Foreign aid to focus on knowledge and training
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) says knowledge is the key to improving people’s lives in developing countries.
It has made access to information and training its main objectives for 2004.
“Knowledge is the most important motor in all development,” said SDC Director Walter Fust at the agency’s annual media conference in Bern on Tuesday.
He said that in all its activities, the SDC intended to make its partners and the public aware of this fact.
“Knowledge is essential if people are to take their futures into their own hands and to improve their lives by their own efforts.”
Fust also outlined the future of development cooperation with Eastern Europe and the priorities of SDC activities in 2004.
Fust presented projects from Tanzania, El Salvador and Albania to show how sustainable progress can be made through the application of knowledge.
In Albania, where the official unemployment rate is given as 20 per cent but is probably closer to 40 per cent, the SDC supports an education project for the young unemployed.
A variety of courses allow participants to acquire knowledge in skilled trades at a reasonable price and greatly improve their chances on the labour market.
Within six months of completing the courses, more than 80 per cent of participants were making a living.
Meanwhile, a project in El Salvador has contributed to efforts to reduce the negative effects on the poor of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and floods.
Local peoples’ knowledge about nature has been combined with the latest scientific risk analysis methods to develop a prevention and reconstruction programme.
Following the general withdrawal of the pharmaceutical industry from the field of malaria research, the SDC and other donor agencies created a new kind of structure to advance research and development of urgently needed anti-malarial drugs.
Medicines for Malaria Venture brings representatives from the private and public sector together in an innovative partnership.
“The SDC has always seen as one of its most important tasks promoting and facilitating access to information and knowledge and their application,” said Fust.
“Besides bilateral and multilateral programmes, this occurs through efforts to strengthen institutional and technical networks in Switzerland and abroad.”
In the next seven years, some 30 per cent of SDC employees will retire. Fust said it was vital that their accumulated experience was not lost to the agency.
He also stressed that aid organisations from different countries needed to improve the sharing of expertise.
“I think it’s important in development cooperation to include more partners, in order to share knowledge and to complement it, to bring better solutions, and to use available finances better.”
He added that the SDC’s programmes were geared towards implementing the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
He said other priorities were the legal and financial reorganization of Swiss cooperation with Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and continuing development cooperation with Bolivia, Nepal and Georgia.
SDC employs 500 people to carry out its activities in Switzerland and abroad.
It has an annual budget of SFr1.2 billion ($970 million).
About 800 development projects are in operation around the world.
The Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit undertook 361 missions in 2003.
In Eastern Europe and the CIS, 160 projects are supporting the transition to democracy and a market economy.
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