Breathing new life into the legacy of past civilisations calls for a creativity, imagination, tolerance, understanding, and wisdom well beyond the ordinary. The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme (AKHCP), established in 1992, implements conservation, urban revitalization and area development projects in historically significant sites of the Islamic world undertaking the restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures and public spaces in ways that spur social, economic and cultural development. Its projects seek to mobilize local potential and resources in order to ensure their eventual self-sustainability through operational income, human resource development and institutional management capabilities. Through this integrated approach, the Programme seeks to demonstrate that strengthening cultural identity can go hand in hand with socio-economic progress.
Going beyond mere restoration of monuments, the Programme engages in activities related to adaptive re-use, contextual urban planning and the improvement of housing, infrastructure and public spaces. It carries out related socio-economic development initiatives directed at upgrading local living conditions and improving quality of life.
Investments in single project locations or regions are coordinated with other Aga Khan Development Network programmes so that they reinforce each other as they grow together into a critical mass for positive change. In all project locations, community participation and training of local professionals are essential components.
The movie, Afghanistan: Hope Takes Root, presents the conservation and cultural work of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) since it became active in Afghanistan in 2002. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Afghanistan designs and implements cultural heritage and restoration projects to promote Afghan culture and makes historical sites, landscapes, and residential quarters safe and usable. To date, AKTC has restored over 145 individual heritage sites, ensuring their continued use by future generations and helping to preserve Afghan cultural identity. These projects, undertaken in coordination with local communities, are a means to invest in access improvements, infrastructure upgrading, and vocation training, which contribute to improving quality of life and socio-economic opportunities for local residents.
Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage is in danger of being cast aside in the race to modernity after years of war. Far more than a programme of historic preservation, the work of AKDN in Afghanistan has sought to contribute to the lasting redevelopment of the economy, society and culture of the country. In this context it is important to ensure that the rich pluralism of Islam within Afghanistan is respected, and sustained for the peace and serenity of all Afghans, as we work together to improve the quality of life for the people of this country and this region, and for generations yet unborn. Just as fear can be infectious, so is hope.