International cooperation

Swiss Humanitarian Aid after an earthquake in Haiti in 2010
The SDC contributes to alleviating poverty and problems associated with development. © SDC

Swiss international cooperation is driven by the vision of a world without poverty and in peace, for sustainable development. Switzerland has earmarked CHF 11.25 billion for international cooperation in the 2021–24 period.

Swiss international cooperation alleviates need and poverty, reduces global risks and promotes peace. In Switzerland's International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24, the Federal Council has set out four objectives of equal importance:

  1. Economic development
    Contributing to sustainable economic growth, market development and the creation of decent jobs
  2. Climate change and the environment
    Addressing climate change and its adverse effects and managing natural resources sustainably
  3. Human development
    Saving lives, ensuring quality basic services (especially in relation to education and healthcare), and reducing the causes of forced and irregular migration
  4. Peace and governance
    Promoting peace, the rule of law and gender equality

Through these objectives, Switzerland is also pursuing longer-term interests: a just and peaceful international order, stable economic conditions that support investment, a reduction in the causes of forced and irregular migration, and sustainable development worldwide.

Economic development

Switzerland's economic development cooperation seeks to contribute to economic growth and lasting prosperity. Decent jobs are a crucial part of this. Switzerland uses its own dual vocational education and training system as a point of reference in its development cooperation efforts in this field. In doing so, it fosters the skills that are in demand on the various labour markets in developing countries.

Swiss international cooperation also gears its activities towards the promotion of reliable economic framework conditions and private sectorengagement. This helps partner countries integrate in the global economy. In doing so, Switzerland takes account of the opportunities offered by technological progress and digitalisation.

Climate change and the environment

Continued climate change is affecting millions of people. It can exacerbate extreme poverty and famine with phenomena such as natural disasters, rising sea levels and extreme drought. Switzerland spends around CHF 400 million a year in this area in its international cooperation activities – an increase of CHF 100 million compared to the last period (2017–20) and around 15% of the entire international cooperation budget. It is therefore bolstering its commitment to mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects in developing countries.

Human development

Switzerland endeavours to save lives, ensure quality basic services in education and healthcare in particular, and to reduce the causes of forced and irregular migration. More than 70 million people worldwide have been forced to leave their homes as a result of armed conflict and persecution. Of these, 85% are in developing countries. Switzerland has an interest in reducing forced and irregular migration and in ensuring that refugees and migrants are better protected in their countries of origin and transit. International cooperation also addresses the root causes of irregular and forced migration, including poverty, armed conflict, poor governance, and the impacts of climate change. Switzerland is thus creating long-term prospects for local populations.

Peace and governance

Through its international cooperation, Switzerland promotes peace, the rule of law and gender equality. Respect for human rights, gender equality and equal opportunities for the disadvantaged, and a functioning state under the rule of law, are important to sustainable development. In its work, Switzerland also expects its partner governments to take responsibility, and helps them to fight corruption, clientelism and mismanagement. In doing so it strengthens civil society organisations in developing countries so that they are able to demand accountability from their governments and are better able to monitor the state's activities.

In addition, international cooperation fosters dialogue between conflicting parties engaged in peace processes. Switzerland always works towards achieving lasting peace that is acceptable to all of those affected. It has internationally sought-after expertise in areas such as mediation, federalism and dealing with the past.

Four priority regions

To ensure that Switzerland's engagement in international cooperation remains effective, up to 2024 the resources that the FDFA dedicates to bilateral development cooperation will be concentrated on four priority regions: Eastern Europe; North Africa and the Middle East; Sub-Saharan Africa; and Central, South and South-East Asia. Local needs, long-term Swiss interests, and the added value that Switzerland can achieve with its international cooperation all currently intersect in these regions. Focusing efforts geographically makes them both more effective and more efficient, while offering the flexibility to respond to opportunities outside of priority countries.

Implementation of international cooperation

International cooperation is implemented by three federal agencies: the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Human Security Division (HSD) within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The SDC is responsible for coordinating development cooperation and humanitarian aid. The HSD is committed to peace, human rights, and the protection of the individual. Meanwhile, SECO concentrates on sustainable economic and trade policy. The SDC, HSD and SECO all complement each other and harness the synergies that exist between them.

2030 Agenda: a framework for Switzerland's international cooperation

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was unanimously adopted by the international community in 2015. With its 17 Sustainable Development Goals and its pledge to leave no one behind, the 2030 Agenda sets a common framework that gives equal consideration to economic, social and environmental dimensions, and addresses both developing countries and industrial nations. The 2030 Agenda guides Switzerland's international cooperation activities. Switzerland supports developing countries in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

In the Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS), Switzerland has a tool for implementing the 2030 Agenda at national level. The SDS focuses on three priority areas: 'sustainable consumption and production', 'climate, energy and biodiversity' and 'equal opportunities'.