In remarks made at an International Conference under the theme “Supporting Syria and the Region Conference”, in London, England, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, today called for the establishment of ‘islands of stability’ in war-ravaged Syria that could provide areas of relative safety in the midst of conflict. The conference, co-hosted by Germany, Kuwait, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United Nations. was attended by representatives from sixty countries, including 30 world leaders.
“The situation in Syria is a close to hell as we are likely to find on this earth,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Referring to the Geneva meeting between the Syrian Government and the opposition parties that had broken down just a day earlier, he said the talks were “undermined by the continuous lack of sufficient humanitarian access, and by a sudden increase of aerial bombings and military activities within Syria”. He urged the warring sides to “get back to the table, not to secure more gains on the battlefields”.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that “if ever there was a moment to take a new approach to the humanitarian crisis in Syria surely it is now,” mentioning the huge number of Syrians who “fear they have no alternative than to put their lives in the hands of evil-people smugglers in search of a future”.
The following are the transcript and video of the remarks made by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference.
Co-hosts of the Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank the co-hosts for organising this much-needed initiative to deepen the understanding of, and garner international support for the peoples of Syria, Alongside all those present here today, I am deeply distressed over the indiscriminate and widespread devastation of life and property, including that of irreplaceable cultural assets which are the manifestation of Syria’s stunningly rich pluralistic history.
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), which is the Ismaili Imamat’s global agency for supporting development, is fully engaged with the peace process under UN leadership, and is firmly committed to helping build a Syria that continues to respect pluralism, remains secular, and embarks on a political process led by Syrians.
AKDN’s development and humanitarian work in Syria began many years before the war. In the present situation, we have committed resources and efforts to ensure that Internally Displaced People receive humanitarian assistance, and are supported to sustain their livelihoods. We are taking two approaches:
First, we are supporting local community leaders, teachers, doctors, engineers and others to foster stability, protecting their families and their communities. We are thus building and strengthening civil society to take as much responsibility as possible for their own future.
Second, we are investing in communities, by supporting agriculture, income generation, early childhood education, schools, and hospitals. We also provide vocational training to create skills. Our goal is to sustain hope.
We aim to meet the urgent needs of the present, but where also possible to protect and strengthen the foundations for the future. We seek to create “islands of stability”, where there is public consensus, in the face of war. It is my conviction that “islands of stability” can be replicated wherever security permits. Investing in them will help prevent displacement of people and anchor communities that would otherwise flee as refugees.
Since the onset of conflict in 2011, AKDN has dedicated $50 million towards these endeavours in Syria and is now committing to increasing this investment to $200 million over the next four years. Our efforts will expand to wider areas of the country. Our goal is peace, stability, and reconstruction.
Date posted: February 4, 2016.