resources on the website include photographs, publications, field trip reports, journal and books. It also includes materials from the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the Historic Cities Support Programme.
Participants from around the world continually add to the bank of on line resources. Several thousand individual members from 90 countries—the majority of whom are students of architecture – share their work with the community of ArchNet users. Small groups of students work together on projects addressing specific housing problems, such as reconstruction of buildings following earthquakes and wars.
The Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia
This project a was established in 2000 to help pr4eserve Central Asia’s musical heritage and its transmission to a new generation of artists and audiences. It recognises music’s vital role in the cultures of Central Eurasia and the Middle East, not only as entertainment, but as an expression of moral values and the power of the spirit.
The Music Initiative organises education programmes, ethnographic research, archive preservation, recordings and publications, and concerts and workshops featuring traditional musicians. A major focus is support for local music centres and schools in which master musicians train disciples through traditional methods.
The Museum Unit, set up in 2003, will lead to the opening of Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, which will be dedicated to Islamic art. The Toronto museum will include artifacts from renowned collections, including those of Mawlana Hazir Imam and the late Prince Sadruddin and Princess Catherine. The museum will be dedicated to acquiring, preserving, displaying and interpreting objects of art from Muslim societies, in the past and present. Artifacts will include ceramics, metal work and paintings covering all periods of Islamic history.
Review questions and activities
Reflecting on the text
Which are the three major areas of development in which the AKDN is involved?
Why are these areas of importance to the AKDN?
Which AKDN institution is responsible for projects related to economic development?
How do AKDN agencies assist the people of poor nations in developing their economies?
Give and example of an AKDN institution that is involved in social development? What kind of work does it carry out?
What are some important areas in social development? How do these aspects affect the quality of life of people in developing countries?
What role do the universities in the AKDN play in helping achieve aims related to development?
Why is culture an important area of development for the AKDN?
Which institution is responsible for this area?
What are some of the major programmes in the AKDN that are related to culture?
Select one of the key agencies of the AKDN and find out more about its aims, the types of projects it has mounted, the difficulties it has faced, and some of its major achievements.
Do a case study on one of the programmes or projects identified in this section. After collecting the information, make a class room presentation on your project.
Do a research study on an AKDN institution or programme that is operating in your country. Why has your country been selected as the site for the institution or programme?
Consider your own skills and talents. Which institution or area of development interests you most? Write an account of how you could contribute to furthering the work in your area of interest.
The AKDN works closely with some of the agencies of the United Nations, such as UNICEF and UNDP. Find out more about these agencies and the work they do.
Discuss some of the challenges that AKDN agencies face in mounting projects in different parts of the world. How do you think these difficulties can be over come?
The AKDN institutions have expanded to serve people in different areas of development and geographical regions. How do you the AKDN might expand over the next fifty years?
The AKDN agencies are involved in three major areas of development: economic, social and cultural.
4.3 Helping people help themselves
AKDN and the ethics of Islam
The aim of AKDN institutions is to improve the quality of life around the world by freeing them from poverty, disease and illiteracy. AKDN agencies conduct their programmes without regard to the faith, origin or gender of the people they serve. Their main focus of activity includes some of the poorest peoples of Asia and Africa.
The principles that inspire the work of AKDN are drawn from the ethical message of Islam. The ethics of Islam call upon Muslims to extend compassion and care for the vulnerable and weak in society. They are made aware of their duty to contribute to improving the quality of all human life. Muslims are asked to respect the dignity of human beings as God’s noblest creation.
The ethical message of Islam asks for the poor and weak to be supported. However, it discourages actions that would make them permanently dependent on society and undermine their dignity. From the time of Prophet, there fore the emphasis in Muslim charity has been to help the needy to become self- reliant.
To help communities become self- reliant, community participation is an important principle in the work of AKDN agencies. The starting point of the development programmes is the communities who require help. People in the community are invited to state what their most urgent needs are, and what kind of help they most need. They are also asked how best their problems can be solved, and how they can contribute towards improving their living conditions.
