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Bern, 08.12.2009 - On 8 December 2009, a closing ceremony under the patronage of the Bilateral Committee of the Egyptian Swiss Development Fund (ESDF), in the presence of Minister of Social Solidarity Ali El-Sayed El-Moselhy, Ambassador Beatrice Maser Mallor from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Ambassador of Switzerland Dominik Furgler was held at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. The governments of Egypt and Switzerland agreed to close the fund as it has been fully disbursed and the development objectives fulfilled.

The Egyptian Swiss Development Fund (ESDF) was established in 1995 on the basis of a joint debt relief agreement. Under this agreement, Switzerland cancelled debt of CHF 150 million while, in return, Egypt redeemed part of the debt in local currency, equivalent to CHF 90 million (LE 265 million), or 60% of the total face value of the debt. The redeemed funds were then entrusted to the ESDF, with the purpose of using the funds for projects aimed at reducing poverty and promoting economic development. Since then, all resources have been committed and disbursed to projects. It was thus agreed to disband the ESDF.

The ESDF was part of Switzerland's bilateral debt relief programme launched in 1991 on the occasion of Switzerland's 700th anniversary celebrations. The programme was the first comprehensive approach to debt relief for an industrialised creditor country and served as a harbinger for the concerted international efforts that were launched in the late 1990s with the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). The Swiss debt relief programme was a joint undertaking of the SECO, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Alliance Sud, the Swiss Alliance of Development Organisations.

The ESDF was one of 12 joint development funds that were established under the Swiss debt relief programme. The ESDF was the largest of these funds in terms of fund volume and had the highest local-currency input relative to the debt relief granted. The ESDF contributed to reducing the external debt burden of Egypt and financed development projects in the fields of job creation, social services (primary healthcare and basic education) and environmental and natural resources (sanitation and water supply and waste removal programmes) for the benefit of the poorest sectors of the population. The ESDF operated in 20 out of 26 governorates and reached over two million people.

While the closure of the fund brings to an end one successful chapter of assistance, Switzerland's development assistance to Egypt continues. Egypt is one of the seven priority countries of SECO's economic development cooperation. SECO's assistance is based on a strategy that was developed in coordination with the government and responds to the development needs of Egypt.

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