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Swissaid launches power-to-the-people campaign

Swissaid wants to empower people in developing countries

The Swiss private development aid organisation, Swissaid, has launched a new campaign to highlight the contribution made by individuals who succeed in improving their own and others' lives in the face of adversity.

Swissaid says that without people who show courage and determination against intransigent or bad government, development would remain a dead letter in many parts of the world.

The Bern-based organisation says its long-term objective is to empower people at the grassroots level in developing countries so that they do not become dependent on outside help, either from foreign countries or from their government.

Werner Küng, spokesman for Swissaid, says this is also the message of its current campaign, whose title loosely translates as "do not be afraid of big shots".

"The message is that ordinary people such as us need not be afraid of the powerful, because democracy and civil society can only be built when they take initiatives and develop their own projects even in the face of hurdles placed in their way," he said.

The success of the campaign is crucial for Swissaid, whose annual budget depends heavily on the generosity of the Swiss public. The government's Development Agency provides two-thirds of the funding, but its contribution depends on how much Swissaid raises itself.

Last year's budget of about SFr7.5 million ($4.5 million) enabled Swissaid to fund more than 200 projects in the nine countries in which it is active.

It spent an average of SFr74,500 on each one last year. Küng says the organisation is able to keep the figure low by working exclusively with local partner organisations.

by Malcolm Shearmur


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