Posted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 1:14 pm Post subject: PRINCE AMYN
Statement by Prince Amyn Aga Khan at the 10th German World Bank Forum “The Asian Century: Challenges in the Economic Crisis” (Frankfurt am Main, Germany)
20 November 2008
Herr Ministerpraesident von Hessen
M Lars Thunell
Ladies and Gentlemen
I should like to begin by saying how honoured and grateful I am for the opportunity to participate in this important meeting and to share with so distinguished a gathering some thoughts about the future of Asia.
Unrepentant student that I am, I expect that this forum will constitute for me an extraordinary learning experience.
Germany has a long-standing and thoughtful commitment to approaching international concerns, and particularly internationally coordinated questions of development in the third world; and this commitment makes of this country a most fitting venue for this conference.
It seems to me that our ability to meet either the “Challenges” or the “Opportunities” of an “Asian Century” will depend on whether we are able to define, set in place and regulate approaches to both the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead that are both more collaborative and more imaginative than heretofore.
As the current financial crisis has reminded many of us, our world in this 21st century is more complex than most of us had imagined, with an interdependence of people everywhere more profound than we had realised and with challenges, risks and reverberations that most of us cannot claim to be able either accurately to predict or adequately to understand. More than ever, rigid doctrines and dogmas are inadequate and counterproductive. Accurate observation, careful analysis and a basic, common commitment to good governance, at all levels, in all spheres, are required if we are to avoid upheavals, political, social and economic. Ways must be found to prevent, at the international, national or at the regional level, that the gap between the richer and the poorer nations continue to widen, that social divisions grow ever more evident. Social, cultural and economic factors are so intertwined in what we call “development” that it is at our own peril that we will emphasize one at the expense of the others. Indeed, globalisation itself now makes it mandatory, more than ever, for us to seek approaches and solutions that are holistic to the challenges and the opportunities of development.
Is this truly “The Asian Century”?
The role of Asia in the history of politics, culture and economics in the world has of course been immense for now many centuries. Long before the Middle Ages, the West has looked to Asia for inspiration and for riches just as Asia, perhaps more recently, has looked to the West for technology and other inputs. In our present times, it can be no coincidence that two members of the famous BRIC are India and China and it seems platitudinous to say that the rise of the great Asian economies of today will be one of the central, shaping themes of this twenty-first century.
Simultaneously, it is increasingly evident that in this century, with the complexity that follows upon globalisation, it is unlikely that either economic or cultural dominance, in the sense that we knew these in the past, will exist in one area of the world alone. Interdependence would seem to be a more important phenomenon henceforth than independence. The upheavals in the financial markets these past months and the recessionary climate that prevails, are currently affecting not only the West but also both Asian members of the BRIC just as they do indeed Japan, Korea, Singapore and the other countries of Asia. Clearly, world financial markets are at present intertwined by a bewildering array of complex instruments and it must be illusory to assume that one national or even regional economy can be “decoupled” from others.
Likewise, Asia is as diverse, indeed possibly more diverse, than any other region of this globe. From one Asian country to another one encounters greatly different economic systems, cultures, religious and even philosophical orientations, not to mention the widest array of political frameworks that range from democracies to monarchies, to more authoritarian, autocratic or even theocratic regimes. There are also interesting new forms of city states that have emerged. Seen from the West, some of the Asian countries currently seem more closely linked to the global economy than others which appear relatively isolated. Some countries are seen as stable, others tend to be viewed as notoriously volatile. Within this broad Asian context, there are some countries that might be termed “heavy weights” (for instance those of the BRIC) and others which, at first glance, may seem less important on a global scale. Many of the countries of Central Asia are, it seems to me, often taken to lie in this second category and it is perhaps about them and the Aga Khan Development Network’s activities and experiences in these Central Asian countries that I should like to say a few words.
The vicissitudes of history have meant that in Central Asia, perhaps more than elsewhere in Asia, ethnic groups have been divided between different countries, as have traditional cultural ties and social fabrics, with the result that we now see rivalries emerging that are tribal, elsewhere instincts toward unity and integration, or yet again fear and distrust across borders. Indeed, one might say that virtually all the countries of Central Asia could appear to be in some state of flux. Perhaps more than in any other part of the world, Central Asia will need to discover how to transform diversity from being a source of hate and conflict into a source of positive and creative pluralism, how to transform local, tribal structures into national democratic structures embracing and reconciling traditional differences.
Many of these Central Asian countries have common characteristics: high mountain areas with limited fertile, arable land and equally limited infra-structure, climates frequently inhospitable and a particular vulnerability to natural disasters. Some are rich in natural resources with substantial reserves of oil and gas, aluminium and uranium; few are as industrialised as the major players either to the west or further to the east. Good governance is all too often occasional, be that at the political or the economic level, or even at the agricultural level where agricultural policies, and above all the concentration on a limited agricultural produce, appears to be more a reflection of the potential for personal gain than it is of an effort to ensure national benefit. And the same applies all too frequently in those countries where mining is a primary natural resource. Across most of Central Asia, the level of industrialisation seems to lag and the connection with the global webs of communication and commerce varies widely from one country to the other and is facilitated by neither the geography nor the remoteness of these countries. Indeed the slow pace of economic reforms aimed at attracting foreign investors is delaying integration with global markets in many countries of Central Asia. Water is already a problem in most of these countries and is a challenge growing faster than it can be met or resolved. In parallel, the production of energy is insufficient, and increasingly so. Measures need urgently to be taken, solutions found, to prevent that water and energy both become sources of local conflict. Dependence on imports is substantial and self-sufficiency, on any plane, be it industrial or agricultural, is not as yet the norm. Food security remains a problem and is exacerbated by rising inflation and climatic changes. Many of these countries have educational systems that were excellent but now need to be modernised and expanded, and which suffer from severe teacher attrition, less qualified teachers and dilapidated facilities. Many have health systems that do not meet the requirements of the local population and those requirements themselves have evolved with the drug trade and migration. Quality of life remains sub-standard and does not appear to be growing rapidly enough, with all the popular frustration and discontent that stem from such a perceived, ongoing stasis. The situation is aggravated by the drug trade and the distortions which that trade brings to the local economies, as also to the impairment it brings directly or indirectly to national and international security. And yet road, rail and other systems of communication, of infrastructure, need to be greatly increased and improved if the economics of the essentially land-locked countries of the region are to grow. The frontiers of Central Asia, like Sub-Saharan Africa, are all too often artificial. They constitute a significant impediment to both social and economic growth. It seems unlikely that the potential of these countries can be released unless and until a means is found to make regionalisation a practical reality. It cannot be a coincidence that those countries of Central Asia that currently have the weakest economies are also those that have the most sensitive frontiers.
Simultaneously, climate change is affecting these areas severely, with their particularly fragile soils and shrinking glaciers. Recent food shortages and the fate of the Aral Sea are glaring examples of how close tragedy can lurk.
I view the widespread volatility of Central Asia, and the continuing economic and social challenges of the area with grave concern. It is essential that the international community pay sufficient attention to this part of Asia: a failure to do so will almost certainly destabilise the growth and limit the overall development of the seemingly more fortunate countries that surround Central Asia.
As I imagine you know, the Aga Khan Development Network has been deeply involved in Central Asia for the past several decades.
