5 Development Projects in SyriaSyria, home to many diverse ethnic and religious groups, is a country that has lost hundreds of thousands of lives to war and violence. Because of this crisis, millions of people are displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance, and development projects in Syria aim to address this need.

Like many countries in the world, Syria is fighting extreme poverty. According to the United Nations Development Programme, four out of five Syrians live in poverty and 64.7 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. The Arab region is the only region in the world where poverty has increased since 2010, rising from 28 percent in 2010 to 83.4 percent in 2015.

Here is a list of five development projects in Syria that may help relieve the nation’s citizens.

  1. Switzerland donates ambulances to Syria’s suffering population
    Switzerland financed twelve new ambulances to help the people of Syria facing the consequences of the war. Syria was in need of more ambulances as a result of the devastatingly high number of victims caused by the war, including attacks against hospitals. The vehicles were purchased through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Dubai. This project was completed in 2017.
  2. Contribution to UNRWA’s Programme Budget 2017-2020
    The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is one of Switzerland’s key multilateral partners in the Middle East, addressing all kinds of humanitarian aid needs, including medical services, education, emergency assistance, healthcare and more. With more funds contributed to its budget, it has been able to work toward universal access to quality primary health care, basic education, relief and social services to refugees in need. This is an ongoing project expected to be completed by 2020.
  3. Swiss experts to U.N. agencies in the frame of the regional crises in the Middle East
    Through this completed project, experts from Switzerland were able to provide technical support and advice. The experts accounted for the provision of shelter in camps and noncamp settings for vulnerable displaced persons; for a multisector and multistakeholder strategy for cash-based response for IDPs, refugees and host communities; for the protection of the most vulnerable population, including children and youth; advice and strategic planning on activities in the domain of water; and support to the coordination of humanitarian interventions within the U.N. agencies and national/international actors.
  4. Contribution to UNRWA’s General Fund 2016
    Contributions to UNRWA’s 2016 General Fund allows for the sustaining of the agency’s humanitarian and human development programs, servicing over five million Palestine refugees and contributing to peace and stability in the Middle East. This completed project targeted Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory. Results included financial support enabling various programs in health and education, and management reforms including resource mobilization, ERP and more.
  5. UNDP- Livelihoods Restoration in Crisis- Affected Communities in Syria
    This completed two-year project worked on restoration interventions in Rural Damascus, Horns, Tartous and Latakia. The project created local economic opportunities and restored critical community infrastructure and services, improving access to hygiene and other basic needs.

These committed development projects in Syria leave marks of improvement and hope in a nation that has been ravaged by violence and poverty for far too long.

Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

Hunger has been defined in many different ways. Richard D. Mattes and Mark I. Friedman define hunger as “a physiological or metabolic state that results from a lack of energy or nutrients.” The two researchers detail the physical responses that occur within our bodies when proper nutrition isn’t provided in their 1993 paper, “Hunger.”

According to the Economic Development Association, nearly one billion people currently suffer from hunger worldwide. Although this number is appalling, efforts are being made around the world to decrease global hunger. The World Food Program (WFP) is a leading humanitarian organization that has aided in providing food to roughly 100 million people in more than 70 countries annually. It abides by two key missions: providing humanitarian relief and achieving developmental goals.

Its highest financial contribution comes from Switzerland’s humanitarian assistance program. Switzerland has committed to ending global hunger under the Food Aid Convention, its objective being to “improve the ability of the international community to respond to emergency food situations and other food needs of developing countries.” In its involvement with the WFP operations, Switzerland considers the following conditions:

  • Care requirements and financial urgency
  • Potential collaborations with other Swiss programs
  • Presence of a Swiss cooperation office on-site

Switzerland finances experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit to plan programs to alleviate hunger in affected countries. Trained specialists manage everything from emergency care to cash and voucher programs.  The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation states that there is a condition for providing this assistance: “it is essential to ensure that international humanitarian law and international humanitarian standards and principles are respected.”

