Bern, 19.02.2020 – Sustainable global development, coupled with poverty reduction, is indispensable for a stable international order and thus also in Switzerland’s interests. At its meeting on 19 February 2020, the Federal Council adopted the Dispatch on Switzerland’s Strategy for International Cooperation 2021–24 (International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24). Swiss development cooperation will become more focused, thereby enhancing its effectiveness. With its International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24, the Federal Council is requesting five framework credits totalling CHF 11.25 billion over four years. The thematic focus areas of the new strategy are the creation of decent jobs locally, mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects, reducing the causes of irregular migration and promoting the rule of law. Going forward, still greater use will be made of the potential of the private sector and digitalisation. Multilateralism remains an important pillar of Switzerland’s international cooperation.
In terms of economic prosperity, health and quality of life, humanity has made unprecedented progress in recent decades. Thanks to sustained growth in the world economy, social programmes at national level (especially in middle-income countries) and official development assistance (ODA), the proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from 41% in 1981 to 10% in 2015. Despite this progress, extreme poverty still affects one in ten people, and in the coming years Africa will have the greatest need to catch up. Challenges such as climate change, lack of food security, economic and financial crises, epidemics, human rights violations and armed conflicts also jeopardise the achievements made to date in combating poverty.
With its International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24, the Federal Council is requesting from Parliament five framework credits totalling CHF 11.25 billion to fund humanitarian aid, development cooperation and the promotion of peace and human security. According to current forecasts, Switzerland’s ODA would thus amount to an average of 0.46% of gross national income for the 2021–24 period (ODA/GNI ratio).
Clear criteria for Switzerland’s strategic approach
Switzerland’s strategic approach to international cooperation is now based on explicit criteria: the needs of the population in developing countries, the long-term interests of Switzerland and the value added by Swiss interventions.
Focusing bilateral development cooperation on four priority regions
Humanitarian aid, peacebuilding and action to tackle global challenges (climate and the environment, water, migration, food security and health) will retain their universal mandate, while the FDFA’s bilateral development cooperation will henceforth focus on four priority regions. 1) North Africa and the Middle East, 2) sub-Saharan Africa, 3) Central, South and South-East Asia, 4) Eastern Europe. In line with this prioritisation, the total number of SDC priority countries worldwide will be reduced from 46 to 35. The FDFA intends to phase out its bilateral development cooperation work in Latin America between now and the end of 2024. The funding thus released will be shifted to the four new priority regions in order to ensure a greater impact there.
The EAER and die FDFA will collaborate closely in these four regions. Furthermore, the EAER will focus its bilateral economic cooperation and development activities on 13 priority countries, including in certain emerging countries in Latin America where Switzerland has external economic interests.
First consultation on international cooperation
On 30 November 2018, the Federal Council set out the strategic approach for Switzerland’s international cooperation 2021–24. On this basis, the FDFA and the EAER conducted, for the first time, an optional consultation from 2 May to 23 August 2019, in order to facilitate a broad domestic political discussion. The strategy document was broadly welcomed, pending certain clarifications and changes. In order to take on board the results of the consultation, amendments were made to the objectives, priorities and criteria for strategic orientation, among other things.
It was made clearer, for example, that poverty reduction and sustainable development remain the raison d’être of international cooperation, that it is aligned to Switzerland’s long-term interests such as a just and peaceful international order, and that it aims to strengthen the private sector in developing countries. International cooperation funding earmarked for the mitigation of climate change and adaptation to its consequences will increase to CHF 400 million per year by the end of 2024 (compared with CHF 300 million per year in 2017–20).
The new strategy builds on the findings of the evaluation of the preceding period 2017–20. A final report on the effectiveness and efficiency of international cooperation activities during the last period was drawn up on the basis of evaluations by independent experts. At its meeting on 19 February 2020, the Federal Council also adopted this final report and was positive in its assessment of the impact of international cooperation over the last four years (see separate press release).
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