Switzerland's foreign policy on migration: coherence for development

Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga in Sri Lanka.
Switzerland's migration partnership with Sri Lanka aims to strengthen human rights and creates prospects for young local generations by providing vocational skills development. ©FDJP

Migration is a complex phenomenon, which is why an effective foreign policy on migration deploys a range of different tools. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is part of the interdepartmental structure for international cooperation on migration and uses its experience to help meet Switzerland's foreign policy objectives on migration. It takes part in implementing migration partnerships through programmes it has developed with the involved countries. The SDC is committed to better migration management which builds on the economic, social and cultural opportunities arising from migration, and alleviates the associated suffering.

The SDC's focus

Managing migration effectively requires a variety of actors to work together in order to meet the diverse challenges involved. That is why Switzerland has for many years taken a whole-of-government approach in its migration policy (interdepartmental structure for international cooperation on migration or ICM structure).

The SDC's role in the ICM structure is to focus in particular on the link between migration and development, and on the SDC's operational experience.

Interdepartmental structure for international cooperation on migration

The interdepartmental structure for international cooperation on migration (ICM structure), which was created by the Federal Council in February 2011, brings together key units from the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) and the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP). The structure ensures that activities related to Switzerland's foreign policy on migration are coordinated both at the strategic and operational level.

Interdepartmental structure for international cooperation on migration, SEM

Ensuring a common approach

The SDC works to ensure that its field experience and the international dialogue on migration are reflected in Switzerland's national debate on migration. It also supports reinforcing the coherence between migration policy and development policy, a principle which it implements in its own programmes.

Migration partnerships

In addition, the SDC contributes to the implementation of migration partnerships by developing programmes in Switzerland's partner countries. Such programmes have existed for more than ten years in Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Nigeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo.

Migration partnerships help strengthen the coherence and effectiveness of Switzerland's foreign policy on migration. They also facilitate constructive approaches to the challenges of migration, as well as how to exploit the opportunities it affords.

Background

Global migration has changed considerably in recent years. In fact, it has been diversified and globalised by increased mobility and access to information and the media. Although the underlying causes of migration – poverty, war, human rights violations, economic crises and climate change – remain basically unchanged, the scale and global implications of migration have made it more complex. This situation gives Switzerland new opportunities but also presents it with new challenges.

In response, Switzerland's foreign policy on migration is based on three basic principles:

  • A global approach to migration:
    migration is a global phenomenon that creates both risks and opportunities.
  • A partnership approach:
    the risks and opportunities generated by migration apply to the countries of origin, transit and destination.
  • A whole-of-government approach:
    in the area of migration, coherent action between the different departments of the Federal Administration is required.

Against this backdrop, Swiss development cooperation has done much to help address global migration. In the short term, Switzerland's development cooperation activities can contribute to mitigate the causes of forced displacement. In the medium term, its efforts in this area contribute to an increasingly regular and safe migration, as well as to improving the integration of forcibly displaced people in host countries in their region of origin. In the long term, Swiss development cooperation can contribute to the causes of irregular migration in a sustainable way, providing local people with prospects in their own countries and fighting the root causes of displacement through prevention work and strengthening governance in partner countries.

Implementation in Africa

The Horn of Africa is one of the world's regions with the highest levels of displacement. Switzerland has been working to protect refugees in the region for more than 20 years. It set up a strategic partnership with the only regional organisation in the Horn of Africa, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). IGAD covers eight countries with a combined population of more than 280 million people.

Switzerland's support is both financial and technical (via a seconded expert) as well as political, and enables the eight countries in the region to improve their national and regional management of migration. It strengthens the countries' response to displacement caused by climate change-related disasters and facilitates mobility for migrants in the region by giving them employment prospects in the region. A protected migrant with a job can make a positive contribution to the development of their family, community, host country and country of origin.  

This strategic partnership is the first initiative co-financed by the three main actors in the Federal Administration working in the area of migration – the SDC, the FDFA's Human Security Division (HSD) and the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). It allows Switzerland to conduct a dialogue on migration with the eight countries in the Horn of Africa, which also takes into account Switzerland's foreign and domestic policy interests.

Current projects

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Migration for social well-being and economic development in Sri Lanka

Family members excitedly examine their travel documents

01.03.2016 - 31.12.2020

Every year, large numbers of Sri Lankans leave their country to work abroad for a few years, usually in the Gulf States. They thereby further Sri Lanka's economic development but at the same time risk having their basic human rights, and their labour rights in particular, violated. That is why the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is working for the establishment of a framework that ensures decent working conditions for migrant workers in the region.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Sri Lanka
Employment & economic development
Migration
Labour migration
Migration generally (development aspects and partnerships)

01.03.2016 - 31.12.2020


CHF 6'850'000



Forging a common «Nile culture» through music and academic training

Nile Project musicians on a boat.

