Mr. Chairman, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the Aga Khan Development Network, I should like to join the previous speakers in expressing our gratitude and congratulations to the Government of Afghanistan for hosting this impressive gathering in Kabul. We welcome and support the Government’s efforts to bring about real change to the lives of the Afghan people, perceptible change, a tangible improvement in the quality of their daily existences.
The Aga Khan Development Network welcomes a strong continued support for the development of a stable, progressive and pluralistic Afghanistan. Pluralism-ethnic, linguistic, cultural and confessional- is critical for this country: mutual trust and respect amongst ethnic groups are essential if peace, stability and equitable development are to be achieved. In diversity lies strength.
It is also vital for local government and development actors to work closely with local communities to identify and to meet pressing needs. Low execution of the development budget must be a cause for concern. The Government’s ability fruitfully to absorb outside funding is dependent on the creation of Afghan-driven mechanisms to address security, justice and socio-economic growth. Not only should Community Councils be responsible for the stability of their respective communities, but communities themselves need to be engaged in the process of prioritization of programmes as well as in the delivery of those programmes.
Initiatives such as the National Solidarity Programme, which promotes the direct involvement of communities, has demonstrated tangible progress in improving the quality of life of the Afghan people, arousing their strong spirit and their entrepreneurial instincts. Results change minds, not rhetoric. We must avoid that there be to the Afghan citizen a visible gap between the promise of services and their actual delivery on the ground. The philosophy, the policy must be to under-promise and to over-deliver.
The Community Development Councils, which are elected by the communities themselves, are part of a civil society that must make an essential contribution to human development, to nation building and to ensuring that an insurmountable gap does not develop between Government on the one side and the business sector and private enterprise on the other. AKDN is of the view that investing in the institutions of civil society and in their capacity to deliver services deserves far greater priority, attention, support and resources than has hitherto been the case, even as investments in rebuilding the State’s institutions continue. Civil society institutions are best able to take into consideration, to reflect, specific provincial or local political situations and socio-economic needs and opportunities. They are well placed to ensure that progress is both public and transparent, that good governance is observed as the norm, just as they are the best tools for ensuring better impact and for hastening visible socio-economic development. There is need for a sub-national governance structure that is clear, efficient and transparent. There is no reason why planning or programming at the provincial or local level need either contradict or undermine central authority. On the contrary, bankable programmes need to be evolved and implemented that are synchronized with sub-national governance and policy and with the reintegration programme.
Afghans must take increasing responsibility for their affairs. In this regard, strengthening the police force and equipping it are vital if civil society is to function effectively and civilian order is to be ensured. It is my personal view that military withdrawal and meaningful reintegration can only take place when Afghanistan has a sufficient and sufficiently equipped police force.
In areas of the country which have remained relatively stable, we hear concern from the local residents that resources are increasingly being directed away from them towards the less secure parts of the country. We believe that ensuring equity of investment across the country is essential. The Afghan Constitution itself requires this. Accelerating development where conditions are most propitious creates beacons of success for the other parts of the country and can catalyse progress in those more challenging districts and provinces by showing that progress, stability and security are possible.
The Government should also give priority focus to creating an enabling environment for private sector development. The Enabling Environment Conference held in Kabul back in June 2007, co-hosted by the Government of Afghanistan, the AKDN, the World Bank, UNDP and ADB, defined a Roadmap of specific, practical actions for private sector and economic and social development, which Roadmap has, I believe, largely been adopted in the Afghan National Development Strategy.
The Roadmap was intended to provide a preliminary framework for engaging the private sector more in impact oriented and effective programmes and for providing concrete regulatory and other conditions to attract and support private investment. Due to constraints within the banking and land registration regulatory frameworks entrepreneurs still have difficulty accessing credit to enable them to transform from micro-enterprises into small and medium-sized enterprises, although it is generally acknowledged that the creation of a solid structure of SME’s underpins most healthy economies. We believe that implementing the priority issues identified in the Roadmap will accelerate existing and unleash new socio-economic growth and development in Afghanistan.
