Social and economic reconstruction must be based first on the engendering of hope and trust in new, realistic opportunities [and the need to] build for the continuity of such efforts by the beneficiaries themselves.

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Addressing representatives of over 60 states and international organisations at a major conference here, His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, today highlighted to the international community key issues for continued and enhanced progress in Afghanistan, based on the Aga Khan Development Network’s extensive experience of reconstruction and development in the country and the region more broadly. The Aga Khan drew on the Network’s learning from its focus on the ultra poor in Afghanistan as well in the surrounding region, particularly in Eastern Tajikistan and North West Pakistan.

Social and economic reconstruction must be based first on the engendering of hope and trust in new, realistic opportunities [and the need to] build for the continuity of such efforts by the beneficiaries themselves.

The first of the issues was the need to build a vibrant civil society to help develop economic, social and cultural institutions, and the necessary Enabling Environment of proper legal and fiscal frameworks for the birth and growth of sustainable national institutions. Fostering and legitimising pluralism was, the Aga Khan noted, “a paramount challenge.”

In addition to paying continued attention to addressing basic needs, support was required, said the Aga Khan, for the secondary and tertiary sectors through intermediary instruments that link people’s needs to national systems and institutions. Given the critical lack of needed human resources, the Aga Khan underlined that “it is continuing education, particularly for women, which is the most immediate need.”

Having noted the obvious priorities of restoring security and protecting Afghanistan from becoming the world’s leading narcotics economy, the Aga Khan proposed an area-based approach under which a full “package” of benefits was “simultaneously and harmoniously” made available so that basic services, income opportunities (especially non-farm ones), provision of credit and strategic small-scale infrastructure investments could complement security and interdiction of narcotics.

The Aga Khan announced that the Network had exceeded the US$75 million dollar pledge it had announced in Tokyo in early 2002 and will by end 2004, together with its partners, have expended US$140 million of which US$80 million has come from the Network’s own resources. Some US$70 million of these funds have gone for humanitarian assistance, rural development, health care, education and cultural revitalisation. Another US$70 million will have been spent on productive economic investments. The Network, said the Aga Khan, remained committed to these endeavours and to expanding them as circumstances allowed.

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