Community participation is brought about through meetings, workshops, public discussions and other forms of exchange. People are encouraged to voice their concerns, and to suggest ways of moving forward. The sharing of ideas is not always easy, as people are often divided by their particular interests or background.
The challenge for the AKDN agencies under theses conditions is how to help people to come together to solve common problems. Once this has been achieved, the AKDN agencies are able to bring the necessary support, resources and expertise to the aid of the communities.
The common goal of AKDN agencies is to help the poor achieve self-reliance. In this way, they are able to plan their own lively hoods and help those even needier than themselves.
The needs of communities who require help are often interrelated. The need for health care, for examples is linked closely to the community having access to education. Educating children and mothers about basic hygiene and a balanced diet can lead to great gains in improving their health.
The health and education needs of a community are also tied to their need income and employment. A family without any income is exposed to illness, and children are forced to work instead of being able to attend school.
Also important to a community is the preservation of its culture. A community that feels its faith, identity and way of life are under threat will feel insecure and threatened. Under these conditions, it is difficult for them to accept change in other areas such as health and education.
In helping communities in need, AKDN agencies recognise that development has to be approached in an integrated manner. Whenever possible, AKDN agencies work together so that their different programmes can interact with and reinforce one another.
Long term support
Improving the quality of life of people in need cannot be achieved in a short time. Communities suffering from poverty that are helped over a short period of time find themselves struggling once the support they require ends. Money, by itself, is not enough to help the poor. Community development requires support of various kinds- human, technical as well as moral.
Whenever needed, the AKDN agencies make long term commitment to the communities with whom they work. When programmes are mounted, the agencies make sure that these programmes will be sustained over a long period of time.
Thus, when building new schools, it is important that communities in need are not left struggling to find teachers, resources and skills to run the school after three or five or ten years. Schools that are built without this kind of planning are soon forced to close down.
AKDN agencies therefore try to equip local communities with the necessary knowledge and support so that they become self- sufficient in running the programmes of assistance by themselves. In this way, they can receive lasting benefits from the help they receive from the AKDN agencies.
The evidence shows that this patient approach of local community participation is beginning to yield rewards. In some regions, the efforts of communities to improve their living conditions have enabled them to create cash savings that they can use for their own development. They can now take measures to protect their environment to establish schools, and to operate medical facilities largely paid for by themselves.
Working with many partners
To pursue their work, AKDN institutions rely on the energy, dedication, and skills of volunteers as well as paid professional staff. They draw upon the talents of people of all faith.
AKDN agencies also function through the participation of local people, in both urban and rural areas. Network organisations are present not only in many of the Africa and South Asia’s expanding cities, but also in rural, often remote areas. Enabling people in rural areas to create the services they need and to have access to the opportunities they want is a major priority of the AKDN.
AKDN agencies also work in close co-operation with governments and non- governmental organisations all over the world.
Mawlana Hazir Imam sums up the collaborative nature of AKDN’s approach in the following words:
‘this is a guiding principle for the work of the institutions which make up the Aga Khan Development Network— Sustainable development requires village or community organisations, the empowerment of those organisation, and the creation of partnerships between them nd the government, local and international non- governmental organisations, and experts from the leading centres of research and teaching around the world.’
Charitable giving in Islam
The values of generosity, service and sacrifice lie at the heart of the ethical message of Islam.. the practice of giving forms an integral part of the faith of Shia and Sunni Muslims alike. In the following message from an address given in Pakistan, Mawlana Hazir Imam emphasizes the importance of these values in Islam.
Source: the Institute of Ismaili Studies Website
Conference on Indigenous Philanthropy
Address by Mawlana Hazir Imam
17th October 2000 Islamabad Pakistan
‘… Philanthropy and charitable giving hold a very central piece in the teachings of the Holy Quran, the writings of Islamic thinkers, and the history of Muslim in all parts band cultures of the Islamic World, including here on the sub continent. Islam’s clear and explicit injunction is to share resources beyond one’s reasonable commitments and to care for those in need….’
