Swiss embassy celebrates 40 years of development cooperation with Egypt

Hagar Omran
13 Min Read

Switzerland’s embassy in Egypt is celebrating 40 years of successful bilateral economic and developmental cooperation with Egypt this year. The theme of the embassy’s celebration event of the Swiss national day will be highlighting this kind of cooperation.

Daily News Egypt exclusively received a document upon request from the Swiss embassy in Egypt clarifying all the details of the developmental and economic cooperation between both countries.

Across the Mediterranean Sea, Switzerland and Egypt share common interests in securing peace and development for all in the region, the document said, adding that given Egypt’s importance for stability and prosperity in north Africa and the Middle East, Switzerland supports Egypt’s ambitions to build accountable and transparent institutions that provide services to its citizens, guarantee human rights, and encourage participation.

In 2011, in response to the popular call for reforms, Switzerland launched a comprehensive programme on democratic processes and human rights, economic development, employment, migration and protection, the document clarified.

Seven years later, while transition processes followed different paths in north Africa, Switzerland remained committed to accompanying all Egyptians in their efforts to build the future of their country. Switzerland’s Cooperation Strategy for north Africa 2017-2020 includes Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, the document stated.

Switzerland endorses the vision that a vibrant civil society, innovative entrepreneurs, and sound state institutions contribute to the stability and prosperity of Egypt.

Switzerland supports Egypt’s 2030 Vision

With the 2017-2020 Cooperation Strategy, Switzerland continues to support Egypt’s comprehensive reform agenda as set out in the 2030 Egypt Vision. The Cooperation Strategy is implemented by the Swiss embassy’s Office for International Cooperation.

The strategy builds upon earlier achievements related to the overall goal of supporting Egypt’s transition in its political, economic, and social dimensions toward an inclusive, resilient, and accountable state and society.

Switzerland supports the rights of migrants and refugees in Egypt to receive protection and services. The Swiss embassy has been playing a key role in supporting the efforts of Egypt in this domain.

As a part of its overall engagement in north Africa, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Directorate of Political Affairs (DP) and its Human Security Division (HSD), the Directorate for International Law (DIL) and the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) are pooling their resources and knowhow to jointly implement the strategy 2017–2020.

As young women and men are playing a key role in shaping tomorrow’s Egypt, Switzerland will give special attention to their needs and aspirations. Switzerland also aims to contribute to enhanced cooperation at the regional level and promote exchanges among north African countries with selected regional programmes in the areas of culture, civil society support, economic cooperation, and migration.

The Swiss embassy firmly believes that with the goals and activities outlined in the 2017–2020 strategy, Switzerland contributes to the sustainable and inclusive development of Egypt and make a difference in the lives of the people in Egypt.

Egypt is the most important export market for Switzerland in Africa

In addition to shared political, economic, security, and migration interests, Egypt is the most important export market and third biggest trade partner for Switzerland in Africa. An open and conducive trade regime is very important in this regard. Switzerland values its 40-year cooperation with Egypt which has contributed to enhancing the inclusiveness of economic growth and improving the living conditions of Egyptians. As a long-standing dialogue partner with a strong relationship, Switzerland remains committed to bilateral cooperation relations with Egypt. In a region facing increasing challenges, Egypt is a key regional player in areas such as peace and security, economic development and migration management. It is a reference point for political approaches, economic policies and the development of the judiciary on the African continent, in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. As a regional actor, Egypt focuses on sustainable access to the Nile water, a key and scarce resource for the country.

Three key domains of the cooperation strategy

Over four years, Switzerland and Egypt continue to focus their cooperation on three domains over the cooperation strategy which are the support of the democratic processes and human rights, inclusive sustainable economic growth and employment, and protection and migration. The embassy of Switzerland in Egypt works with state institutions, civil society, and the private sector to enhance their collaboration toward implementing effective participation, transparency and accountability measures in the country, the document mentioned.

Priorities of democratic process and human rights’ domain

The document said that priorities of the democratic process and human rights’ domain are working with state institutions, academic institutions, and civil society to support cooperation mechanisms between the state and society.