AKDN itself is a non-denominational network whose aim is to bring benefit to all people, irrespective of race, religion or gender. Our principle objective is to enable people trapped in poverty to break the vicious circle of helplessness and dependence, to take charge of their own lives without depending on philanthropic hand-outs exclusively, and to see, year after year, sufficient improvements in the quality of their daily lives for a degree of optimism and of an entrepreneurial spirit to arise. AKDN unlike many other development agencies, gives equal weight to both the for-profit and the not-for-profit sides of our work, seeking to create models, set benchmarks and standards and develop local human resources. I think it is not a coincidence that AKDN is probably now the largest private employer in both Afghanistan and Tajikistan. AKDN projects in Central Asia range from infrastructure to industry, from insurance and microfinance to banking, from tourism to telecommunications and from cultural development to educational and medical initiatives. Sustainability is central to our mission, whether it be in microfinance institutions or in medical and educational institutions or in restored historical sites, monuments and urban parks; and we believe that discipline, both financial and operational, cost-effective budgets, all the necessary control systems, appropriate planning and strategic positioning, transparency and good governance are all essential. All our initiatives, be they economic, social or cultural, aim to generate new income for the residents of the areas in which we work and to improve the quality of life of the population where we work. When we withdraw from our projects or programmes we seek to leave behind institutions and a civil society that are, or have become stable, competent and self-reliant.
For example, our restoration work on the Bagh-e-Babur in Kabul, or Humayun’s Tomb in India, or in upgrading the city park in Khorog aims to bring renewed pride to the local citizens and a revived sense of their identity, but it also allows us to install or upgrade educational and medical facilities in the immediate vicinity, to stimulate handicrafts, commerce and SMEs through microfinance, to upgrade - and to persuade local residents to upgrade - infrastructure in the area as also to maintain their properties with a renewed sense of purpose. In so doing we aim to revive the spirit of creativity and entrepreneurship amongst the local citizens.
A similar approach characterises what I would call the “social outreach” of our work in the economic sector: industries that we launch, or in which we invest, give part of their profits to improving the living conditions not only of their workers but of the residents of the area surrounding those industries, for instance through medical and educational programmes. Our tourism initiatives assist local populations, for example in building and furnishing their schools and in providing training for those local entrepreneurs who wish to start up their own leisure facilities. Even our Afghan telecommunications company, Roshan, has not only developed a substantial mobile phone network but has also funded a variety of social and cultural projects. We encourage in both our industrial and leisure initiatives environmentally-friendly actions too. Guests in our hotels are invited to plant trees, for instance. In one small lodge in Kenya, over 200,000 trees were thus planted in the first year of this initiative. Environmental Impact Assessment studies are an integral and essential part of all our new projects be they cultural, industrial, touristic or infrastructural.
Experience shows that the development of an active, organised and effective civil society is the strongest assurance not only of continued economic development at the grass roots level, but also of social stability. It is now some 30 years since we started our rural development programmes in Pakistan which initially depended, in the first instance, on the creation by us of village organisations where the villagers themselves analysed their needs with us, set their priorities, learned with our assistance how to fulfil those needs and ultimately set up and implemented entire programmes, largely self-help, ranging from the construction of new water channels to new small hydro plants, to improved schools and medical facilities and to a broadened agricultural production several hundred times what it was when we started the rural support programme. Since 1983, in the Northern areas of Pakistan, with our help villagers have planted nearly 4 million fruit trees, bred over 700,000 poultry birds and raised nearly 7,000 head of cattle, sheep and goats. Simultaneously women’s associations and activities were launched and substantial improvements have been achieved in infant mortality, illiteracy and traditional diseases. Microfinance has enabled the economic base of these village populations to be broadened and infrastructural improvements have begun to decrease the isolation in which these communities formerly existed.
Civil society can advance the public good through the creation of private institutions, including not-for-profit but self-sustaining institutions, and it counter-balances habits all too frequent in such areas of looking primarily to government to address the full range of local social needs.
AKDN is also increasingly conscious of the capacity for public service within the private sector. In recent years, the phrase “Public Private Partnerships”, otherwise known as PPP’s, has become means for different sectors of society to work together in a spirit of mutual trust and to the national benefit. For example, local communities can donate land for the construction of new health centres, while government largely finances the construction of these centres and AKDN provides training for professionals who work in these centres.
AKDN has entered into partnerships with government for the training of teachers who work in educational institutions that are governmental, for curriculum development, and generally for the management of such educational facilities. The same is true with medical facilities. In a national health network, constituted by one or more major medical facilities that one might call hubs, backed-up by smaller outlying health centres and minor medical facilities in the rural areas, the opportunities for a PPP to expand, upgrade and modernise the national health system are as considerable as they are exciting, and are reinforced by new methods of tele-medicine and distance-learning.
I am a firm believer in the creative forces that are released by inter-country cultural activities and relations. Not only goods plied up and down the ancient Silk Route, but also ideas, dreams and inventions and from this commerce, from this cultural dialogue sprang new dreams, ideas and inventions, a strengthened creativity. I pointed out earlier in this speech that strong cultural and linguistic, religious and historical links traditionally existed across the borders of the Central Asian countries and their re-emergence is ever more noticeable. AKDN is giving increasing emphasis to working on a regional basis, emphasising operations across local and national jurisdictions. An example of such a regional approach is in Tajikistan where the AKDN has been the prime mover as also a partner in the construction of several bridges across the Pyanj River dividing Tajikistan from Afghanistan, Tajik-Badakhshan from Afghan-Badakhshan, peoples on either side on the Pyanj River culturally and linguistically close for centuries. It is our hope that the drug trade and its related activities will be brought under control and that active retail market places will now grow up around each of these new bridges so that they quite literally will become bridges to the future. Another example is the delivery, to the mountainous Afghan area across the border, of seasonal surplus supplies of energy from our Pamir project in Tajikistan. We are looking with increasing closeness at air and other communications infrastructure, on a regional basis, to stimulate not only tourism on a regional basis but also commerce and trade. If these cross-border initiatives bloom, with them should emerge increased tolerance and pluralism which, in their turn, should foster further economic progress.
A third example of such regional cooperation could be the University of Central Asia which AKDN is in the process of creating, and which emanates from an international treaty between the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and the AKDN that I think is unique. The University will have a campus in the rural areas of each of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and will concentrate on the particular requirements of, and challenges faced by, the high mountain populations of the Pamirs. It is my hope that this University will play a major role in the formation of skilled men and women who will become the basis for the long term, wide-ranging development of these countries, and that these young men and women will in due course move freely between the countries of Central Asia. It is essential that the human material be constituted in the region to carry on the perhaps unglamorous but nevertheless essential effort to improve the quality of life for the populations of these countries. Indeed, a characteristic of these past years has been the out-migration of young educated people from the region, and largely from the rural areas. This may have resulted in large foreign remittances that have been essential factors in propping up stuttering economies, but it has left these countries without the necessary depth of middle-management and, all too frequently, without the requisite quantum and level of potential entrepreneurs to form a solid base for the national economy.
