Two agencies are responsible for carrying out Switzerland’s aid programme: the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs. These agencies share joint responsibility for defining and implementing the Swiss aid programme. SDC is responsible for the overall co-ordination of development activities and Switzerland’s humanitarian aid.
A reorganisation of the SDC has intended to strengthen Switzerland’s development activities. Improvements have been made to the bilateral operational efforts, contributions to multilateral institutions and thematic support.
Switzerland’s framework for development cooperation outlines three strategic objectives:
- Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and reducing poverty
- Promoting human security and reducing risks
- Contributing to pro-development globalisation
The 2008 ‘Bill for the South’ introduced several new sectoral themes: i) cooperation with the South, ii) Special programmes in fragile situations and iii) Global programmes.
SDC’s new development strategy, “Strategy 2010”, spells out Switzerland’s key development topics, based on the four core strategies “Help for self-help”, “Knowledge”, “International Dialogue” and “Solidarity”:
- Crisis prevention and management
- Good Governance
- Income generation and employment
- Increase of social justice
- Sustainable use of natural resources
Swiss Official Development Assistance (ODA) has risen sharply over the last few years. In 2009, Switzerland’s ODA was 2.6 billion CHF (€1.9 billion). This represents 0.47% of Switzerland’s gross national income (GNI), which is slightly below the OECD DAC countries’ average. Least-developed countries receive the largest share of Swiss ODA, with Sub-Saharan Africa constituting the main target of bilateral disbursements. The largest recipient of Swiss aid is Asia with 42%. Some 39% of bilateral aid goes to Africa and in the southern and eastern areas of the continent; Switzerland mainly focuses on health care. The portion of bilateral aid to Latin America amounts to 19%. Switzerland has become an ever-important partner for Bolivia.
By 2012 the number of priority countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America will have been reduced from 17 to 12 and the number of special programmes from seven to six. The programmes in certain countries which have had priority up to now – India, Bhutan, Pakistan, Ecuador and Peru – are being terminated, as is the special programme in North Korea. Despite this reduction, Switzerland’s aid programme encompasses a high number of sectors and cross cutting issues, however gender is only a cross-cutting issue within the SDC.
Switzerland is a member of all important international institutions and thus collaborates with UN organisations, international financial institutions and multilateral networks. The SDC and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs jointly develop Switzerland’s overall multilateral priorities, but have shared responsibilities with respect to cooperation with multilateral actors.
Support for SRHR and HIV/AIDS activities
Improving reproductive health and the control of major communicable diseases (including HIV/AIDS) constitute two of the five strategic priorities of SDC’s “Health policy 2003-2010”. The SDC has adopted the strategy of internally mainstreaming HIV/AIDS thereby making it a development theme. Switzerland’s commitment to the HIV/AIDS epidemic is based on the UNGASS AIDS 2001 and 2006 Declarations of Commitment on HIV/AIDS. It has subscribed to the Cairo Agenda of the ICPD in 1994 and recognises reproductive health and reproductive choice as a human right. SDC aims to focus on the following issues in its future support to SRHR:
- Promoting the concept of reproductive rights
- Promoting gender sensitive approaches to SRHR
- Promoting integrated reproductive health services, including HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Promoting maternal and infant health
- Supporting efforts to reduce gender based violence, including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Swiss support for SRHR has been largely limited to funding for multilateral activities; e.g. by supporting UNFPA, international NGOs such as IPPF and the Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction implemented by the WHO. However in the Great Lakes of Africa, Switzerland’s bilateral development cooperation has been extremely successful. There has been a great improvement in the quality of health care most notably Rwanda which has seen significant decreases in the levels of infant and maternal mortality.
In the field of HIV/AIDS, Switzerland has stepped up its efforts over the last few years. In the past, HIV/AIDS programmes have lacked a coherent approach and were not mainstreamed into other development policies. According to the SDC Health Policy 2003-2010, the Swiss government aims to:
- Strengthen skills and capacities in the field
- Promote programme synergies
- Take a multi-sectoral and systematic approach
- Integrate HIV/AIDS prevention into SDC projects and programmes
- Promote operational research
Nepal has been a focus for the SDC, and has mainstreamed HIV/AIDS into many of its supported development projects and programmes. Aid focus1 is the main Swiss platform for HIV and AIDS, and international cooperation.
Co-operation with NGOs
Cooperation with NGOs is an important feature of Switzerland’s development cooperation. The 2008 ‘Bill for the South’ emphasises cooperation with NGOs, research institutions and public and private partnerships for development as one of the six priority areas for the Swiss aid programme. In 2008, the SDC set-up a new division for institutional partnerships reporting directly to the Director-General. This division will shape SDC’s relations with NGOs and illustrates SDC’s willingness to strengthen its engagements with a broader range of stakeholders. Approximately 30% of the SDC's bilateral development cooperation work with the South is handled via Swiss NGOs and private development organisations. Based on its "Strategy 2010" the SDC pursues a policy of strengthening such cooperation with civil society organisations.
SDC has 24 strategic partnerships with Swiss NGOs which can receive multi-year programme contributions. This promotion of partnerships with civil society and the private sector continues to be one of the main focuses of the SDC. The importance of NGO cooperation in Switzerland’s development policy is highlighted by the fact that between 21% and 23% of Swiss aid is channelled to and through NGOs, making it the main partner of Swiss aid.
1 More information on AidFocus can be found on their website.
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC): Annual Report 2008
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC): SDC health policy 2003-2010
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC): Focus on HIV/AIDS