Aga Khan Marks His 40th Year as Imam of the Ismaili Muslims with Grants Totaling $50 Million

LONDON, July 11 /PRNewswire/ -- His Highness the Aga Khan today announced that he was making grants totaling U.S. $50 million to five institutions founded by him over the forty years of his Imamat (spiritual leadership) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. These grants are in addition to the recurrent funding of the institutions' annual programs and reflect a new policy of committing resources to build endowments for the enhancement of their financial capacity.

The Aga Khan was meeting, at the Ismaili Centre in London, with leaders of the Ismaili Muslim community from around the world to mark the 40th anniversary of his accession to the Imamat.

Pointing to the immense changes that have occurred over the past four decades in countries where Ismailis live, the Aga Khan described the "strong effort made to anticipate these changes through the creation of new institutions and programs as well as the refocusing of existing ones," a number of which were created by his late grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. Recognizing that it was now "possible, perhaps for the first time in forty years, to look ahead of the lurking risk of imminent crisis," the Aga Khan said it was logical to strengthen his network of institutions by harnessing new human and material resources.

Four institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network, serving people of all faiths and backgrounds, will be beneficiaries of grants of U.S. $10 million each:

* the Aga Khan University, Karachi, the first private university in Pakistan, founded in 1984 (consisting of a medical college, a school of nursing and an institute for educational development) receiving a grant which raises its present international endowment to over U.S. $100 million;

* the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Geneva, which conducts the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the world's largest architectural prize and related restoration and education programs in societies in which Muslims have a significant presence;

* the Aga Khan Foundation, Geneva, which supports programs in health, education and rural development open to all in selected countries of the developing world;

* the for-profit Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, Geneva, which promotes private sector development through equity participation in industry, tourism and financial services in Africa and Asia, which will receive its grant in the form of increased shareholder commitment.

The fifth grant is being made to the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, an academic center promoting scholarship and learning relating to Muslim cultures and contributing to a better understanding of their relationship with other societies and faiths.

A direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Aga Khan succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan on 11th July, 1957 at the age of 20 as the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of 12 to 15 million Ismaili Muslims who live in some thirty countries around the world. Based principally in newly emergent nations of South Asia, colonies of Africa, across Central Asia and in parts of the Middle and Far East, the community was at the time just beginning to address its economic disadvantages and basic social needs.

The Aga Khan has guided his community through a variety of post-colonial political evolutions, migrations, civil conflicts and the Cold War. Creating development institutions inspired by the ethics of the faith, he has sought to show that Islam's intellectual and humanistic dimension represent untold potential to improve significantly the quality of life of peoples in both the developed and the developing worlds. The Aga Khan has also worked to demonstrate to societies of the West, the mutual benefits of partnerships -- philanthropic, academic and entrepreneurial -- with individuals, institutions and governments of the developing world. And, more recently, in an effort to bridge societies in the West and the diversity of peoples from across the African and Asian continents, the Aga Khan has initiated what he has termed a "creative encounter" between the West, Islam and the ex-Communist world, particularly in Central Asian countries once part of the former Soviet Union. The Aga Khan's family has had a tradition of international service from the time of his grandfather's presidency for two terms of the League of Nations (forerunner of the United Nations) to the service rendered to the United Nations by his late father, Prince Aly Khan, his uncle, Prince Sedruddin Aga Khan and his brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan.

Consistent with the Islamic ethic, the Aga Khan, in fulfilling his mandate to attend to the spiritual and material welfare of the Ismaili Muslims world- wide, has extended the humanitarian activities of the Aga Khan Development Network beyond his community.

Background to the Aga Khan Development Network

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), whose institutions are among the beneficiaries of the U.S. $50 million grant announced today (11th July, 1997) by the Aga Khan, is directly involved in some 25 countries of the world. It draws together institutions engaged in social development, economic development and culture and acts as a catalyst for wider efforts in these fields. One of the largest private international development organizations serving people of all faiths and backgrounds in South and Central Asia and Africa, the Network disburses U.S. $140 million per year for social and cultural development.

