Having withdrawn from the country over ten years ago, the SDC has now resumed support for cooperation projects in Eritrea. In October 2017, it began supporting two vocational projects in a pilot phase scheduled to run until the end of 2019.
The Federal Council had tasked the SDC in November 2016 with exploring possible ways to resume cooperation with Eritrea through pilot activities with a limited budget. Following a feasibility study, a series of meetings and a planning stage, at the beginning of October 2017 the SDC resumed activities to support two vocational projects.
The SDC was active in Eritrea from 1993 to 2006, and ran a cooperation office in Asmara from 2001 to 2006, mainly for humanitarian operations. The office was closed in 2006 because the conditions needed for the SDC to carry out its activities were not met.
The renewed efforts are intended to show that it is possible to work effectively in Eritrea. Switzerland hopes to see gradual improvements in the collaboration with the Eritrean authorities at the bilateral and multilateral level.
Switzerland will also have the opportunity alongside the international community to strengthen dialogue with the Eritrean government on a number of issues, including the human rights situation, development and the rule of law.
The first project, run by the private organisation Swiss Support Committee for Eritrea (SUKE), supports a vocational school in the port city of Massawa. The school’s instructors are themselves employed in companies in the region. They train workers, teach further training courses, and also get the chance to develop their own skills. The programme is regularly adapted to local job market requirements.
The second project supports a training programme run by the Don Bosco organisation via the agency International Volunteer Service for Development (VIS). The programme assists vocational schools in the regions of Asmara, Dekemhare, Nakfa, Hagaz and Mai Habar. These schools give disadvantaged young people, especially girls, the chance to learn a trade.
The SDC’s annual contribution to the two projects amounts to approximately CHF 1 million (US$1.03 million).
Switzerland’s participation in these cooperation projects in Eritrea is a pilot phase which will run until 2019 to test the feasibility of Swiss cooperation in Eritrea. A first evaluation of the projects is scheduled for the end of 2018.
The SDC’s activities in Eritrea seek to improve the situation and prospects of young people in the country in the long term. Education is therefore at the centre of development cooperation: it gives people better chances to secure a job and a decent income.
The job prospects open to young Eritreans in their country are an important factor when it comes to choosing where to live and settle. Creating prospects gives people hope for the future.