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Latest News May 23, 2017

May 23, 2017

news From All Africa

  • Press Release on the Launch of the FAO-EU Funded Project, “Promoting Women and Community Rights in Forest Governance and Management in Liberia”

    Liberia hosts the largest remaining fragments of the Upper Guinea forest ecosystem across West Africa. Reform initiatives have led to policies and legislations to strengthen legal frameworks governing forestry and advance community rights and ownership. Liberia also signed and begun implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union in December 2013, committed to improved forest governance and poverty reduction. The forestry sector in Liberia therefore has a huge potential for transforming communities. However, gender inequalities across the sector and country in general challenge the fulfilment of this promise. This unequal status of women limits meaningful participation in community forest governance bodies. In general, decisions are often made by male-dominated structures and issues paramount to women such as sexual and reproductive health rights and services and gender based violence are relegated further increasing the marginalization of women from community to national levels. Therefore, women participation is necessary to ensure an inclusive community management and governance in Liberia.

    ActionAid Liberia in partnership with Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) and Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI) is proud to announce the launch of a project, “Promoting Women and Community Rights in Forest Governance and Management in Liberia” which is being implemented with funding support from the European Union (EU) through the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). This project seeks to enhance the capacity of women to meaningfully participate in forest governance and management and promote a gender and participatory process for inclusive natural resources governance and management. The project will provide evidence based documentation demonstrating critical need for inclusion of women in forest governance and management and promote gender-sensitive forest governance and management at community and national engagements. The project will also ensure that women have the increased confidence, knowledge and enhanced economic independence needed to claim and exercise their rights to govern and manage forest resources and benefits at community and national levels. The project will also contribute to the assessment and monitoring of the Liberian VPA impact on gender relations and gender-related livelihoods opportunities. The project is being implemented over a nine month period in 10 communities in five counties, including Grand Gedeh, Gbarpolu, Nimba, Grand Bassa and Margibi.

    ActionAid Liberia, SDI and FCI would like to express its sincere gratitude to the donors FAO and the EU as well the Government of Liberia and communities for making this intervention a reality through their different levels of support. 

    Distributed by APO on behalf of Delegation of the European Union to Liberia.

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  • Equatorial Guinea’s Bioko Oil Terminal Regains Momentum after Agreement with Arabian Energy

    Following the signing of an agreement between the Government of Equatorial Guinea and Arabian Energy DMCC to work together on the Bioko Oil Terminal in Saudi Arabia, the realization of the petroleum tank farm gained some important momentum. On May 11, the two sides agreed to collaborate on the development, implementation, construction and financing of the $500 million project. Bioko Oil Terminal aims to become West Africa’s largest oil and petroleum products storage facility and will transform Equatorial Guinea into a pivotal trading and services hub in the region.

    “The Bioko Oil Terminal is a first of its kind storage facility for West Africa and would bring to the region energy security and transport economies of scale and efficiencies like we have never been before,” said H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea. “We welcome the addition of Arabian Energy and look forward to working together to move this project into realization.”

    Bioko Oil Terminal brings several advantages for the region. It creates an African center for the distribution of petroleum products and crude oil and would stimulate the West and Central African industry through job creation and the reduction of imports. The tank farm would attract investment, build local financial capacity and increase shipments to key exports markets.

    With 22 storage tanks and a total capacity of 1.2 million cubic meters, Bioko Oil Terminal would be built in two phases, the first consisting of refined production and the second capable of storing, handling and blending middle distillates and lights ends such as diesel, jet fuel, gasoline and naphtha, as well as crude oil. The shared terminal infrastructure will be operated on a “first come, first served” basis.

    To learn more about the country’s investment opportunities and the Equatorial Guinea-Saudi Arabia Economic Forum, please visit www.InvestInEG.com

    Distributed by APO on behalf of Equatorial Guinea-Saudi Arabia Economic Forum.

    Media contact:
    Aydanur Akkurt
    Media Coordinator
    SaudiArabia@InvestInEG.com 
    +27 76 586 7717

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  • U.S. Ambassador Launches 2017 School Net Distribution Campaign

    U.S. Ambassador Robert P. Jackson launched the 2017 Primary School Insecticide-Treated Nets distribution campaign today at the Southern LEKMA Cluster of Schools in Accra. Ambassador Jackson joined officials from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health, representatives from the health and education sectors, and primary school teachers and children at the event, which celebrated the beginning of a U.S. government-supported campaign to distribute 1.3 million nets to Grade 2 and Grade 6 students throughout Ghana.