The countries of Central Asia are already showing signs that they too will reflect the shocks and turbulences afflicting the rest of the world. It is not because they are less affluent that they will be any the less sensitive to erratic international pulsations. As inflation rises in these countries, as the all-important remittances start to taper off and as a genuine domestic consumer market continues in a state of infancy, the need for foreign investment to broaden the productive base, to increase agricultural output and to improve social services will become ever more urgent. And how will these countries, how will those of us involved in the development of these countries, deal with the return of large quantities of disabused, disgruntled citizens left jobless by growing unemployment in the countries to which they had emigrated? It seems essential that these less developed economies have a role in the forthcoming debate and a place in a global recovery process.
Democracy and democratic institutions alone are unlikely to bring long term stability to countries whose people grapple daily with poverty and a challenging quality of life, without access to appropriate education, adequate health care and decent housing, and for whom the very notion of good governance is often or has become, an alien concept. In-migration can only heighten tensions, exacerbate dissatisfactions and probably sectarianism. Central Asia with its enormous spectrum of different types of government is likely to become one of the world’s foremost testing grounds for new forms of constitutional government. How will failed examples of democratic constitutionality be avoided, new formulae identified and set up? How will or can constitutional government be ensured and how, once that is achieved, can one ensure that it translates into good government? Central Asia is one of the areas of the globe with the highest concentration of pluralist societies; but, as often as not we are seeing examples of this pluralism turning into a liability rather than an asset for peace and development. It is essential that current fear of pluralism be turned into a national aspiration in the psyche of these countries, into a shared cosmopolitan ethic, and that vested interest be transformed into national interest.
Prince Amyn Aga Khan Speaking at the International Finance Corporation breakfast, in Istanbul, Turkey, 4 October 2009
04 October 2009
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, let me express my gratitude to Lars Thunell, Chief Executive Officer of the International Finance Corporation, for giving me the opportunity to share with you a few thoughts on sustainable employment in the context of the current economic crisis. Whether or not it is true that “nothing will ever be the same” after the current turmoil subsides, I think one primary action, indeed a duty, for all of us should be to reflect on how best we can pass through these difficult times. What measures can we conceive, what processes can we initiate, that will give reasonable hope that the picture, after the crisis, is not bleak for those who have lost their jobs and for those entering the job market having completed their education?
The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), is primarily active in the Third World, and particularly in Sub Saharan and West Africa, the Middle East and Central and South Asia. In most of these countries, the effects of the current crisis can be compared to those in the wealthier countries of the West and indeed, in many cases, they are probably worse: businesses, with profits shrinking and cash flows that are all too frequently stretched to breaking point, are laying off employees at all levels. And this is happening within a context that was already difficult to begin with, one of substantial unemployment and underemployment, of economies that are largely agrarian, with difficult climates where the people frequently work small holdings, contend with arid soils and have a limited capacity to increase their productivity. Moreover, these areas are plagued by a lack of skilled labour, low standards of education, frequent currency devaluations, weak infrastructure, cumbersome legal systems and, all too often, rampant corruption at many levels. These countries suffer from a difficult and unpredictable business environment even in good economic times. Moreover, given their limited industrial capacity and productivity, the lower net private capital flows and monetary tightening that are now taking place are seriously reducing the liquidity available to nascent small and medium-sized enterprises – a sector whose development is essential if employment is to be increased and the national economies of these countries is to be strengthened. Even microfinance institutions are currently experiencing serious liquidity constraints after several years of asset growth, and the whole progression up from micro economic initiatives through small and medium-sized enterprises to larger scale economic activity is being constrained and constricted and, with it, the opportunities for entrepreneurship and for private enterprise.
The rising poverty levels in many of the countries of the developing world, frequently accompanied by social and political instability, is leading to a mounting dependence on overseas development aid and direct foreign investment and, in some cases, even food aid. And yet, over the past two years financial flows have dropped precipitously [from some 890 billion US Dollars to 141 billion]. In the West, we are seeing lower contributions to development assistance, decreasing discretionary funds to multilaterals and, generally speaking, a reduced readiness to embrace new initiatives.
Jobs, and the creation of jobs, in both traditional and new sectors in these countries have become more important and urgent than ever. This is the essential element for improving the quality of life of the citizens of these countries. We know, from past experience, that improving the quality of life of the poorer populations is the best guarantee of achieving political and social stability and of avoiding an even longer list of failed democracies.
It is my view that to achieve sustainable employment in the Third World, it is necessary to embrace a broad philosophy of development that brings together social, economic and cultural initiatives. Single sector initiatives, though certainly useful, have to be placed in a wider context if they are to have a lasting effect on the quality of life of populations and if those populations are to embrace them as reflecting their own aspirations and are to carry them forward so that the desired multiplier effect is achieved, and mutually reinforcing improvements far exceeding initial inputs or investments are attained.
High on the list of requirements is education, which must include technical as well as adult education. It must also include women so that they, too, can play an appropriate role in the development effort, just as it must help the older generation to play their part (and a more independent part) in that effort. Equally, solutions are needed to the problem of educated young people having to go abroad to find suitable employment and career development. Educational programmes should encompass teaching teachers and training trainers to increase the national pool of skilled and qualified persons, especially in outlying on rural areas. They should concentrate on areas of economic activity that are recognized to be labour intensive (infrastructure is an example and seems to me to constitute a priority area), as also on the creation of cadres of entrepreneurs, people who will be capable of setting up and running, successfully, small and medium-sized enterprises. Non-traditional fields of practical expertise also offer new sources of employment and are critical in the developing world: for instance so called “green” technologies need to be applied in construction and other industries in order to mitigate the lack of local sources of energy, the rising insufficiency of water and chronically difficult living conditions. I think it can be argued that investments in education and in appropriate training offer the only sustainable long-term solution to increasing and ensuring employment.
The health sector is another one where increased human capacity is necessary and employment opportunities could be created, providing more nurses and doctors in the cities and more medical staff in outlying and rural areas. Referral systems (the so-called hub and spoke systems) offer the most promising solutions to the medical needs of most developing countries and they imply, despite a growing recourse to telemedicine, that a substantial increase in manpower become available.
In almost all the countries in which we work, there is a marked insufficiency of primary health facilities just as there is a lack of schools offering pre-primary, primary and secondary education and yet improved health, education and living conditions are all basic elements for improving quality of life.
As I have said earlier, creation of a growing number of viable small and medium-sized enterprises is also a sine qua non to creating jobs and to forming a strong back-bone for a stable national economy. Microfinance is a basic requirement, but it must reach down to the ultra poor and means must be found to accelerate the creation of small and medium sized enterprises keeping in mind the risk element inherent in them. Sound business practices and good governance are essential in this endeavour and the challenge is to define and ensure these. Here too trainers and supervisors are required.
Many of the Third World countries are gifted with cultural treasures, the restoration or conservation or reutilization of which can underpin the development of a new or expanded tourism industry, and other culture-related industries, such as handcrafts. These activities are not only labour-intensive, themselves, but they create even more jobs in fields such as infrastructure and services.
The tools for initiating and implementing the initiatives I have listed are numerous. Perhaps the most important of these is the creation of viable, credible and transparent civil society organizations. Such organizations could include Rural Village Organizations, setting their own priorities and implementing those priorities through essentially self-help initiatives which are aided and guided by limited outside advice and input. Or they could take the form of Advisory Services on investment opportunities. Or they could involve purchasing and selling cooperatives. The possibilities are manifold. Civil society organizations can be vehicles of economic recovery just as they can launch social and cultural initiatives, and they form a crucial tool in countries with weak or dysfunctional governments.
