Swiss International Cooperation – Annual Report 2018
“Humanity as a whole has never been as well off as it is today. People are enjoying better, longer, healthier and safer lives than ever before. In the last few decades, around one billion people in developing and emerging countries have been able to escape poverty. But there have also been setbacks and negative developments. Seven hundred million people continue to live in extreme poverty. Seventy million people are currently displaced. Additional jobs will soon be needed for the hundreds of millions of children in sub-Saharan Africa. Lack of perspectives, climate change and water scarcity risk causing unprecedented waves of migration.”
“Switzerland's international cooperation work remains vital. It reduces poverty and hardship, helps people and national economies to develop, promotes peace and contributes to managing global challenges such as the impact of climate change. The 2018 mid-term report on the implementation of the Dispatch on Switzerland's International Cooperation 2017–20 concludes that Switzerland is on track, with 85% of the projects evaluated as successful.”
SDC Director General
Overcoming global challenges
Global challenges such as climate change, malnutrition, water scarcity, irregular migration and health crises increasingly affect the sustainable development of the middle and low income countries. As a neutral mediator with recognised expertise, Switzerland is committed to developing effective solutions at the multilateral level.
Managing crises, disasters and fragility
Protecting and assisting the victims of humanitarian crises and disasters is a priority for Switzerland's international cooperation. These humanitarian efforts focus on fragile contexts in particular.
Resources and services for all
Switzerland’s international cooperation aims to improve the living conditions of poor and vulnerable people. Life in dignity depends on permanent access to necessary resources and services.
Promoting sustainable economic growth
Switzerland focuses its efforts on helping its partner countries achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth. It believes that all sections of the population should benefit from this growth, and that the well-being of future generations should not be compromised. The key to this is more and better jobs, as well as a favourable business environment. Sustainable growth gives people new opportunities and prospects, and reduces global risks.
Strengthening the rule of law, democracy and institutions
Switzerland has a long democratic tradition and uses its experience to support other countries in developing the rule of law, building democratic structures and strengthening institutions. This takes place at both the national and local level. The goal is to establish peaceful and stable societies in Switzerland's partner countries.
Promoting human rights and basic freedoms
Through its international cooperation, Switzerland actively works to ensure respect for, as well as to protect, promote and dynamically develop human rights. It conducts political dialogue in several partner countries and is active within various multilateral institutions.
Achieving gender equality
Gender inequality is one of the greatest obstacles to sustainable development, economic growth, and poverty reduction. Switzerland is helping to ensure that women and men have the same right to develop their potential and can use their resources in a meaningful way.
Migration in focus
Poverty and migration are among the greatest global challenges. People migrate for a variety of reasons. Some leave their homelands on account of violence and conflict. Others are looking for better work prospects. Decent work is the most effective means of eradicating poverty. More and better jobs are key to generating economic development that includes as many people as possible and reduces the pressure to migrate.
Effectiveness in focus
Switzerland aims to deliver strong results with high effectiveness. By means of different types of reports, it informs the public about the results it achieves through its programmes, projects and strategies, and the extent to which the living conditions of the beneficiaries have been improved.
International cooperation activities by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Economic Cooperation and Development Division of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) constitute the major part of Swiss Official Development Assistance (ODA), which also includes contributions from other federal offices as well as activities supported by cantons and municipalities.
SDC's humanitarian aid focuses on providing help on the ground and promoting respect for international law, with a particular emphasis on protecting civil populations, who are the most affected.
SECO Development and economic cooperation by objective
SECO's economic and trade policy measures have four objectives. These include: more efficient institutions and services, more and better jobs, stronger trade and competitiveness, and a low emissions and climate resilient economy. They all contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth.
SDC Development Cooperation
The SDC's 500 development programmes and projects focus on 10 thematic areas. The SDC adapts its priorities according to the needs of the 21 South cooperation partner countries and regions.
With a view to ensuring sustainable development, the principles of gender mainstreaming and good governance are a common thread running through all its work.
