Annual Swiss Development Cooperation Conference: Federal Councillor Cassis calls for effectiveness

Press release, 29.06.2018

The sustainable development of urban and rural areas in Africa was at the heart of the SDC/SECO Annual Swiss Development Cooperation Conference that took place on 29 June 2018 in Bern. Participating for the first time in his capacity as head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis called for effectiveness in the field of international cooperation.

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis stands at a lectern and speaks. In the background is a palm tree.
Federal Councillor Cassis calls for effectiveness in cooperation efforts – speech by the head of the FDFA at the Annual Swiss Development Cooperation Conference. © Keystone

This year's annual conference took place at BERNEXPO, where some 1,200 participants – specialists, politicians, representatives of UN agencies, NGOs and civil society – gathered for the event. The topic chosen for the conference was the work of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) in Africa and their priorities for the region in terms of the sustainable development of urban and rural areas.

Two and a half billion smallholder farms are responsible for cultivating 60% of the world's arable land; towns and cities produce 70% of the world's economic wealth. One of the aims of Swiss development cooperation is to support urban and rural areas. For rural populations, the goal is to get a better return; in the towns and cities, it is primarily about private-sector development and advising the authorities.

At the event in Bern, SDC and SECO specialists presented examples from Chad and South Africa, which were discussed in the presence of a number of speakers including Mansour N'Diaye, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in Chad and Malijeng Ngqaleni, head of Intergovernmental Relations at the Ministry of Finance in South Africa.

Grain is the primary food source in Chad, where the SDC is funding a programme aimed at facilitating access to good-quality seed for farmers. Amounting to around CHF 6 million over five years, the programme should help 200,000 smallholder farms improve their production and income. It is expected that a total of 2 million people will benefit from the project.

In South Africa, SECO is supporting the 'Cities Support Programme', an urban development programme, which aims to help eight municipalities in a variety of areas, in particular connecting the poorest neighbourhoods to their city's water supply and wastewater treatment systems. The projected budget is CHF 10 million over five years.

Speech by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis
Participating for the first time in his capacity as head of the FDFA, which includes the SDC, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis emphasised the interdependence between urban and rural areas and highlighted the challenges that they face.

He called for effectiveness in international cooperation efforts in general, underlining the importance of setting clear objectives and transparency regarding the achievement of targets in order to maintain Switzerland's strong humanitarian tradition in the long term.

Based on decisions taken by Parliament, recommendations from the Swiss Federal Audit Office and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the senior management of the SDC proposes setting out thematic and geographic priorities, Mr Cassis explained. He went on to add that the purpose, as always, was to contribute to more stability, peace and economic growth.

Mr Cassis also indicated that reorienting development cooperation in this direction can and should be considered, stating that a more scientific approach should guarantee quality, effectiveness and efficiency and promote innovation.

Panel discussion
The head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gilbert F. Houngbo also highlighted in his speech the "fundamental role" smallholder farms "play in the face of challenges linked to urbanisation". "This growing interconnection between the towns and the countryside is an opportunity. At IFAD we advocate for integrated rural development, which has overtaken the old urban-rural dichotomy," he added.

The 2018 annual conference was rounded off with a panel discussion led by SECO Director and State Secretary Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch and SDC Assistant Director-General Ambassador Thomas Gass.

Further information:

Chad (fr)
South Africa
List of speakers
Speech by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
Bundeshaus West
CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Fax: +41 58 464 90 47

Lorenz Jakob
State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO
Tel. +41 58 468 60 56


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs