Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Aga Khan Development Network

Duke University Libraries currently lists a database of 670 NGOs on its web site. These organizations reflect the interests of Duke researchers and students and "Duke makes no claims to completeness or representative sample size." Nevertheless, its a pretty good start for people looking for a charitable organization. The list proceeds alphabetically and there is a short description of each NGO with a link provided. It is also possible to sort the list by subject (ie: 'HIV/AIDS' or 'children') or type (ie: US or international).

A main concern of Humanitarian News and Travel Stories is human rights issues. I also describe NGO successes and/or failures to help those less fortunate near and far. With that in mind, I thought I would take the time to put the spotlight on a few groups whose focus dovetails with MY interests (thank you Duke). Keeping in mind too the recent alleged Mortenson/ Central Asia Institute fraud (whose schools were built in Pakistan and Afghanistan), I would also like to highlight non-Western agencies starting with the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).

The AKDN was founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. Ismailis are an ethnically and culturally diverse community living in 25 countries around the world. His Highness the Aga Khan is one of three 2011 UCSF Medal recipients 

The mission of the AKDN is to improve living conditions and opportunities for the poor through health, education and culture. Working in 30 countries, they also promote economic development by bringing together institutions and development agencies. The project companies of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development generated revenues of US$ 2.3 billion in 2010 and reinvested surplus revenues back into their activities. AKDN's annual budget in 2010 was US$ 625 million. 

The AKDN partners with agencies and national governments around the world. Here is a highlight from their web site of a development project in Kenya. I am a huge fan of government and private sector organizations working together. I also applaud agencies, NGO or for profit, in other countries and regions of the world assisting their citizens and neighbors, of which we hear too little about here in the West. I urge you to check out the AKDN and of course decide for yourself.

Here is a picture showing the computerized machines at the Alltex Industries factory in Kenya that create garments for export to North America and Europe. A project company of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development's (AKFED) Industrial Promotion Services, the factory employs 2,000 people, 80 percent of whom are women. As part of AKFED’s mandate to integrate innovative social development initiatives, the plant provides a variety of services to its employees, including day care for workers’ children, healthcare and educational opportunities.
Photo: AKFED/Gary Otte

In every country in which it works, the AKDN seeks to promote an enabling environment – the adoption of laws and policies that allow, favour and mainstream the creation of civil society institutions, promote good governance and foster a socially responsible private sector. “Both the development of the economy and the success of social institutions depend on the creation of the right environment for progress, an environment which enables both businesses and people to realise their full potential… The creation and extension to all areas of the nation's life of this enabling environment is… as critical to national growth as sunlight is to the growth of plants.” His Highness the Aga Khan, speaking at a dinner hosted in honour of the President of the Republic of Kenya, Nairobi.

 In AKDN’s experience, “enabling environments” are especially effective in alleviating poverty when the private sector plays a vital role. The private sector can be especially effective when it cooperates with governments that foster legislative, regulatory and fiscal structures that promote development rather than impede it. Public-private partnerships have been shown to provide solutions to both chronic and emerging development challenges.

The enabling environment, when it is instituted, has knock-on effects that first affect perception – both external and internal – and then lead to tangible benefits. Appropriate laws and regulations encourage enterprise and initiative. The existence of democratic governance – including an independent media and the protection of the rights of citizens – persuades good managers, doctors, nurses and teachers to stay and serve their country, rather than emigrate as soon as they are skilled. Such an environment also draws inward investment which can have rapid and dramatic effects on employment, human resource development and the overall economy.

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