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Community focus, pluralism and civil society essential in fragile states

News Desk

Aga Khan at Berlin

Berlin: Pluralism and strong civil society are vital for stability and effective development in fragile contexts.

This was said by The Aga Khan while speaking at a conference on “Fragile states, thinking ahead’ – utilizing experiences from stabilization measures for the future”, organised by KfW Development Bank, the German Federal Foreign Office, Chatham House, and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) at Berlin on January 15.

The event aimed at sharing the findings of a recent review of the stabilisation programme being implemented in northern Afghanistan and gather insights from a wide range of experts on the effectiveness of foreign assistance and actors working on stabilisation initiatives in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Through in-depth discussions with a range of experts, the meeting sought to reflect on the challenges, lessons learned and good practice that can be built on in diverse country contexts.

Based on AKDN’s experience in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili community emphasised three crucial ingredients for stability and effective development in fragile contexts:

First, concentrating at the local level. When national conditions are not favourable – as is often the case in fragile or conflict situations – the most meaningful, and quickest, change can often start locally, building credibility and confidence more quickly.

Second, a commitment to pluralism is essential. Consultation must be wide and everyone present in a community must benefit, he stressed.

Third, civil society, designed to serve public goals, is of utmost importance. Such institutions can be stabilising factors and points of continuity when security is fragile and politics are volatile.

The Aga Khan commended the longstanding partnership of the AKDN and Germany, recognising their shared commitment and achievements in Afghanistan, while also drawing upon the hallmarks of AKDN’s approach. He also reflected on lessons that would be applied in other situations of fragility and crisis.

Over the past 25 years, Germany and the Aga Khan Development Network have developed a strong partnership, together investing close to €600 million in programmes in Asia and Africa, spanning clean energy and infrastructure, water and sanitation, financial services and tourism, as well as education, health, and civil society. Over this period, AKDN has worked especially closely with the German Federal Foreign Office and the Ministry of Development (BMZ) through KfW Development Bank and its commercial subsidiary DEG.

In Afghanistan, with Germany’s support, AKDN has strengthened regional connectivity through cross-border infrastructure; improved the health sector through public-private partnerships; and restored Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage at the Bagh-e-Babur and Chihilsitoon Gardens.

The “Weiterdenken” event focused on the German-funded “Stabilisation Programme for Northern Afghanistan” (SPNA), which has programmed over €100 million through local communities into some 430 projects, building trust, government legitimacy, and civic engagement.


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