Swiss want to narrow overseas aid priorities

Aid sent by Switzerland to victims of the Nepal earthquake in 2015 Keystone / Urs Flueeler

The government proposes to give Switzerland’s international development strategy a makeover, narrowing the focus to encourage greater effectiveness. The proposed strategy aims to place greater emphasis on Swiss interests, economic growth and the private sector.

This content was published on May 2, 2019 minutes

On Thursday the government gave details of its proposed international cooperation strategyExternal link for 2021-2024, which will be now be discussed by relevant partners before approval by parliament in early 2020.

The projected budget for this period is CHF11.37 billion ($11.14 billion), up by CHF260 million compared to the 2017-2020 period. The government will thus invest 0.45% of Gross National Income in overseas development aid, below its 2011 commitment of 0.5% and the United Nations goal of 0.7%.

“The main focus will be on local job creation, the fight against climate change and the causes of irregular and forced migration, as well as the commitment to peace and the rule of law,” according to a joint report by the foreign and economics ministries.

Both departments say they want to “improve the effectiveness of development aid by refocusing thematic and geographical priorities” and by making better use of technologies.

In the future, the geographic focus will be on four regions instead of six: Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe. Switzerland will pull out of Latin America and East Asia. It plans to gradually disengage from cooperation work in Latin America by 2024.

The number of priority countries covered by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the humanitarian arm of the foreign affairs ministry, will drop from 46 to 34. Swiss cooperation activities will progressively cease in Bolivia, Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia.

For the first time, the international cooperation strategy will be subject to a public consultation procedure. The cantons, political parties, municipalities, mountain towns and regions, umbrella associations and other interested parties are invited to submit their opinions on the proposal by August 23.

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