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SPEECH BY RT HON. LYNDA CHALKER at The AKF EXHIBITION in London - 1990-05-21

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Event - 1990-05-21
Date: 
Monday, 1990, May 21
Location: 

Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen.

First of all let me thank His Highness for his very kind words about the ODA and for the opportunity to see this Exhibition and to speak to you today. It seems particularly appropriate that, as Minister for Overseas Development, I should be speaking at an Aga Khan Foundation Exhibition which has, as its theme, Partnership and Co-operation. The ODA's partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation, or AKF, if I may call you that, has been a long and very happy one: so happy, fact, that we seem to be poaching each other' staff! Some of you know that, until recently, Mirza Jahani was one of the ODA's Economic Advisers and, though we were very sorry to lose him, I am glad to know that AKF in the UK is in such excellent hands.

However, we have retaliated and currently have Mirza's predecessor Abdul Jetha on attachment to our Natural Resources and Environment Department. I believe that this interchange of staff and ideas between the ODA and non-governmental organisations is excellent and something of which I hope to see more in the future.

Looking around this Exhibition I have become more convinced that the success of our partnership with the AKF and other NGOs stems from a common approach to the basics of development. Indeed, I feel as if AKF could have been a fly on the wall at many of my meetings in the ODA - given our common concerns about sustainability, the environment, the role of women and above all the fundamental premise that our development to have any chance of long term success, local communities must be involved at all stages of the process.

I have long been an admirer of NGOs and I'm keenly aware of the important role they play in developing countries. Many rightly enjoy a high reputation with the public for the effective way in which they delivery emergency aid in crisis situations.

But that is only treating the symptoms rather than the causes. Common humanity demands that we must treat those symptoms, such as famine, and treat them effectively. At the same time we have to address the underlying causes of poverty and famine, the solution to which is sustainable long term social and economic development. Development that is externally driven rather than driven by the needs and aspirations of the local communities is not in the long term sustainable. The essential ingredient is to enable local communities to identify and cater for their own real basic needs. This is where many NGOs play a crucial role and this is why in recent years we have witnessed a substantial growth in the budget for our Joint Funding Scheme - it has more than quadrupled in the last five years - and why we continue to strive to strengthen our relationships with our NGO partners.

I am sure that His Highness and representatives of many of the other major NGOs with whom we work - and I see that many of you are here today will understand why I use the term 'partners'. As His Highness has rightly said, successful development relies on a series of partnerships between various Governments, local communities and NGOs.

If local communities have a real strike in what are clearly their projects then it follows that the commitment to their success will be all the greater - and of course the same applies for donor partners.

I am delighted to say that this commitment has been a strong feature of our dealings with AKF. We have grown up' together on the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Northern Pakistan which began as a Joint Funding Scheme Project but which has grown so successfully that it has been taken up by our bilateral programme to Pakistan. This is a graphic illustration of the partnerships described by His Highness, involving both the British and Pakistani Governments, the local community and AKF. The project is widely renowned as an innovative and successful example of rural development and I am delighted that the ODA is supporting it. The project's success depends crucially on full community involvement in both decision making and implementation. This self help principle is the most effective form of true development and is a corner stone of ODA thinking and amongst many of the NGOs.

Of course there are other reasons for the project's success, not least the commitment and professionalism of the AKF staff who must take a great deal of the credit. I recall with great pleasure, meeting Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan, who did so much to develop and disseminate these principles, at Orangi in Karachi. I was very impressed, both with his ideas on community development and with the project I saw there.

But the Rural Support Programme is not our only success story when it come to collaboration with AKF. We are also co-funding the Rural Support Programme in India which has all the hallmarks of being a successful counterpart to the Rural Support Programme in Northern Pakistan. I am also delighted to see the results of some of the educational/school improvement projects which the ODA has co-funded and which are depicted in this exhibition. Education, be it formal and academic, or concerned with the basics of health and sanitation, is of vital importance to the future of the developing world, and the AKF's projects address this at many levels from village schools through to the excellence of the Aga Khan University. Perhaps more than anything else, this exhibition gives the lie to the notion still held by a few that most NGOs are just woolly minded 'do gooders'. The reality is that many NGOs find it totally natural and normal to combine 'doing good' (who amongst us would want to do anything else!) with a hard headed responsive business-like approach. We live in an increasingly inter-dependent world and one deep concern about the environment drives this point home even harder. The problems which flow from environmental degradation and pollution know no national boundaries. For development to have a long term impact it must be sustainable, economically, socially and environmentally. It is heartening to see that AKF, like so many other NGOs are increasingly focusing on environmental concerns and are using sustainable methods of cultivation in their agricultural programmes. The environment is fundamental to the development process and to all of our futures, in developed and developing countries alike.

I know that you will be anxious to have another look at this splendid exhibition. I shall only detain you long enough to thank our hosts and to wish this Exhibition every success, both here in London and on its international tour.

Source: U.K. Ismaili (Speech 2)

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