Switzerland should increase its development aid while reducing the number of recipients, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says.
The recommendations are included in a report by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, which studied Swiss aid projects.
Reacting to the criticism, the head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Walter Fust, said he had tried to explain to the committee the budget constraints that his agency was under.
Fust was speaking at OECD headquarters in Paris where he was presented with a draft of the report.
Norway and New Zealand carried out the peer review – a regular evaluation of the development cooperation performance of individual OECD members. Switzerland was last evaluated in 2000.
The report said Switzerland was committing an "insufficient sum" in aid to developing countries. It recommended that Switzerland’s contribution be increased from 0.4 per cent of gross national product (GNP) to 0.7 per cent.
Fust said that costs associated with asylum seekers were previously not included in Switzerland’s development aid figure. If this expenditure were left out, Switzerland’s development aid budget would be just 0.37 per cent of GDP.
"We explained Switzerland’s budgetary constraints owing to the ceiling put on government expenditure," said Fust.
"We were unable to meet the OECD members’ request that we outline stages for reaching our target of 0.7 per cent."
Responding to the recommendation that Switzerland reduce the number of countries it supports with development aid, Fust said that Bern did not want to do this "for political reasons".
The review was carried out between February and June this year. Its full findings will be published once Switzerland has had an opportunity to make detailed comments on it.
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Switzerland has pledged to increase its development aid from 0.37% to 0.41% of GNP by 2010.
To achieve this increase it has added costs associated with asylum seekers into the development budget, a tactic condemned by NGOs.
In 1970, the UN recommended that 0.7% of GNP be set aside for development aid.
Currently just five countries exceed that level: Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands.
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