Annual Conference 2009 of the Humanitarian Aid and the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit SHA

Bern, Press release, 27.03.2009

On the occasion of the 2009 edition of the Annual Conference, dedicated to the theme of “Save lives – alleviate suffering”, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit SHA presented a global survey of the situations requiring their intervention. In essence, their mission is to provide relief to those suffering in the wake of natural disasters and armed conflict.

Some 900 persons attended this year’s event, which was held at the Kursaal in Bern. This year’s theme, “Save lives – alleviate suffering” provided the participants with the opportunity to learn about the preventive measures and the rescue mechanisms set up by Switzerland’s humanitarian aid to protect human life when endangered and to alleviate human suffering.

 · The audience received a presentation on the humanitarian aid operations conducted in the Gaza Strip following the December 2008 armed conflict. The numerous difficulties encountered by the teams of experts dispatched on-site to ensure the delivery of aid to the civilian population served to prove that only a coordinated international action of solidarity can be successful in alleviating the victims’ suffering.

 · Switzerland’s humanitarian aid programme in Sudan was also spotlighted. The programme focuses on the delivery of emergency aid and on return assistance to displaced persons and refugees. In her report, the Head of the SDC’s Cooperation Office in Khartoum described the efforts deployed in the domains of food security, access to clean drinking water, and health care.

 · An exchange of views and experience-sharing session also allowed members of the SHA to delve into the theme of the Confederation’s humanitarian aid operations in Central Asia, Myanmar, and Liberia, while examining both the positive and the negative aspects of their experiences.

 · The Confederation’s new humanitarian aid intervention strategy 2009 – 2014 was sketched out in its key points, the objective being to strengthen Swiss presence in the field by increasing the number of missions and by seconding experts to partner organizations.  

Switzerland’s humanitarian engagement in situations of armed conflict
The Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Micheline Calmy-Rey, spoke to the audience about Switzerland’s humanitarian engagement in situations of armed conflict. Calling to mind the situation in the Middle East and in other conflict-ridden regions, she underlined the importance of respect for international humanitarian law, the obligation to protect the civilian population and vital infrastructures, and the necessity of assuring the access of humanitarian organizations to the victims of the conflict. She also made a point of praizing the commitment of the members of the SHA, upon whom the success of Switzerland’s humanitarian engagement depends.  

The reorganization of the SDC
Martin Dahinden, SDC Director, informed the public about the principal aspects of the SDC’s ongoing re-structuring. The reorganization laid down the foundation necessary for the efficient implementation of the Confederation’s uniform development strategy which entered into force on 1 January 2009. Mr. Dahinden pointed out that the reorganization’s second phase, scheduled to take place this year, will aim at redefining the relations between SDC Headquarters and the Cooperation Offices. The objective of this phase is to reinforce Switzerland’s presence in its partner countries and to enhance bilateral cooperation.

In conclusion, Toni Frisch, SDC Deputy Director, Delegate for Humanitarian Aid, and Head of the SHA, described the present and future challenges for Swiss humanitarian aid, while briefly restating its mission. Henceforth Switzerland, having been certified as meeting the standards set by the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), fully complies with the standards of the United Nations for rescue teams involved in international missions. Toni Frisch stated in his closing remarks that this certification serves to increase Switzerland’s visibility abroad and is an illustration of it’s commitment to international solidarity.


Nadine Olivieri Lozano, FDFA Spokesperson, tel.: 079 763 96 43  

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