SDC Cooperation with Eastern Europe
In order to make most effective use of the funds available for cooperation with Eastern Europe, Switzerland focuses on certain topics. In setting priorities, it takes account of the countries' needs and potential as well as Switzerland's expertise in the various thematic areas and regions. And lastly, political interests also play a role.
Europe, North Africa and the Middle East
Swiss cooperation with Eastern Europe supports the Western Balkans and countries of the former Soviet Union in their transition to a social market economy and democracy. As a result, Switzerland helps to restore stability in these states and improves the opportunities available to the people living there.
In North Africa, projects focus on democratic transition and human rights, sustainable and inclusive economic development and employment, and migration and protection.
In the Middle East, SDC is working to provide protection and basic services for refugees and others in need, and to ensure sustainable water management.
Switzerland's international cooperation concentrates more than a third of its resources on sub-Saharan Africa.
The focus of development cooperation is on the access of poor people to basic social services (health, education), infrastructure (water), employment and income, and sustainable growth.
Many regions of sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing chronic crisis, with affected populations relying on humanitarian assistance on a recurring and / or prolonged basis. In those regions, humanitarian interventions take place in coordinated actions with other partners of the international cooperation.
Through its transition aid to countries in Central Asia, Switzerland supports regional and national water ressources managment, private sector development, as well as reforms in the public sector and the health sector.
Switzerland's international cooperation in East and South Asia focuses on countries and regions with persistently high multidimensional poverty rates, for example in terms of income, lack of security, limited access to services, chronic malnutrition, vulnerability to ecological and economic shocks, and social and ethnic discrimination of large population groups.
SDC's program in Latin America cover local governance and decentralisation, job and income creation, climate change and water. In fragile contexts (Honduras, Haiti), the focus is on preventing violence, promoting human rights and strengthening the state.
In Peru, SECO’s main areas of support are the development of economic institutions, private sector competitiveness and access to basic public services. In Columbia, where certain areas continue to be heavily impacted by the presence of organized armed groups and organized crime. SECO is working to create better economic prospects, thereby also contributing to lasting peace.
Distribution and evolution of SDC expenditures
To reach the Parliament's target of 0.5% of ODA in proportion of Gross national income (GNI), the financial means awarded to international cooperation steadily grew till 2015.
Since 2016 onwards, the international cooperation credits have been deeply impacted by budgets cuts decided by the Federal Council and approved by the Parliament (stabilisation programs and debt brake).
Distribution and evolution of SECO expenditures
SECO's resources have gradually increased with the aim of achieving the target of an ODA/GNI rate of 0,5% by 2015. Since 2016, the resources have gradually decreased as a result of the Confederation's economic measures which particularly affected the credits of international cooperation.
Bilateral expenditures by region
The SDC concentrates most of its activities in the lowest income countries. In 2018, half of the bilateral spending went to Africa and the Middle East, a quarter to South and East Asia, and the remaining quarter to Latin America and to the transition assistance in Europe and Central Asia.
SECO is more active in middle-income countries. Transition assistance in Eastern countries accounts for more than a third of 2018 expenditure. South and East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are, in almost equal parts, the other main recipient regions.
Switzerland in international comparison ODA 2018
Official development assistance (ODA) from member countries of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) totalled USD 153 billion in 2018. With its ODA/GNI ratio of 0.44%, Switzerland is below the average of DAC-EU countries (0.47%). However, Switzerland stays at the 8th position in the international ranking comparing the ODA/GNI ratio of all DAC member countries.
In terms of financial volume, the largest donors are the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and France. Switzerland take the 12th place in absolute numbers.
Composition and evolution of Swiss ODA
The share of SDC/SECO in international cooperation accounts for almost 80% of total ODA. Certain costs linked to the assistance to asylum seekers in Switzerland are recorded as ODA: their share fluctuates between 8% and 21% depending on the year. The rest includes other contributions from the Confederation, including bilateral debt relief operations in 2005 and 2009, as well as of cantons and municipalities.
The target set by the Parliament of an ODA/GNI rate of 0.5% has been reached by 2015 thanks to the growth of the means granted to international cooperation. From 2017, however, ODA has been declining as a result of reduced asylum costs and savings measures affecting international cooperation credits. The current ODA/GNI rate has fallen to 0.44%.