Switzerland is devoted to the sustainable use of natural resources in its war against global hunger. This includes better access to loans, drought-resistant seeds and local food markets in the most deprived countries. Switzerland has supported a variety of causes, from the construction of wastewater purification systems and drinking water plants in Macedonia to the Small Enterprises Assistance Fund, a venture capital fund for small and medium-sized enterprises. During its 27 years of support, the fund’s mission has been to improve the lives of those who greatly require it.

– Nicole Suárez

Photo: CIA World Factbook

Cost of Living in Switzerland
Known for its delectable chocolate and incredible skiing, the high cost of living in Switzerland is another of the country’s claims to fame. Switzerland ranks above other expensive countries such as Luxembourg and Hong Kong by being the second most expensive country in the world, according to Numbeo. With a gallon of milk costing about $6.50 in Geneva and gas reaching almost $5 a gallon, there is no hiding from high prices.

Geneva, the second-largest city in Switzerland, is 44% more expensive than New York City. The average family of four spends over 5,000 dollars a month on regular expenses. Hailing from the most expensive country in Europe, these expenses have become the norm across the land-locked country.

A dwindling unemployment rate of three percent has helped boost an already booming economy. In addition, the average yearly income is above $35,000, while in the United States it is only around $29,000. These factors contribute to one of the highest qualities of living in the world. A recent poll demonstrates that the Swiss give their quality of life a 7.6 out of 10. The average around the world is a 6.5 out of 10, revealing how high Switzerland ranks in all aspects of life.

If not for the high cost of goods, Swiss bank accounts have long kept Switzerland associated with the wealthy. After passing the Banking Law of 1934, the identities of Swiss bank account holders legally became confidential. This law made it a criminal offense to reveal any information pertaining to Swiss bank account holders. For example, Wegelin bank helped Americans to conceal $1.2 billion from the government in order to evade taxes. The confidentiality that comes along with a Swiss bank account is the driving force behind so many foreigners creating offshore bank accounts in Switzerland. This has contributed to the high cost of living in Switzerland.

With the most expensive Big Mac in the world at $6.59, there is no sector of life untouched from the high cost of living in Switzerland. These exuberant prices come with one of the most scenic countries in the world. Switzerland’s mountains and picturesque towns offer exactly what you pay for. Although the high prices are not going anywhere, the cost of living in Switzerland represents the money it takes to live the ideal life.

Sophie Casimes

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the more well-known countries in Europe that has a population of just over eight million people in 2015. There have been some issues in the past, but over the last 30 years, the water quality in Switzerland has improved big time. The chemical levels have fallen over the years and it has become some of the safest water to drink and interact with in Europe.

The water has been the subject of some very strict rules and standards over the years. There is a lot of water that is available and the water quality does change from region to region within the country. There is bottled water available to the citizens, yet the tap water is considered superior to the bottled water available. Around the world, it is rare for tap water to be considered better than bottled water.

The water quality in Switzerland has risen extensively over the years. With new wastewater treatments, as well as treatments across the board on all water quality, there have been massive reductions in the amount of water that is contaminated across the country. The lakes have been some of the most contaminated waters in the country with a lot of pollution and chemicals within the waters. It has now become very safe to drink from and swim in whereas in the past it was not.

Switzerland has a lot of reserves to fall back on, which differs from a lot of countries around Europe and around the world. Switzerland has about 100 different lakes within the country that provide a lot of reserves of water and the ever-improving water quality of these lakes has helped the overall quality in the country. Just 2% of the annual rainfall makes it back into the process of purifying and getting the water right to make it safe to drink.

The phosphorous levels in all of the major lakes and rivers in Switzerland have dropped off significantly from 1980. The majority of the bodies of water in 1980 were between 100 and 200. Today, they are all below 100. There are other contaminants finding their way into the waters that have officials more worried than what has been problematic over the years.

The water has become safer and safer over the years in Switzerland. They have become a country to look at and see how it has improved its situation with pollution and contaminants and overcame inadequate water.