    The U.S. government has supported this campaign, in partnership with the Ghanaian government, since 2013. It is part of the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which is led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Through PMI, the U.S. works with more than 200 partners across Africa to prevent, treat, and ultimately stamp out malaria through four proven and highly effective strategies: distributing and promoting the use of insecticide-treated nets, supporting communities to spray the interior walls of their homes with long-lasting insecticides, promoting the use of preventative treatments for pregnant women, and training and equipping health practitioners to diagnose and treat the disease. In Ghana, PMI works closely with the Ghanaian government and aligns its goals with those of the Ghana National Malaria Control Program.

    At the launch, Ambassador Jackson said defeating malaria would save lives and stimulate global economic growth. He stressed that the disease could be stopped. “Not many people realize it, but not that long ago, large parts of the United States were plagued by malaria. In the 1940s, the U.S. government established The National Malaria Eradication Program, which used similar strategies to those we use today. That program was successful: America permanently eradicated malaria in 1951,” he said. “I believe, if we all work together, we can do the same in every corner of the world.  The main point is, we can stamp out malaria for good,” he said. 

    President George W. Bush launched this initiative in 2005. In the past 12 years, deaths from malaria have been slashed in half, from more than 800,000 a year to about 400,000. In Ghana, all-cause mortality of children under five has decreased by 46 percent during this time.  

    Distributed by APO on behalf of Embassy of the United States – Accra – Ghana.

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  • Sudan / Human rights: UN expert calls on the Government to adopt urgent democratic reforms

    The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, has called on the Sudanese authorities to undertake democratic reforms as a means for ensuring the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.
     

    “I remain concerned about a number of human rights issues in the country which are still largely unaddressed since my last visit in February this year,” Mr. Nononsi said at the end of his follow-up mission to the Sudan from 11 to 21 May.
     
    “I am aware of incidents of what appear to be harassment and arrests targeting representatives of civil society organizations,” the expert noted. “I urge the Sudanese authorities to release Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam and Hafiz Idris, as I believe that they are being held solely for their legitimate work with UNAMID staff on protecting and promoting human rights in the Sudan.”

    In this context, the Independent Expert encouraged the Government to consider amendments to the Sudan Voluntary and Humanitarian Works Act of 2006, which regulates NGOs, to bring it in line with the Interim National Constitution and international human rights standards.

    During his eleven-day mission, Mr. Nononsi stressed the need to ensure the protection of the freedom of religion in the Sudan, with particular reference to the demolition of churches and places of worship by the national security services.

    “The national security services have been used to intimidate as well as arrest or detain Christian religious leaders,” the human rights expert stressed. “I have raised this issue in my discussions with government officials as a legitimate concern, which the Government of the Sudan needs to pay attention to, in view of the importance of the freedom of religion in a democratic society.”

    The Independent Expert also expresses concern about ongoing censorship of newspapers, and increased restrictions on journalists from freely expressing their opinion.

    He denounced, in this regard, the National Intelligence and Security Service’s decision to ban from writing an Aljareeda newspaper’s columnist since December 2016, which contravenes the Interim National Constitution of Sudan and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which the Sudan is a State party.

    “In my meeting with the Legislative Committee of the Sudan Parliament, I received assurances that the process for the amendment of the National Security Act and Criminal Act will be completed with a view to ensuring their compliance with international standards,” he said.

    “I am of the view that bringing the powers of the National Intelligence and Security Service in line with international standards – a governmental body operating as an intelligence agency focused on information gathering, analysis and advice to the Government – will help improve the human rights environment in the Sudan,” concluded Mr. Nononsi.

    During his fourth visit to the country, the UN human rights expert met with the Sudanese authorities, civil society actors, academia, community leaders, members of the diplomatic corps, and UN entities in Khartoum and Blue Nile.

    The Independent Expert on Sudan will present his findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2017.

    Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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    United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
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  • PEACE HACK MENA Kicks Off in Alexandria, Egypt

    Alexandria, Egypt hosts PEACE HACK MENA, a five-day international initiative that is taking place from the 21st-25th of May, 2017, where peace innovation ambassadors are utilizing the power of innovation hubs across the MENA region as tools for open dialogue revolving around building and sustaining peace.

