MAY 21, 1990


"Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,

Two years ago, almost to the day, some of you gathered in this room to witness the signing of an agreement of cooperation between the Overseas Development Administration and the Aga Khan Foundation. It is a source of deep satisfactionto me that the partnership between the British Government and the Aga Khan social development institutions continues to grow and deepen. I am most grateful to you, Minister Chalker, for coming to view the exhibition at the Zamana Gallery, and let me say here, at the outset, my admiration and gratitude that as the British economy has strengthened so has Britain's generosity to the Third World. This exhibition is intended as a tribute to what men and women of the developing world have been able to achieve with the assistance of donors - many of them present or represented here.

Of the 100 photographs, over one third illustrate projects which have benefitted from British funds and technical assistance. They range from the provision of better English Language skills for nurses and teachers in Pakistan, to the planting of over 18 million trees on Indian wastelands. The problems we are addressing are becoming increasingly international. When trees are cut down on a massive scale in the sub-continent, it is not only the rural poor who suffer. The effects are global and concern us all.

In the "Hands Across the World" exhibition, Zamana Gallery and the Aga Khan Foundation have made one important statement - despite the breadth and depth of widespread environmental and health problems, despite illiteracy and diminishing resources, there can be success stories. Scepticism and aid weariness notwithstanding, development can and does take place. Poor people in the Third World will take initiative. But they need opportunities to organize and to participate in order to release their energies. This process can be moved forward by an effective partnership with government agencies and NGOs.

We are fortunate to find represented here today governmental and non-governmental agencies, academics and consultants who have provided us within valuable assistance, as well as donors whose generosity has contributed to increasing understanding and respect for people of other cultures as well as to their ability to become self reliant. I thank you all for coming to mark this anniversary of cooperation with the British Government.

The partnership is perhaps most vividly illustrated by the ODA/AKF collaboration in Chitral District in northern Pakistan. Chitral is strategically important and extremely remote. Its hard-working and resilient population compel admiration and affection. Life in their mountains is hard, resources are scarce and communications are difficult.

Happily, in the last five years, we have seen amazing changes. The offer of partnership with donors of the developed world, working through the Aga Khan Health and Education Services as well as the Rural Support Programme, has met with an overwhelming response: a surge of new village organisations, productive initiatives and, in many cases, a doubling of family incomes. Isolated farmers are learning to work cooperatively with others in their villages to plan their own development and to implement projects. Throughout the programme area, they have saved over Pounds 2 million to use as collateral for over Pounds 1.5 million in village loans. They have repaid these loans, on time, at a rate of over 97%.

In villages where the spirit of enterprise and organisation is changing some of the traditional ways, women are coming forward to request assistance to reduce the burden of traditional tasks. They are also learning to increase their incomes by raising poultry, growing vegetables and planting nurseries. With increased income and confidence, they want, and are prepared tohelp pay for, education and health services. There are more and more young women eager to be trained as school teachers, midwives, doctors and community health workers. These are exciting times, in villages that have struggled through centuries of hardship. And there is another dimension: the development process in the Northern Areas is demonstrating that while historical and religious differences amongst communities remain, a deepening sense of human and economic unity is being created, through the need to address together common objectives determined locally, of benefit to all, and which have a well understood long term potential impact on the quality of life.

Great credit must go to donor agencies for their willingness to support, financially and intellectually, initiatives from the private sector. For example, ODA and AKF are also partners in supporting the new rural development programme of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, a significant local NGO. The basic ideas - mobilising the rural landless and women, organising vast amounts of small credit for those who would once have been considered uncredit-worthy - come from BRAC. These are refined and improved by an international team, led by ODA staff and including a consultant from AKF Canada. The result is probably the largest single NGO project in the world. It is an exciting example of international cooperation and support for creativity and innovation springing from an organisation that does not - by itself - have the financial ability to spread the benefits of successful development approaches widely enough.

In Pakistan, assistance for the Aga Khan Rural Support Programmes from the British and Dutch Governments made it possible to cover two additional districts in the North - Chitral and Baltistan - that the programme would not otherwise have been able to assist. British technical help and training have also been invaluable.

The Chitral and BRAC examples focus on the grass roots. But similar principles should apply to the macro level.

AKF and its partners have had some success in advocating the creation of an enabling environment in developing countries - an environment that will help the private sector, non-profit and for-profit, become more productive for the benefit of the larger community as a whole. But much remains to be done to mobilise local private resources for development. AKF organised the Enabling Environment Conference in Nairobi in 1986, supported by ODA, the World Bank and various private groups, both non-profit and for-profit. This led to a similar conference in Nigeria last year - evidence that some countries are beginning to look carefully at ways in which local private resources can finally be mobilised. The Kenyan Government is supportive of Aga Khan Foundation Kenya's plan to launch an endowment campaign next month in Nairobi. The endowment will help secure long-term support for innovative health and education interventions that contribute to the vitality of the voluntary sector in Kenya. It would help, however, if tax advantages existed to encourage individuals and corporations to give some of their pre-tax profits to the social sector. Economic incentives have been current language and thinking for the promotion of development in the Third World for many years now. Incentivating the promotion and development of the social sector - education and health - or of the cultural sector such as the rehabilitation of historic cities, are concepts insufficiently discussed. There are of course many well debated reasons for this situation, including the unwillingness of resource-short governments to give up part of their income from the national tax system, but there can be no doubt that incentivating the development and qualitative improvement of education and health, and encouraging cultural development to become economically productive, could make major contributions to the speed, stability and diversity of the development process.

We must work to ensure that governments see the advantage to their peoples in establishing mechanisms to support strong private institutions that can contribute to the intellectual and social fabric of their country.

NGOs therefore have a need and duty to work for a "partnership of understanding" with the public, both in the developing countries and here in Britain.

It is a source of great satisfaction to me that the British and European media have joined in this effort. The importance of the "One World" broadcasting initiative this week cannot be overlooked. The public has the right to know what we are doing, and we have a responsibility to provide information in as lively a form as possible - hence the AKF and Zamana's experiment with the Vidiwall downstairs. One advantage of that technology is that it will turn off automatically after two or three minutes and won't go on again unless you push a button.

Let me end by saying that it is with anticipation that we look forward to listening today to our most distinguished and knowledgeable Chief Guest. As I have learned from reading the speeches she has made in the last six months and from our as yet brief time together today, the Right Honourable Lynda Chalker is as concerned as I am with the greening of the globe and the lifting of the human spirit. Madam, you do us a great honour by accepting this invitation to speak to us today.

Thank you."

Source: Canadian Ismaili (July 1990)

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