Eritrea, an oasis of independence and self-reliance in a desert of subjugation and foreign domination, has been engaged in defending its sovereignty and unique developmental policies for the last 25 years. Despite the many attempts made to counter the growth, development, and stability of the country, it has made considerable progress. The unwavering commitment shown by the people and Government of Eritrea has helped the country overcome many obstacles and conspiracies.
The governance capacity of Eritrea is reflected in its ability to sustain uncontested peace and stability, while its organizational power is illustrated by its ability to produce positive developmental outcomes. This is a fresh experience within a long troubled region.
Eritrea, through its self-reliant approach, has been able to rise from the ashes of war. Although faced with a series of significant challenges, one area of positive development has been the coun-try’s pragmatic and farsighted strategies regarding the construction of infrastructure. This policy has seen meaningful and equitable participation by all citizens of the country. Today, across Eritrea, many people are engaged within the communities, across the terrains, and throughout valleys, seeking to implement ambitious and transformational visions of change and sustainable develop-ment. Quite literally, no stone is being left unturned. Rather than abstract dialogue and pompous debate, people are active.
Eritrea has long recognized the transformational power of infrastructure, and it has directed much of its resources towards improving the infrastructural sector. Numerous economic or development studies, as well as many international organizations, elucidate the important role played by roads, dams, clinics and factories. Such measures not only change the landscape, but also fundamentally transform the lives of people.
Development, as defined by the Declaration on the Right to Development by UN General Assembly, is “a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population …on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting there-from.” In Eritrea, infrastructural development and activities seek to play a role in the fulfillment of the above definition. Moreover, it must be noted, the motivation, idea, and capital extended toward Eritrea’s infrastructural activities are all Eritrean. The roads, dams, schools and clinics, promotion of clean water, electrification, and mechanization of agriculture available everywhere in the country are made by Eritreans. Simply, self-reliance in action.
We live in a world where inequality is massive, gender discrimination remains a fundamental challenge, diseases threaten global health and human species, conflicts abound, violent extremism threatens international peace, and grave humanitarian crises persist. One underlying cause of these problems is the “leaving behind” of much of population. World leaders regularly assemble to discuss matters and adopt resolutions, but solutions remain wanting. Sixteen years ago, world leaders agreed to implement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) within fifteen years. However, only a few countries – including Eritrea – achieved much success. In September of 2015, the UN assembled to celebrate its 70th anniversary and pledged to end poverty in all of its forms by 2030. Specifically, those assembled set-out a series of “comprehensive, far-reaching and people-centered, universal and transformative goals” packed together in seventeen points collectively called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Among the goals is to build resilient infrastructure. At the root of the word, infrastructure literally means foundation. It can also be understood as “an underlying base or supporting structure, the basic facilities, equipment, services and installations needed for the growth and functioning of a country, community, operation or organization.” Effective infrastructural foundation is key in the overall socio-economic development of a state. Infrastructure also attracts foreign investment.
Understanding this very fact of infrastructure, Eritrea is working hard to improve its infrastructure. All regions of the country are covered in asphalted roads, which are the backbone of transportation system. Transport and economy are said to have a bi-directional effect, meaning each has an effect on the other. Changes in the transport system may affect the level of economic activity and conversely the level of economic activity can affect the demand for transport. Improved transport networks laid throughout Eritrea transformed the lives of the population through effects on transport costs, access and connectivity, and opening up formerly isolated areas.
As well, rivers that formerly sought outlets on the sea or across borders, now are utilized through dams. Largely, the hopes of Eritrea’s people rise together with the increasing levels of water reserved within the country’s innumerable dams. During a recent chat with a foreign academic who visited the Adi Halo and Gergera dams, the academic commended how “the [Eritrean] government is working to cover 70% of the country with water, [much like] the composition of the human body or the Earth.”
The conservation and judicious use of water is vital to well being and sustainable development. Water touches all aspects of life on earth. According to a UN report, “half of the global workforce is employed in eight water and natural resource-dependent industries.” In addition, the right to safe drinking water is also recognized in a number of many international agreements and declarations. The right to water is considered as a basic human right that helps guarantee other human rights. From a human rights perspective, the many dams constructed in Eritrea help preserve the right to life and dignity, the right to adequate food, the right to health and well being, and the right to development.
Although devastated by decades of war and other hardships, Eritreans continue to be actively engaged in efforts to tangibly improve their lives and nation. Infrastructural development, including the construction of dams and roads, not only serve as key measures in the fulfillment of human rights, but also hold the potential to positively transform individual lives, communities, and the nation.