India, Switzerland to expand cooperation in energy and climate

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New Delhi, Oct 26 (UNI) Energy and climate change have been identified as two new areas of cooperation between India and Switzerland by a top Swiss development agency.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) will forge new linkages in the areas of adaptation to climate change, energy efficiency and clean environment.

SDC, active in four continents involving 25 countries and regions in the South and 10 in the East, started its operation in India in 1961 with a view to strengthen the rights of the disadvantaged groups.

A recent report commissioned by SDC-New Delhi -- Following thirty years of active involvement in rural finance -- documented its efforts on improving the income and work situation of the downtrodden, cooperating primarily with local partners to utilise the productivity of land and labour and by providing access to financial services.

The top Swiss aid agency, affiliated to the Swiss Foreign Ministry, in collaboration with Investment Banks like NABARD, SIDBI, BASIX and several non-governmental organisations such as MYRADA, Outreach and WOTR, provided assistance in saving, insurance, credit and money transfer to the rural poor.

BASIX focussed on promoting livelihoods of the poor while SIDBI's programmes concentrated on low income entrepreneurs.

In assistance provided by NABARD, SDC re-oriented itself from a purely agricultural lending towards extensive inclusion of Non Farm Sector programmes and its activities.

The Self Help Group-Bank linkage ushered in a revolution at the grassroot level. It helped in poverty reduction in selected pockets of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu by facilitating process to empower socially and economically self reliant groups through credit and promotional measures in the non-farm sector.

Similarly, BASIX's product promotion activities helped to demonstrate the possibilities for rural and micro-enterprise engagement by other financial institutions.

The advocacy efforts of these organisations resulted in SDC moving from risk aversion to innovation and entrepreneurship.

It also re-oriented itself from purely a poverty alleviation programme to one including entrepreneurship development and institution.

Institutional partnership with WOTR focussed on self-help and self-determination of men and women at the community level placing emphasis on local self government bodies.

The report identified major challenges in terms of manpower constraints -- experienced in number, variety and effectiveness, and voluntarist ethos preventing successful implementation of some programmes.

In 2006, the SDC started shifting the emphasis of its development cooperation programme towards Partnership Programme based on the transfer of resources between Switzerland and India to a cooperation based on mutual interests and on joint ventures and financing, with the aim of reducing poverty.

Governance has been among the other strategic targets of the SDC's development cooperation activities to strengthen human rights, democracy and the constitutional state.

The programme also focusses on promoting exchanges of know-how and technology transfer among the developing partners in India and beyond, at regional and international levels.

The programme would also include Humanitarian Aid with a view on disaster preparedness and prevention with emphasis on the development of local disaster-prevention capability.

Following the 1999 cyclone in Orissa, the SDC and local NGOs cooperated closely on erecting 32 flood- and storm-resistant buildings. After Gujarat earthquake in January 2001, the SDC helped finance reconstruction work.

The Agency also made a substantial contribution to the UNDP and several local NGOs for flood victims and in 2005-2006, a contribution was earmarked for assistance to tsunami victims in southern India.

According to the report, the current cooperation programme would be transformed into the new partnership programme by 2009 and come into effect 2010 onwards.

UNI

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