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Swiss aid focuses on Peru

Half of Peru's population live beneath the poverty line.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation chose Peru as guest of honour at its annual conference.

The one-day meeting, which took place in Zurich, focused on providing new opportunities for Peru’s poor.

Participants heard that, despite a relatively stable economy, half of Peru’s population live beneath the poverty line, while one fifth exist in conditions of extreme poverty.

The Swiss foreign Minister, Joseph Deiss, said that only a coordinated international development policy could reduce poverty in Peru.

“While development cooperation programmes with Peru must be coherent with those of other international partners, they must also be in line with the course set by the Peruvian government,” he added.

“This coordination work must be and is supported by the United Nations representation in the country.”

Switzerland and the UN

Deiss said that Switzerland’s entry into the UN, which takes place on September 10 2002, would allow it to strengthen its commitment to development policy.

The minister told the conference that the UN was “a tool that will allow us to define and put into action ways in which we can fight poverty,” because the UN coordinates the different parties working in development.

Deiss also welcomed the collaboration of the UN programme for Peru with the Peru’s transitional government, in place since the departure of former president Alberto Fujimori.

The UN programme has been working on reducing corruption and rebuilding the judicial system.

Deiss added that efficient cooperation between Swiss and Peruvian authorities and Swiss legislation against money laundering had facilitated the restitution of funds in the Montesinos affair.

Emphasis on clean water

Switzerland has been providing aid to Peru for 35 years, and the Swiss Development Agency’s budget for the country currently stands at SFr15 million francs annually.

One quarter of that figure is spent on projects to provide clean water. At the moment it is estimated that 60 per cent of Peruvians do not have access to safe water sources, a situation which contributes to a high infant mortality rate.

The SDC is also committed to promoting small businesses, particularly in the rural and mountain regions.

Support for aniseed farmers

A project which has already proved successful involves helping Peru’s aniseed farmers get fair prices for their crops.

The region of Curahuasi produces some of the world’s best quality aniseed, but until recently farmers there were unable to sell their crops at realistic prices because they had no access to information from the markets.

Instead unofficial dealers from the cities bought the crops at well below the market rate. But following the introduction of an SDC supported programme, with a computer and a direct telephone line to crop markets in Lima, the farmers are now getting a fair price for their aniseed.

Trade links important

The annual conference also included representatives from the Swiss state secretariat for economic affairs. In 2001 Switzerland had trade links worth SFr82 million with Peru.

Speakers at the conference reflected the importance of the trade ties: Silva Ruete, Peru’s minister of economic and financial affairs, made a keynote speech.

And workshops focused on the ways in which small businesses could provide a route out or the poverty trap.

Five year plan

Switzerland’s aid to Peru is now firmly committed for the next five years. Once again the focus will be on clean water, vocational training, and support for local enterprise. Each project’s aim, as the conference stressed, is to combat poverty and provide new opportunities for Peru’s poor.

swissinfo, Imogen Foulkes

Switzerland has been providing aid to Peru for 35 years.
Half of Peru’s people live beneath the poverty line.
One fifth live in conditions of extreme poverty.
60 per cent of Peru’s people have no access to clean water.
Swiss aid to Peru is SFr15 million francs annually.
25 per cent of that aid is invested in clean water projects.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR