The Great Lakes Region (Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo)

The three countries that make up the region (Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC) are closely interconnected and have shaped each other’s development. Since they gained their independence, this continued interdependence has fed into cross-border conflicts that have caused enormous human suffering and brought state institutions to the brink of collapse. The three countries have signed peace agreements and held elections. However, it has become clear in recent years that these elections have failed to cement peace, and various conflicts endure. Institutions remain fragile and the people of the three countries have yet to reap the benefits of peace.

Map of the region Great Lakes Region (Rwanda, Burundi, DRC)
© FDFA

The Great Lakes region, comprised of Rwanda, Burundi and the eastern DRC, is a priority region for the South Cooperation Department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). This fragility is an obstacle to the strengthening of regional institutions and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Because the prospects of these three countries are intertwined, regional stability is a basic condition for improving the well-being of the local populations. In terms of business and trade, the region is rich in natural resources and offers many untapped opportunities.

Overall goal of the Swiss cooperation strategy for the Great Lakes region

In the Great Lakes region, Switzerland works to further peace and stability, reduce poverty and protect civilians. It helps to strengthen democratic processes, respect for human rights, social cohesion and employment, especially for young people. In line with Switzerland’s diplomatic and political efforts, these activities are aimed at strengthening the capacities of local people to overcome crises and challenges.

Dialogue, fighting impunity and diplomacy

Switzerland is committed to preventing and reducing violence, strengthening democratic institutions and processes, and contributing to the fight against impunity. Switzerland’s activities include facilitation and mediation at the political and civil society levels, support for elections and constitutional reforms, advocacy, monitoring and the protection of human rights. In Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC, Switzerland has helped set up a variety of media outlets, especially radio stations, which perform a watchdog function and produce good quality programming, and has also supported the media’s self-regulation efforts.

Fragility and violence impede poverty reduction

Protection of civilians

Switzerland uses all means and channels at its disposal – bilateral, multilateral, the Geneva Conventions – to assure the existence of humanitarian spaces in the region which are necessary to protect vulnerable population groups and restore dignity to those who have been denied it. The protection of civilians includes the monitoring and recording of violations of international humanitarian law, inter-community dialogue, advocacy, training and awareness-raising activities, and reintegration measures. These efforts benefit nearly three million people every year. Switzerland has supported almost 300,000 people through its bilateral projects, including child protection projects, over the past four years.

Employment and economic development

To promote employment and income opportunities, Switzerland is giving priority to high-quality vocational education and training in occupational sectors that are adapted to the needs of the market, both in rural and peri-urban areas. In rural areas, Switzerland is focusing its efforts on the transformation of the building materials sector, which is experiencing rap­id growth and is very labour intensive. Technology introduced by Switzerland in Rwanda and Burundi to improve working conditions and energy efficiency in brickmaking has boosted production to approxi­mately 14 million bricks per year since 2015.

Basic education and vocational skills development

Health and combating violence against women

Ensuring continued access to healthcare services in crisis situations is critically important for public health, eases community tensions and promotes so­cial cohesion. Switzerland is working in this sector for universal healthcare and for primary and secondary health services, particularly mother and child health­care and the fight against child malnutrition. Switzerland is committed to combating violence against women. Swiss-supported efforts have helped some 60,000 women to access survivor support services since 2011, including 12,300 rape survivors who have received medical, psychological and legal sup­port. Thanks to the efforts of over 500 civil society organisations, 54% of the women have been able to reintegrate into their communities.

Gender equality

History of cooperation

Switzerland has been present in the Great Lakes region since the 1960s. For three decades, it carried out development cooperation programmes in the region, but since the 1990s, the primary focus has been on humanitarian aid and peace policy. As part of its 2017–20 strategy, Switzerland combines development aid, humanitarian aid, peace policy and diplomacy in the Great Lakes region. Through the coordinated deployment of these instruments, Switzerland aims to improve the coherence of its efforts, to deal more effectively with the complex political, security, humanitarian and developmental challenges facing the region.

Private Sector Development and financial services

Links

Documents

Current projects

Object 1 – 12 of 82

Democratic Republic of the Congo: supporting the fight against Ebola

a group of health workers listen to the trainer's instructions, assisted by two individuals wearing protective clothing.

01.08.2018 - 30.04.2019

The unpredictable nature of epidemics and the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo pose a challenge. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is experiencing the tenth Ebola outbreak in the country's history. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Medair have mounted a rapid and flexible response to stop the virus from spreading in North Kivu province.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Democratic Republic Congo
Health
Primary health care
Basic nutrition
Reproductive health & rights

01.08.2018 - 30.04.2019


CHF 1'359'156



Healthcare in the Great Lakes region: taking healthcare to the people

A baby being weighed in a consultation room.

01.02.2013 - 31.12.2018

Despite the political and humanitarian crisis Burundi is experiencing, the SDC remains committed to providing help directly to the people. In the health sector it aims to strengthen treatment capacity in health centres and district hospitals so that these can provide accessible, good-quality care. The SDC programme covers both Burundi and Rwanda.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
The Great Lakes Region
Health
Health systems strengthening
Primary health care
Reproductive health & rights

01.02.2013 - 31.12.2018


CHF 9'970'000



Broadening the range of occupations to boost the economy

A young man sawing a wooden board.

01.05.2012 - 31.01.2016

Since 2012, the SDC has been running a programme specifically designed for young Rwandans. By improving the quality of several vocational schools in Rwanda, the SDC aims to better equip young people to meet the needs of the country's economy, which must become more diversified if it is to grow. The SDC's efforts are also helping the most disadvantaged members of society to enter the job market.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
The Great Lakes Region

Rwanda, Western Province

Vocational training
Employment & economic development
Health
Vocational training
Employment creation
Health systems strengthening

01.05.2012 - 31.01.2016


CHF 9'740'000



South Kivu Province: Better Sanitation Infrastructures for the Population

New paediatrics unit

01.09.2010 - 31.01.2015

Following the years of civil war, and in a security situation which remains delicate, sanitation facilities are improving in South Kivu, in eastern Congo. A total of 37 health centres have been rehabilitated and equipped and two hospitals now have new paediatrics units. The hospitals and health centres are supplied with medicines through a distribution network.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Democratic Republic Congo

South Kivu Province

Health
Vocational training
Primary health care
Health systems strengthening
Reproductive health & rights
Vocational training

01.09.2010 - 31.01.2015


CHF 11'395'000



Intégration de la santé mentale dans les soins de santé primaire au Burundi

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2031

L’intégration de la santé mentale dans les services de santé primaire du Burundi vise à renforcer le système de prise en charge des personnes atteintes de maladies mentales post traumatiques. La Suisse est un partenaire important du Burundi qui a un intérêt à contribuer à mettre fin au cycle de violences qui trouvent leur origine en partie dans des traumatismes vécus mais non traités. Le programme appuie les institutions nationales concernées, le système de formation spécialisée et vise l’amélioration du cadre législatif en santé mentale.


Planned project

Multi-Donor Civil Society Support Programme in Rwanda

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2022

The present programme is a multi-donor initiative aiming at supporting civil society strengthening and specific civil society initiatives in Rwanda. The overall goal is to enable civil society to become more effective at influencing the government on key policy issues and supporting social cohesion, reconciliation, good governance and human rights. The main development partners financing the programme include the United Kingdom (UK), USA, Sweden and Switzerland.


UN-Gender Rwanda

01.10.2019 - 30.09.2023

In line with SDC’s engagement on fighting sexual and gender-based violence and women’s empowerment in the Great Lakes region, the UN-Gender Program will contribute to the efforts of the Government of Rwanda and the UN Agencies in Rwanda to transform commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment into concrete actions, in particular through awareness raising and capacity building for women and strengthening service providers.


Promoting Market Oriented Skills Training in the Great Lakes region (PROMOST)

01.07.2019 - 30.06.2022

PROMOST contributed to increased employment and income generation in the Great Lakes region by providing access and enhancing quality of vocational training. Building on the achievements of the previous two phases, the third phase will focus on the sustainability of the interventions, on the labor market insertion of graduates and on the institutionalization of short-term training and apprentice-ships, thus permitting the phasing-out of Swiss contributions and the continuous increasing of national and regional commitments to professional skills education, especially in Rwanda.


IOM : Displacement tracking in Burundi

01.03.2019 - 31.12.2019

Avec environ 147'000 personnes déplacées internes et plus de 367'000 réfugiés dans les pays voisins, les effets de la crise politique au Burundi issue des élections contestées de 2015 et des conditions climatiques défavorables sont importants. Ce projet permet de fournir des informations fiables sur les mouvements de populations internes au Burundi et les besoins des personnes déplacées. La continuité de ce projet reste d’une importance capitale dans le contexte actuel.


Allocation of SDC Funding to ICRC Operations in 2019

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2019

In line with the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) principles, Switzerland recognizes the necessity of predictable and flexible funding to respond to changing needs in humanitarian crises. SDC funding to ICRC operations allows the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to respond proactively and to provide immediate protection and assistance for people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.


Participation citoyenne et prévention des conflits dans la région des Grands Lacs (PCPC)

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2029

Les conflits récurrents dans la région des Grands Lacs ont des conséquences néfastes sur les systèmes de gouvernance et sur le bien-être des populations. Il est dans l’intérêt de la Suisse de contribuer à une paix durable et à la stabilité dans la région. Le projet renforcera ainsi les mécanismes formels et informels de prévention et de gestion des conflits communautaires, par la promotion des droits de l’homme, de la redevabilité sociale et du dialogue inclusif. Des partenariats engageront les autorités et différents acteurs de la société civile, en priorité dans les régions transfrontalières.


Multi-Donor civil society support program in Rwanda

01.01.2019 - 31.12.2020

The program aims at strengthening the capacity of Rwanda civil society to engage constructively with the Government on policy, planning and monitoring issues. It will improve a bottom-up dialogue and consultation mechanisms and promote the use of evidence in policy making for an effective implementation of the National Strategy for Transformation. The project is in line with Switzerland’s approach of fostering civic participation in Rwanda.

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