The Aga Khan this week marked his Diamond Jubilee as the 49th hereditary Imam, the spiritual leader of the world’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.
The celebrations, which were held worldwide, brought together the global Ismaili community, partners of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), as well as government and faith community leaders.
In Islam’s ethical tradition, religious leaders not only interpret the faith but also have a responsibility to help to improve the quality of the lives of their community and the societies they live in. For the Aga Khan, this has meant dedicating his life to addressing the concerns of the developing world.
“During the Jubilee year and in the future, poverty alleviation will continue to be a primary area of focus for my Jamat and all the AKDN institutions,” said the Aga Khan in an address to the global Ismaili community.
The Aga Khan emphasised Diamond Jubilee priorities, including the promotion of early childhood and primary education, strengthening institutions, and invigorating civil society. He thanked partners of the AKDN for their continued contributions.
Over the past six decades, the Aga Khan has transformed the quality of life for millions of people around the world. In the areas of health, education, cultural revitalisation and economic empowerment, he has worked to inspire excellence and improve living conditions and opportunities, including in some of the world’s most remote and troubled regions.
The Aga Khan has continued to emphasise the importance of education, and has established centres of learning that are at the forefront of international teaching practice, knowledge and scientific research, including the Aga Khan University, the University of Central Asia, and the Aga Khan Academies.
“Ours is an intellectual tradition, one that permeates the pursuit of knowledge that is to be used for the good of the larger society. Live your faith through acquiring knowledge with which to help others,” said the Aga Khan.
The Aga Khan is the founder and chairman of the AKDN, one of the most comprehensive development networks in the world today, operating in over 30 countries principally in Central and South Asia, East and West Africa, and the Middle East.
The AKDN’s agencies have mandates ranging from health and education to architecture, microfinance, disaster reduction, rural development, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalisation of historic cities — all of which are catalysts for development. Together, they contribute towards building a vibrant civil society that addresses the needs of vulnerable populations.
AKDN spends $925 million annually on non-profit social and cultural development activities — a threefold increase over the past 10 years.
It operates more than 200 health care institutions, two universities spanning six countries, and 200 schools and school improvement programmes in some of the most remote and poorest parts of the developing world.
At the same time, AKDN operates over 90 project companies in post-conflict and transitional economies, helping to lay the foundations of economic development in these countries.
These companies, which range from a large-scale hydropower project in Uganda to a mobile phone company in Afghanistan, now generate over $4.1 billion in revenues.