Niger – President Cassis deepens bilateral relations and pays tribute to ICRC partnership
Bern, 09.02.2022 - Deepening bilateral relations, international cooperation and Switzerland's partnership with the ICRC: these were the key focus areas of Ignazio Cassis's visit to Niger from 7 to 9 February. The president of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, and the president of the National Council, Irène Kälin, accompanied the Swiss president on his visit.
Despite major ongoing challenges, Africa is developing socially, economically and politically. This also holds true for Niger, one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. In the most recent presidential elections in 2021, the country experienced its first democratic transfer of power since independence.
Mr Cassis acknowledged this development during his exchange with Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum and other members of the government. Speaking in Niamey, Cassis said "The stability and development of the Sahel region is also in Switzerland's interest." He went on to say that the Sahel is a priority region of Switzerland's Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy 2021–24 and Switzerland is therefore expanding its relations with these countries, including Niger.
In addition to Switzerland's international cooperation, the UN Security Council was also discussed during the meetings. For the past two years, Niger has had a seat on the Security Council. In this capacity, it has been particularly engaged on the issue of climate change and conflict. In view of Switzerland's candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council in 2023–24, this was a valuable exchange for Switzerland's own preparations.
Project visits to Maradi and Agadez
During his three-day stay, Mr Cassis travelled to the cities of Maradi and Agadez, where he visited various projects supported by Switzerland. In Maradi, he visited an education project of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which provides education for refugee children and children without access to education. The SDC has been running programmes in Niger since 1978. Its activities are geared, among others, towards food security, the protection of vulnerable populations and good governance.
In Agadez, Mr Cassis was able to see for himself the reality of the migration crisis and visited projects run by humanitarian organisations that support the Nigerien government in protecting migrants.
Close partnership between Switzerland and the ICRC
With the president of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, and the president of the National Council, Irène Kälin, Mr Cassis visited an ICRC-funded physical rehabilitation centre. The ICRC is a key partner for Switzerland's international cooperation. At the centre, people with disabilities can obtain assistive devices such as wheelchairs and also have the opportunity to receive vocational training in textiles and metalworking. This enables them to reintegrate into society and professional life.
"Protecting the most vulnerable is key for Switzerland," said Cassis. “We value our partnership with the ICRC, which is based on shared values and our humanitarian tradition”. Switzerland and the ICRC are committed to a stronger combination of emergency humanitarian aid and long-term development cooperation. This approach increases a state's ability to manage crises without outside government assistance.
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