Brendin Axtman

Photo: Google

Refugees in Switzerland
In Europe, Switzerland ranks fourth in the number of refugees they accept per capita. Given their leniency, the closure of the Balkan countries’ border has led to a rapid increase of refugees in Switzerland. The sudden rise in the refugee population has led to controversy over the Asylum Act and the Foreign Nationals Act.

Top 10 Facts About Refugees in Switzerland

  1. The closure of the popular migration route via the Balkans border on March 9, 2016, led to a rapid increase in the number of refugees in Switzerland as they immigrated to Germany. Refugees have been entering Switzerland through Ticino, and a report estimates there are 5,760 illegal residents in this region.
  2. Switzerland’s Asylum Act grants “recognized refugees” asylum, temporary protection if needed, public social assistance and the ability to become a permanent resident after having resided in the country for 10 years. Refugees in Switzerland granted the B permit are noted as “recognized refugees,” defined as people who “‘in their native country or in their country of the last residence are subject to serious disadvantages or have a well-founded fear of being exposed to such disadvantages.'”
  3. The Asylum Act imposes required social assistance. Consequently, the council of Rekingen, a municipality in the canton of Aargu, Switzerland, proposed that residents should not rent properties to refugees. The proposal stems from the fear that B permit refugees will rely on social welfare benefits and ruin Rekingen financially.
  4. Refugees in Switzerland who apply for asylum must complete processing at a reception center to be considered legal. However, 20 to 40 percent of refugees assigned to reception centers evade the monitoring system  so that they may migrate to Germany. According to Swiss legislation, they are thus illegal immigrants.
  5. Some parts of Switzerland have reported that the number of refugees who left the reception centers soon after arriving is between 50 to 90 percent. They concluded that refugees are using Switzerland for transit instead of asylum.
  6. On February 9, 2014, Switzerland adopted the Controlling Mass Immigration Initiative. The initiative introduced annual quotas for accepting refugees and amended the social security benefits of immigrants seeking employment.
  7. The annual quotas instilled by the Controlling Mass Immigration Initiative has stirred controversy in the village of Oberwil-Lieli. Oberwil-Lieli’s mayor originally rejected the quota because his residents believe assistance should be done “on the ground,” preferring to lessen the threat in the refugees’ native countries rather than make Switzerland a popular asylum. For example, residents of the village raised 370,000 francs to support Greek refugees.
  8. Eritreans make up the largest portion of refugees in Switzerland. About 34,500 Eritreans have fled their homes as a result of violent conflict with Ethiopia. Switzerland has so far accepted refugees who illegally exited Eritrea given they apply for asylum. However, reports show that many refugees use their allowed 21 days of holiday to visit Eritrea34, undermining their claim to asylum. This revelation led to a discussion about Switzerland’s lax rules for refugees. Subsequently, the appeal to strengthen the rules for Eritrean asylum seeking did not receive approval.
  9. Most refugees immigrating from Italy to Germany pass through Switzerland. However, Federal Border Guards consistently transfer migrants who did not apply for asylum to Italy. In 2016, authorities sent over a thousand refugees seeking asylum back to Italy. The deportees included several hundred unaccompanied minors and many refugees with family in Switzerland.
  10. In September 2015, an amendment to the Asylum Act granted asylum seekers free legal advice and representation in the procedure. It also made a legal duty out of caring for the needs of especially-threatened refugees.

Improvement of immigration laws in Switzerland will mitigate legal problems with refugees. However, addressing the threat and poverty of refugee countries may also make a sizeable impact.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Flickr

Aid Boost Donations
The year 2016 proved a generous year for the European Union, as shown by its number of pledges toward ending humanitarian crises, particularly those related to the current unprecedented refugee crisis. Norway and Luxembourg were the leading European countries contributing to humanitarian aid in the past year, with the EU as a whole making a strong push in the last couple of months to boost aid for numerous crises.

As the Syrian refugee crisis continued to escalate in 2016, Europe ramped up support by addressing the problem head-on; the beginning of the year saw the EU allocate an additional €700 million in aid to combat this problem over the next three years. The commission maintains an annual budget of €1.1 billion for humanitarian aid.