The Aga Khan Development Network counts amongst its partners, multilateral and bilateral development agencies and non-governmental organizations including institutions of the World Bank Group, various agencies of the United Nations and the European Union as well as government agencies of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and several other European countries. In recent years, international recognition of its efforts has come about through the signing by the Network of Accords and Protocols for Co-operation and Development with the governments of a number of countries in South Asia and East Africa. These agreements formalize enabling conditions granted to the AKDN permitting the optimal utilization of the Network's resources in those countries for development purposes.

Improving Health and Education

In Africa, schools and hospitals for people of all races were established during the colonial era by the current Aga Khan's grandfather with the support of the Ismaili community. Today, numbering nearly 300, educational institutions managed by the Aga Khan Education Services cater to over 50,000 students. Over two million patients a year are served by the 200 hospitals, medical centers and clinics operated by the Aga Khan Health Services in Asia and Africa. Major rural support schemes are sponsored by the Aga Khan Foundation in India, Kenya, Pakistan and Tajikistan. Through collaboration with international institutions or replication of innovative programs, the benefits of these endeavors extend far beyond the countries of the Ismaili community's residence.

Honoring an Islamic tradition of great historical import to the Ismailis, the Aga Khan has been a patron of higher learning. A thousand years after his ancestor, the Fatimid Caliph-Imam al Muizz, founded al Azhar in Cairo, one of the world's oldest universities, the Aga Khan established, in 1984, the Aga Khan University (AKU), a private international university, based in Karachi which now has an endowment in excess of U.S. $100 million. Designed to be a regional center of excellence in the fields of the health sciences and educational development, AKU draws upon mutually rewarding partnerships with Western universities such as Harvard, McGill, McMaster, Oxford and Toronto. The University's medical college and nursing school have had a significant impact upon the enhancement of professional opportunities and social status for women in Pakistan and the region. Now establishing its reputation as a research institution focused upon disparate issues affecting rural and urban societies in the developing world, AKU looks to expand its international status with a presence in East Africa (in advanced nursing studies) and in Europe (with a proposed institute of Islamic civilizations).

Revitalizing Culture and the Built Environment

Initiatives taken by the Aga Khan over the past two decades have placed issues affecting the built environment of Muslim societies the world over and the cultural heritage of Islam visibly on the world agenda. Under the aegis of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the world's largest architectural prize, is awarded every three years to projects that an independent international jury considers to have contributed to the search for solutions to problems of the built environment where Muslims live. The Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has supported research and training programs for nearly twenty years now. More recently, AKTC has begun developing models for the revitalization of historic spaces and buildings in settings as diverse as Cairo, Zanzibar, Samarkand (in Uzbekistan) and Hunza (in Northern Pakistan) to ensure preservation of the Muslim world's cultural heritage in an economically sustainable manner.

Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunity

The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), which controls over U.S. $750 million in assets, is the only for-profit agency of the Network. The Fund is active in nearly 70 enterprises in some 20 countries, in the financial services and tourism sectors, and in fields of industry as diverse as leather tanning, packaging, telecommunications, metallurgy and electric power generation. AKFED's approach, which is focused upon long-term development, is characterized by equity investment (as opposed to loan finance), human resource development, technology transfer and strong management support. In partnership with leading local institutional and individual investors and international agencies such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC), AKFED has in recent years, been reinforcing its original mandate of helping to build strong private sectors in developing countries by playing an active role in privatization programs. In keeping with the Aga Khan's desire to broaden the benefits of successful enterprises, AKFED has been facilitating the widest ownership amongst small investors of shares in its enterprises floated on national stock exchanges in Africa and Asia.

SOURCE Aga Khan Development Network

CONTACT: The Information Department of The Aga Khan Development
Network, 011-33-3-44-58-40-00 or fax: 011-33-3-44-57-20-00

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