Tajikistan gained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but plunged almost immediately into a civil war which lasted until 1997. Today, the country is still recovering from the conflict; it is the poorest of the former Soviet Central Asian republics with an estimated 46 % of the population living below the poverty line. Its current population is 7 million, almost half of whom are under 14 years old.
Switzerland has been active in Tajikistan since 1993, when it delivered humanitarian aid during the civil war. In 1997 Tajikistan became a member of the Swiss led group of countries in the Bretton Woods Institutions, and at this point Switzerland established a Cooperation Office in Dushanbe, marking the shift from emergency relief to long-term development cooperation.
The main Swiss actors present in Tajikistan are the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Human Security Division of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Working closely together as one Switzerland, the role of these agencies has been and is to implement programmes which support a transition towards a pluralistic and economically viable state, contribute to poverty alleviation, and to help build institutions and systems which respond to the population’s needs.
Switzerland’s strategy for 2012 - 2015 in Tajikistan focuses on four priority areas: