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Event - 1988-05-25
Wednesday, 1988, May 25

It is with genuine pleasure that I welcome you all to the Ismaili Centre for we meet here this morning to celebrate a partnership - a partnership for people. Just five years ago, the Overseas Development Administration (ODA) and the Aga Khan Foundation began to work together. It is testimony to the solidity of that relationship that ODA recently announced two of the most generous grants ever given to the Foundation. For the welfare of the remote mountain peoples of Northern Pakistan, and for support in the establishment of nursing as a vital profession in the Third World and, particularly, in Islamic countries.
Eighteen months ago, my network convened - with generous support from ODA - a conference in Nairobi on the Enabling Environment in Africa. Its purpose was to examine ways in which private business, non-governmental organisations and governments could join together to promote development more effectively. During that fascinating and intensive week, I found a new spirit alive in Africa - a willingness to discard old myths, to recognise that development is not the business of governments alone, and to embrace new ideas and policies. Are we beginning to see signs that the example of the United Kingdom is finding an echo on that continent, and, indeed elsewhere in the Third World?

With the sunrise of change comes hope, but much remains to be done to turn rhetoric into reality, if we are to open the doors of opportunity, especially to the poor. It is salutary to note that, despite the success stories of development, the number of people in absolute poverty is no smaller than it was 15 years ago. Indeed, in some countries the number is sadly growing.

This dilemma requires joint efforts at two levels. First, we must move from words to action to transform the current policy dialogue into practical and effective legislation and programmes. And substantial resources and technical assistance are needed so that programmes can operate on a scale that will make a significant dent in the problem of poverty.

Secondly, we must emphasize the community's participation, innovation, equity and safeguarding the environment.

The large donor agencies have a particular contribution to make to the policy dialogue and to the provision of financial and technical resources. NGOs, with their intimate connection to the grassroots can complement these strengths with knowledge of the needs of the poor and with vital experiments in social and environmental progress.

This is precisely the promise of partnership that can, I believe, release the energies and creativity of the world's poor. And I think that the evolving relationship between ODA and Aga Khan Foundation is one indication of how this promise can be realised.

By channeling 80 per cent of its aid to the poorest countries, ODA has demonstrated its commitment to the relief of poverty. The growing emphasis on such important matters as women in development and environmental concerns shows that ODA is prepared to play a leadership role. The doubling of the budget of the Joint Funding Scheme over the last few years is evidence that the British Government believes that NGOs can play an important role.

In return for ODA's support, which includes the largest single grant ever received by the Aga Khan Foundation network - Pounds 3.8 million for health, education and rural development activities in the Chitral District of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan - we will try to avoid pitfalls of promising more than can be delivered with limited skills and management, or of working in a tiny area and ignoring the difficult questions of replicability. We are willing to try new approaches, free of ideology, and to affirm our abiding concern with operating on a significant scale and with making the lessons of our experience available to others.

On this day of partnership, I am delighted to be able to greet such a potent combination of allies of the Third World. There are representatives of ODA, with its wealth of development experience, men and women who represent the skills and creative talents of British universities and specialised institutes and NGO volunteers and staff with their keen awareness and capacity to keep the plight of the disinherited alive in the minds of the British public. Also represented are a new group of development advocates to whom I am particularly grateful. Aga Khan Foundation (UK)'s resources come from a multitude of individual donors who are citizens of Great Britain, but still deeply concerned about social problems in their countries of origin. Their particular knowledge of, and empathy for, the countries and people we are seeking to assist, is one of the strengths of the Aga Khan Foundation.

Source: Ismaili Forum (July 1988)

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