The general framework for the creation and efficient operations of such Civil Society Organizations lies, in our view, in what we call an Enabling Environment and here local governments have a role to play, by ensuring legislation and its enforcement that encourages and protects private initiative and entrepreneurship and by supporting, with all the means at their disposal, the creation of an active and buoyant private sector.
Furthermore there are possibilities for collaborative efforts which bring Government and the private sector together in public/private partnerships. These are proving to be an increasingly useful tool, one that is resilient and permits the assets and abilities of each party to be most productively used. Public private partnerships have launched in many instances quick improvements in both the health and education sectors. Cross-border partnerships and initiatives are another tool just as are regional approaches despite potential political complexities. They also have, as often as not, an effect on precisely those parts of national populations that are poorest or most ex-centered, while allowing the surplus assets of one country to improve the quality of life of a neighbouring country. Obviously, they are also a means of increasing trade and of easing the tensions that may have resulted from arbitrarily drawn borders. For instance while it takes up to 30 hours to drive a truck down an uncertain road from Dushanbe to Khorog in the Pamirs, it takes less than half that time, to take it from Khorog to the urban centres of neighbouring Afghanistan.
In the same manner area development plans and programmes, particularly if they are multi-input, permit inter-locking development requirements to be approached by interdisciplinary teams and such programmes stimulate buy-in, and ultimately take-over, by the local peoples concerned. I am struck by the evolution, for instance, of our rural support programmes in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The greening of entire valleys and hillsides and the creation of food self-sufficiency has stimulated and has been amplified by the creation of new health and education facilities and the construction of new roads and mini-hydroelectrical plants. My view is that, similarly, when we restore one of the mud mosques in Mali, for instance, we must look into the up-grading of the infrastructure in the area surrounding the Mosque, we must review the health and education facilities in that area, we must provide a microfinance programme for the local residents and we must consider forming a residents group or committee to help implement and then to manage this multi-input area development initiative. The hope is that such an initiative will be copied by other groups elsewhere in town and will thus effectively play the role of a pilot project.
It seems to me that institutions such as IFC should consider broadening their mandates to include a wider spectrum of “social” interventions and could give greater emphasis to multi-input approaches. I would welcome too an increasing IFC activity in helping us put together groups of shareholders. And all of our economic initiatives should be required to undertake and to report on corporate social responsibility or outreach programmes.
Perhaps the most essential tool, however, is the resilience and determination of people to improve their own condition, their own quality of life. In many ways development assistance is about giving people hope and giving them the courage to take charge of their own lives and well-being. A recent example comes to mind. AKFED launched, some 35 years back, a tourism venture which now boasts some 29 hotels, lodges and resorts, the majority in Africa and Asia, known under the brand name Serena. In East Africa alone Serena employs some 3 000 local workers and only one expatriate. Like most other companies in the hotel industry, Serena has experienced a drop in both occupancy and revenues this past year. But while in other companies large-scale lay-offs have taken place, or various types of voluntary separation schemes have been experimented, the staff at Serena in East Africa, independently and of their own volition, informed Management that they had decided to ask for a pay-cut until sales improved in order to maintain their jobs. Management thanked them for this initiative and undertook to reimburse them their sacrifice as and when demand started to return to previous, normal levels – and then Management itself felt obliged to take a pay-cut. The incident takes on its full significance when one remembers that the Serena chain provides livelihood for literally tens of thousands of local people when the family of staff, suppliers, small businesses, artisans and handicraft-makers who depend on Serena are included.
I think it is appropriate that I should finish this talk by offering congratulations to IFC, who have been an admired and valued partner of AKFED for over 40 years. IFC has concentrated over all those years on a number of significant objectives: on advancing the private sector in developing countries, on developing local, financial markets, on new initiatives in microfinance, trade and infrastructure and on the creation of truly sustainable, viable entities. These efforts have all been of vital importance for job creation. May I commend you for your efforts and thank you for this opportunity to join in your discussions?
(Delivered by Prince Amyn Aga Khan on behalf of His Highness the Aga Khan)
Mr. Chairman, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the Aga Khan Development Network, I should like to join the previous speakers in expressing our gratitude and congratulations to the Government of Afghanistan for hosting this impressive gathering in Kabul. We welcome and support the Government’s efforts to bring about real change to the lives of the Afghan people, perceptible change, a tangible improvement in the quality of their daily existences.
The Aga Khan Development Network welcomes a strong continued support for the development of a stable, progressive and pluralistic Afghanistan. Pluralism-ethnic, linguistic, cultural and confessional- is critical for this country: mutual trust and respect amongst ethnic groups are essential if peace, stability and equitable development are to be achieved. In diversity lies strength.
It is also vital for local government and development actors to work closely with local communities to identify and to meet pressing needs. Low execution of the development budget must be a cause for concern. The Government’s ability fruitfully to absorb outside funding is dependent on the creation of Afghan-driven mechanisms to address security, justice and socio-economic growth. Not only should Community Councils be responsible for the stability of their respective communities, but communities themselves need to be engaged in the process of prioritization of programmes as well as in the delivery of those programmes.
Initiatives such as the National Solidarity Programme, which promotes the direct involvement of communities, has demonstrated tangible progress in improving the quality of life of the Afghan people, arousing their strong spirit and their entrepreneurial instincts. Results change minds, not rhetoric. We must avoid that there be to the Afghan citizen a visible gap between the promise of services and their actual delivery on the ground. The philosophy, the policy must be to under-promise and to over-deliver.
The Community Development Councils, which are elected by the communities themselves, are part of a civil society that must make an essential contribution to human development, to nation building and to ensuring that an insurmountable gap does not develop between Government on the one side and the business sector and private enterprise on the other. AKDN is of the view that investing in the institutions of civil society and in their capacity to deliver services deserves far greater priority, attention, support and resources than has hitherto been the case, even as investments in rebuilding the State’s institutions continue. Civil society institutions are best able to take into consideration, to reflect, specific provincial or local political situations and socio-economic needs and opportunities. They are well placed to ensure that progress is both public and transparent, that good governance is observed as the norm, just as they are the best tools for ensuring better impact and for hastening visible socio-economic development. There is need for a sub-national governance structure that is clear, efficient and transparent. There is no reason why planning or programming at the provincial or local level need either contradict or undermine central authority. On the contrary, bankable programmes need to be evolved and implemented that are synchronized with sub-national governance and policy and with the reintegration programme.
Afghans must take increasing responsibility for their affairs. In this regard, strengthening the police force and equipping it are vital if civil society is to function effectively and civilian order is to be ensured. It is my personal view that military withdrawal and meaningful reintegration can only take place when Afghanistan has a sufficient and sufficiently equipped police force.
In areas of the country which have remained relatively stable, we hear concern from the local residents that resources are increasingly being directed away from them towards the less secure parts of the country. We believe that ensuring equity of investment across the country is essential. The Afghan Constitution itself requires this. Accelerating development where conditions are most propitious creates beacons of success for the other parts of the country and can catalyse progress in those more challenging districts and provinces by showing that progress, stability and security are possible.
The Government should also give priority focus to creating an enabling environment for private sector development. The Enabling Environment Conference held in Kabul back in June 2007, co-hosted by the Government of Afghanistan, the AKDN, the World Bank, UNDP and ADB, defined a Roadmap of specific, practical actions for private sector and economic and social development, which Roadmap has, I believe, largely been adopted in the Afghan National Development Strategy.
