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Annual conference 2011 of Human Security Division

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Uprisings in the Arab World

Scène de liesse en Egypte, après la chute de Hosni Moubarak, le 11 février 2011. [© Keystone]

What began in December 2010 with the self-immolation of a desperate young man in Tunisia has turned into a conflagration that has engulfed numerous countries in northern Africa and the Middle East. The call for democracy, human dignity, and a better future took on deafening proportions and in many places caused the existing political structures to tremble and even collapse. Switzerland’s strategy for North Africa is a reflection of its efforts to support transition in the Arab world.

These uprisings, in which the younger generation played a decisive role, caused the dictators to tremble, to resign, or to revert to means of violent repression. In view of these upheavals in the Arab world, Switzerland has undertaken to implement various measures. 

Freeze on assets
The Federal Council, for instance, immediately ordered a freeze on the financial assets of numerous politically exposed persons (PEPs) such as heads of State, ministers, high-level civil servants, along with their respective entourage. Switzerland actively supports the new governments in their efforts to recover the frozen assets. It periodically organizes international conferences for experts on the theme of legal assistance and the restitution of illegally acquired assets. And it has already provided legal assistance to a number of States. 

Humanitarian aid
In connection with the crisis in Libya, the Swiss Confederation dispatched humanitarian aid not only to Tunisia and Egypt to assist those persons who had fled Libya, but also to the particularly exposed population groups in Libya itself.

Due to the recent developments in Syria, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has decided to release additional funds for humanitarian aid. These funds have primarily been earmarked for measures aimed at protecting and assisting the population, as well as meeting the needs of the refugees in the neighbouring countries. 
http://www.deza.admin.ch/en/Home/Countries/Near_and_Middle_East/Iraq_Jordan_Syria_Lebanon Switzerland’s commitment in Syria

Three priorities
In addition, the Federal Council rapidly decided that Switzerland should substantially strengthen its commitment in northern Africa so as to create the best possible pre-conditions for a successful transition. Switzerland’s so-called North Africa strategy has laid down three priority courses of action:

  • Support of the transition to democracy and the respect for human rights. These goals will be achieved, for instance, by promoting the rule of law, electoral processes, and structural reforms (particularly in the domains of security and the judicial system) as well as by strengthening civil society and the free media.
  • The second priority is to foster programmes for economic development and job creation.
  • Switzerland will seek to protect those population groups that are most vulnerable, and to enhance its cooperation in the domain of migration. 

Although in the meantime elections have been conducted in Egypt, in Tunisia and in Libya, the transition will not be coming to an end anytime soon. Hence, Switzerland will also be pursuing its activities in these countries at least until 2016.

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