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Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) Wins Gold Award at World Habitat Awards 2020



Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) Wins Gold Award at World Habitat Awards 2020
AKAH geologists and community volunteers measuring crevasses on a glacier, Shimshal. AKAH’s technical teams and community volunteers monitor glaciers and glacial lakes to advise communities on disaster risk.

The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) won the World Habitat Awards 2020 Gold Award today for its “Integrating Indigenous Knowledge and Technology for Safer Habitat” project.

In the winning project, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat in Pakistan pioneered the use of Hazard Vulnerability and Risk Assessments (HVRAs), which integrate science, technology and local knowledge for disaster risk management and sustainable habitat planning and development.

Reflecting the importance of this work, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, Chair of AKDN’s Environment and Climate Committee, said “For decades the AKDN has been working with vulnerable communities to improve quality of life and reduce disaster risk. Today in the face of the climate crisis, understanding and mitigating these risks is even more urgent. Only by helping these communities adapt and thrive in harmony with their often-precarious habitat can we hope to mitigate the effects of climate change.”

AKAH’s technical experts conduct hazard vulnerability and risk assessments using satellite data and geographic information system technologies together with participatory on-site assessments to help communities understand, map and plan for the risks they face.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, said: “UN-Habitat commends “Integrating Indigenous Knowledge and Technology for Safer Habitat” because of its community-based planning and risk management approach, integrating local knowledge. This is very much in line with UN-Habitat’s belief that when developing, formulating and implementing tools, policies and programmes, we should place people at the centre of our thinking and action.”

One of the judges of the award, Leilani Farha, Global Director of The Shift, former UN Special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said: “This project, led by the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Pakistan, is the embodiment of a human rights approach to climate change adaptation policies. This novel project manages to combine indigenous knowledge, community involvement and technological advancements to ensure resilient, sustainable communities capable of living in dignity, security and peace amidst the rising threat of climate-induced disasters.”

Ghulam Murtaz, Glacial Lake Outburst Flood Survivor, Badswat. If disaster strikes, the hazard maps also show where it is safe to evacuate and relocate displaced people. For families whose homes are damaged or lost, AKAH provides emergency winterized tents and transitional shelters and as well as support for more permanent housing.

The project combines local and scientific knowledge in order to assess hazards, map risks, determine residential and economic zones, and develop disaster management and habitat plans. AKAH geologists use remote-sensing and geographic information system (GIS) technologies and risk-scoring tools, combined with participatory risk assessment and community knowledge, to develop plans for safer habitats.

Nawab Ali Khan, Chief Executive Officer, of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) in Pakistan, said that, “Winning this Gold Award is an honour for AKAH and gives us added motivation to do more for building safer communities and safer habitats. We at AKAH value the trust and engagement of the communities and volunteers we work with and the support of our local and international donors and partners who believe in our work integrating emergency planning and preparedness and habitat planning for climate change adaptation in Pakistan”.

In Pakistan, AKAH conducts HVRAs – for nearly 800 settlements that cover over one million people – with robust risk mapping and monitoring capacities and development planning. The Agency has also provided technical assistance on safer and greener home improvements to more than 20,000 households while constructing over 4,000 shelters for internally displaced people. AKAH has also trained over 50,000 local volunteers in Pakistan in community-based disaster risk management. The volunteers have responded to over 200 disaster events.

Jamal Khan, volunteer caretaker of a Flood Early Warning System in Sherquilla. AKAH installs early warning systems and community-managed weather monitoring posts in the most vulnerable areas.

Onno Rühl, General Manager of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, “Our mission is to empower communities living on the frontlines of climate change to not only survive but thrive despite the
growing risks they face. Integrating deep community engagement with scientific data, we help
communities understand and manage disaster risk to be able to plan for a better future. We
are honoured by the recognition of the World Habitat Awards and proud to promote solutions
that help vulnerable communities adapt to climate risk.”


The World Habitat Awards is an international charity dedicated to finding, supporting, sharing and celebrating projects related to housing that can have an “overwhelmingly positive impact on individuals, families and communities”. It posits that housing is a basic right. Its World Habitat Awards – organised in partnership with UN-Habitat – “recognise and highlight innovative, outstanding and sometimes revolutionary housing ideas, projects and programmes from across the world”.

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The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat works to ensure that the places people live are as safe as possible from the effects of climate change and natural disasters while also helping them to be prepared to cope with and respond to disasters that do strike. Beyond safety, AKAH aims to ensure people have access to services and opportunities to improve their quality of life.

Established in 2016, AKAH combines several agencies and programs of the AKDN that had been working on housing, habitat, and disaster preparedness and relief since the 1990s in South and Central Asia, including Focus Humanitarian Assistance, the Aga Khan Planning, and Building Services, and the Disaster Risk Management Initiative.

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Trushna Torche /

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