The Roadmap was intended to provide a preliminary framework for engaging the private sector more in impact oriented and effective programmes and for providing concrete regulatory and other conditions to attract and support private investment. Due to constraints within the banking and land registration regulatory frameworks entrepreneurs still have difficulty accessing credit to enable them to transform from micro-enterprises into small and medium-sized enterprises, although it is generally acknowledged that the creation of a solid structure of SME’s underpins most healthy economies. We believe that implementing the priority issues identified in the Roadmap will accelerate existing and unleash new socio-economic growth and development in Afghanistan.
Another concept that our Network is coming to resort to more and more is what we call Multi-Input Area Development (MIAD). Our experience has illustrated to us that when we work simultaneously and synergistically on several fronts (economic, social and cultural), progress on one front spurs progress on the other fronts. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. An example has emerged from our work on restoration and reutilization of historic monuments: while undertaking the restoration work of, say, a monument or an historical building, one can create nearby a minor medical facility, launch educational programmes for adult education, literacy and early childhood education, undertake to improve the infrastructure around that monument, provide microfinance to the local citizens, help them maintain or upgrade their dwelling, and their shops, etc. Such MIADS repeated elsewhere by others, in urban areas as in rural areas, can play a part in overcoming long-standing problems and can have an immediate impact on the quality of life of the citizens benefitting from these MIADS, thus generating greater public confidence in the future and in the inputs which have generated positive change.
Afghanistan is recognised as a regional land bridge, east to west, north to south. However, few tangible projects as yet speak to the realisation of this regional potential. The AKDN, in partnership with the Governments of Afghanistan and Tajikistan and the provincial governments of the Badakhshans of the two countries, has taken a regional approach to health, education, tourism, trade, energy and infrastructure, which has begun to yield tangible improvements in the lives of the local communities. Surely connecting Kabul to China through Tajikistan should open new trade corridors and multiply social and economic fallout benefits for the communities of those areas and thereby for the country as a whole.
How can we link the poor to growth and growth to the poor? There needs to be a willingness to support small-scale and medium-level investments in the short term that may not immediately be considered financially sustainable by conventional measures, but which experience demonstrates are necessary to achieve medium to long-term returns and benefit.
It is our hope that the forthcoming parliamentary elections will be carried out in a climate of peace and with the security and supervisory agencies indeed satisfied that these elections can be carried out peacefully. It is of the utmost importance that in the post-election Afghanistan development should be stimulated and accelerated rather than delayed.
The Aga Khan Development Network remains committed to the stability and growth of this important country and its people and we strongly support a significant acceleration of socio-economic development process. We stand ready to do whatever we can with that objective.
Speech by Prince Amyn Aga Khan at the inauguration of "Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Arts of the Book and Calligraphy", Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul
05 November 2010
Let me begin by saying how happy I am to be back in Istanbul, a city which lies close to my heart and to which I have returned regularly since I was a schoolboy. That, incidentally, in case you had not guessed, was a very long time ago.
Istanbul holds a very special position, both geographically and in the history of world culture. The City has for me a special meaning, too, since historically it has been the bridge between Asia and Europe, between the cultures of the East and the West, between the world of Islam and the non-Muslim world. Istanbul embodies a theme which is of particular interest to me, personally, which is the dialogue of cultures. Whether it occurs along the great trade routes, over land or over sea, or whether it occurs for reasons essentially geographic, this dialogue of cultures has nearly always resulted in an upsurge of creativity, in a continuing cultural renewal.
In my view, this dialogue is more essential today than ever.
I should like also to express my most sincere thanks to the Sakip Sabanci Museum and in particular to the Chairperson of its Board, Ms Güler Sabançi, as well as to Dr. Nazan Ölçer, for hosting this presentation of some of the works from the collection of the future Aga Khan Museum. I am delighted that this should take place precisely this year, when Istanbul is being celebrated as the Cultural Capital of Europe, a distinction which, if I may be permitted to say so, is amply justified.
The Aga Khan Museum, which is currently under construction in Toronto, Canada, is expected, Insh’Allah, to open its doors in 2013. It will be the first museum in North America primarily devoted to Islamic arts and culture with a potential range of visitors stretching from New York, Chicago and Detroit to Vancouver. It is our intention that our museum should play a leading educational role enabling visitors from the area of Toronto and indeed from around the world to discover and to understand better all aspects of Islamic arts and Muslim culture.
The Museum’s collection spans a millennium of Muslim history and I think I can say that it is particularly strong in the arts of the book, in works on parchment and paper. It has been meticulously constituted through a long process of acquisitions made by my brother His Highness the Aga Khan and it integrates the collection of my late uncle, Prince Sadruddin, and his wife, my Aunt Catherine, a collection that is well known and which was the object of exhibitions organized by them some years ago in cities such as London and Geneva. I should like to thank my Aunt Catherine here for her generous donation to the museum of works currently in her home in Geneva, some of which, such as the splendid ceramics with calligraphic inscriptions, you will be seeing today.
In view of Sakip Sabanci’s special interest in the Arts of the Book and Calligraphy, we have decided to focus on these art forms in the exhibition presented here. However, the works on parchment and paper shown here are complemented by a range of objects, metalwork, ceramics, wooden beams, textiles and jewelry, all of which are examples of fine epigraphy, either Qur’anic or poetical. In this fashion, we have sought to create an exhibition that is synergistic with the Sakip Sabanci Museum’s own collection, while simultaneously presenting objects and materials from Islamic cultures, other than exclusively that of the Ottoman world, on treasures from all parts of the Muslim world, from Andalusia to China.
It is my hope that the collection presented here will provide the public with an appreciation of the pluralism of Muslim cultures emanating from different and varied regional and historic aesthetics, some as different as those characteristic of the Mughul Empire or of the Egyptian Fatimids, but that all nevertheless shows the unity of Muslim cultures as well as their pluralism. Unity within diversity. These are essential aspects of the arts of Islam (both the diversity and the unity) which I feel are too often forgotten nowadays, within the Muslim world and outside of it. As the exhibition shows, both the ethic and the aesthetics of Islam are cosmopolitan.
Of particular interest to me is the question of museography: how best to exhibit works on paper and other objects typical of Muslim cultures that originally were destined to be picked up, touched, examined and used but whose fragility now imposes constraints and challenges. I find that the current, “traditional” means of exhibiting such works of art -- untouchable, often almost invisible -- runs in some measure contrary to the essential nature of the objects. I would like to discover a means of exhibiting them which is new and original. This exhibition is one in a series of exhibitions of different works from our collection that have been seen by several hundred thousand people in Italy, England, France, Portugal, Germany and Spain, with more exhibitions to come in the months ahead in the United States, Russia and elsewhere in places such as India, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. It is my hope that all these exhibitions will lead us to identify precisely such an original and new museography to which we can turn when it comes to finishing the proposed Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada.
It is our intention to enter into agreements and to create working relationships with a number of museums and private collections that have distinguished collections of Islamic art, so as to be able, in the years ahead, to put together top flight temporary travelling exhibitions.
To this end, we have already initiated discussions with the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan in New York and others.
