Security is key theme at annual conference of SDC's Humanitarian Aid Department

EMBARGO: Friday 7 March 2003, 15.30 pm
Lucerne / Bern, 7 March 2003 - The Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has called for the development and promotion of a worldwide culture of peace. She was speaking in Lucerne at the annual conference of the SDC's Humanitarian Aid. Under the motto "Humanitarian aid for greater security", the conference featured a panel discussion of humanitarian experts including the United Nations special representative in Georgia, Heidi Tagliavini of Switzerland. SDC Director-General Walter Fust and Toni Frisch, the Delegate for Humanitarian Aid and Head SHA, also addressed the estimated 800 participants on current humanitarian issues, particularly as concerns the Iraq crisis.

Against the backdrop of the "Humanitarian Meeting Iraq" in Geneva last month, the Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey warned of the serious humanitarian consequences arising from a war in Iraq. She said such a war would not, as has been claimed, bring increased security but rather many new insecurities and would serve only to fan the flames of international terrorism. Mrs. Calmy-Rey called for the development of a worldwide culture of peace, discussed humanitarian issues in relation to the Iraq crisis and recalled other trouble spots in the world such as the Caucasus, Afghanistan and West Africa. She affirmed that Switzerland wants to contribute to security through constructive dialogue and greater international cooperation.

SDC Director-General Walter Fust opened the annual conference of the Department of Humanitarian Aid and the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit, SHA, in the presence of around 800 participants at the Lucerne Culture and Congress Center. After a welcoming address by the president of the Lucerne city government Urs W. Studer, delegates watched a number of video statements showing what ideas link people around the world with the notion of security. The panel discussion made it clear what importance development cooperation and humanitarian aid have for security. Heidi Tagliavini, the United Nations special representative in Georgia, Françoise Le Goff, the head of the regional delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Nairobi, Nigel Fisher, UN Deputy Special Representative for Humanitarian Affairs and Reconstruction in Afghanistan, und Walter Fust, Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, SDC, gave ample illustrations of how important security is for human development and humanitarian actors and what contribution Switzerland can make.

Toni Frisch, the Delegate for Humanitarian Aid and Head SHA, was recently on a fact-finding mission to Iraq. In Baghdad all representatives of the UN and international organizations agreed that the Geneva meeting in February helped considerably to raise awareness of humanitarian issues. Mr. Frisch said that preparatory measures in humanitarian aid are not to be equated with acceptance of a conflict. He described the humanitarian preparedness concept this way: "Even if we hope for the best, we must always be prepared for the worst." For 2003, the SDC has budgeted SFr. 4.5 million for humanitarian aid for Iraq. An additional SFr. 2.5 million has been spent for emergency assistance so far.

Projects in Moldova and Ethiopia were shown as examples reflecting the conference theme "Humanitarian aid for greater security". This theme is part of the SDC's 2003 "Security through Development" campaign. Illustrations and exhibits as well as artistic contributions depicting security as a tightrope walk rounded off the highlights of the day's activities.

Media and communications

For further information please contact:
Joachim Ahrens, SDC spokesman,
Tel. 031 322 35 59; 079-622 87 54