In April 2016, the EU took another step by donating an additional €83 million to help the 50,000 refugees in Greece, the first time humanitarian aid was spent within the European Union itself.

Individual European countries contributing to humanitarian aid extended their assistance in addition to the EU’s donations. Switzerland announced the donation of an additional €2.7 million in April 2016 to address the growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where more than 20 million people lack access to clean water. The contribution was used to provide emergency water, food, medication and hygiene products.

The end of 2016 saw an influx of additional aid from the EU. In December, the commission added €25 million in funding for the war-torn city of Mosul in northern Iraq. The contribution went to assist the more than 10 million Iraqis in need of aid as a result of the conflict between the Iraqi government and ISIS that has raged in the city since October 2016.

The EU has set the stage for a bright 2017 by announcing its increase in funding for educational aid in impoverished countries for the coming year. Raising the budget from four percent to six percent, the EU is now addressing one of the most underfunded issues facing those in emergency situations – education. More than 75 million children worldwide do not have access to education due to crises like forced displacement.

By the end of 2016, European countries had contributed a total of €21 billion to humanitarian aid, up from €20.9 billion in 2015. While the current refugee situation is expected to taper slightly, addressing issues of food, access to water, hygiene and education remain critical concerns for the European Union.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Switzerland Swiss Poor Areas Poverty Rate

Poverty in Switzerland remains lower than many of its European neighbors. However, rates still affect a large part of the population. So, why are the Swiss poor? In the country, a lack of awareness about poverty combined with a high cost of living compounds the struggles felt by impoverished residents. Below are the leading facts about poverty in Switzerland.

Top Seven Facts about Poverty in Switzerland

1. One in 13 Swiss Residents Lives Below the Poverty Line.

Switzerland is one of the world’s wealthiest nations. However, data shows that one in 13 residents of Switzerland are still living in poverty. This rate may come as a surprise to many, as Switzerland is often associated with economic stability. By comparison, an estimated one in five residents of Britain lives in poverty, while the average resident of Zurich makes 21 times more per hour than the average resident of Kiev, Ukraine. Switzerland’s poverty rate is significantly lower than nearby European nations, however, 6.6 percent of the Swiss population still lives in poverty.

2. The High Cost of Living Amplifies the Issue.

Residents of Switzerland must account for a high cost of living; food prices and the cost of housing make daily financial needs quite high. Mandatory private health insurance adds further expense. Recent reports show Zurich and Geneva as two of the most expensive cities in the world in terms of cost of living, with certain reports placing the cities above New York City. However, higher incomes in the cities typically offset this cost, with high purchasing power reported. As a result, Zurich and Geneva rank second and third respectively in terms of purchasing power (surpassed only by Luxembourg.)

3. The Poverty Line is Set to Incorporate the Cost of Living.

In order to account for the high cost of living in Switzerland, the poverty rate has been set to incorporate the financial demands of living in the country. For a single person, the poverty line is set as making less than 2,200 francs per month (equal to slightly more than $2,200 in the U.S.) A couple living with two children is considered below the poverty line if earning less than 4,050 francs per month. Poverty in Switzerland is understood as the inability to afford the goods and social services necessary for a healthy and socially integrated life. The Swiss Conference for Social Statistics sets poverty line thresholds based upon meeting those needs.

4. Elderly, Immigrant and Single-Parent Populations are Especially Vulnerable.

Certain populations in Switzerland are especially vulnerable to poverty. These populations are much like the vulnerable populations in many countries, including families with only one parent, elderly residents, the unemployed, unskilled laborers and people living alone. Rates of poverty among these populations are significantly higher than other demographics. For example, those over the age of 60 are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty.

5. Trial and Error Approach to Solutions, Including Universal Basic Income.

As Switzerland seeks to address the levels of poverty that remain in the country, a referendum was voted on which would have paid each Swiss family a weekly guaranteed income. While the referendum failed in a vote this June, it represents an innovation in seeking solutions to poverty. Switzerland is the first country to consider a solution of this kind. Some consider the failure an important step, nonetheless, as it provides a platform for discussing the meaning of basic income.

