Switzerland plans to allocate an average of CHF30 million ($31.5 million) a year towards humanitarian aid and development programmes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory for the 2014-17 period. This support will include projects to promote peace in the region.
“Switzerland is very committed to help the occupied Palestinian territories,” Manuel Bessler, head of the foreign ministry’s Humanitarian Aid Unit, told swissinfo.ch on the sidelines of an international conference in Cairo on the reconstruction of Gaza.
“Our support and our programme has different aspects. There is governance, there is education, there is support for health structures, so we try to cover different areas of needs,” he said on Sunday.
“We try with our limited means to cover areas that are important for the civilian population. Of course also promotion of peace, promotion of better respect of international humanitarian law, in the hope to contribute to lasting peace in the region.”
Bessler also voiced concerns about the repeated conflicts in the region and offered his condolences to the families of its many victims. Switzerland is calling on all the parties involved to break the vicious circle of violence so that the Palestinian and Israeli populations can live in security and dignity.
“It was two weeks ago that I was in Gaza and saw for myself first of all the human suffering, the large scale of destruction, and the loss of hope in the eyes of the population,” he said, adding that “it is important to provide humanitarian assistance, to relieve the suffering, to work with our partners on the ground in order to ameliorate the living condition of the Gazan people”.
According to the foreign ministry, the key areas for action include local governance, promoting the rule of law, economic development, and support to humanitarian organisations such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Programme.
This year, Switzerland has also allocated more than CHF4 million in response to the humanitarian crisis created by the conflict in Gaza.
The foreign ministry also stated that Switzerland supported the Palestinian reunification process in its role as facilitator based on a mandate from the Palestinian National Consensus Government and in consultation with all stakeholders.
The aims of this facilitation are to defuse the payment crisis for civilian employees in Gaza in the short term with a long-term goal of public sector reform in Gaza and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
swissinfo.ch and agencies