Swiss reaffirm support for North Korea and Ivory Coast

The Swiss foreign ministry issued fresh warnings about the need to find solutions for Ivory Coast and North Korea, as well as Iraq.

This content was published on February 4, 2003 - 16:53

Walter Fust, director of the Swiss government's Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), said Ivory Coast was especially in need of international attention.

Speaking at the SDC's annual conference, Fust said he feared that any deterioration in the African nation's civil war would trigger a refugee crisis of "unimaginable proportions".

Neighbouring African states, such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, would all be heavily burdened by an exodus of refugees.

For Switzerland - which works with all four countries - any crisis would add to its humanitarian workload and put an added strain on its asylum system, already the subject of bitter political debate at home.

Fust added that Switzerland also remained committed to assisting North Korea, where it has been providing mostly agricultural aid since 1995.

Last year, the Swiss government sent the Communist nation some SFr4 million ($2.94 million) in aid.

Economic impetus

Fust said a key aim of the SDC was to improve economic conditions in poorer countries in order to dissuade people from seeking refuge elsewhere.

And while the amounts were often small when broken down into national projects, Fust cited schemes which had made a definite impact on peoples' lives.

For instance, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Switzerland supports an independent radio station - Radio OKAPI - designed to build trust and understanding among the country's war-weary population.

In some of the poorest parts of Lima, the capital of Peru, thousands of youths have been given job training.

While in southeast Europe, Fust continued, the agency was helping to reform justice systems and police forces to create more effective and fair civil institutions.

The SDC contributed SFr865 million to bilateral and multilateral projects in 2001.

Some 41 per cent of bilateral aid went to Africa, 38 per cent to Asia and 21 per cent to Central and Latin America. Mozambique, Tanzania, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bolivia were among the main recipients.

swissinfo with agencies

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