‘Religion and generosity – the gifts of time, of funds and of material – have been closely linked through out human history. Religious institutions, buildings and activities have been a major focus of giving in virtually all religious traditions and in countries at all stages of development. Charitable support for the poor and for the victims of disaster has an equally long and wide spread history.
‘In the Islamic World, from the earliest days, wealthy donors evolved a special form- endowment (awqaf) – to address charitable needs on a sustainable basis. Philanthropic funding for social development (as distinguished from charity) is a somewhat more recent phenomenon, support for schools and hospitals, often through endowment, were its first forms…..
‘the Quran, the Hadith, the sayings of Hazrat Ali, and many scholarly sources make numerous reference to the forms and purposes of philanthropy. Human dignity- restoring it, and sustaining it- is a central theme. Enabling individuals to recover and maintain their dignity as befitting their status as Allah’s greatest creation is one of the main reasons for charitable action. There is dignity in individual’s ability to manage his or her destiny.
‘That being the case, the best of charity in Islamic terms, can go beyond material support alone. It can take the form of human or professional support such as provision of education for those other wise unable to obtain it, or of sharing of knowledge to help marginalised individuals build different and better futures for themselves.
‘thus conceived, charity is not limited to one time material gift, but can be seen as a continuum of support in a time frame which can extend to years. That means that multi year support for institutions that enable individuals to achieve by becoming self sustainable, holds a special place amongst that many forms of charity in the eyes of Islam.
‘There is another percept found in the Quran and Islamic philosophical texts of great significance that is particularly relevant in this context. It is emphasis on responsibilities placed upon those charged with the management of philanthropically gifts and the institutions supported by them……. Muslim societies have the moral right to expect and demand that philanthropic donations be managed according to the highest ethical standards.’
- Continuum – that which is continuous
- Endowments- donations of money that act as permanent incomes for institutions
- Indigenous- that which arises naturally; belonging to particular tradition or place
- Injunction- instruction, order
- Marginalised – made or treated as insignificant
- Management- care and control of the funds
- Philanthropy- the practice of charitable actions
- Precept- rule – direction
- Sustainable – able to be supported continuously
The enabling environment an urgent challenge
The following speech of Mawlana Hazir Imam helps us to learn more about the principles of voluntary service, co- operation and self reliance in development work.
Source: the Institute of Ismaili Studies Website
At the International Development Conference
By Mawlana Hazir Imam
March Washington DC USA
‘……I am convinced we are in the midst of a sea of change in thinking about the development process in the third world. For three decades, governments were at centre stage. There was almost a blind faith in the ability of government to act as a locomotive of development. Governments were expected not only to educate the young and care for the sick, but in many instance, to run vast segments of industry and to produce the savings required for investment.
‘while we must pay tribute to what has been achieved in much of the Third World during our lifetimes, the locomotives have run out of steam. Government capabilities and resources are stretched beyond the limit. And this is being recognised in all continents.
‘…..I believe the voluntary sector has a great role to play. As in the United States, the voluntary ethos in the third World is enormously powerful. The voluntary sector represents , and can develop, all that is finest in the human potential.
‘It is not believed that 100 million people contribute their time and energies to the voluntary sector, working in health and nutrition programs, caring for refugees, experimenting with new approaches to income generation, and so on….
‘Yet the voluntary sector in the developing world is fragile need. It generally lacks resources and even self confidence. Organisations are often too small and too poorly managed to be effective…..
There is another dimension that is also important……. the development challenges of the next century- cities of 20 million people with their housing and infrastructure needs; feeding and clothing 7 billion people while improving the environment; providing jobs for an additional 100 million men and women each year- mandate an integrated approach.
Institutions must find ways to work together more closely, to develope new visions to address these issues.