This exhibition at the Sakip Sabanci Museum will thus be, I trust, the first step in a durable and continuing cooperation between the Aga Khan Museum and the Sakip Sabanci Museum. I hope that, in the years ahead, we will be able to organize together joint travelling exhibitions and other forms of cooperation destined to bring a greater understanding of the cultural accomplishments of Muslim civilizations and, in so doing, to combat the ignorance that too often surrounds us and that is the father of so much intolerance. Our essential aim should be to underline commonalities and shared heritage as a way of counteracting misconceptions and prejudice.
French Government Bestows Honors for Contributions to Culture
Please also see: Discours de Monsieur Frédéric Mitterrand (English to follow shortly)
His Highness the Aga Khan with his brother Prince Amyn Aga Khan at the Ministry of Culture in Paris after they were decorated for their work in culture. Photo: Farida Bréchemier/MCCHis Highness the Aga Khan with his brother Prince Amyn Aga Khan at the Ministry of Culture in Paris after they were decorated for their work in culture.
Photo: Farida Bréchemier / MCC
Paris, France, 9 November 2010 - The French Minister for Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand, on behalf of the French government, today conveyed honours on His Highness the Aga Khan and his brother Prince Amyn Aga Khan.
Recognising their contributions to culture, both personally and through the various activities of the Aga Khan Development Network, the Minister noted that the promotion of culture had a privileged position amongst all of their multiple activities, because “you are convinced of its importance in the process of improving the quality of life globally”.
Prince Amyn Aga Khan, France’s Minister for Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand and His Highness the Aga Khan at the ceremony in Paris where the Aga Khan and his brother Prince Amyn were recognised for their contributions to culture.<br>Photo: Farida Bréchemier/MCC
Prince Amyn Aga Khan, France’s Minister for Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand and His Highness the Aga Khan at the ceremony in Paris where the Aga Khan and his brother Prince Amyn were recognised for their contributions to culture.
Photo: Farida Bréchemier / MCC
He also paid tribute to their work: “All these initiatives are carried out in line with the attention to perfection that is your hallmark; you apply the criteria of excellence to philanthropy. Your demanding standards are admired. Your hospitals, schools and banks are exemplary models and organisations bearing the name Aga Khan offer a guarantee of quality to all.”
DUSHANBE, April 5, 2011, Asia-Plus -- Prince Amyn Aga Khan, younger brother of His Highness the Aga Khan—founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), arrived in Dushanbe today.
According to AKDN Tajikistan, during his one-day visit, Prince Amyn is reviewing progress of AKDN projects in the country, including the Dushanbe Serena Hotel.
Prince Amyn is a member of the Board of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and is the Chairman of its Executive Committee. AKFED – the economic development arm of the Network, initiates and supports economic development activities in the countries of Africa and Asia. In the late 1960’s he launched Tourism Promotion Services (TPS), which currently operates the Serena Group of Lodges, Resorts and Hotels in Afghanistan, Kenya, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zanzibar.
Five-star Dushanbe Serena property is scheduled to open in the third quarter of 2011. The nine-story hotel will boast 85 rooms including suites, a banquet hall, meeting rooms, restaurants, a bar and lounges, a business centre, a gym and a health club. It will also have 10 serviced apartments and office space to meet the growing demands of expatriate community and multinational organisations based in the city.
The Dushanbe Serena Hotel has been designed by the renowned architects and interior design firm Le Groupe ARCOP based in Montreal, Canada. It follows Serena’s successful design standards reflecting on strong local design features rooted in Tajikistan’s rich cultural heritage enveloped in a modern glass structure. The facility will offer 540 square meters of purpose built meeting and conference spaces for executive board meetings, large banquets and state functions. The hotel’s food & beverage outlets will feature an all-day-restaurant, a tea lounge, a roof-top restaurant and a lobby lounge with a bar. Health-and-leisure facilities consist of an extensive Fitness and Spa Centre including treatment rooms, a roof-top swimming-pool and a car parking.
Over 300 people have been employed during the Dushanbe Serena’s construction phase and it is expected to create some 200 staff positions. At all levels of recruitment emphasis will be placed on hiring staff from the local population. In an effort to develop local management capacity, employees will be given extensive training in hotel management, including on-the-job training in other Serena facilities.
TPS projects strive to contribute to development of tourism infrastructure and hospitality industry in an environmentally and culturally sensitive manner. With the opening of the Dushanbe Serena Hotel, TPS will further enhance its support to Tajikistan by increasing foreign exchange earnings, tax revenue, improving the availability of trained manpower, providing employment to local residents and promoting the indigenous products by training the local vendors etc.
More broadly, by offering high quality accommodations for tourists and business travelers, Serena projects will support Tajikistan’s efforts to become a more viable, friendly and comfortable destination for visitors, which ultimately will translate into improved economic activities in the country.
Prince Amyn Aga Khan to pay visit to Tajikistan
Prince Amyn Aga Khan, younger brother of His Highness the Aga Khan, is arriving in Tajikistan on August 27 for a three-day visit, according to the Tajik MFA information department, Asia-Plus reported.
During his stay in Dushanbe, His Highness will hold talks with a number of high-ranking Tajik state officials and will review some programs of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in Tajikistan, the source said.
Prince Amyn joined the United Nations Secretariat, Department of Economic and Social Affairs following his graduation from Harvard in 1965. Since 1968, Prince Amyn has been closely involved with the governance of the principal development institutions of the Ismaili Imamat. He is a member of the Board of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and Chairman of its Executive Committee. Prince Amyn was also deeply involved in the establishment and the development of the Tourism Promotion Services (TPS). He is also a Director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).
Tourism Promotion Services (TPS), an affiliate of AKFED, seeks to develop tourism potential in underserved areas such as Tajikistan. Operating under the "SERENA" brand name, TPS hotels enjoy an established reputation for the highest standards of comfort, service and product, with over 34 properties in nine countries in Africa and Asia. Each Serena property is carefully built to harmonize with local culture and heritage and to reflect the architectural styles of the region so that it promotes awareness of these elements amongst travelers.
Dushanbe Serena Hotel followed Serena’s successful design standards reflecting on strong local design features to uphold Tajikistan’s rich cultural heritage enveloped in a modern glass structure. The hotel has been designed to act as both a social and business hub. Dushanbe Serena Hotel will offer 540 square meters of purpose built meeting and conference spaces for executive board meetings to large banquets and State functions. Health-and-leisure facilities consist of an extensive Fitness and Spa Centre including holistic treatment rooms, a roof-top swimming-pool and car parking for all its valued guests.
This world-class hotel will promote tourism, commercial and urban development in Tajikistan.
Your Excellency the Minister of Solidarity and Social Security,
Your Eminence the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon,
Your Excellency Mr. Jorge Sampaio
Distinguished members of Parliament,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour and pleasure to be here in Lisbon today. We all feel particularly graced by the presence of Dom Jose Policarpo who has been such a formidable ally and friend of the Aga Khan Foundation in Portugal. Your Eminence, thank you for presence and your kind words.
My brother His Highness the Aga Khan, whom I represent today, has asked me to convey his deepest appreciation to Your Eminence for your continued support.
The renewal of the partnership agreement between the Patriarchate of Lisbon and the Portugal chapter of the Aga Khan Foundation represents yet another milestone in the long-standing relationship that the AKF, the wider Aga Khan Development Network and indeed the Ismaili Imamat have enjoyed with the Patriarchate of Lisbon, as well as the secular institutions of this country.
