Prince Rahim Aga Khan Meets Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister; Mawlana Hazar Imam Expresses Hope on Afghanistan’s Future at Geneva Conference; and His Message to the 2020 Virtual Paris Peace Forum

Prepared and compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher/Editor BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

1. Prince Rahim Aga Khan Meets Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister

FM @MHaneefAtmar & Prince Rahim Aga Khan @akdn discussed the key aspects of cooperation between the between the AFG Gov & the AKDN.
Press release


Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Afghanistan Foreign Minister
Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Afghanistan Foreign Minister, Mohammed Haneef Atmar, seated across the centre of the table during their meeting in Geneva on November 24, 2020. Accompanying the Foreign Minister are Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab and Grand Hewad spokesperson and DG Communication for Afghan Foreign Affairs. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Afghanistan, via Twitter.


2. Conference on Afghanistan

Finland together with the Governments of Afghanistan and the United Nations on November 23-24, 2020 convened a virtual Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in Geneva. The Conference was a milestone event in Afghanistan’s journey to peace, prosperity and self-reliance. Over 70 countries, international organisations, and agencies attended the conference which builds on previous ones held in Brussels in 2016, and Tokyo in 2012. The aim of the conference is to commit the Afghan government and the international community to shared development objectives for 2021-24.

Mawlana Hazar Imam and US Secretary of State John Kerry, front row 8th and 9th from right respectively, in a group photo with world leaders at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan in October 2016. Photo: US State Department / Public Domain.

AKDN’s involvement in Afghanistan dates back to 1996 when it started distributing food aid during the country’s civil war. Since 2002, the AKDN and its partners have committed over US $1billion in development assistance to the country. The Network’s integrated approach combines economic, health, education and cultural inputs. Its economic projects span over 240 cities and towns in the country’s 34 provinces, while its social development and humanitarian work directly covers eight provinces, and 19 provinces through consortia and partnerships, some 4 million people. It manages the health care for Bamyan and Badakshan under Sehatmandi. Its cultural programmes, which operate in Kabul, Herat, Balkh, and Badakhshan, have restored over 150 heritage sites. 

We produce below excerpts from Mawlana Hazar Imam’s speech that was read out at the virtually held conference by Ms. Sherezade Hirji, who became the Diplomatic Representative in Afghanistan for the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) following the completion of her term on July 11, 2019 as the President of His Highness the Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Council for Ontario.

3. Excerpts from His Highness the Aga Khan’s Address at Conference on Afghanistan

Note: The 4 subtitles in the excerpts produced as well as the photographs accompanying Mawlana Hazar Imam’s address were selected by Barakah, and are not part of the original address.

His Highness the Aga Khan delivers his statement on behalf of the Imamat and the AKDN at the UNAMA Geneva Conference on Afghanistan in 2018. The 2020 conference in Geneva was held virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: AKDN / Jean-Luc Ray.

I. Seizing the Opportunity for Peace Through Diversity and Pluralism and the Support of the Global Centre for Pluralism


We join today with more hope than ever that peace is on the near horizon. But we are also all aware that this is a delicate moment in Afghan history.  

After almost two decades working together, we must all do everything possible to help seize this opportunity. The Ismaili Imamat and the Aga Khan Development Network reaffirm our deep and enduring commitment to the Afghan peoples, and to a peaceful, pluralist Afghanistan.

One of the lessons AKDN has learned from its work globally is that diversity and pluralism in our thinking are essential. Traditionally, differences have been seen as something that divides.

We know they can also be a source of positive strength. As the Chairman of the Global Centre for Pluralism, founded in partnership with the Government of Canada, I firmly believe that the support of the Centre can be valuable to all stakeholders, as Afghans discuss how to create a lasting and enduring peace, reflecting all views and perspectives, recognizing and respecting Afghanistan’s rich diversity.  I know that the Centre stands ready to support all the parties towards this goal.

II. Nationwide Effort to Address Common Challenges: Poverty, Climate and the Pandemic

As Afghanistan enters a new period of transition, it will need the contributions of all its people, men and women, in every part of the country, to address their common challenges: rising poverty, climate disruption, an unforgiving pandemic. It will need all their talents to build an inclusive future with more opportunities, requiring more education, more knowledge, more private initiative. In these endeavours, AKDN is, and will remain, a steadfast partner. 

