HEKS/EPER – History
For more than 70 years HEKS/EPER has been championing the causes of needy and disadvantaged people. The relief and reconstruction work of Protestant Churches in post-war Europe has evolved into a worldwide commitment to a more humane and just world – and HEKS/EPER has become a professional aid organization that assists over a million people through its projects.
Inter-church aid for reconstruction
Start of international development aid
The colonial countries in Africa and Asia are struggling for their political independence. HEKS/EPER expands its activities to these continents and provides survival relief in Algeria, sends donated clothing to Iran and Jordan, donates books and scholarships for students in Asia. Collections undertaken by cantonal churches served to launch the first development project in Southern India, in the form of a skills training workshop for industrial workers. HEKS/EPER also takes part in developing the school system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Major aid programmes
Under the «Bread for Brethren» programme, churches and aid organizations in Switzerland raise 15.7 million francs within two years for development aid projects run by HEKS/EPER and Protestant missions. In addition, Reformed and Catholic churches join forces for the first time under an aid programme, Joint Church Aid, to assist victims of the Biafra War. Also, with the support of the Delta Ministry project in the US State of Mississippi, HEKS/EPER takes a stand in support of equal rights for African Americans in the USA.
Disaster relief and development policy
HEKS/EPER stands in solidarity with communities oppressed by racism and apartheid in Angola, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Following flood disasters in North Africa and Eastern Europe, earthquakes in Turkey and Peru as well as a storm surge in Pakistan, HEKS/EPER builds up a disaster relief programme of its own. Having provided emergency aid for years after the Vietnam War, HEKS/EPER also becomes involved in reconstruction work. Ties with aid agencies, human rights groups and grassroots movements are also expanded as a way of promoting development work.
Strengthened commitment to helping refugees in Switzerland
Turnaround in Eastern Europe, end of apartheid in South Africa and Balkan War
Emergency aid and reorientation of work in Switzerland
HEKS/EPER provides emergency aid ever more frequently following natural disasters and armed conflicts. The year 2005 in particular is marked by natural disasters: HEKS/EPER provides emergency assistance following the tsunami in Asia and disasters caused by extreme weather in Romania, southern Mexico, Guatemala, Kashmir, Niger and in the Sudan. In Switzerland, HEKS/EPER loses the Confederation's mandate for refugee support and expands its activities to include assistance to the migrant population. In 2004, HEKS/EPER becomes a foundation.
Greater thematic focus
HEKS/EPER becomes more focused in the thematic priorities of its project work. Internationally, HEKS/EPER concentrates on developing rural communities, conflict management, humanitarian aid as well as church cooperation, while in Switzerland it focuses on social inclusion and advocacy for socially underprivileged people. HEKS/EPER places the struggle for land rights at the centre of its fundraising campaign entitled «Big changes start small». The «Aid donations» Christmas initiative launched in 2008 continues to be successful to this day.
A professional church aid organization
HEKS/EPER continues to build up its expertise as a church aid organization that champions the causes of disadvantaged people on the basis of Christian values and human rights and is still forging ahead in terms of controlling and impact assessment as well as sustainability and transparency. HEKS/EPER assists more than one million people every year – in Switzerland and around the world. HEKS/EPER continues its long-term development cooperation projects on poverty alleviation and food security for peasant families.
HEKS/EPER scores two major successes in its advocacy work in 2018: the UN adopts a declaration protecting the rights of rural communities to land and natural resources – a project on which HEKS/EPER had also collaborated for years. And in Bangladesh, the «National Congress on the Rights of Dalits and Adivasis» organized by HEKS/EPER adopts a declaration on the strengthening of the political and cultural rights of these indigenous communities, which are subject to discrimination. In Switzerland too, HEKS/EPER strives at least to alleviate the consequences of the persisting refugee crisis. Through the petition «For safe and legal escape routes into Switzerland», HEKS/EPER together with the Swiss Refugee Council and more than 38,000 signatories call on the Federal Council to provide asylum for particularly vulnerable refugees.
In 2018, however, receipts for humanitarian aid and development cooperation fall short of expectations, making it necessary to cover some of the expenditure from project funds. This obliges HEKS/EPER to forego certain projects and make cost savings in project support and administration. For HEKS/EPER, the hallmarks of the years 2019 and 2020 are financial stabilization and greater focus in its project work.