In recent guidance to the jamat, Mawlana Hazar Imam has referred to various developments that have taken place in the world over the last four decades. This article traces some of these developments and the impact that they have had on the evolution of the institutions that today make up the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
Soon after Mawlana Hazar Imam ascended to the masnad of Imamat in 1957, the first African countries began to attain independence after decades of colonial rule. By the early 1960's, most of the countries of East and Central Africa in which the majority of jamats in Africa lived (including Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda, Malagasy, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire) had become independent nations. Mozambique, where these was a settled jamat, followed somewhat later in the mid 1970's. These sweeping changes came in the wake of the end of British rule on the Indian sub-continent with the creation in the late 1940's of the sovereign independent nations, India and Pakistan. In the Middle East too, the Suez Crisis of 1956 and the preceding crisis in Iran had sharply demonstrated a strong sense of nationalism and a desire for economic and political independence.
Upon ascending to the Imamat, Mawlana Hazar Imam's immediate concern therefore, was to prepare the jamat, wherever it lived, for the changes that lay ahead. This called for bolder initiatives and new programmes to reflect developing aspirations.
In the colonial territories in which the jamat lived, the major focus of the jamat's welfare and economic activities had, until the mid-fifties, resulted in the creation a broad base of small business men and white-collar workers. The educational facilities of the jamat tended, at the time, to emphasize secondary level and vocational education.
With the coming of independence, each nation's economic aspirations took on new dimensions, focusing on industrialism, the modernisation of agriculture and the development of a professional service sector (eg: banking, communications, law tourism). The jamat's priorities had, therefore, to be re-assessed, so that the educational programmes it sponsored were aligned to overall national goals. As a result, Imamat institutions set up under Hazar Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah (eg: Diamond Trust, Jubilee Insurance, Aga Khan schools, hospitals and health centres) wee consolidated, modernised and expanded. new institutions were to professionalize the Imamat's social development activities and to promote enterprise in different sectors of the economy (eg: Industrial Promotion Services, Tourism Promotion Services). Over recent years, the Imamat has established institutional vehicles to further a wider understanding of, and responses to, problems of the built environment in which Muslims live (eg: Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture of Harvard and MIT, Historic Cities Programme). Many of these programmes have been grouped under Apex Institutions (Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan University, Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The problems of development cannot be addressed in isolation: one's state of health is influenced as much by the level of education as by housing and living conditions, and vice versa. Economic opportunity will determine the availability of resources to furnish such needs. ignorance of the cultural context in which change occurs can result in inappropriate and unworkable responses to those needs. For this reason, Mawlana Hazar Imam has directed the institutions of the Imamat to take a multi-sectoral approach by constituting themselves into the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
The years following the advent of independence in Africa and Asia coincided with the Cold War. During the Cold War, that is between 1945 and 1990, each of two superpowers-the Unites States and the Soviet Union-sought to impose its respective political ideology, that is to say communism or capitalism, on these independent nations. The superpowers also often sought to influence important decisions of governments of those independent nations. This was especially true of countries where a superpower wanted to be assured of the supply and use of certain valuable natural resources such as oil and other minerals. It was also true of countries that the superpowers felt were strategically located because they included or were near a particular area of land or sea.
This influence of the superpowers, by way of material support and assistance, direction of preferential treatment, affected governments of independent countries and the actions they took in many ways, It affected, for example, the amount of money those countries spent and what they spent it on-whether on arms or basic necessities; it affected the laws that were passed, the business, agricultural, industrial and trade activity that was allowed and even the type of education and healthcare that the country's people received. Each ideology or set of beliefs, at times, hardened into an unchanging way of thinking, that is to say, a "dogma." Holding rigidly to one or the other ideology and the influence of a superpower in their decision-making placed countries at odds with one another, creating a "conflict of dogmas."
Decisions about development in many countries of the world were, during that period, based not on identified needs, but on the ideologies or dogmas adopted. All the while, opportunities for unhampered economic progress remained restricted. There was progressively less and less accountability. Initiative was slowly eroded, people often became disenchanted and unable to participate in their country's development and, frequently, under conditionals of internal political turmoil, they left their countries.
For example, in 1972 under the regime of the then-President Idi Amin, Ismailis, like other Asians, despite being citizens of Uganda and having lived there for generations, were forced to leave the country. Mawlana Hazar Imam had to take urgent steps to facilitate the jamat's resettlement elsewhere, and owing the his personal efforts, most found homes, in Asia, Europe and North America. many of the basic resettlement problems were overcome remarkably rapidly, with Mawlana Hazar Imam's help and guidance. The adaptability of the jamat itself, and in particular, the jamat's educational background and linguistic abilities, made the resettlement easier. The efforts of the various host countries complemented the moral and material support from jamati institutions. Similar situations have occurred in other parts of the world: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma (now Myanmar), Zaire, etc. Such resettlement programmes are continuing and have, in fact, been given new orientation, so that the jamat can play a fuller part in the development and progress of the countries of its adoption.
With the fall of communism in the 1990's, new nation states have once again come into existence. Many of them (such as Tajikistan, in the ex-Soviet Central Asia) are facing serious hardships and lack the means to provide the necessities of life to all of their people.
There are several positive consequences to the breakdown in ideology. Many areas of the world are now free from conflict. Decisions by countries as to where, how and to what purpose available resources are used, will, it is hoped, be made on the basis of their actual needs. Hopefully, there will also be greater resources available for development. Market forces, that is to say, the laws of supply and demand, will increasingly determine the types and numbers of jobs that will be available. Merit and competence will be deciding factors. There will therefore be greater competition. Hence, meritocracy-which means a system where "merit", capability", and "excellence" prevail-will be the order of the day. In such a world, not only basic education, but continuing education-beyond school and university-becomes a necessary condition to sustain a decent standard of life.
Thus, very different criteria will determine a country's progress at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.
Firstly, today, more countries understand and accept multi-party democracy, that is, the opportunity of more people with diverse opinions to have a voice in the governing of their country. Secondly, the protection of individual assets, as well as the individual person, is becoming an accepted norm in every civilised society and thirdly, trade between countries is becoming easier, with fewer restrictions on what goods and services can be imported and exported. Countries in the same geographic region are forming groups to take advantage of these new opportunities. Examples of such groups of countries are the European Union, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
It is against the historical background outlined above that the jamat may be able to better appreciate some of the more recent initiatives taking place under the continuing guidance and direction of Mawlana Hazar Imam.
In Dhaka, the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) established a secondary school in 1991 to provide quality English-medium education up to "A" levels. This school, situated in purpose-built premises rented from the Government, is already being recognised as one of the leading secondary schools in the country. Plans are being prepared to construct AKES' own school to cater for pre-primary to higher secondary education.
In Antananarivo, Madagascar, the coeducational hostrel is being rehabilitated and educational programmes are being instituted to enable students to gain admission to high quality French-medium schools.
In Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, the Government authorities gave permission to AKES in 1992 to establish an English-medium primary school. This was a significant departure from the national policy since 1967: that no private organisation could operate primary level schools in the country. The establishment in 1993 of the Aga Khan Primary School in Dar-es-Salam has helped AKES to bridge the gap between its pre-primary and secondary education facilities.
And in Kampala, Uganda, AKES has completed the first phase of the rehabilitation of its educational institutions with the opening, in February 1994, of the nursery school. Work is due to commence during 1994 on the primary school and soon after that, on the secondary school.
These school systems in Bangladesh, Tanzania and Uganda are expected to be the schools of "good quality" to which Mawlana Hazar Imam has referred in his farmans. In Kenya, India and Pakistan, AKES already has the framework to develop good quality schools. Plans are at an advanced stage to realise this goal in all these countries.
In the area of economic development, Diamond Trust of Uganda last year opened its new banking premises in Kampala. Like the Jubilee Insurance Group of companies, the Diamond Trust Group started as small institutions set up with funds from Hazrat Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah's Golden and Diamond Jubilees, to secure the jamat's economic well-being. With the positive support of the Government, AKFED has successfully rehabilitated and reactivated these companies in Uganda.
In Tajikistan, following the provision of emergency aid in the form of food, fuel and other essentials, the Aga Khan Foundation has assisted the local population to set up the Pamir Relief and Development Programme (PRDP). The PRDP is helping small collective farmers to improve the management of their land, to better their agricultural trading and to distribute their products more efficiently.
The revival of institutions, and the active consideration of several new projects, represent increased collaboration between the AKDN, the national governments of each of these countries and various international development agencies. Agreement of Cooperation, known as Protocols, have been signed by Mawlana Hazar Imam on behalf of the AKDN with the Governments and agencies of many countries in both the developing and developed world to facilitate such collaboration.
It has therefore been against a backdrop of tremendous global change, difficult circumstances and new challenges, that the institutions of the AKDN have been established and are operating and evolving under the guidance of Mawlana Hazar Imam.
(Source: Ismaili Canada December 1994)
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