North-South Centre - European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity

The 2011 Lisbon Forum, 3-4 November,
Lisbon Ismaili Centre
North –South Centre of the Council of Europe, in partnership with the Alliance of Civilizations and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)
Welcome Remarks by the AKDN Representative, Comendador Nazim Ahmad

Mr. Jorge Sampaio, United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations and Chair of the Lisbon Forum
Mr. Miguel Angel Martínez, Vice-President of the European Parliament
Mr. Youssef Amrani, Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean
Mr. Bernardino Leon, Special Representative of the European Union for the Southern Mediterranean
Mrs. Magda Zaki, Director / Minister Plenipotenciary, League of Arab States
Mr. João Bosco Mota Amaral, Vice President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Mrs. Deborah Bergamini, Chair of the Executive Council of the North South Centre of the Council of Europe
Mr. Amirali Bhanji, President of His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Council for Portugal, the principal constitutional body for the social governance of the Ismaili Community in Portugal
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Aga Khan Development Network, I would like to express our warm welcome to all the participants to the 2011 Lisbon Forum and to convey our great pleasure in, once more, hosting this international forum, in collaboration with the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe and the Alliance of Civilizations.
This is now the eighth international gathering led by the North-South Centre that we have jointly hosted here at this Lisbon Ismaili Centre since 2007.
Today, at the outset of the Forum, I wish to reiterate to the North-South Centre our deep commitment to our collaboration, under the scope of the Protocol of Cooperation which was signed between the Portuguese Government and the Ismaili Imamat in 2005.
Allow me to share with you some considerations regarding the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and its work.

His Highness the Aga Khan, fourty-ninth hereditary Imam or spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), is the founder and the chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network or AKDN, a group of development agencies that conduct their programmes without regard to faith, origin or gender of the beneficiaries in more than 30 countries.
Our agencies have mandates that include the environment, health, education, architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development, disaster reduction, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalisation of historic cities.
AKDN includes two universities, the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia, as well more than 300 schools and advanced educational programmes that provide quality pre-school, primary, secondary, and higher secondary education services to students in a number of developing countries.
Global citizenship, empowerment of civil society and pluralism have been at the core of AKDN’s endeavors, which permeate all the programmatic activities and approaches of the various AKDN agencies. AKDN’s vision underlines the importance of empowering people to take charge of their own development.

In this regard, let me quote His Highness the Aga Khan (start quote): “I am sure that we can agree that at the most general level, the goal of all development efforts -- be they promoted by governments, national organizations, or international development agencies and institutions -- is to stimulate and facilitate change that is positive in character, significant in impact, long-lasting in consequence, and sustainable into the future. The more complex and difficult question is what does it take to achieve development that meets this aspiration? (…) From the perspective of forty years of work, and the experience of the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network, institutional development stands out as critically important to broad-based sustainable change. By institutional development, I mean the strengthening and refocusing of existing institutions, as well as the creation of new institutions and policies to support them. (…) The need for institutional development also applies to every sector of society: to government at all levels, to business large and small, and to that diverse array of informal and formal organisations that have come to be referred to collectively as civil society institutions. One clear lesson of the last half of the twentieth century is that governments cannot do everything.” (end quote).

I therefore salute the North South Centre, the Alliance of Civilizations as well as Mr. Jorge Sampaio for all the efforts both institutions have been undertaking to promote human development, which the AKDN shares, and finally wish all the participants fruitful working sessions.

Thank you.