Deepening bilateral relations, international cooperation and Switzerland’s partnership with the ICRC: these were the main focuses of Ignazio Cassis’ visit to Niger from 7 to 9 February. ICRC President Peter Maurer and National Council President Irène Kälin accompanied the Swiss President during his visit.
Despite the great current challenges, Africa is developing socially, economically and politically. This also applies to Niger, one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. In the last presidential elections of 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 are also in Switzerland’s interest.” He went on to say that the Sahel is a priority region of the Swiss Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa 2021-2024 and that 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 at the meetings. For two years, Niger has sat on the Security Council. In this capacity, he is particularly committed to the issue of climate change and conflicts. Given Switzerland’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council in 2023-24, this was a valuable exchange for Switzerland’s own preparations.
Visits to projects in Maradi and Agadez
During his three-day stay, Mr. Cassis traveled 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 to refugee children and children without access to education. The SDC has been running programs in Niger since 1978. Its activities focus, among other things, on 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 carried out by humanitarian organizations which support the Nigerien government in the protection of migrants.
Close partnership between Switzerland and the ICRC
Together with the President of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, and the President of the National Council, Irène Kälin, Mr. Cassis visited a physical rehabilitation center funded by the ICRC. The ICRC is a key partner in Switzerland’s international cooperation. At the center, people with disabilities can obtain assistive devices such as wheelchairs and also have the opportunity to receive vocational training in textiles and metalworking. This allows them to reintegrate into society and professional life.
“Protecting the most vulnerable is essential for Switzerland,” Cassis said. “We value our partnership with the ICRC, which is based on shared values and our humanitarian tradition.” Switzerland and the ICRC are committed to strengthening the combination of emergency humanitarian aid and long-term development cooperation. This approach increases a state’s ability to manage crises without outside government assistance.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.