Composition and evolution of multilateral ODA of Switzerland
Multilateral ODA includes core contributions from SDC and other federal agencies to international development institutions. International financial institutions (IFIs), of which the International Development Association (IDA), were the main beneficiaries of Switzerland's multilateral ODA, followed by United Nations agencies and finally other international organisations.
During the last fitfeen years, Switzerland's share of multilateral ODA remained relatively stable, between 20% and 25% of total ODA.
Contributions to international non-governmental organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), are considered bilateral ODA and therefore do not appear in this table.
Saving millions of tonnes of CO2 thanks to energy-efficient buildings
The building and construction sector is responsible for almost 40% of global CO2 emissions – first, because of the production of building materials (particularly cement) and second, because heating and cooling buildings requires a great deal of energy. Rising global CO2 emissions are a significant cause of climate change.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that the greatest demand for global energy in the next few years will come from India. India is currently undergoing a process of rapid urbanisation. It is estimated that every year until 2030, new buildings will have to be constructed on a space covering between 700 and 900 million square metres – the same size as the canton of Schwyz.
In 2018, India issued its first ever national standards for energy-efficient housing, which were developed together with Switzerland at the request of the Indian government. Switzerland is already helping several of India’s federal states and municipalities to apply the standards in practice.
The standards contain simple rules for housing construction:
- In hot climates, the sun's heating effect on buildings is reduced.
- In cooler climates, the potential loss of warmth through the building's thermal shell is limited.
- Natural ventilation is used to further reduce the need for cooling.
- Better use of daylight saves energy.
The goal of these measures is to create a comfortable indoor climate without the need for additional cooling or heating.
In hot countries such as India, extreme fluctuations in air temperature can lead directly to heart and respiratory problems, which is why having access to buildings that are cool can save lives. Energy-efficient buildings also improve learning and productivity, because people can work and study better in cooler temperatures. This particularly affects India's countless low-income households, which cannot afford air conditioning.
Climate change is a global challenge with consequences for the whole of humanity. India is the third-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions and its construction demands mean that this figure is set to rise even higher. That is why Switzerland is focusing its efforts and strengths in this specific area, where it can have the largest impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing emissions in India means slowing down climate change – which is in everyone's interest, including Switzerland.
Website: Indo-Swiss Building Energy Efficiency Projekt (BEEP)
Post on 'Better buildings = less pollution' on Switzerland’s official 2030 Agenda Facebook channel
Gender equality in budgeting
Gender equality in the Western Balkans has still not been achieved, as is the case in North Macedonia. The 'Gender responsive policies and budgets' project is therefore aimed at improving gender equality in the country.
Only a third of North Macedonia's female population is in gainful employment. This is well below the 64.3% average in the European Union (EU). North Macedonia has made its ambition to join the EU clear, which is why it is vital that progress in this area is made.
Women are also greatly under-represented in decision-making positions: only six municipalities have female mayors and just 16% of the country's ministers are women. As a result, women are disproportionately affected by poverty and excluded from social life.
The first phase of the project focused on the legal framework and the implementation of laws at the municipal level. The second phase, which is already under way, is aimed first and foremost at increasing responsibility for gender equality with the central government. The position of the current government, which was elected in 2017 and has committed itself to reforms, is also very encouraging in this regard.
The winds of change that have been blowing through North Macedonia since then are not just visible in the country's new name. The current government is noticeably committed to a systemic anchoring of gender responsible planning and budgeting. This is taking place through reforms in public financial management and at other levels.
The reforms are already delivering results at the highest levels: all 14 lead ministries as well as a number of state institutions have drawn up gender responsive budget items for the current financial year. At the local level, major investment is being made in building the capacities of municipalities so that they can align their planning and budgeting with the needs and priorities of women and men in the local communities.
Another aspect is joint training programmes for women and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) so that they are able to make critical assessments of municipal budgets themselves and submit suggestions for improvement or petitions.
Through these activities, Switzerland is supporting North Macedonia in its efforts to implement its international commitments and national gender equality strategies over the long term. Gender equality is an essential prerequisite for the country's potential accession to the EU, which would bring stability, peace and economic prospects to this small country in the Western Balkans.
