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Pledge to Sudan comes with conditions

Fighting in Sudan's western Darfur region is still causing victims Keystone Archive

Switzerland has promised $75 million (SFr89.5 million) towards rebuilding war-torn Sudan, but says that funding depends on the outcome of the Darfur crisis.

The deputy director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Remo Gautschi, told swissinfo that Khartoum still needed to make progress on human rights.

The pledge was made at an international donor conference in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, as part of a concerted effort to help Sudan.

The Sudanese have asked for $2.7 billion in aid over the next three years to reconstruct the north and the south of the country, while the United Nations has called for another $1 billion in immediate aid this year.

The north and the south were devastated during a civil war that lasted more than two decades and claimed around two million lives.

Also discussed was the implementation of a peace deal signed in January between Sudan’s government and separatists in the south. But fighting continues in the western region of Darfur, where the government is accused of supporting militias who commit human rights abuses.

swissinfo: What exactly has Switzerland pledged?

Remo Gautschi: We have promised $75 million over the next three years. This means there will be around $25 million to assist all regions of Sudan, including Darfur.

swissinfo: How is this money to be used?

R.G.: It will be divided into different components. First of all, we will continue to support ongoing humanitarian aid, but we will try to move into longer-term projects concerning health, such as clean water and veterinary care, which is one of our specialities.

We also want to help build up institutions. The south – and hopefully Darfur at some point in time – is preparing to set up a new political and administrative structure which is based on power-sharing. Some of the funding will also go to the United Nations mission in Sudan.

swissinfo: The SDC wants to move away from humanitarian aid in Sudan towards development cooperation. Why change the focus at this time?

R.G.: We basically have peace in southern Sudan. Hopefully, this means long-term development. But we won’t move from one day to the next towards development cooperation. We still need to transform our humanitarian aid into longer-term projects before switching our focus.

swissinfo: Will you also consider development cooperation in Darfur?

R.G.: We will concentrate on the south for the time. The issue of Darfur could not be avoided at the donor conference, but discussions centred on the implementation of the peace accord in southern Sudan. This means that for the time being we will not be running cooperation projects with the Sudanese government in Darfur, but concentrating on the south.

swissinfo: The SDC normally only runs cooperation projects in countries where progress has been made towards the respect of human rights. Given the situation in Darfur, isn’t it premature to consider implementing such projects in Sudan?

R.G.: It’s not contradictory. We said at this conference that we were prepared to put money on the table to help implement the peace accord and rebuild southern Sudan, but we also said that Khartoum had to deal seriously with the situation in Darfur.

The Sudanese authorities have promised to do so and we can honestly not wait any longer to help the south of the country. Optimists here at the conference have also said there may be a similar accord for Darfur by the end of the year.

swissinfo: As a donor, will Switzerland be putting extra pressure on the Sudanese government to improve its human rights record?

R.G.: We put the money on the table on the condition there would be improvements on the Sudanese side. We are not alone in doing this. The international community is acting the same way in a very coherent, coordinated fashion.

However, our contribution is dwarfed by the $2.7 billion needed by Sudan, so our leverage is limited.

swissinfo: Many countries have already pledged funds for Sudan. Do you believe this money will actually be forthcoming? Promises of aid after the Asian tsunami did not always materialise…

R.G.: One of the slogans of this conference was “cash, not pledges”. Most of the donors have given guarantees that money will be paid out. Promises are carefully monitored now and donors are held to account for their pledges.

The failure of some governments to follow through on their pledges after the tsunami was widely discussed and people realise they have to keep their promises.

swissinfo: Sudan owes Switzerland SFr160 million. There has been talk of rescheduling that debt. Wouldn’t it be simpler to cancel it given how unlikely it is that the Sudanese will pay it back?

R.G.: If you want to discuss a country’s debt today, there has to be an internationally coordinated initiative. None of the major creditor nations is prepared to unilaterally cancel or reschedule Sudan’s debt. It is necessary to ensure that a majority of creditors are prepared to consider this before launching talks.

swissinfo-interview: Scott Capper

Sudan has requested $2.7 billion aid for the next three years.
The UN said another $1 billion was needed for emergency aid in 2005.
Donors pledged $4.5 billion at the conference in Oslo.
Switzerland has promised $75 million for the 2005-2007 period.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR