Representatives of the Embassy of Iceland in Malawi, together with representatives of the Embassy of Norway and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), signed an agreement on Friday to support institutions and organizations that protect human rights in the country. Earlier last week work on a new administrative building in the Mangochi district was officially launched. The project is significant as it is financed jointly by the Icelandic and Malawian governments.
Inga Dóra Pétursdóttir, director of the Icelandic Embassy in Malawi, signed the agreement on behalf of Iceland at the UNDP headquarters in Lilongwe. The project is intended to strengthen the legal system as well as the foundations and independence of institutions involved with human rights in Malawi. These include the Human Rights Foundation of Malawi, the Office of the Ombudsman as well as non-governmental organizations that work on human rights issues. Special emphasis is placed on the interests and rights of various vulnerable marginalized groups, including the LGBTI community and the disabled. The project, which lasts for three years, is furthermore in line with the increased focus in Iceland’s development cooperation on human rights.
"Iceland takes seriously its commitment to respect, protect and promote human rights in action, both internationally and in Iceland's partner countries," said Elín R. Sigurðardóttir, head of the development cooperation office of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in a speech she delivered at a ceremony marking the signing.
Elín then met with Nancy Tembo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malawi, where the flourishing and decades-long development cooperation between Iceland and Malawi was at the top of the agenda. This year marks 35 years since cooperation between the two countries began.
In line with Iceland's priorities in development cooperation
Human rights are a priority issue in Iceland's foreign policy and high on the agenda in all development cooperation. The Embassy of Iceland in Lilongwe has for years supported people's basic rights through special regional development projects in the country with an emphasis on economic, social, and cultural rights. In recent years, the embassy has implemented an additional focus on civil rights.
Earlier this week, a ceremonial ceremony was held in Mangochi, one of Iceland's two partner regions in Malawi, where work on a new building for the district administration's meeting hall and financial office war formally launched. Local Government Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda was present at the ceremony. Iceland's support for the project is a part of strengthening the ability of the regional government to carry out the implementation of regional projects in accordance with high-quality and good administrative practices. At the same time, the project supports the decentralization policy of the Malian government. It marks a turning point in that the projects are financed jointly by the Icelandic and Malawian governments. The estimated cost of the building is about 180 million Icelandic ISK, of which the Icelandic government will pay about 60 percent of the total.
Last week, a consultation meeting was also held in Malawi with representatives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and seconded employees in Iceland's embassies in Africa. In addition to knowledge sharing and sharpening the targeted implementation of bilateral development cooperation in the partner countries, the group got to know the projects running in Malawi and met representatives of NGOs working there. Iceland currently works in three partner countries in Africa; Malawi, Uganda and Sierra Leone where the embassies oversee the preparation, organization and implementation of projects.