The Aga Khan and Germany’s Minister of State Speak about Stabilization Measure Experiences in Northern Afghanistan

The following are excerpts from speeches made on January 15, 2019 in Berlin, by Germany’s Minister of State Niels Annen and the 49th Ismaili Imam His Highness the Aga Khan at the event “Fragile States ‘Weiterdenken’ (‘Thinking Ahead’) – Utilising Experiences from Stabilisation Measures for the Future”. The event brought together leaders from the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), of which His Highness is the Chairman, and German development partners.

Since the term “fragile” in the context of nations is a frequent occurrence in both the speeches, we begin this post by providing definitions of fragile states from two separate sources.

The Meaning of Fragile States 

A state that is fragile has several attributes, and such fragility may manifest itself in various ways. [1] Nevertheless, some of the most common attributes of state fragility may include:

  • The loss of physical control of its territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force;
  • The erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions;
  • An inability to provide reasonable public services;
  • The inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines fragile states [2] as follows: “A state is fragile when it is unable or unwilling to perform the functions necessary for poverty reduction, the promotion of development, protection of the population and the observance of human rights“. In other words the state is unable to perform basic functions in the areas of security, rule of law and basic social services.

Furthermore the governments of these countries are unable to develop constructive and interactive relations with the population and society. 


Germany’s stabilisation measures is to create a safe environment and to visibly improve living conditions in fragile contexts

niels annen with his highness the aga khan
Niels Annen with His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: Facebook Page of Niels Annen.

Minister of State, Germany

(The following are excerpts from Niels Annen’s speech – link to full speech at bottom of this post. The photo, above, is from

We are lucky in Europe. Our continent is – and this is partly thanks to the European Union as a unique peace project – largely characterised by peace and friendship. Since the end of the Second World War, we have grown ever closer and on days like these in particular, we are well advised to recall our sense of community.

Unfortunately, we can all feel the forces that are tugging us apart. And that has not only been the case since the now imminent meaningful vote in the House of Commons.

The trend of retreating to the nation-state and believing that one is better off alone poses a threat. This notion is based on an obvious fallacy, one that will permanently weaken us and lead to division. That is what we need to address, not least so future generations do not remember us as the people who jeopardised peace in Europe – a huge feat after the end of the Second World War – out of pure and unadulterated egocentrism.

Naturally, things are far worse in other parts of the world, where it is not a matter of political division or the weakening of a strong multilateral system, but rather of violent conflicts and wars with countless civilian casualties.

Ladies and gentlemen, what happens in a place that has been marked by fighting and, in some cases, years of conflict? What are the prospects when a ceasefire reveals a country whose infrastructure has been destroyed? How can reconciliation, let alone new social cohesion, be brought about?

These questions must primarily be answered by the population of a country itself. However, the international community can support this process. We in the German Government refer to such support as “stabilisation”. We support political processes in conflict management, strengthen legitimate stakeholders and foster peaceful conflict resolution.

The aim of our stabilisation measures is to create a safe environment and to visibly improve living conditions in fragile contexts. After a conflict has ended, we want to enable legitimate local structures of order to offer the public something more appealing than the status quo of violent conflict as soon as possible.

Stabilisation thus also creates the first prerequisites for reconciliation between parties to a conflict and for establishing fundamental consensus in society – the foundation for lasting political stability, participatory political structures and long-term development. The broadest and most inclusive participation possible by all population groups is crucial to success.

Allow me to mention one example – Afghanistan.

Along with KfW and the Aga Khan Development Network, we have provided 112 million euros for smaller infrastructure projects in northern Afghanistan since 2010, building schools, roads, bridges and government buildings in four provinces in the northern part of the country. In places where infrastructure is built, children can attend school once again and the local administration can do its work in a safe environment, the outlook is brighter. The wish for a better future – for a peaceful future – no longer seems so far-fetched.

This type of support requires the right kind of structures. KfW and the Federal Foreign Office have undergone similar processes in this regard. In the latter, this led to the establishment of the Directorate-General for Stabilisation. And in KfW, it led to the decision to make cooperation in fragile contexts the third pillar of the development bank, alongside financing in developing and transitional countries and climate financing.

In both cases, further efforts were and are needed in order to overcome institutional inertia and long-standing principles in development cooperation. A process of that kind involves a huge amount of work, but it is worthwhile in the end.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to be able to react rapidly and flexibly to changing political circumstances in crisis contexts. That is what stabilisation can achieve, as its main aims are to ensure that a post-conflict vacuum cannot come about in the first place and to show the public that we support the desire for peace. 

We have worked very well with KfW for years and there is great trust between us. Our cooperation goes beyond Afghanistan.

The joint projects between the Federal Foreign Office and KfW stand for what can be achieved in fragile contexts and with the help of the means available to us. Our measures deliver verifiable political value-added and, as confirmed for example by the research conducted alongside our stabilisation efforts in northern Afghanistan, achieve an impact in fragile contexts that lasts beyond the changing security situations.