01.05.2015 - 30.11.2020

To make the Nile Basin a common ground and shared ecosystem for the inhabitants of the eleven countries through which the Nile River flows, the SDC supports the innovative musical and educational Nile Project. The project brings together artists, students and concerned citizens. A series of acclaimed concerts has taken place since 2013; at the same time, students are developing initiatives to foster a better use of water resources.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Egypt
Culture / development awareness
Employment & economic development
Education
Climate change and environment
Gender
Governance
Migration
Other
Vocational training
Human rights
Rule of Law - Democracy - Human rights
Culture & recreation
SME development
Education policy
Disaster risk reduction DRR
Women’s equality organisations and institutions
Democratic participation and civil society
Information and communication technology (ICT)
Migration generally (development aspects and partnerships)
Sector not specified
Development awareness
Business support & economic inclusion
Environmental policy
Public sector policy
Vocational training
Biosphere protection
Legal and judicial development
Human rights (incl. Women's rights)

01.05.2015 - 30.11.2020


CHF 750'000



Strengthening regional cooperation on migration in the Western Balkans

01.11.2023 - 31.12.2027

In light of diversifying migration patterns and challenges with increasing regional dimensions, the migration policy priorities of Western Balkan governments are changing and the relevance of regional dialogue, coordination and cooperation is growing. This proposal seeks to promote coherent and effective regional governance of migration in all its multifaceted dimensions contributing to greater social cohesion and regional integration in the Western Balkans.


Ashshash: for men and women who have escaped trafficking

01.10.2022 - 28.02.2029

20,000 people (of whom 70% women) who have experienced trafficking will be economically and socially rehabilitated. Public and private institutions will provide employment or in-kind support for entrepreneurship to men and women who have escaped trafficking. The Government will better address the prevention of trafficking, protection of victims, prosecution of traffickers in the revision and enacting of policies, and create partnerships, for bringing about systemic changes.


Building Regional and National capacities for improved Migration Governance in the IGAD Region

01.01.2022 - 31.08.2027

The Horn of Africa is of high interest for Switzerland in terms of migration policy. Swiss support to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and its Member States will contribute to improve their migration governance capacities so as to enable the organisation to effectively implement regional, continental and global regulatory standards for the protection of refugees and vulnerable migrants in the region.


The "Bosnia i Herzegovina"-Platform

01.07.2020 - 31.12.2025

The Bosnia i Herzegovina Platform (BiH) is an initiative of diaspora associations that are already involved in development activities. The platform will enhance cooperation and strengthen the diaspora associations’ role as development actors. SDC aims at promoting the potential of migrants for sustainable development mainly through improved framework conditions. The permanent platform as an effective and dynamic network will set the grounds for competent coordination services to diaspora organizations, to the country of destination and to the country of origin.


Global solutions for migration related challenges

01.01.2020 - 31.03.2023

The challenges and opportunities linked to migration require a coordinated response from the international community that goes beyond individual country measures. For this reason, Switzerland works towards an effective global migration governance that enables cooperation among states and other stakeholders (private sector, civil society). Switzerland also supports evidence-based policy making and the development of global solutions to contemporary migration challenges that benefit migrants and their families, as well as countries of origin and destination.


CISP: Integral Protection and Humanitarian Assistance to border population, displaced persons, returnees and migrants with multi-affectation in Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador

15.11.2019 - 14.11.2020

SDC supports the Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli (CISP) in its efforts to improve living conditions for migrants, returnees, refugees and host communities in need, living mainly along the Colombo-Venezuelan and Colombo-Ecuador borders through increasing the supply of humanitarian assistance, aligned with the Humanitarian Response Plan for Venezuela and priorities of the Governments of Colombia and Ecuador in the domains of protection, health, mental health, nutrition, water and sanitation and access to education.

 


IDB Migration Initiative (Clean drinking water and sanitation program for la Guajira)

01.10.2019 - 30.09.2022

Switzerland supports to the newly created Migration Initiative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that was created in support of Latin American and Caribbean migrants and their host communities and accordingly contributes to deter grave development crisis by empowering communities to foster integration and consequently to strengthen stability of the region and Colombia in particular.


Understanding and Managing internal migration in Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar city suburban distrct view

01.08.2019 - 31.07.2023

This project aims to contribute to improved management of internal migration in Mongolia - the main driving force behind rapid urbanization which poses increasing development challenges to the capital city Ulaanbaatar and rural areas of origin. Consistent integration of the migration perspective into planning and implementation of policies and actions will mitigate negative consequences of unmanaged migration and thus contribute to poverty reduction. Switzerland will add value to the project through its long-standing expertise in the migration field.


Decent Work for Migrant Workers from South Asia (DWSA)

01.08.2019 - 31.07.2023

Labour migration to the Middle East is an important factor in the economic development strategy of many South Asian countries. Due to its known expertise and experience in the areas of decent work and fair recruitment, Switzerland is well placed to contribute to migrants’ access to decent work, thus maximizing the productive potential of migration and addressing irregular and unsafe migration. In the interest of Switzerland, this programme contributes to the prosperity in the region.  


Decent Work for Migrants in the Middle East

15.07.2019 - 30.06.2023

This program contributes to decent work opportunities for migrants and refugees in the Middle East which is one of the largest migrant hosting regions globally due to economic demands and displacement from conflict. It complements the focus on Asian migrants with migrants from Africa and seek closer partnership with the private sector. Due to its relevant expertise and experience in decent work and fair recruitment, Switzerland is well placed to contribute to an improved protection and an enhanced wellbeing of migrant workers and self-reliance for refugees, to maximize the productive potential of migration, and to counter irregular and unsafe migration.

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