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Speech by Princess Zahra at the Presentation of the World Habitat Award (Kazan, Russian Federation) 2006-10-04

Wednesday, 2006, October 4
Princess Zahra Aga Khan speaking at the World Habitat Day celebrations in Kazan

Your Worship the Mayor,
Mrs Tibaijuka,
Distinguished Guests,

First of all, thank you, Your Worship the Mayor, and the administration and people of Kazan, for hosting us in this beautiful city. [ spaciba balshoya ! ]

I would like, also, to thank everyone who has contributed towards the celebration of World Habitat Day here in Kazan -- in particular:

UN HABITAT, for highlighting the global challenge to provide adequate shelter for all and to strive for cities without slums; The Building and Social Housing Foundation, for conceiving and granting the World Habitat Awards; and United Cities and Local Governments, for recognising how vital sound governance of urban settlements remains.

I would like to express my deep gratitude to the leadership and staff of the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, Pakistan – past and present – for their devotion to AKPBS’ mission and to the people it serves. Today, AKPBS is represented by Mr. Hafiz Sherali, who chairs its voluntary board, and by Mr. Asif Merchant, its Chief Executive Officer.

The World Habitat Awards are given to projects that provide practical and innovative solutions to current housing needs and problems. AKPBS’ Building and Construction Improvement Programme -- or BACIP – develops, tests and applies -- methods, products and technologies that can improve housing standards, using local materials and skills --even in remote settings and extreme climatic conditions.

BACIP provides a means to improve socio-economic conditions and to minimise the burden of human settlement on natural resources. BACIP also reduces the daily burden borne by women in the household by improving water supply and by making energy use more efficient.

The BACIP model is meant to be replicated in other contexts and in other parts of the world. Its key components are:

enhancing community participation and management;
adapting products and services according to feedback from end-users;
applying research;
raising public awareness; and
thus, building civil society.
The aim is to bring about incremental improvements in housing that enhance the overall quality of life – and an improved quality of life in the rural habitat provides important alternatives to urban migration.

AKPBS is inspired by His Highness the Aga Khan’s conviction that “a proper home can provide the bridge across that terrible gulf between poverty and a better future”.

AKPBS is one of nine agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network whose experience – across 35 countries and several decades -- shows that the quality of life – for both urban and rural populations – can be significantly improved:

if the endeavour is grounded in communities;
if it integrates social, economic and cultural interventions;
if it is undertaken with a long-term perspective; and
if it recognises the value of pluralism.
The historic city of Kazan, with its millenial past, the Silk Route and the ancient traditions of cultural and intellectual exchange, Tatarstan’s contribution within the Russian Federation. All of these remind us today of the strength that pluralism brings to a dynamic centre of culture, of learning, and of enterprise.

We share the vision of better lives and improved habitats that accommodate and build on diversity.

Thank you again for honouring AKPBS with a World Habitat Award 2006.

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