Above all, we must ensure that our renewed pledges of support here are translated into tangible gains there, at the community level. Because it is by enabling people to work together purposefully, with visible results, that Afghans of all backgrounds will realise the power of peace to change their lives.

Aga Khan speech excerpts continue after photo

III. The Breadth of AKDN’s work: Education, Health, Culture and Building the Economy


Paediatric services at the Bamyan Hospital, Afghanistan, operated by the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) since 2004. On 17 February 2019, AKHS expanded its management of healthcare facilities in the Bamyan and Badakhshan provinces as part of the Sehatmandi Project, whose objective is to increase the utilisation and quality of health, nutrition and family planning services in Afghanistan. Photo: AKDN / Kiana Hayeri.

This is why AKDN will maintain the breadth of its work across the country. We will remain deeply engaged with the country’s education sector, where we have supported teachers and students, especially Afghan girls, in hundreds of schools. Our work to strengthen the health system spans our partnerships with Bamyan and Badakhshan, and the French Medical Institute for Children, with every AKDN agency contributing significantly to Afghanistan’s pandemic response. In culture, AKDN has restored some 150 heritage sites – symbols of the strength that came from Afghanistan’s connections to the rest of the world. The transformation of the Bala Hisar Citadel into an archaeological park is one of the latest examples of this work.

Aga Khan speech excerpts continue after photo


In 2008, in partnership with the Governments of Afghanistan and Canada, Aga Khan Foundation started the Girls’ Education Support Programme (GESP) in several remote provinces of Afghanistan: Badakhshan, Bamyan, Baghlan and Parwan.
Photo: AKDN / Kapila Productions

All of this must be underpinned by better economic opportunities for all Afghans. In this, AKDN has always insisted on the importance of Afghanistan’s neighbours for the country’s prosperity. AKDN has invested in regional connectivity and cooperation for decades, making gains in clean energy, financial services, infrastructure, and telecommunications, as these all enable livelihoods and underpin job creation. We are pleased to have been entrusted to take on the generation, transmission and delivery of energy through Badakhshon Energy, an innovative public-private partnership for Afghanistan, serving the entire province. We will also continue to help build human capacity throughout Central Asia, linking Afghanistan to its brothers and sisters through education, healthcare, and the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia.

Aga Khan speech excerpts continue after photo


The rehabilitated Chihilsitoon Garden, a 12.5-hectare public site in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Garden rehabilitation was completed in September 2018. Photo: AKDN / Simon Norfolk

IV. Meritocracy and Vibrant Civil Society: Key to Country’s Future

During our twenty-five years in Afghanistan, AKDN has been guided by a fundamental belief that the key to the country’s future is in a vibrant, meritocratic, pluralistic civil society – in the Afghan people and in long-term institutions anchoring their contributions to the common good.  As I close today, I reaffirm our commitment to working through them, along with the Afghan government and all our international partners, to strive for an Afghanistan that is peaceful, diverse, and dynamic. Thank you.


4. Message from His Highness the Aga Khan to the Third Edition of the Paris Peace Forum

President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan,
President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to the opening session of the 2019 Paris Peace Forum while President Paul Biya of Cameroon looks on. The 2020 edition of the Forum was held online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: AKDN / Cécile Genest.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s resurgence, the third edition of the Paris Peace Forum was held online from 11 to 13 November 2020 via a specially developed digital platform. The unique platform was designed to replicate the physical experience and allowed thousands to take part. The forum convened leaders and actors from civil society around the world to advance concrete global governance solutions. Zeenat Sulaiman Khan, the Global Health and Quality Coordinator for the Aga Khan Health Services was listed as among the speakers at the event. She is currently part of the Global Covid–19 preparedness and response team of AKDN.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sent the following message to the Forum. 

“The unprecedented global pandemic has presented major public health challenges,” said His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and Founder of the Aga Khan Development Network. “We require continued collaborative energy from governments, civil society institutions, and the private sector to overcome this crisis, protect life, and build for the future from a position of strength and wisdom. I am pleased that the Aga Khan Development Network and the Paris Peace Forum are working closely towards these goals.”

Date posted: November 26, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 230 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.


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