Finally, let me state my conviction that the indigenous voluntary sector must be encouraged to enlarge its role in the cevelopment process. These agencies have the potential to draw hundreds of millions of people into direct participation in development. They can be cost effective and innovative . but I have already noted that indigenous voluntary agencies often have weaknesses. Can we not combine Third World and Western resources in a concerted effort to improve the management, quality of work and effectiveness of indigenous voluntary agencies?…..
‘….This evening I have tried to share with you that a vital opportunity is at hand. The opportunity exists to create, in much of the third world, an enabling environment to bring out the very best of the human potential.’
‘And ayat in the Quran says: “Verily, God does not change man’s condition unless they change that which is in themselves.” We must greater faith in the ability of individual to be creative. We may be at a point in history in which the people of the Third World are both willing and able to act. We will share a responsibility to help create an environment to make this possible.’
- Concerted- combine together; jointly planned
- Cost- effective- reducing the unnecessary spending of money
- Ethos- spirit
- Infrastructure- basic structure, organisation or foundations of a system
- Innovative- bringing in new ideas or methods
- Locomotive- engines used for pulling trains
- Mandate- require or authorise to act in a certain way
- Tribute- gift or statement made to praise or thank some one
- Voluntary sector- that part of society consisting of volunteers
Review questions and activities
Reflect on the text
What are some important ethical principles that inspire the work of AKDN agencies?
Why it is important to respect human dignity in extending help to the needy?
What is meant by ‘community participation’ in development work? How is this principle reflected in the work of AKDN agencies?
How are different aspects of development related to one another? How do AKDN agencies try to adopt an integrated approach to development?
Why is it necessary that communities in need be helped on long term basis?
In Mawlana Hazir Imam’s speech delivered in Islamabad, what aspects about charitable giving does the Imam emphasise?
What does the Imam mean by the term ‘enabling environment’ in his speech in Washington? In the Imam’s view how best can development be achieved in the Third World?
Imagine you are planning a project to build a school for people in mountain village. Create a plan of action that takes into account the principles of development discussed in this section.
List the kind of problems and issues that the villagers in the above activity might bring to your attention. How would you decide with them what was of immediate priority?
Extend the above plan to take into account the long term development of village community. Draw up a time schedule of ten years which shows what would take place during this period.
All development projects require funding. Suggest a fund raising campaign that would help the villagers acquire financial support. What other forms of help would they need, and where could these resources be found?
Outline a list of problems that you would encounter in bringing the villagers. What actions would you take in your plan to anticipate these difficulties and overcome them?
Explore the work of other agencies involved in development work. To what extent do they follow AKDN’ s approach to development?
It could be argued that poor communities are not in position to know what is best for them. It is the development agencies that are in better position to guide them. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this view?
How can development agencies know if their projects are succeeding and achieving their aims?
The development approach that is applied by AKDN agencies draws its inspiration from the ethical principles of Islam.
REVIEW UNIT4: Creating new pathways of care
4.1 A network of care and support
- What is AKDN and how was it established?
- What is the main aim of AKDN?
- What role do the Imam and the Ismaili community play in relation to the AKDN?
- What kind of people receive help from AKDN agencies?
- Who are some of the partner organisations of the AKDN?
4.2 Many ways of reaching out
- Which are three major areas of development in which AKDN agencies are involved?
- How do AKDN agencies help people of poor nations in developing their economies?
- Give an example of AKDN institution involved in social development. What kind of work does it carry out?
- Why is culture an important area of development for the AKDN?
- What are some major programmes of AKDN that are related to culture?
4.3 Helping people help themselves
- What are some ethical principles of Islam that inspire the work of the AKDN?
- What is meant by ‘community participation’ in development work?
- Why do the AKDN agencies try to adopt an integral approach to development?
- Why is long term development preferred by AKDN agencies as a better option for communities in need, rather than short term action?
- What are some important points that the Imam mentions in his speeches on charitable work in Islam and on the enabling environment?