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The Aga Khan Development Network
in Mountain Areas

"Mountain populations experience extremes of poverty and isolation as well as constraints on opportunities and choice, but at the same time, they sustain great linguistic, cultural, ethnic and religious pluralism, and show remarkable resilience in the face of extraordinarily harsh circumstances. By creating intellectual space and resources, this University will help turn the mountains that divide the nations and territories of Central Asia into the links that unite its peoples and economies in a shared endeavour to improve their future well-being."
- Statement by the Aga Khan on the occasion of the launch of the University of Central Asia.





Much of the work of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is conducted in mountainous areas, especially in Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In these areas, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) focuses on health, education, culture, rural development, institution-building and the promotion of economic development, but with a special sensitivity to what the Aga Khan has referred to as the "great linguistic, cultural, ethnic and religious pluralism". AKDN is dedicated to improving living conditions, and opportunities for the poor in mountains areas, without regard to their faith, origin or gender. Some of its initiatives are outlined below. For more information, please click on the links.

Bishkek Global Mountain Summit

AKDN is also playing a major role in planning and funding the Bishkek Global Mountain Summit, which will take place in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, from 29 October to 1 November 2002. The summit will promote "the conservation and sustainable development of mountain regions".

To view the draft discussion papers, please see the Schedule and Themes page. For more general information about the summit, please visit the Bishkek Mountain Summit home page.

International Year of the Mountains

The 5th of June 2002, World Environment Day, marked the International Year of Mountains. A Video News Release prepared by the Television Trust for the Environment and released worldwide featured footage of the Aga Khan Development Network's (AKDN) activities in the Tajikistan province of Gorno-Badakshan. For more information on AKDN activities in Tajikistan, please see What's New on the Aga Khan Foundation page. For more information about AKDN activities in mountainous regions of Central Asia, please see the Foundation's Regional Review page and the Foundation page. The University of Central Asia, for which the Aga Khan created an endowment of $15 million, is intended to serve 25 million people in the mountainous parts of the region. For more information, please see the University of Central Asia home page and related press release.

A University Dedicated to the Mountain Societies of Central Asia

The University of Central Asia (UCA), created in 2000 through an international charter signed by the presidents of Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic, and Kazakhstan and His Highness the Aga Khan, is intended to serve the educational and developmental needs of people across the vast mountain zones of Central Asia and beyond. The University, for which the Aga Khan created an endowment of $ 15 million, is intended to serve 25 million people in the mountainous parts of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and countries in South Asia. For more information, please see the University of Central Asia home page and related press release.

Related Links: Aga Khan Humanities Project, Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia

Restoration of Landmark Buildings in Mountainous Northern Pakistan

In the mountainous Northern Areas of Pakistan, projects of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture include the restoration of several forts (such as Baltit and Shigar) and other landmark buildings in conjunction with the rehabilitation of traditional settlements, as well as the promotion of traditional crafts and construction techniques. Preserving local identity and at the same time introducing contemporary living standards (including sanitation) is the key to the ongoing cultural development process, which is undertaken with the active involvement of the local population. Environmental planning strategies to preserve specific assets are being implemented through new local institutions such as Town Management Societies and Cultural Heritage Trusts. In October 2000, the Karimabad & Baltit Project won the Top Prize in the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. For more information, visit the British Airways website. For more information, please see the Historic Cities Support Programme and the Foundation's activities in Pakistan.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival Celebrates Music of Central Asia

The 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, to be held 26 - 30 June 2002 and July 3 - 7 2002 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C, USA, will feature 350 traditional artists - musicians, dancers, craftsmen, storytellers, artists, cooks, and more - from 20 nations, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is the lead funding organisation and creative partner of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and The Silk Road Project, Inc. For more information and links, please click here. At the same time the Trust is promoting Central Asian music in Europe and North America, it is also working through the auspices of the Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia for the preservation and promotion of traditional music at the heart of the Silk Road. The long-term goals are to revitalise the study and performance of traditional music in Central Asia and to make local festivals artistically and financially self-sustaining.

AKDN Mountain Activities in the News

This section links to news stories about AKDN activities in mountainous areas which have appeared in on-line versions of the press. The views expressed on these pages do not necessarily reflect those of the Network and are provided here only as a public service.

Mini-loans sustaining Tajikistan villagers, Seattle Times, USA, 16 Dec. 2001 - "The Aga Khan Foundation has invested $1.2 million in micro credits in the Pamir Mountains..."

Fighting the Good Fight: The Aga Khan's millions are helping improve Pakistan, BusinessWeek, USA, 26 Nov. 2001 - "What makes the Aga Khan's rural development work so effective is its emphasis on grassroots participation in setting development goals, the mobilization of community savings, and the development of civil society..."

Saving Shangri-La, BBCi Radio 4 (Feature and RealPlayer files), UK, 24 Nov. 2001 - "In 1931 the British writer James Hilton travelled to a remote valley in North Pakistan and found a place so beautiful, so wild and so remote he christened it Shangri-La, an earthly paradise..."

Afghanistan's biggest problem - poverty - can be solved, Christian Science Monitor, USA, 16 Oct. 2001 - "A 20-year project in Pakistan's northern Karakorum Mountains adjoining Afghanistan provides living proof that sustainable development is possible, even under the most daunting physical circumstances..."

Surviving the Winter on Mulberries - Dire Need in the Afghan Mountains, NZZ Online, Switzerland, 11 May 2001 - "Aly Mawji, the Focus representative for northern Afghanistan, is convinced that targeted foreign aid and long-term development efforts can not only avert a famine here but also give the local populace an opportunity to reduce their dependency on drug trafficking and consumption..."

Top Prize in British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards Given to Aga Khan Trust for Culture for its Karimabad & Baltit Project, British Airways website, UK, 11 Oct. 2000 - "Top prize was awarded to a project hidden in the Himalayan mountains of Pakistan, in the Kingdom of Hunza. The Karimabad & Baltit Project demonstrated the value of re-introducing forgotten cultures and skills to secure the environment for future generations..." (from the press release)

'Roof of the world' survival, BBC News, UK, 23 Sept. 1998 - For decades the mountain range, which is described by the Tajiks as "the roof of the world", was dependent on Moscow for survival. But when the Soviet Union collapsed, the Aga Khan foundation stepped in to fill the gap. It is now trying to teach the people self-sufficiency..."