    The objective of PEACE HACK MENA is to explore alternative forms of peace talks that ultimately harness the power of technology, innovation and youth entrepreneurship. The initiative acts as a platform that aims to recognize the role of technology in creating valuable networks of collaboration essential in today’s human interaction, one that presents vast opportunities for innovative solutions in the context of co-existence and peace building.

    Across the event’s packed five days, the 15 selected peace ambassadors from 11 countries in the MENA region – namely The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, France, Tunisia, Palestine, Egypt, Jordon, Libya, Morocco and Lebanon – are participating in networking events and open space discussions, attend workshops by leading speakers, while also kicking off their days with activities aimed to stimulate creativity and innovation such as yoga and energizer sessions. Participants are exploring the notion of actively looking for the added value created by innovation hubs, makerspaces and co-working spaces in developing social innovation and promoting peace building. The peace ambassadors are also partaking in visiting some of the Mediterranean city’s iconic touristic landmarks, while the last day will mark The HACK 4 PEACE Public Event with the Alexandrian community. Javeria Rizvi Kabani, Deputy Director, Swedish Institute Alexandria states, “Based on the power of collaboration and networks we wanted to bring young innovators together to search for new ways of reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) and the UNSCR 2250 resolution, recognizing youth as agents for peace.”

    The event is organized by The Swedish Institute Alexandria, icealex innovation hub and Global Shapers Alex Hub and is supported by numerous organisations and initiatives such as SI. (Svenska Institutet), Techne Summit, GIG (Global Innovation Gathering), RiseUp Summit and r0g_agency. Among the hubs that participants will be contributing through are Women Leaders in Technology, Refugee Youth Forum and Think Tank Egypt. The list of international speakers includes Chidiogo Akunyli from the World Economic Forum, Carolina Olsson from Ebbepark and Rasha Tantawy from Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. Says Kabani, “I am very excited about PEACE HACK MENA because we believe that there is room for engaging social entrepreneurs and innovation hubs that co-work to create social innovation and peace building while familiarizing the civil society and tech industry with makers, innovators and social entrepreneurs involved.”

    PEACE HACK MENA takes place in the premises of The Swedish Institute Alexandria, icealex innovation hub, as well as other venues across Alexandria, Egypt.

    Distributed by APO on behalf of Peace Hack Alexandria.

    For further information please contact:
    Farida Ashraf, Farida.Ashraf@Markade.agency
    Javeria Rizvi Kabani, Javeria.R.Kabani@gov.se 
    Ahmed Bastawy, A.Bastawy@icealex.com 
    AbdelRahman Gafaar, AbdelRahmanGaafar@gmail.com 

    About The Swedish Institute Alexandria (SwedAlex): 
    SwedAlex (www.SwedenAbdroad.com/alexandria) is a dialogue institute under the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs promoting peace and pluralism through dialogue and build networks between the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. 

    About icealex: 
    icealex (www.icealex.com) is a community driven technology innovation space and part of the international network iceHubs Global, supporting innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship. 

    About Global Shapers Alex Hub: 
    Global Shapers Community (www.GlobalShapers.org/hubs/alexandria) is a youth led network with the goal of initiating innovative solutions and triggering positive change in Egypt with global repercussions.

  • GE joins Women in Global Health Movement to celebrate exemplary women leaders in global healthcare

    The Women in Global Health (WGH) Movement honored Kenya’s Mercy Owuor of Lwala Community Alliance alongside 12 other women at the movement’s “Heroines of Health” gala event that took place last evening in the Swiss Capital Geneva, on the margins of the ongoing World Health Assembly.

    WGH is a movement that strives for greater gender equality in global health, and is dedicated to empowering female leaders of today and improving the global health of tomorrow [1]. It is recognizing Mercy for her role in the “help a child reach their 5th birthday” initiative that is championed by the Lwala Community Alliance initiative. This initiative strives to extend clinical services and community outreach efforts to children under the age of 5 in order to reduce under-5 mortality in the community by 64% [2].

    Mercy Owuor is the community programs director for Lwala Community Alliance in Migori, Kenya, where she oversees the Kenya program team, leads and directs the execution of the annual program plan. Lwala Community Alliance is a community-led innovator, tackling the multidimensional drivers of poor health. It works with primary care facilities and the communities to drastically reduce maternal and child mortality in western Kenya, by tackling the key drivers of deaths – unplanned pregnancies, mother-to-child transmission of HIV, poor prenatal care, unskilled deliveries, poor clinical practices, lack of emergency transport, and delayed treatment of childhood illnesses [3].

    In 2016, the Alliance was selected as one of the 17 Social Enterprises (http://APO.af/t7sHuF) that took part in the Healthymagination Mother and Child Program, an accelerator initiative of GE Healthymagination (www.GE.com/about-us/healthymagination) and the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship (www.SCU.edu/MillerCenter). Designed to equip the participating social enterprises to scale up their businesses and attract additional investment, the program involves a three-day, in-person workshop, followed by a six-month online accelerator program that included weekly, in-depth mentoring from Silicon Valley-based executives who themselves have undergone rigorous selection and training as social entrepreneur mentors at the Miller Center, as well as GE business leaders. Participating social entrepreneurs get to acquire business fundamentals, improve their strategic thought processes, and articulate a business plan that demonstrates impact, growth and long-term financial sustainability.

    “We are thrilled for Mercy and for the Lwala Community Alliance for this well-deserved recognition” said Robert Wells, Executive Director, GE Healthymagination. “We believe that social enterprises such as these are a key part of the formula that is required to innovatively and sustainably bring quality care to communities in otherwise underserved areas. It is for this reason that we launched the healthymagination Mother and Child programme to equip amazing individuals such as Mercy that are striving to increase the quality, access and affordability of maternal and child health in sub-Saharan Africa”

    As one of the key partners of the WGH movement, GE Healthcare actively supports its’ vision to elevate and support the role of women in healthcare, whilst creating gender responsive leaders in global health.

    “Mercy, together with her colleagues at Lwala, has dedicated her life to work within her community to bring accessible and innovative healthcare delivery solutions that not only address care, but also prevention and healthy behavior. She is indeed a great ambassador for the many women leaders in Africa and the world over, that are striving to serve the 5.8 billion people with little to no access to quality healthcare,” said Terri Bresenham, President and CEO, Sustainable Healthcare Solutions, GE Healthcare. “At GE, we are very proud to be associated with the Women in Global Health Campaign and its’ amazing honorees, and look forward to continuing to partner with them for a healthier world.”

    [1] Women in Global Heath. Available from www.WomenInGH.org/about. Last accessed May 2017.
    [2] Lwala Community Alliance, Programs. Available from http://LwalaCommunityAlliance.org/programs/health. Last accessed May 2017.
    [3] Lwala Community Alliance, Impact Report: Maternal and Child Health, 2016. Available from http://APO.af/675JlY. Last accessed May 2017.

    Distributed by APO on behalf of GE.

    Media contact:
    Annette Mutuku
    Culture Communication Leader, Africa
    GE Global Growth Organization 
    E: Annette.Mutuku@GE.com
    T: +254204215109

    About GE’s Healthymagination:
    GE is challenging the status quo of global healthcare quality, access and affordability to bring better health to more people. Healthymagination is an innovation catalyst for global health challenges. It means healthy people, healthy communities, healthy employees and innovative tools for better healthcare. We draw on our people, technical expertise and global scale to address the world’s biggest health challenges. We continuously develop and invest in innovations that deliver high-quality, more affordable healthcare to more people around the world. For more information about GE Healthymagination, visit www.GE.com/about-us/healthymagination.

    About GE Healthcare: 
    GE Healthcare provides transformational medical technologies and services to meet the demand for increased access, enhanced quality and more affordable healthcare around the world.  GE (NYSE: GE) works on things that matter – great people and technologies taking on tough challenges. From medical imaging, software & IT, patient monitoring and diagnostics to drug discovery, biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies and performance improvement solutions, GE Healthcare helps medical professionals deliver great healthcare to their patients. For more information about GE Healthcare, visit our website at www.GEhealthcare.com. 

    About Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship:
    Founded in 1997, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University in California. Miller Center accelerates global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. Its strategic focus is on poverty eradication through its three areas of work: The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI), Impact Capital, and Education and Action Research. To learn more about Miller Center or any of its social entrepreneurship programs, visit www.SCU.edu/MillerCenter.

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  • On the International Day for Biological Diversity UNWTO announces a training on tourism and biodiversity in West and Central Africa

    The Convention on Biological Diversity of the United Nations has chosen ‘Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism’ as the theme for the International Day for Biological Diversity, celebrated today 22 May 2017. On this occasion, UNWTO is launching a capacity building programme on sustainable tourism and biodiversity protection, to be implemented in West and Central Africa.

    The programme will build on previous tourism and biodiversity seminars that UNWTO successfully delivered in The Gambia, Ghana, and Tanzania and will address biodiversity conservation and environmental protection, taking into account the importance of this topic to safeguard future opportunities for local people to generate income from sustainable tourism development.

    The seminars to be held staring June 2017 will focus on building capacities of tourism stakeholders and on maintaining and improving the quality of the tourism product to enhance client satisfaction in the following countries: Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea (Conakry), and Niger.

    Primary beneficiaries of the capacity building programme are tourism employees and small entrepreneurs at the grass root level who will be encouraged to act as champions for biodiversity conversation and environmental protection in their enterprises and communities. 

    The contribution of tourism to conservation is increasingly recognized by the international community. The Cancun Declaration on Mainstreaming the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity for Wellbeing was released on the occasion of COP 13, (the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity) held in Mexico last December. The Declaration recalls that “tourism is an excellent vehicle to use in spreading environmental awareness worldwide, not to mention the livelihood support it provides for communities living in and around reserves and natural areas” and recognises that tourism can be an enabling agent of change.

    Through these training seminars, UNWTO continues its long-standing work in strengthening capacities of tourism stakeholders in gaining a better understanding of the relationship between tourism and environmental protection, developing tourism products based on the unique biodiversity in a destination and using tourism development as an incentive to invest in biodiversity conservation and environmental protection.

    Distributed by APO on behalf of World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

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  • IMF Reaches Staff-Level Agreement on a Second Staff-Monitored Program with Somalia
    • IMF staff welcomes the authorities’ continued commitments to policy and reform implementation despite daunting challenges
    • The Somali authorities and the IMF reach a staff-level agreement on the completion of the second and final review of the Staff-Monitored Program (SMP) and on a second SMP
    • The IMF welcomes the authorities’ continued progress on currency reform

    An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team led by Mohamad Elhage visited Nairobi, Kenya from May 15-19 to conduct discussions on the second and final review of the SMP and a follow-up SMP. The team met with the Somali authorities to discuss the latest economic developments and review implementation of reforms under the SMP.

    At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Elhage issued the following statement:

    “In February 2017, the IMF Executive Board concluded the second Article IV Consultation with Somalia since 1989. At the same time, Somalia also completed the first review of the SMP, marking another important milestone in normalizing relations with international financial institutions. This SMP had been approved by the IMF’s Managing Director at the request of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) on May 27, 2016 (See Press Release No. 16/248). Cementing a further step toward normalization, in early February 2017, the Somali people held their second democratic and peaceful election since the end of the civil war, sending a strong, positive signal to the international community. We are encouraged by the pace of reforms to restore key economic and financial institutions, and welcome the authorities’ commitment to the reform agenda under the SMP.

    “For 2016, the impact of the drought on economic activity was offset by strong performance in the telecommunication, construction, and service sectors. Economic growth is estimated at 3.2 percent. Due to higher food prices, inflation increased to 2.3 percent from 1.4 percent in 2015. For 2017, as the drought is expected to continue, growth is projected to decelerate to about 2.0 percent, and inflation to increase to above 3 percent. Government budgetary revenue and grants fell short of program projections in 2016, leading to liquidity strains and accumulation of arrears. The authorities took corrective measures to prevent new arrears starting in 2017.

    “Performance under the SMP is broadly satisfactory, especially in light of the difficult domestic environment. By the end of 2016, all but one of the structural benchmarks had been observed and five out of the six indicative targets had been met. The target on new domestic arrears accumulation was breached and revenue performance was weak. For March 2017, all the quantitative targets and structural benchmarks were met. The authorities are encouraged to speed up and deepen agreed reforms, particularly by passing the needed laws such as the Communication Act.

    “With the SMP having expired in April, the authorities requested a follow-up SMP to continue supporting macroeconomic stability and capacity development. Discussions on the new SMP followed the recent London conference on Somalia, during which donors reaffirmed their support, noting the successful election and progress on reforms, while also stressing the urgent need to further improve governance, and advance and broaden reforms. The authorities have updated their memorandum of economic and financial policies (MEFP) for 2017-19, in which they outline important reform agenda.