This domain’s priorities also include sharing Switzerland’s expertise in building networks and convening dialogue in order to encourage citizens’ participation in the decision-making processes. The embassy also supports the State Council of Egyptian in automatizing its workflow and case management system over this domain. The document added that priorities of this domain include supporting the Nile Project, a musical experiment that promotes regular residencies with musicians from Nile Basin countries, as well as workshops and concerts. Building a realm of common cultures between citizens from the Nile Basin countries to share cultural practices and to foster and share local experiences with sustainable management practices for their common ecosystem,; fostering communication between informal community leaders in Nile Basin countries through cultural and educational activities and dialogue is one of this domain’s priorities. Switzerland also supports processes for eased access to information on policy and legislative decisions for citizens. Priorities also include building the capacities of civil society to engage with the state on issues crucial to Egyptian citizens. Engaging with state organisations and civil society to support the establishment of human rights policies are also part of this domain’s priorities. Partners of achieving the goals of this domain are the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the Egyptian Parliament, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), the Nile Project, the State Council of Egypt and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Priorities of inclusive sustainable economic growth’ domain

For over 40 years, Switzerland has been investing in economic development in Egypt. In line with the Egypt Vision 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, the focus has been on economic growth and employment, the document said.

The embassy of Switzerland’s Office for International Cooperation works on a number of challenges that Egypt’s economy is currently facing, among them high poverty rates, high unemployment rates (especially among youth), poor access to basic infrastructure and services, low participation of women in the workforce, and slow economic transformation, the document added. Priorities of this domain are delivering basic services such as water, waste water, and solid waste management. Priorities also include supporting comprehensive urban development, contributing to a balanced spatial development, management of land and resources, contributing to environmental resilience, providing institutional capacity building and technical assistance, contributing to policy dialogue, and empowering communities and raising awareness. The embassy of Switzerland’s Office for International Cooperation boosts the national and international competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), engages in skills’ development, facilitates market access for SMEs, provides institutional capacity building and technical assistance, and empowers communities.

The embassy of Switzerland’s Office for International Cooperation pays attention to improving the business climate in Egypt through supporting regulatory, institutional, and legal reforms that promote a more conductive, inclusive business environment and investment climate as well as reforms that promote financial inclusion. The embassy of Switzerland’s Office for International Cooperation also supports regulatory, institutional, and legal reforms that promote macroeconomic stability and improved public financial management, and provides institutional strengthening and capacity building. Switzerland supports inclusive financial services such as: access to finance, financial product diversification, and financial education, and it also provides the needed technical assistance.

Main partners of this domain are Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit

(GIZ), Holding Company for Water and Wastewater and its Affiliated Companies, International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Labour Organization (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Jesuits and Brothers Association for Development and Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW).

Priorities of migration and protection domain

Switzerland supports the rights of migrants and refugees in Egypt to receive protection and services and has been playing a key role in supporting the efforts of Egypt in this domain, as a country of origin, transit, and destination of asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants. During the period of 2011-2016, the embassy of Switzerland’s Office for International Cooperation provided protection services to approximately 20,000 vulnerable individuals in Egypt. Swiss-funded interventions helped improve the livelihoods of 45,000 refugees and migrants in the country during the same period, primarily through the provision of basic services such as psychological, health, social, and legal support in in addition to the creation of work opportunities. The embassy of Switzerland’s Office for International Cooperation improves self-reliance and socio-economic resilience of vulnerable groups through the creation of income-generating activities and micro-finance, entrepreneurship training and skills’ development for better access to livelihood opportunities for vulnerable groups at risk of irregular migration. The embassy of Switzerland’s Office for International Cooperation assists Egypt in implementing its National Strategy 2016-2026 on combating smuggling and preventing irregular migration, supports the implementation of Law 82 for 2016 on Combating Illegal Migration and Smuggling of Migrants.

Thanks to the efforts of this domain, protection services have been provided for over 20,000 individuals between 2011 and 2017, around 1,322 small grants have been disbursed to refugees to establish start-up businesses, 60% of small grant beneficiaries were female and 350 women received sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) protection services through the secondment of a Swiss expert at UNHCR. The embassy of Switzerland’s Office for International Cooperation creates diverse activities that promote coexistence between refugees and their host communities in Egypt and among the refugees themselves. It also improves access of vulnerable migrants to basic services through the provision of basic protection services such as psychological, social, and legal support as key interventions to assist vulnerable migrants and refugees and supporting efforts of the Egyptian government and civil society to provide sustainable and effective services to migrants. On this domain, Switzerland cooperates with national and international partners to achieve aimed goals. The partners list includes CARITAS, the Center for Development Services (Gozour), El Mahroussa Center for Socio-economic Development, the International Catholic Relief Services, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

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