Mountains get government spotlight
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has chosen mountainous areas and the problem of sustainable development as its central theme for the year 2002.
At a press conference in Bern on Thursday the director of the Swiss agency, Walter Fust, outlined the key objectives for 2002. Development cooperation in mountain areas, the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the Congo and northern African countries were top priorities, he said.
Fust said the Swiss development role will be particularly important in the mountains in 2002 and will focus on armed conflict prevention in central Asia. The scope of cooperation can be exemplified by the impact of the Swiss role played in Nepal, he said.
The Swiss have been involved in Nepal for the past 40 years and have helped turned the destruction of natural resources in Nepal into sustainable development, Fust said.
"This can be attested by the increase of forest surfaces, decreases in erosion and the improvement of the living conditions of the population", he said.
Afghanistan is also a top priority for development aid in 2002. Fust, who recently returned from a donors conference for the reconstruction of Aghanistan in Tokyo, said the confederation will donate between 30 and 35 million francs to aid the reconstruction of Afghanistan over the next few years.
"A liaison office will be established in Kabul in February" he said. A SADC employee will start work there as soon as February the 11. Until now Swiss aid has been coordinated from Islamabad, Pakistan.
Fust said Switzerland will donate 1.2 million francs for the victims of the Nyiragongo volcano in the Republic of Congo.
The money will be used to bring medical help and supplies to the more than 300,000 inhabitants of Goma.
Much of the city was destroyed earlier this month when a 30-metre flow of lava from the exploding volcano cut the town in half.
Fust also said the ongoing violence in the Palestinian territories and Israel makes the job of aid workers increasingly frustrating and dangerous. The difficult situation was highlighted in December when the Israeli army destroyed the statistics office of the Palestinian Authority. Switzerland had helped set up the office and provided logistical support.
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