    “To reach their economic and financial goals, we believe that it is essential that the authorities’ policies include the following structural measures:

    • Continue to develop capacity and institutions. Despite recent progress, capacity to manage economic policies remain low and institutions are still weak. The IMF will continue to provide the authorities with the needed technical assistance and training in its areas of expertise.
    • Implement a sound fiscal framework and advance public financial management reforms. Prudent budget preparation, renewed efforts to generate higher domestic revenues, and improved cash management and expenditure controls will improve budgetary execution and outturns.
    • Increase domestic revenues. Broaden the tax base and enforce efficient collection of taxes and customs, based on existing laws.
    • Jump start financial sector activity. Develop and implement a financial sector roadmap to address obstacles to increased financial intermediation. Improve the financial sector regulatory framework and enforcement mechanism. In this context, expanding the regulatory umbrella to the mobile money sector will be essential. We welcome the authorities’ continued progress on currency reform.

    “During the visit, the team met with Central Bank Governor Mr. Bashir Issa Ali; Senior Advisor to the President’s office Mr. Balal Osman; Representative of the Prime Minister’s office Mr. Abdi Abdullahi; and other officials. The team also discussed the MEFP with Finance Minister Mr. Abdirahman Duale Beileh.  In addition, the team met representatives from development partners. The team would like to thank the Somali authorities for their cooperation and the open and productive discussions.”

    Distributed by APO on behalf of International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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  • Swiss-Rwandan relations enter a new phase: development through vocational skills training and multilateral cooperation

    “Today’s meeting is an opportunity to review the situation and open up a new phase in our countries’ relations”. This proposal made by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter was welcomed by Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo during their official meeting in Bern. Specifically, the two ministers decided to expand relations in areas of shared interest, in particular at the multilateral level and in conflict prevention. They also reviewed priorities in the field of development cooperation, giving greater importance to vocational skills training, access to water, and good governance in the Great Lakes region, which also includes Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After the talks, the Swiss and Rwandan ministers signed an aviation agreement.

    Rwanda has developed into an important economic and political player in recent years. In addition, it has become a stabilising factor in the troubled Great Lakes region. For this reason, the two states’ efforts at the multilateral level to strengthen stability, security and peace were a focal point of the talks between Mr Burkhalter and Ms Mushikiwabo, which took place in Von Wattenwyl House. The head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and his Rwandan counterpart agreed that conflict prevention is of key importance. Rwanda supports the initiative launched by Switzerland that aims to promote closer cooperation in the area of conflict prevention between the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the Security Council in New York. Mr Burkhalter and Ms Mushikiwabo discussed concrete steps to help contain or prevent conflicts. Topics discussed in the context of the two countries’ activities at the multilateral level included the abolition of the death penalty and the work of the Human Rights Council, of which both Switzerland and Rwanda are currently members. 

    Mr Burkhalter and Ms Mushikiwabo agreed that countries that are non-aligned and well connected as are Switzerland and Rwanda can mediate at the international level between groups taking different positions, and promote dialogue, and in this role carry out an important function. In this context, Ms Mushikiwabo welcomed the profile, as bridge-builder, on which Switzerland’s candidature for the UN Security Council is based.

    The new phase in relations between Switzerland and Rwanda that Mr Burkhalter and Ms Mushikiwabo ushered in today provides for new impetus at the bilateral level. Vocational skills training is to become a new priority of the countries’ development cooperation with the aim of opening up new opportunities and prospects for the people of Rwanda. Switzerland will increase its support in this area as part of its new strategy for the Great Lakes region (Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo). In this context, five training centres will be established in close cooperation with the Rwandan government to train masons, electricians, carpenters, welders, plumbers, mechanics, and hotel professionals.

    Furthermore, the new strategy gives priority in Rwanda to improving infrastructure, especially access to drinking water for the population, to creating a transparent system of tariffs, and to focusing more closely on governance, in particular encouraging civil society and independent media.

    The ministers also discussed developing closer political and economic relations between the two countries. In this context, they signed a bilateral aviation agreement. After the meeting, Ms Mushikiwabo travelled to La Chaux-de-Fonds to visit companies active in coffee production. 

    Distributed by APO on behalf of The Federal Council, Switzerland.

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