Another concept that our Network is coming to resort to more and more is what we call Multi-Input Area Development (MIAD). Our experience has illustrated to us that when we work simultaneously and synergistically on several fronts (economic, social and cultural), progress on one front spurs progress on the other fronts. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. An example has emerged from our work on restoration and reutilization of historic monuments: while undertaking the restoration work of, say, a monument or an historical building, one can create nearby a minor medical facility, launch educational programmes for adult education, literacy and early childhood education, undertake to improve the infrastructure around that monument, provide microfinance to the local citizens, help them maintain or upgrade their dwelling, and their shops, etc. Such MIADS repeated elsewhere by others, in urban areas as in rural areas, can play a part in overcoming long-standing problems and can have an immediate impact on the quality of life of the citizens benefitting from these MIADS, thus generating greater public confidence in the future and in the inputs which have generated positive change.
Afghanistan is recognised as a regional land bridge, east to west, north to south. However, few tangible projects as yet speak to the realisation of this regional potential. The AKDN, in partnership with the Governments of Afghanistan and Tajikistan and the provincial governments of the Badakhshans of the two countries, has taken a regional approach to health, education, tourism, trade, energy and infrastructure, which has begun to yield tangible improvements in the lives of the local communities. Surely connecting Kabul to China through Tajikistan should open new trade corridors and multiply social and economic fallout benefits for the communities of those areas and thereby for the country as a whole.
How can we link the poor to growth and growth to the poor? There needs to be a willingness to support small-scale and medium-level investments in the short term that may not immediately be considered financially sustainable by conventional measures, but which experience demonstrates are necessary to achieve medium to long-term returns and benefit.
It is our hope that the forthcoming parliamentary elections will be carried out in a climate of peace and with the security and supervisory agencies indeed satisfied that these elections can be carried out peacefully. It is of the utmost importance that in the post-election Afghanistan development should be stimulated and accelerated rather than delayed.
The Aga Khan Development Network remains committed to the stability and growth of this important country and its people and we strongly support a significant acceleration of socio-economic development process. We stand ready to do whatever we can with that objective.
Zainab Khuwaja might be young but the Houston-based artist has a clear vision for future—using her art to reflect her own identity as an American-Muslim. “Through my style and form of art I believe I have been able portray a greater appreciation of Islamic art and Arabic calligraphy from a historical as well as a modern aspect,” she explains.
In her work, Zainab takes inspiration from Arabic Calligraphy and Islamic art and architecture, such as the historical mosques of Turkey, Spain, and Cairo. She uses traditional elements in her work like ceramic tiles, mirror and glass––materials that were used in the architecture and décor in the Fatimid era as well as in the time periods of Mughal and Ottoman Dynasties. “Developing a unique pattern and style which is uncommon within the art world is a success in its own way,” notes the proud artist.
“I feel that by adapting and practicing my art I have not only been able to expand my skills as an artist but also been able to gain a better understanding of the concepts of my faith, societal beliefs, and extremism of politics in the world.”
Her style does manage to set her pieces apart. Take for instance her breathtaking olive Faiths Girdle piece on canvas that draws you in toward a single focal point with the word “Allah” in the center, encircled by colored mirror pieces or Luminous Glow which almost sails afloat the name of the Creator in a fiery orange. Dragon’s Eye is a slightly different but bolder piece that is done in a haunting palette—the bright reds and the eager greens combined with the subtle blues to soften the overall effect. The elements in that composition show a budding artist wanting to break forth and establish her mark on the art world.
Dragons Eye – Acrylic on Canvas
Faiths Girdle – Glass and Mirror work on Canvas
Luminous Glow – Acrylic on Canvas
Zainab’s creative journey began at the age of three, when she first started dabbling with watercolor and pottery. Over the years, that passion continued but she found herself also getting very interested in politics and law. Zainab, who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science and art from Houston Baptist University, is inspired by some of Houston’s most renowned artists such as Michael Collins and Virgil Grotfield. “At school, I am the only artist generating Middle Eastern concepts and designs of calligraphy in general within the art department,” says Zainab. “By viewing my work, some of my fellow student artists and professors have been able to develop a better understanding and appreciation for Muslim art and architecture in general.”
Zainab’s art has been acquired by many private collections. “I do hope in the near future to showcase my work on greater spectrum,” says the hopeful young artist and we wish her the very best in her journey.
Links to the artist
Contact link to purchase: Galerie.Khuwaja@gmail.com
He is a jet-setting billionaire, owner of one of the world’s renowned horse-racing stud farms, and an admired philanthropist who briefly called Rita Hayworth his stepmother.
He is also a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed and the spiritual leader of 15 million Ismaili Muslims around the globe.
The Aga Khan, a beloved figure who is both the spiritual guide and secular role model for Canada’s 100,000 Ismailis, is in Toronto on Friday to lay the foundation for an Islamic museum and cultural centre. The construction on Canadian soil of the largest Islamic museum in the English-speaking world marks a significant milestone for a community that arrived here, nearly destitute, 38 years ago. In the last four decades, Ismailis have emerged as a remarkable success story. Their smooth integration is seen as one of the reasons the Aga Khan, a keen admirer of this country, promotes Canadian-style pluralism as a model for the world.
It was not long before Idi Amin expelled Asians from Uganda in 1972 that the Aga Khan first called prime minister Pierre Trudeau to plan a possible escape route for his people. The two leaders were friendly with one another, and the Aga Khan recognized that the situation for Ismailis in East Africa was growing more precarious by the day. When the axe fell and Mr. Amin began appropriating Ismaili businesses and property, Mr. Trudeau didn’t hesitate to offer safe haven, according to his biographer, John English.
About 5,000 Ismailis came to Canada in that initial phase, and a further 5,000 Ismaili Asians from other East African countries arrived not long after. The community has since grown across Canada as members of the Ismaili diaspora from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and elsewhere have relocated here. In a short time, Ismailis have become leading figures in politics, business and the professions, with prominent people including Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed and Senator Mobina Jaffer.
Ali Shallwani, who owns a teaching-supply store in Oakville, Ont., came to Canada from Pakistan in 1976. He said one of the most influential moments of his life was when, in the early 1990s, he heard the Aga Khan say to Canadian Ismailis, “Make Canada your home.” Mr. Shallwani had just been granted a U.S. work permit, but returned to Canada within a year.
“His saying played a significant role in my decision to return,” Mr. Shallwani said. “I think [the Aga Khan] finds Canadian society to be more tolerant, which I agree with.”
That command, to make Canada home, is a phrase many other Ismailis describe as resonant, according to Shamir Allibhai, producer of a documentary about the spiritual leader. The Aga Khan encouraged Ismailis to engage with their new society, to emphasize education, integrate into the community and volunteer for the common good. They attribute much of their success in Canada to his leadership, he said.
“His emphasis on Canada is not found anywhere else in the Ismaili world,” Mr. Allibhai said. “The Aga Khan sees Canadian civil society as one that can be exported to other countries.”
The Ismailis belong to a relatively small Shia Muslim sect, one that for the last 150 years has had fairly close ties with the West. The Aga Khan’s grandfather passed the Imamat directly to the current Aga Khan in 1957, when he was just a 20-year-old undergraduate at Harvard University. His father, who had married film star and sex symbol Rita Hayworth a few years before, was bypassed because it was felt that a young leader was needed for the atomic age.
Thrust into the spotlight, the Aga Khan emerged as both a moderate, thoughtful leader and a charismatic figure of some international celebrity. He skied for Iran in the Olympics and, though he devotes most of his attention to his foundation and development projects, he also owns one of horse racing’s most successful breeders. His greatest horse, Shergar, valued at close to $20-million, was kidnapped from a farm in Ireland in 1983 and never seen again.
Shafique Virani, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Toronto, describes the Aga Khan as “one of the very forward-looking leaders of the Muslim world.”
“He’s very much involved with the concept of pluralism,” Prof. Virani said. He added that the leader’s fascination with Canada stems from the impression that the country, thanks in part to its policy of official multiculturalism, has created a society where people of different backgrounds can get along, and where that ideal is taught, absorbed and passed on.
The tensions of the post-9/11 world, with its often oversimplified and false impressions of Islam, have been an ongoing concern for the Aga Khan. He has also been heavily involved in development projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where much of the violent fallout from the Sept. 11 attacks is still unfolding.
“Our world is really torn apart right now, and there’s this concept of the clash of civilizations,” Prof. Virani said. “He’s put forward a thesis that says it’s not really a clash of civilizations that we have, but a clash of ignorance.”
Joe Friesen Demographics Reporter
From Friday’s Globe and Mail
Published on Thursday, May. 27, 2010 11:14PM EDT
Last updated on Friday, May. 28, 2010 8:34AM EDT