Switzerland's international cooperation strategy is a foreign policy instrument that is rooted in the Federal Constitution. Its purpose is to alleviate need and poverty around the world, to foster respect for human rights, to promote democracy and to conserve the environment. The Federal Council set out the thematic priorities and geographic focus for the next four years in February 2020, and Parliament adopted the strategy in the autumn session of 2020.
International cooperation: jobs, climate, migration and the rule of law
Four thematic priorities
Based on the Federal Constitution and legislation, every four years the Federal Council and Parliament define the strategic approach of Switzerland's international cooperation. Alleviating need and poverty in the world and sustainable development are at the heart of the international cooperation mandate. Switzerland has defined the following four thematic priorities for the 2021–24 period:
- creating decent local jobs
- addressing climate change
- reducing the causes of forced and irregular migration
- working to promote the rule of law
The Federal Council seeks to increase the impact of international cooperation by setting these four priorities and by focusing on specific regions, innovation, and the use of digital technologies. This new approach will also give Switzerland greater flexibility in responding to crises and opportunities.
North Africa and the Middle East
Asia (Central, South and South-East Asia)
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) will now focus on four priority regions for bilateral development cooperation.
FDFA’s bilateral development cooperation will progressively withdraw from Latin America by end 2024. In addition, the total number of priority countries of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) will be reduced from 46 to 35. These resources will be transferred to the four priority regions, in particular Sub-Saharan Africa where the needs will be the greatest.
The Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) will continue its economic development work in a limited number of countries within the four regions and its engagement in certain emerging countries in Latin America.
Humanitarian aid, the promotion of peace and human rights, as well as action to tackle global challenges (climate and the environment, water, migration, food security and health) will maintain their global mandate.
Close cooperation with multilateral organisations like the UN enables Switzerland to put its expertise and experience to good use and to increase the effectiveness of its engagement.
Switzerland's international cooperation needs to address the needs of affected populations in developing countries (especially concerning extreme poverty), Switzerland's long-term interests (a peaceful and just international order, business environment, migration, global sustainable development), and deliver added value at international level (expertise, skills and innovation).
In keeping with the maxim 'foreign policy is domestic policy', international cooperation for 2021–24 was submitted for an optional public consultation for the first time. The consultation attracted considerable interest, with 249 responses submitted by 24 cantons, 8 political parties, 7 umbrella organisations, 183 other organisations, and 27 individuals. The new international cooperation strategy was generally well received. At the same time, a broad range of changes were also requested, some of which contradict each other. Given the high response rate, this was to be expected. The high participation is a reflection of a strong interest in international cooperation and contributed to better anchoring foreign policy domestically.
A total of CHF 11.25 billion has been earmarked for the 2021–24 period (compared to CHF 11.11 billion for 2017–20). After correcting for inflation, this amount is less than the CHF 11.37 billion expected at the time of the public consultation. Switzerland can undertake commitments up to this amount during the relevant period. The relevant funding will be determined by Parliament during the annual budget debates. Based on the latest projections, with the proposed payments, Switzerland's official development assistance (ODA) would amount to 0.46% of gross national income (GNI). When taking the latest GNI forecasts into account, the expected rate of ODA is slightly above the rate expected at the time of the public consultation (0.45%). This is below the 0.5% target which was approved by Parliament in 2011 and has since been reaffirmed on several occasions. Parliament adopted Switzerland's International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24 in the autumn session of 2020.