Switzerland's international cooperation is geared towards responsible, joint action by the international community. To implement its goals at international level, Switzerland works closely with multilateral organisations such as the UN and the World Bank. Sustainable, cross-boundary water management was a central aspect of Switzerland's global cooperation in 2017.
Overcoming global challenges
A common chapter for sustainable development
As part of its efforts to make the UN more efficient, in 2017 Switzerland got the four biggest development agencies to commit to working together more closely. Thanks to its international engagement and globally recognised expertise, Switzerland was able to convince the 193 UN member states in negotiations of the necessity of this strategic adjustment. In future, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the Population Fund (UNDP) will have to set out in their strategic plans how they intend to work together to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
The 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) were unanimously adopted by all of the world's heads of state and government in 2015. The 2030 Agenda is the world’s most pioneering development agenda because it contains a radical promise: leave no one behind. The goals include ending poverty in all its forms everywhere (SDG1), achieving gender equality (SDG 5) and promoting sustainable economic growth and decent work for all (SDG 12).
The 2030 Agenda aims to help those who have so far benefited the least from globalisation and development. It is for these people that the SDC uses its influence at the UN.
Better assistance thanks to joint planning
Switzerland’s engagement has resulted in better coordination and more concerted UN efforts, providing those who need it with more comprehensive, effective assistance.
A common chapter of the new strategic plans states the commitment of the four UN agencies to work more closely together. The common chapter sets out how the agencies intend to work together in six key areas also prioritised by Switzerland in its efforts to achieve 2030 Agenda:
Six Swiss development cooperation priorities:
combating extreme poverty
climate change and managing natural disasters
healthcare provision for young people, women and girls
common data collection on the situation of disadvantaged people
Shared responsibility – shared goals
This exemplary approach anchors the optimal use of UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women und UNFPA expertise and synergies in the agencies’ respective strategies, allowing their collaborative advantage to be harnessed in efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals around the world.
This was a major success for Switzerland because the common chapter encourages the UN to work efficiently and coherently to implement the 2030 Agenda. Switzerland’s work in this area is helping to create a strong UN that uses its unique universal mandate to support all countries as they strive for sustainable development. Switzerland also benefits from UN support in its efforts to achieve its national sustainable development goals.
Drinking water in the refugee camp
Jordan currently hosts over 600,000 refugees. Azraq is the second biggest refugee camp. Together with UNICEF, Swiss Humanitarian Aid has built a water distribution network. Thousands of families now have direct access to safe water.
Home to around 35,000 refugees from Syria, Azraq is the second largest refugee camp in Jordan. It is situated on a desert plain 90km from the border with Syria. The camp was intended to house up to 55,000 people.
The scorching temperatures in the summer of 2017 made a continuous supply of drinking water a priority for the people living there. Initially, 40 to 50 tankers would drive to a water source 50km away from the camp to fetch drinking water for the refugees. But with the camp’s ever-growing population, it became urgent to find a more efficient and less costly way to ensure access to drinking water.
Drinking water right up to the front door
All of the water and sanitation activities in the Azraq refugee camp are led by UNICEF. In autumn 2015, Swiss Humanitarian Aid responded to UNICEF's appeal to create a water distribution network inside the camp. Members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) Water and Environmental Sanitation expert group were sent to manage the project. A second borehole right next to the camp was drilled to diversify the sources of water and reduce dependency on any one well. Using the 35km of water pipes and 214 taps being stored on site, these water sources were then connected to the camp. Local technicians were also given training to help keep the system in good working order.
Savings invested in training
When the project was completed in May 2017, the water tankers had been replaced by a system capable of providing the refugees with a continuous supply of drinking water. Because the tankers are no longer needed, CHF 1 million is saved each year on transport costs. The savings will be invested in training programmes for the refugees.
Blue Peace in Central Asia
Switzerland's 'blue' diplomacy in Central Asia encourages dialogue and cooperation in the management of the region's water resources.
There are many unresolved conflicts in Central Asia. In addition to disputed borders, competition for shared water resources is a frequent source of tension. In 2017, five Central Asian governments nevertheless agreed to guidelines on a joint dialogue on the use of water resources. The SDC's Blue Peace Central Asia Initiative was behind this agreement.
Blue Peace seeks to regulate the sustainable cross-border management of water resources. The joint management of water resources has the potential to create stability, security and growth in the region.
Five countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – were invited by the SDC to sit down together at the world expo in June 2017. Water issues were the focus of their meeting, which was attended by then Federal Council member Didier Burkhalter.
Switzerland's expertise in water management and long-standing commitment in the region make it a trusted and valued partner. Switzerland brought experts to the negotiating table who helped to tailor tried and tested solutions to the Central Asian context. The guidelines provide for the creation of a platform for regional political cooperation on water.
This laid the foundation for future cooperation and peaceful coexistence in the region.
Switzerland shows its commitment to multilateralism
To celebrate 25 years of membership of the World Bank, Switzerland organised a conference with President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim and Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Amman.
In 1992, 56% of the Swiss electorate voted in a referendum to join the World Bank. Switzerland is still the only country to have joined the Bretton Woods institutions by popular vote.
World Bank – working to meet sustainable development goals
The anniversary conference in August 2017 discussed the Bank’s successes and challenges over the past 25 years. Participants explored what the World Bank can do to help meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and reduce poverty worldwide. Other key topics were avenues for future partnership with the World Bank and how Switzerland might contribute to the planned capital increases of the two World Bank organisations IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and IFC (International Finance Corporation).
Development banks key partners for Switzerland
Switzerland used the anniversary conference as an opportunity to highlight its commitment to multilateralism. Cooperation with development banks, especially the World Bank, is central to Switzerland's development efforts and an important counterpart to its bilateral activities. The World Bank has the critical mass to make a difference in overcoming challenges such as financial crises, climate change, environmental disasters, migration flows and epidemics.
Return of illicit assets to fight poverty
Some USD 321 million in funds from the entourage of former dictator Sani Abacha are being repatriated to Nigeria by Switzerland.
The illegally acquired millions are not returned unconditionally. The funds are being invested in an ambitious project under the supervision of the World Bank. They are being used to establish Nigeria's first national social security system.
The conditions for the restitution are set out in an agreement signed by Switzerland, Nigeria and the World Bank on 4 December 2017 at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery in Washington D.C.
The returned funds will directly benefit Nigerians. Vulnerable Nigerian families will receive monthly cash transfers of USD 25 a month, rising to USD 50 if they meet certain criteria such as attendance of literacy courses, health checks for children or vaccinations. In keeping with Switzerland's restitution policy, the agreement provides for the inclusion of Nigerian civil society in the monitoring of the project and for measures in the event of misappropriation and corruption.
"The funds are explicitly earmarked for the poorest sectors of society – that is what makes this restitution exemplary," says Pio Wennubst, SDC Assistant Director. It is also a concrete example of an international development financing solution. The option to invest illicitly acquired assets in projects that benefit sustainable development and the well-being of the civilian population in the countries from which the funds were stolen is in line with internationally recognised restitution principles. Switzerland set new international standards in this case which will serve as a reference for future restitutions.