ALMATY, Kazakhstan, Jan. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) today became the first International non-governmental organization to join a major effort by five Central Asian Republics, the Russian Federation and the United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP) to combat a growing regional drug problem. By joining a 1996 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the UNDCP and the governments of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the AKDN agreed to cooperate with those countries to address common problems of production, trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs. The formal ceremony was witnessed by Mr. Pino Arlacchi, under Secretary-General of the United Nations, Foreign Ministers, government representatives and exports from the five countries, as well as from the Russian Federation, which also joined the MOU today. Commenting on the collaboration, Mr. Arlacchi said ``in the past few years it has become clear that the best response to the rapidly growing drug phenomenon in this region is through coordinated and combined efforts.''
Prince Amyn Aga Khan, the Representative of His Highness the Aga Khan and of the AKDN, signing the protocol of accession to the MOU on the behalf of the Network, explained how drugs could undermine all development efforts in the region, including those made by the Network since 1993, in ``humanitarian assistance and long-term development support that now touches Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.''
``It is not simply programs and their results that concern us,'' said Prince Amyn, ``it is the quality of lives and livelihoods.'' ``Drugs effectively diminish the workforce... (have a) devastating impact on...the security and welfare of individuals and communities, and the appearance and spread of certain diseases.'' Drug-related activities, he observed, ``impede the development of institutions of civil society and effective conduct of national policies...and risk severely curtailing private and public investment from outside the region.''
Prince Amyn said that the Network ``aims to address the long-term issue of increasing and improving legitimate sources of economic livelihood.''
In Central Asia, the AKDN is successfully engaged in agricultural reform, food security, broadening entrepreneurial activity, increasing access to educational opportunities, assisting health systems in transition and revitalizing cultural heritage. An example of positive economic impact from AKDN programs is Tajikistan, for instance, where considerable progress has been recorded in food self-sufficiency in program areas. 37% of state farm lands are now privately managed by individual farmers who produce nearly 40% of the grain and 45% of the potatoes in the entire province. AKDN's experience of a rural development program in a similarly harsh geophysical setting in an area of Northern Pakistan is another example. Besides enjoying improved health, education and housing, about 240,000 people spread unevenly across 2,000 villages and who until recently, had a per capita income half that of the rest of the country, have, through legitimate agriculture and commerce, generated savings of over US$7.5 million and are establishing a development bank, all of which have contributed to the creation of a relatively drug-free zone in the area.
Situated between the world's largest opium supply routes and lucrative retail markets in Western Europe, the Central Asian Republics and Russia are increasingly vulnerable to drug-related crime and violence, drug abuse and addiction.
In 1997, the AKDN signed a Cooperation Agreement with UNDCP placing particular emphasis on the drug problem in South West and Central Asia as well as in East Africa. It also co-sponsored with UNDCP an international conference on drug control within the Russian Federation and has funded the participation at the present Meeting, of experts from all the Central Asian Republics outside Kazakhstan.
Prince Amyn also met with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Almaty and briefed him on AKDN's participation in the drug control initiative with the Central Asian Republics, the UNDCP and the Russian Federation, as well as on the wider dimension of AKDN's work in the region.
The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private development agencies with specific mandates that range from health and education to rural development, the built environment and the promotion of private sector enterprise. The agencies, working together, seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in Asia and Africa. The Network's underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of their origin, gender or religion.
SOURCE: Aga Khan Development Network