Switzerland is working for a stable economic and financial environment. This is a key area of activity for Switzerland, with job creation and the development of financial services at its centre. Efforts in the tourism sector, collaboration with the private sector and education reforms delivered encouraging results in 2017.
Promoting sustainable economic growth
More and better jobs thanks to tourism
In the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, Switzerland showed clearly how tourism projects in developing countries create jobs and so help to alleviate poverty. Public-private partnerships, innovative technologies and better working conditions are determining factors.
In Switzerland, when we think of tourism, we think of holidays and travel. We fly around the world to experience distant locations and foreign cultures. Developing countries are also popular destinations. In recent years, almost half of tourists worldwide visited developing countries – a growing trend. To developing countries, tourism isn't about leisure. Tourism means jobs, incomes and a way out of poverty.
One in ten people worldwide work in tourism. This sector is growing especially fast in developing countries. In Vietnam and Indonesia, the number of tourists is growing by 9% annually. In the poorest countries, tourism is already the main source of income.
SECO is working to ensure that foreign travel creates jobs for local people in partner countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, Tunisia and Peru. Economic, ecological and social considerations are key.
Economic development in poorer regions
By 2020 Indonesia's government intends to create 10 'new Balis' to boost economic development and attract investment to the country. Indonesia's top destinations have long found it difficult to handle the negative side-effects of mass tourism and ensure that development also benefits local people. SECO's tourism projects therefore mainly seek to strengthen the economies of poorer regions. An example in Indonesia is the WISATA II project, which brings private business, the authorities and village communities together to promote poorer regions as tourist destinations. In parallel, the project advises the authorities how to steer development towards social and environmental sustainability criteria. Similar public-private cooperation models have proven very successful in Switzerland in the past.
Environmentally friendly thanks to cleaner production
SECO aims to help tourism make the most of natural and cultural heritage, while protecting, maintaining and developing these resources. For example, the now-completed Cleaner Production Centres project promoted innovative, cleaner technologies in Tunisia. The centres enabled large hotels to make use of new production methods to lower energy and water costs and dispose of waste in a more environmentally friendly way. The hotels that implemented the measures received the 'Travelife' sustainable tourism certification to help them to attract more environmentally aware guests.
More quality of life thanks to better working conditions
Sustainable employment also takes social aspects into account and ensures that jobs do not have a negative impact on workers. SCORE is a SECO-supported programme that seeks to create sustainable employment. This International Labour Organization (ILO) programme provides training to small and medium-sized enterprises to improve their compliance with international standards. SCORE training shows the companies how they can work together better to improve working conditions and productivity. SCORE is working to ensure compliance with ethical trading standards, such as the standard against the sexual exploitation of children.
SECO objective: more and better jobs
SECO is working in its partner countries to create more jobs, better working conditions and business-enabling environments. This will enable sustainable economic growth for the benefit of all sections of society without compromising the prosperity of future generations.
From the hills of Honduras to the supermarket shelves
A versatile superfood, chocolate is a favourite with consumers all over the world. The SDC is supporting the development of the cacao sector in Honduras because it is a crop which creates prospects and generates income for small-scale farmers.
Partnership with the Swiss chocolate manufacturer Chocolats Halba, a Coop subsidiary, ensures a fair price for cacao growers. CEO Anton von Weissenfluh talks about his company's partnership with the SDC.
Mr von Weissenfluh, what is your interest in engaging in public-private partnership with the SDC?
Our experience shows that projects in cooperation with the SDC and the producers of raw ingredients pay off in terms of sustainability. Equal importance is given to development policy concerns and entrepreneurial aspects, which greatly increases the chances of a good outcome for the project. And of course Chocolats Halba/Sunray benefits from the SDC's specialist expertise and local presence. A company of our size could not provide this level of service on its own. The SDC's services make a considerable difference when it comes to securing supply and building long-term relationships with producers and suppliers.
How do you think the cacao growers in Honduras are benefiting from this project?
The training received by the growers improves the productivity of their cacao plantations. Investments in infrastructure and equipment in the post-harvest facilities increase product quality. In combination, these factors increase the growers' incomes.
What part do women play in the project? What is the project doing for women in your view?
In Honduras, 30% of cacao growers and over 80% of post-harvest workers are women. The status of women in Honduran society is nevertheless rather low. To change this, the project focuses on measures that empower women and raise men's awareness of women's achievements.
Better career prospects for young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Switzerland supports vocational education and training in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The vocational courses are designed to give young people practical training geared to employers' expectations.
High youth unemployment is a huge economic challenge for Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2016, 67% of people aged 15 to 24 were unemployed. A reason for this is the outdated vocational education system, which is not geared to labour market needs. Many job vacancies are not filled despite high unemployment.
The SDC is working in Bosnia and Herzegovina for a modern, practice-based vocational system which includes all relevant actors and institutions. The support includes activities in the areas of training, job placement and counselling, and job creation.
In the Skills for Jobs project and other programmes, the SDC helps vocational schools to expand the choice of courses on offer and adapt the training to job market requirements. To achieve this goal, it works closely with business representatives, particularly in sectors with growth potential. Skills for Jobs has already enabled 20 vocational schools and over 100 companies to play a part in the revision of curricula. Some 2,500 young people have benefited from better training options as a result.
SECO is also helping the private sector develop training programmes tailored to the needs of businesses. An example is the Economic Inclusion Programme run by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and jointly funded by SECO.
Switzerland's contribution to the enlarged EU
Through its contribution to new EU countries, Switzerland has been helping since 2007 to reduce economic and social disparities within the enlarged EU. At the same time Switzerland's contribution strengthens its bilateral relations with the new EU member states.
In 2017, the ten-year period for implementing Switzerland's contribution to the countries that joined the European Union (EU) in 2004 (EU-10 countries) came to an end. The cooperation programme with Bulgaria and Romania will last until 2019, and the Croatia programme until 2024. In the EU-10, 210 projects were carried out in the fields of environmental protection, economic development, social and public security and strengthening civil society.
The development of vocational training programmes in Slovakia and Cyprus, for example, is helping young people enter the world of work. In 2017, 440 young people in Slovakia completed practice-based training courses developed by the project. Investments in energy efficiency and renewable energies in Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia have reduced annual CO2 emissions by an estimated 100,000 tonnes. In Poland, mobile task forces were equipped with 105 special vehicles to improve surveillance of the external Schengen border. New treatments and renovations have significantly improved the lives of vulnerable residents in 93 Czech, Estonian, Latvian, Polish and Slovakian care homes. To strengthen civil society, Switzerland also supported around 800 non-governmental organisations.
Switzerland also benefits considerably from its contribution to the states of the enlarged EU. In addition to strengthening bilateral relations with the EU and the new member states, the contribution also created opportunities for the Swiss economy. In return for services in the partner countries, around 10% of the allocated funds benefited the Swiss companies, associations and universities which took part in the programme. Some 88 research partnerships resulted in innovations for which 28 new patent applications were filed, thus strengthening Switzerland's position as a centre of research. Many of the projects helped to address cross-border challenges such as climate change mitigation or fighting organised crime.