The focus of our joint efforts to date has been on helping those who face poverty as well as economic and social exclusion. The initiative, as many of you know, involves 20 entities associated with the Catholic Church that have been traditionally involved in alleviating poverty and assisting those in need. The noble tradition of helping the less fortunate has also been interwoven into the history of the Ismaili Imamat and its institutions worldwide.
In determining the best way to alleviate social exclusion, we found that providing training and increasing the beneficiaries’ ability to help themselves is crucial in allowing those on the margins of society to break the vicious circle of poverty.
This effort is especially important in the current environment of economic crisis which has had a particularly adverse effect on those in need. Unemployment is rising as companies lay off workers to reduce costs and weather the economic storm. New job opportunities are scarce and we need to look closely at the skills and competencies of those socially and economically excluded to help them find employment in sectors such as catering, care for the elderly and other services that are much in demand.
This is why we greatly appreciate the invaluable support of Portugal’s Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity and its Employment and Professional Training Institute which provided vital training to beneficiaries which includes Portuguese language instruction for immigrants, basic literacy and numeracy, training; family budgeting, and vocational skills acquisition.
Even though it is still too early to assess the impact of our joint efforts, we have already learned that, above all, we must be able to listen in order to better respond to the needs of the more than 500 families we already serve and the ones we will assist in the future.
As we look to the future, the area that stands out as particularly important is that of early childhood development and education. Very young children that are provided with the building blocks of knowledge and learning at an early age have been shown to be more successful at navigating the difficult paths of adolescence and early adulthood.
This is why the Aga Khan Foundation’s Childhood Development Program, its Early Childhood Centre in Lisbon and its two affiliates outside the capital are intensifying collaboration with the institutions of the Catholic Church in providing training to early childhood educators. We are also working with other important partners, including the University of Minho.
Finally, while focusing on the youngest members of society we may also look in the future at helping those who are more vulnerable because of their advanced age, by partnering on community based interventions that promote conviviality, lifelong learning, physical activity and civic engagement. These people have, for the most part, gained considerable experience and expertise; we should take advantage of that experience and of that expertise, and involve them in community actions that allow them, in my view, to return to the community, what they have received from the community.
Your Eminence, allow me to thank you again for your support which has been instrumental in allowing our partnership to flourish. My gratitude also goes to late Dom Tomás Nunes the Auxiliary Bishop of Lisbon who has done so much to move our work forward.
Prince Amyn and Singapore Minister open Aga Khan Museum exhibition
The exhibition of items from the Aga Khan Museum Collection runs from 19 July – 28 October 2012 at the Asian Civilisations Museum. Photo: AKDN / Alex Moi
Singapore, 18 July 2012 — Prince Amyn and Singapore’s Minster for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, opened a new exhibition titled Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum today.
The exhibition, which runs from 19 July – 28 October 2012 at the Asian Civilisations Museum, follows the theme of similar exhibitions staged in St. Petersburg and Kuala Lumpur, but introduces innovations including five-metre-high reproductions of details from miniatures, an iPad-driven interactive display that allows visitors to create geometric artworks typical of Islamic art, and a 15th / 16th century muqarnas mounted over a mirror that enables viewers to examine the architectural element in a new way.
“Islamic Architecture is one of the most visible aspects of Islamic culture,” said Dr. Alan Chong, director of the Asian Civilisations Museum. He hoped that “visitors will gain new insights into the history and creativity of the Islamic world.”
Since 2007, items from the Aga Khan Museum collection have been exhibited at key museums in Europe and Asia, drawing over 1.5 million visitors. The collection will later go on permanent display at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada.
» AKDN press release
» AKDN photo gallery
Posted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:50 pm Post subject: Wikileaks email on Dushanbe Serena
Reference id aka Wikileaks id #54733  ?
Subject Tajikistan: Aga Khan Serena Hotel Probably Down The Tubes -- "who Wants On 'old-shoe Hotel'?"
Origin Embassy Dushanbe (Tajikistan)
Cable time Wed, 1 Mar 2006 09:03 UTC
Referenced by 06DUSHANBE607
Time unknown: Original unredacted version, leaked to Wikileaks
Thu, 1 Sep 2011 23:24: Original unredacted version published, with HTML goodies
VZCZCXRO2886 PP RUEHDBU DE RUEHDBU #0402/01 0600903 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 010903Z MAR 06 FM AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6839 INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC PRIORITY 0082 RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 1415 RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 1456 RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 1445 RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 1396 RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 1342 RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1412 RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1370 RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1307 RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1215 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE RHMFISS/HQ USSOCOM MACDILL AFB FL RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 1449 RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 1496 RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0996 RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY 0789 RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 7958
Hide header C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 DUSHANBE 000402 SIPDIS SIPDIS STATE FOR SCA/CEN, EB NSC FOR MILLARD, MERKEL E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/1/2016 TAGS: PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], ECON [Economic Conditions], EINV [Foreign Investments], TI [Tajikistan] SUBJECT: TAJIKISTAN: AGA KHAN SERENA HOTEL PROBABLY DOWN THE TUBES -- "WHO WANTS ON 'OLD-SHOE HOTEL'?"
CLASSIFIED BY: Richard E. Hoagland, Ambassador, EXEC, Embassy Dushanbe. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) ¶1.
(C) SUMMARY: Prince Amyn Aga Khan visited Dushanbe February 24 to break ground for the long-awaited Dushanbe Serena Hotel. Instead, President Rahmonov and Dushanbe Mayor Obaidulloyev, improbable allies for once, probably broke the project for good, on camera. Although this appears to be high-handed, authoritarian, capricious idiocy at its worst, it may conceal deeper political and financial intrigues on several levels - as well as arrogant idiocy. END SUMMARY. BACKGROUND
¶2. (C) At least four years ago, Prince Amyn Aga Khan personally negotiated the purchase of a prime piece of real estate in the heart of historic downtown Dushanbe (allegedly for at least $1 million) to be retrofitted and rebuilt as Tajikistan's first international-class hotel. (COMMENT: Four years ago, $1 million in Dushanbe would have been significant money. Now, it's smaller change. END COMMENT.)
¶3. (U) The Aga Khan Serena hotels are known internationally for especially sensitive contextual architecture and first-rate management and provision of services. The property Prince Amyn bought was the "Old Shoe Factory," a long-abandoned Soviet enterprise, the fagade of which is a near-masterpiece of Art Moderne architecture on the half mile of lower Rudaki Avenue that has perhaps the finest intact assemblage of restrained neo-classical and modernist Soviet architecture in the entire former Soviet Union, a stretch of avenue that would be a prime candidate for historic-district designation and, thus, a tourist magnet in any other part of the world. Nearby buildings include the Soviet neo-classical National Museum, old Central Bank headquarters, the original National University building, the National Library, the Opera House, several ministries, the retrofitted Turkish Embassy, and the Parliament and Foreign Ministry.
¶4. (U) During a February 28 introductory call by new Resident Coordinator of the Aga Khan Development Network Munir Merali, the Ambassador asked him to comment on the press report (para 14 below) in which President Rahmonov allegedly "expressed dissatisfaction with the architect's activity" and demanded a new plan for the hotel.
¶5. (C) Obviously distressed, Merali explained that renowned Indian architect Ramish Kosla had, after prolonged debate with the Dushanbe City Architect's office, produced a design that would preserve the street-front fagade of the building and plug in a non-obtrusive mostly low-rise, multi-bloc 180-room hotel behind the fagade. "HRUMPH! WHO WANTS AN OLD-SHOE HOTEL?"
¶6. (C) During the February 24 public ceremony to reveal the final plan, Dushanbe Mayor Obaidulloyev circled the maquette and architectural renderings for 15 minutes without saying a word until President Rahmonov arrived with TV cameras in tow. With cameras rolling, Obaidulloyev turned to Rahmonov and said, "Didn't you tell me you wanted all these worthless old buildings torn down and replaced with modern architecture with a minimum DUSHANBE 00000402 002 OF 004 of seven stories? Look at this! They want to preserve the Old Shoe Factory! Why do we want to remember that? Even if they built it, we'd always call it the 'Old Shoe Hotel'!" "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR [BLEEPED] MINDS?"
¶7. (C) Reportedly, Rahmonov, possibly taken off guard, ad libbed his diatribe against the plan. Prince Amyn, himself an architecture aficionado, was scandalized, and began to argue his vision for the entire avenue from an esthetic viewpoint. Merali said he whispered to the prince that he shouldn't dispute with such senior authorities on camera. Merali mused to the Ambassador, "Why should we build them an anonymous Holiday Inn piece of crap? That's not what Aga Khan Serena does. It wouldn't be financially viable, especially with the glut of international hotels planned for Dushanbe. We'll probably drop the project and try to sell the land." COMMENT
¶8. (C) There are probably multiple layers of political, financial, and inter-personal intrigue at work here. Obaidulloyev and Rahmonov, to say the least, are no great friends or even political-allies-of-convenience. Although once considered a bitter and dangerous Rahmonov foe, Obaidulloyev has reportedly lost some of his invincible mafia-don-like clout since his protector and financial compadre, General Gaffur Mirzoyev, was arrested in August 2004. To maintain political stability, Rahmonov may tweak Obaidulloyev in public but has never been known to out-right contradict him. To do so could be interpreted as the beginning of the end of Obaidulloyev, and in a presidential election year Rahmonov probably does not want to risk that real political struggle.
¶9. (C) Rahmonov has never before gone on the record against old Dushanbe's historically significant architecture, especially the important assemblage along lower Rudaki. But we know that Obaidulloyev has long harbored a desire to tear down the old and replace it with the kinds of frou-frou pastiches that pass for contemporary architecture in Moscow and Astana. The first example in Dushanbe, now under construction, is the informally named "Luzhkov Complex" (named for Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov who is thought to be financing it) on Rudaki, a block from the neo-classical parliament building and across the street from the Bauhaus-style Old Philharmonic, currently retrofitted as the headquarters for Safina TV, Tajik State TV's new cultural channel.
¶10. (C) Some have speculated that Rahmonov may have sided with Obaidulloyev on this one for an entirely different reason - his visceral reaction against the power of the Aga Khan Ismailis in Tajikistan. The eastern half of the country, Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, is historically an Ismaili preserve, and the Aga Khan is revered there as a sovereign. Tajikistan has allowed the Aga Khan network almost quasi-governmental status there because it essentially provides the lion's share of all development and even basic social support to the Pamiri people of Badakhshan. In Dushanbe, Aga Khan is building a luxurious Ismaili Center, one of only two currently under construction in the world, and has just concluded negotiations to construct an office tower and "representational complex" adjacent to Oriyon Bank, the "first-family bank," on Rudaki. The current conventional political wisdom is that no one dares challenge the political power of the "Khan of Tajikistan," and Rahmonov instinctively may have decided to side with Obaidulloyev - not DUSHANBE 00000402 003 OF 004 to support Obaidulloyev, but to demonstrate his own political power vis-`-vis the Ismailis.
¶11. (C) There is yet another possible explanation. The (Basic Element-RusAl-Russian Hotels) Oleg Deripaska-financed Hyatt Regency, about to break ground for construction, is widely believed to be a first-family Oriyon Bank co-project with Deripaska. Some speculate that the Rahmonov family interests do not want the internationally recognized Serena chain to compete with what in a sense will be the first-family five-star hotel. The intriguing, as-yet-unanswered question is how Rahmonov-Deripaska got Obaidulloyev to cede the Hyatt building site in a major city park - nothing happens in Dushanbe without Obaidulloyev's personal stamp of approval.
¶12. (C) It is a great shame that a Serena Hotel will now likely never be built in Dushanbe. But had it been, it would have faced an irrational glut of competition from current or planned five-star projects. The ones under construction are an Indian project on Ayni Avenue (at the site of the former Infectious Diseases Hospital) that will be a hotel and convention center, Deripaska-Oriyon Bank's Hyatt Regency Hotel and Spa for which Obaidulloyev ceded half of Komsomolskiy Park for the complex, and a rumored Turkish venture that will cover a full city block on Rudaki across from the Opera House in one direction and the "Luzhkov Complex" in the other direction.
¶13. (C) Two and a half years ago when the Ambassador first advocated in a public forum for an international-class hotel to accommodate international investors, Obaidulloyev threatened to sue him if he ever again said such a thing in public. It now appears that Dushanbe will soon enough have a surfeit of five-star hotels. Of course, international business is rife with towering and often eccentric egos, like Obaidulloyev and Rahmonov. However, bottom-line analysts and squint-eyed business sense usually temper the most irrational excesses. But, apparently, not yet in Dushanbe. END COMMENT.
¶14. (U) BEGIN TEXT OF PRESS REPORT: [Headline] Rahmonov criticizes SERENA hotel construction project DUSHANBE, 24 Feb - Avesta /N. Pirnazarov/. - SERENA hotel construction project was presented Friday in Dushanbe. Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov, Dushanbe Mayor Mahmadsaid Ubaidullaev and Prince Amin Aga-Khan have attended the ceremony. Architects from Aga-Khan Foundation have presented the project and a model of the future hotel to the president. According to the project, the future hotel will consist of three buildings: one two-story, one four-story and one nine-story building. There will be a banquet hall, business-center and three conference halls in the hotel. Several cafes will be built around the periphery of the building. Presidential apartments and first-class rooms will be located at the second floor. According to the project, the construction will be launched this year. The first stage of the project will last till 2008. On the completion of the first stage the hotel will seat 90 guests and the number of seats is expected to be increased up to 150 in the future. The project costs $25 million. Tajik President has expressed dissatisfaction with architects' activity and terms of the project. "You have to elaborate a project that would be suitable for us," he said. "The first building should have seven floors. This is our position." There is a mistaken belief that Dushanbe located in seismically dangerous area, he said. This is not true and we are going to DUSHANBE 00000402 004 OF 004 build several 26-storey houses in the city. Rahmonov expressed dissatisfaction with the elevation of the third building of the future hotel. "Two years ago we allocated a very good land for the construction of the hotel in central Dushanbe," he said. "The terms are too long. This should be a hotel, not a king's palace." The construction of another two hotels, both will seat 450 and 250 guests, will be launched in Dushanbe in March. Both hotels are expected to be commissioned within one year, Rahmonov said. END TEXT. HOAGLAND
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