6. Wages and Income Can Be Quite High in Relation to European Neighbors.

Incomes in Swiss cities are often quite high, with the average resident of Zurich earning $41 per hour or more. This level of earning is often what leads to the association of Switzerland with a lifestyle of security and contributes to offsetting high costs of living. However, for the 6.6% of Swiss residents who do live in poverty, keeping up with city living costs (dependent on similar wages) can lead to a daily struggle.

7. Poverty in Switzerland is Decreasing.

The good news for addressing poverty in Switzerland is a recent decrease in the number of those living in poverty. Since 2007, rates have decreased from 9.3% to 6.6%.

Assessing poverty in Switzerland demonstrates the importance of not allowing a minority impoverished population to go overlooked. The country’s innovative and consistent efforts to address poverty represent a democratic model for the discussion surrounding poverty in developed nations.

Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: Flickr

With the Alps reaching elevations beyond 15,000 feet, it is no wonder Switzerland sits at the top of this year’s list of happiest countries, produced by the 2015 World Happiness Report. While the country’s jocular vibes are great for its 8 million inhabitants, a closer look indicates impoverished individuals across the world should also be celebrating.

Since first being published in 2012, the World Happiness Report has delved into the intricacies of socioeconomic development. Turning the subjective nature of “happiness” into objective measures, the study reveals trends in the overall standard of living.

Using a scale that runs from 0 to 10, people in over 150 countries were surveyed by Gallup from 2012 to 2015. Real gross domestic product per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity were all gauged in the surveys.

“As the science of happiness advances, we are getting to the heart of what factors define quality of life for citizens,”  said John F. Helliwell, professor at the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. “We are encouraged that more and more governments around the world are listening and responding with policies that put well-being first. Countries with strong social and institutional capital not only support greater well-being, but are more resilient to social and economic crises.”

Switzerland, in its snowcapped glory, pulled out all the stops – winning first place. Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada followed close behind.

A transparent government, superb healthcare system and dedicated education sector are the driving forces behind happy lifestyles. Their 35.2-hour workweeks may also have a little bit to do with it.

Regardless, Switzerland spreads the socioeconomic joy when it comes to foreign aid. Though countries like Sweden and Luxembourg beat out the Swiss in terms of giving, the country’s government is aiming to meet applause-worthy goals.

In 2011, officials agreed to give approximately 0.43 percent of their gross national income, best known as GNI, to official international development aid. At the time, the U.S. was only contributing 0.2 percent of its GNI.

Now, as Switzerland strives for a greater role in global poverty reduction and sustainability, the benchmark is set at 0.5 percent.

“Switzerland is well-placed to become a more visible leader on development issues and can capitalize on its extensive experience on the ground to influence global policy in areas like conflict, fragility, food security and climate change,” said Eril Solheim of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In the wake of Nepal’s recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake, the Swiss delivered on their promises. Swiss Humanitarian Aid dispatched an integrative team of doctors, engineers, water specialists and logistics specialists to assess the damage.

Nationwide efforts raised $18.4 million, offered in the way of emergency aid and reconstruction projects.

“The fundraising day proves that major disasters strike a chord across the nation,” Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga said. “[…] the Swiss population shows generous solidarity regardless of age, language or income.”

– Lauren Stepp

Sources: Spring, SWI, UNSDSN
Photo: Flickr

As the nature of warfare changes, so do the actors involved. The world is more interconnected than ever, and the role of transnational actors in war has increased the need for more domestic capacity. Private military contractors and private military security communities affect war, for they are (private) players that are not only held less accountable for their actions, but also benefit from conflict. Due to this revolution in military affairs, actors are starting to build relationships and institutions to address this issue. The Democratic Control of Armed Forces, known as DCAF, in Geneva, Switzerland is one of these institutions.

