Switzerland Resumes Support for Cooperation Projects in Eritrea
Jan 24, 2020: Switzerland will resume its cooperation with Eritrea in a new three-year phase. The allocated CHF 6 million will be used to improve vocational skills development. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) took this decision on the basis of the findings and recommendations of an external evaluation commissioned by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) at the end of a pilot phase to trial resumption of development cooperation with Eritrea.
The SDC will resume funding for projects in Eritrea for the next three years from a maximum budget of CHF 6 million. As in the pilot phase, the focus for the programs is vocational skills development. Swiss-Eritrean cooperation will also be extended to stimulate the economy (microcredits, start-up support, etc.). To improve the monitoring and strategic alignment of Swiss cooperation with Eritrea and foster dialogue with the Eritrean authorities, the FDFA will create a new position at the Swiss embassy responsible, in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. Consideration is also being given to the appointment of a special envoy with a regional mandate for the Horn of Africa, focusing primarily on Eritrea.
These steps follow the recommendations of the evaluation report, which advised the resumption of cooperation projects in the field of vocational skills development with some adjustments. In the medium term, depending on developments in Eritrea, the report also recommended initiating or strengthening direct cooperation with the government on vocational skills development and migration policy.
The external panel concluded that the three projects in the pilot phase were a good, sensible and relevant choice. Some 2,000 young people benefited from better education and training. After two years, there were only slight improvements to job market access and living conditions, however, and such improvements remained difficult to assess. Nevertheless, according to the report, bilateral relations between Switzerland and Eritrea have changed substantially since 2017. Switzerland has fostered a degree of trust and the panel concluded that in the current regional climate Switzerland has every interest in remaining present in Eritrea, continuing to support projects and gradually increasing its visibility and understanding of the situation to allow it to deepen its political dialogue with the Eritrean government.
Switzerland’s renewed presence in Eritrea followed a decision by the Federal Council, which instructed the SDC to resume cooperation with Eritrea in 2016. The aim was both to improve the skills of young Eritreans in their home country, helping them access employment and improve their prospects and to build mutual trust between the two governments in order to expand bilateral dialogue, specifically on migration.
Following a preliminary exploration in 2017, the SDC prioritized existing projects in the area of vocational skills development. Three of these subsequently received support for a three-year period from a budget totaling CHF 4 million. To determine the next stages in its engagement, the SDC commissioned an external assessment of the results and the climate for cooperation between the two countries. The decisions regarding the pursuit of cooperation were based on the resulting evaluation report.
The SDC’s commitment in Eritrea is consistent with the main objective of development cooperation: to improve living conditions and create prospects for young people. This approach is also a focus of the upcoming Dispatch on Switzerland’s International Cooperation 2021–24, currently in development. Economic prospects are an important factor when people decide whether to leave their region of origin.