“Being fair to people’s needs in humanitarian crises”

“Being fair to people’s needs in humanitarian crises”

Interview with Manuel Sager, SDC Director-General

Current Concerns: You were in Jordan. What were your impressions?

Manuel Sager: The closer one gets to the conflict in the Near East, and especially to the conflict in Syria, the more complex indeed is one’s picture of the political and also particularly of the humanitarian situation.

Where and how did you see that?

I had the opportunity to visit two refugee compounds, a Syrian one and a Palestinian one. For the Syrian compound it is a great challenge to supply the people even with the absolute necessities: Is there enough clean water, is there enough food supply available, is there enough clothing available? Jordan is, at this time of the year, just as cold as it is here. I had expected it to be warmer but that is not the case. The people there are freezing. Only supplying the refugees with the basic humanitarian fundamental necessities is a huge problem.

How does Jordan manage it?

That is the other point: The burden for Jordan, for its state structures and institutions, for the health care system, for the educational system and for the social network,   etc., is huge. The system is confronted with the huge amount of about 600,000 Syrian refugees. The Jordanian Government itself speaks of 1.2 Million refugees. There is a large estimated number of unknown cases as well. Our engagement must become more appropriate to help the Jordanian society manage this great refugee hardship.

What is the situation like in the Palestinian refugee compound?

When you arrive there you have the impression of entering a larger city. The compound Jerash is among them, it has become the fourth largest city in Jordan, by now. There are relatively stable constructions here and Switzerland has, together with SDC, built up the entire sewerage system which was a substantial contribution to the improvement of the refugees’ living conditions.

Where would you say should be the focus of SDC’s activities in 2015?

There are various focal points. One thing is certainly the need to adequately meet people’s needs in these various humanitarian crises as best as possible. Unfortunately the end of any of these crises is not yet in sight. In the actual developmental work, directions have still to be set.
What are the “directions” which have to be set?
For the first time this year, economic development goals towards the protection of the environment and a fair distribution of living standards, are to be formulated for the people. It is going to be a deciding year for the so-called “sustainable development goals“ in other words SDG, which will replace the millennium development goals. The discussions at various conferences are going to illustrate potential goal conflicts and interest contradictions. Those need to be solved.

A conference is planned in Addis Ababa as well. What ends are to be achieved there?

That is a very important conference. It is about the financing of the SDG. The question here is about who should contribute to development funding. What is particularly expected of the contributing countries, of the northern or developed industrial nations? What is expected of the developing countries, above all in reference to sustainable politics? Economic development is not primarily a question of money, rather it is dependent on political action and indeed, in developed as well as developing countries. So it is the countries themselves who must meet the task of matching framework conditions which are essential for the private sector, as well as creating a transparent and efficient taxation system which allows them to finance the expenditures of the state.
The economic development should naturally be sustainable and not be a burden to the vital natural resources necessary for later generations. This requires new technology, which requires innovation which must be financially supported.

According to your explanations, one thing is for sure, SDC’s beneficial work has a most important significance for many developing countries and the people who live there.

Yes, SDC’s work is and remains important. It would be wonderful to imagine a world in which our work would no longer be necessary. The reality, however, will unfortunately be different, for a foreseeable period.

Mr Ambassador Sager, thank you for the interview.     •

(Interview Thomas Kaiser)

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