The Democratic Control of Armed Forces Foundation consists of over 62 member states, and is based in Geneva. There are permanent offices in Beirut, Brussels, Ljubljana, Ramallah and Tunis with staff from over thirty countries. DCAF was founded in 2000 as an initiative of the Swiss Government, and is an international foundation whose mission is to assist the international community in pursuing good governance and reform of the security sector. The Center not only provides in‐country advisory support and practical assistance programs, but it is founded on the principles of neutrality, impartiality, gender sensitivity and local ownership. DCAF also “Develops and promotes norms and standards, conducts tailored policy research, and identifies good practices and recommendations to promote democratic security sector governance.”

Switzerland is notorious for their humanitarian contributions to conflict and mass atrocities, as evidenced by the International Red Cross Committee, The Geneva Conventions, and the Swiss’s heavy involvement in the United Nations. Geneva in particular is the home of numerous international organization’s headquarters, including the United Nations, World Trade Organization, International Labor Organization, and the Red Cross (just to name a few).

The Democratic Control of Armed Forces operates globally, with a particular emphasis on Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Europe. Their outreach and policy research programs also cover Southeast Asia, Caucasus and Central Asia and Latin America. DCAF works directly with national SSR stakeholders, bilateral donors to support SSR and to promote coherence, coordination and complementarity, multilateral institutions (in particular the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union), as well as other regional and sub-regional organizations. The Democratic Control of Armed Forces focuses on security sector reform, also known as SSR, and strives for a holistic agenda by combining various capabilities. DCAF’s expertise reside primarily in the realm of parliamentary oversight of the security sector, intelligence governance, private security governance, gender and security and, public-private partnerships and security governance. DCAF works with a diverse base of actors in order to develop security sector reform policies. It has become a tool used to combine the various faces of war and peace in dialogue, debate and discovery.

– Neti Gupta

Sources: DCAF, ISN
Photo: Flickr

One of the leading causes of death for small children in the poor areas of Guatemala are diseases caused by poor hygiene. In many of the rural highlands of western Guatemala, citizens do not have access to running water, which creates greater potential for illnesses from bacteria and other sources of contamination. In order to reduce the effects of poor hygiene, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation is bringing running water to the poorest areas of Guatemala and teaching school children how to take advantage of it.

HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation is an organization based in Switzerland that helps over 3 million people worldwide. By organizing specific projects to better living situations for the poor, HELVETAS works toward ensuring that all basic rights of survival are met.

Fourteen percent of the total Guatemalan population lives below the extreme poverty line, but most of the people living in the harshest circumstances live in the rural areas. The Guatemalan sector of HELVETAS is in the western and northern highlands of the country, where more than half of the people lack access to safe, clean running water.

Projects dealing with water sanitation and sustainability are quite popular with the HELVETAS organization, making them more than qualified to initiate projects like building wells, pipelines and sanitary sewage systems in rural Guatemalan communities. Though many organizations are funding clean water initiatives and building projects in rural Guatemala, the unique thing about HELVETAS’ project is its plan to further the benefits of running water by teaching school children about good hygiene.

HELVETAS is showing educators how to teach children to effectively use the running water in schools as drinking water, a source of sanitation and a means of personal hygiene. As Orfilia del Carmen Velasquez Lopez pointed out, children want to learn about personal hygiene in schools because they cannot learn at home. She says that the students “see toothbrushes and say, ‘Show us how to use them.’”

The students learn the importance of brushing their teeth, washing their hands and other aspects of personal hygiene made possible by running water. They also learn how proper sewage systems can separate humans from their waste, thereby reducing contact with bacteria and disease-spreading flies. For these children, knowledge is power — the power to save lives.

The hope of the HELVETAS project is that the students will return home with more knowledge about the necessity of clean, running water and the danger of diseases caused by poor hygiene. The students will, in turn, teach their families how to live a more hygienic and disease-free lifestyle, thanks to the efforts of HELVETAS and other organizations providing rural Guatemala with access to running water.

— Emily Walthouse

Photo: jss news