Ladies and gentlemen, our approach can be used in various fragile contexts. No matter the specific crisis context we are talking about, the speed of positive change after the end of a conflict is particularly relevant to the impact of the stabilisation measures. Naturally, the public must play a role in this process. Time and again, we must seek participatory and the most inclusive solutions in order to strengthen the legitimacy of public action and to make the peace dividend tangible for everyone, as that, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the overarching goals of stabilisation measures.

Ladies and gentlemen, the current situation in Afghanistan shows that stabilisation remains a risky business. The level of violence in the country has not improved and the Taliban have not been pushed back. Reports on the supposed plans for US withdrawal are leading to anxiety among the stakeholders and damaging the efforts to foster a political process, which have been more intensive than ever in recent months. In the eighteenth year of our engagement in Afghanistan, we should not attempt to whitewash the situation. But neither should we give in to pessimism. Stabilisation is and will remain a cornerstone of German foreign-policy work. It completes the German Government’s joined-up approach for greater peace and security.

I look forward to hearing the viewpoints of His Highness, whose foundation has been active in many fragile contexts for decades, and to the discussion with you.


AKDN’s Vital Ingredients for Stability within any Country, but Especially for Fragile Regions

aga khan berlin germany januay 15, 2019
His Highness the Aga Khan speaking on January 15, 2019, in Berlin, Germany at the event “Fragile States ‘Weiterdenken’ (‘Thinking Ahead’). Photo: Thorsten Futh/ KfW Bankengruppe via AKDN.


(The following excerpts with sub-headings are adapted from the Aga Khan’s remarks; link to original speech at bottom of this post)

A Vital 25 Year Global Partnership with Germany

It is my pleasure to celebrate here today the special partnership between Germany and the Aga Khan Development Network, or AKDN. Over the past 25 years, we have implemented almost € 600 million of programmes together in Asia and in Africa –spanning clean energy and infrastructure, water supply and sanitation, financial services and tourism, as well as education, health and civil society.

In all of this work, our relationship with the KfW Development Bank and DEG remains vital….I should especially thank the Federal Foreign Office and the Ministry of Development, or BMZ, for their key support.

The breadth of AKDN’s global partnership with Germany is reflected in extensive cooperation in Afghanistan. Together our institutions have strengthened regional connectivity through cross-border infrastructure; improved health through public-private partnerships; and restored Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage at the Bagh-e-Babur and Chihilsitoon Gardens, and now the Kabul riverfront project.

We have also used an innovative programme of small, community-led infrastructure projects to encourage local people to take charge of their development.

Stabilisation Programme: 3 Crucial Elements

This Stabilisation Programme for Northern Afghanistan was the springboard for today’s conference and tonight’s dialogue.

Over € 100 million has been programmed through community consultations into 450 projects, responding to the needs identified by local people as most important to them. These build more than infrastructure: they also build trust, they enhance government legitimacy and civic engagement.

Those are vital ingredients for stability within any country, but especially for fragile regions. These are hallmarks of AKDN’s approach, developed in places such as Northern Pakistan, post-conflict Tajikistan or Afghanistan, as well as Syria, Mali, Mozambique and elsewhere.

From this experience in stabilisation, we would emphasise three crucial elements:

1. Building credibility and confidence at local level.

The first key lesson is to concentrate at the local level. Wherever the national conditions are unfavourable – in fragile or conflict situations they rarely are favourable –meaningful changes often start fastest locally, quickly building credibility and confidence.

2. Commitment to Pluralism

The second lesson is that commitment to pluralism is essential. The consultations must be wide, and everyone in the community must benefit. I have learnt this lesson during my more than 60 years as the Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, responsible for the spiritual and physical well-being of my Jamat and – most crucially in this context – for those with whom they live, whatever their faith or creed.

3. Investing in Civil Society

Finally, we would insist on the critical importance of civil society, which we refer to as private organisations designed to serve public goals. Such institutions are stabilising factors and points of continuity where security is fragile and politics are volatile. Consequently, investing in them, alongside the state, remains critical.

Germany’s Leadership Role

The world needs Germany’s principled and pragmatic leadership role – now more than ever. As Germany reflects on the future of its commitment in Afghanistan and the nature of its engagement in other parts of the world, I hope that it will draw on these principles that have guided our cooperation together over such a long time – emphasising local participation, promoting pluralism and strengthening the institutions of civil society.

Thank you very much.


Stabilisation Programme Northern Afghanistan (SPNA) Summary 

Programme: Stabilisation Programme Northern Afghanistan (SPNA)
Commissioned by: German Federal Foreign Office
Partner: Aga Khan Foundation Afghanistan (AKF-A), ACTED and Mercy Corps (MC)
Implementing organisations: KfW
Provinces: Badakshan, Baghlan, Kunduz, Takhar
Programme objective: Stabilise fragile regions by improving socio-economic infrastructure and strengthening local development councils.
Overall term: March 2010 – December 2019

Full details at Also visit the home page for links to other important projects.

Date posted: January 17, 2019.

This website has an excellent array of thoughtful articles and beautiful photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Do not leave this website before checking out Barakah’s Table of Contents.


References and Links:

[1]. Fragile state definition at
[2]. Fragile state definition at
[3]. For complete speech by Neils Annen, please click
[4]. For full speech of His Highness the Aga Khan please click Remarks


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