Multilateral engagement for more and better jobs
Switzerland is involved in the Small Business Initiative of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
In 2018, Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann travelled to Central Asia to network with the other member states of Switzerland's constituency in the international financial institutions.
He visited several Swiss development cooperation projects, such as the company EFTAR in Kyrgyzstan. EFTAR is an eco-friendly rainbow trout farm founded in 2015.
In 2018, EFTAR produced around 260 tonnes of fish. Production is expected to go up to around 1000 tonnes a year in the near future. EFTAR supplies fresh, frozen, smoked and salted fish as well as caviar. Over the next two years, EFTAR plans to expand beyond its domestic market. It intends to supply the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union markets.
Video: Eftar fish production
EFTAR is one of the companies that benefits from the EBRD's Small Business Initiative. This initiative helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) gain access to financial and advisory services and improve their business environment. With the support of the initiative, these SMEs contribute to economic growth and create new jobs.
The EBRD supports private sector development in the former Eastern Bloc. It has also been working in the southern and eastern Mediterranean regions since 2012.
Switzerland is an active member of the EBRD's governing bodies and implements development projects together with the bank. As a member of EBRD's board of directors, Switzerland participates in the bank's institutional and strategic decision-making.
Joint efforts for sustainable cocoa
At least 80% of products containing cocoa imported by Switzerland should come from sustainable farming by 2025. In the long term, all cocoa imports are to come from sustainable sources.
That is the target set by the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa, founded in 2018. The platform brings together a group of 41 stakeholders from the Swiss cocoa sector to pool the strengths of individual companies, civil society and the federal government. Switzerland supports the platform as an innovative partnership project with the private sector..
Video: Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa
The platform advocates common goals regarding cocoa production and conducts a dialogue with all stakeholders. It develops new solutions for the social and ecological problems in the entire cocoa value chain.
Sustainability is a top priority. Plant cultivation, trading of beans, product processing and sales should all have a positive social, ecological and economic impact on cocoa-producing countries.
The livelihoods of more than 6 million cocoa farmers worldwide depend on the cultivation of cocoa beans. These farmers produce around 4 million tonnes of beans, which are then processed into chocolate or other luxury foods. About 3% is made into Swiss chocolate.
Website: Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa
Women's economic empowerment as a prerequisite for sustainable development
USD 28 trillion could be added to global GDP (i.e. an increase of 26%) by advancing women's equality in the economy (McKinsey 2015).
"When we exclude women, everyone pays the price. When we include women, the world wins."
The potential of women, who represent half of the world's population, remains underutilised, and the gaps between women and men continue to prevail:
- More than 700 million women are missing from the labour market
- Women earn 24% less than men for similar work
- Women do three times more unpaid work
Women's economic inclusion and empowerment are one of Switzerland's priorities in regard to gender equality. In its partner countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Switzerland is committed to improving women's access to natural resources (water, land), financial services (loans, savings, insurance), the markets and education.
"1 billion women are unbanked. Closing the gender gaps in product access across the retail banking sector could unlock at least USD50 billion in additional annual revenue."
Mary Ellen Iskenderian
President and CEO of Women’s World Banking
In Nepal, Switzerland contributes to the training of women and men in the construction sector. Thanks to the provision of childcare services, the proportion of women in the sector has increased by 30%. Last year, more than 2,500 women received training in masonry and carpentry.
In northern Mozambique, although women are mainly responsible for agricultural production, men continue to control the value chain and market access. With Switzerland's support, female-headed households have been able to move beyond subsistence farming, generate additional income and enhance the market value of their products by joining marketing networks.
In Africa, Switzerland has joined forces with other donors to promote the use of energy-efficient cookers. This initiative relieves women of the burden of collecting firewood, which has accounted for 370 million hours of unpaid work in recent years. They can instead grow crops or sell vegetables on the market, and thus increase their income.
SDC Website: Gender equality
Jobs with a future: go with the flow
Will digitalisation make human labour redundant? Will jobs disappear without ever being replaced?
In 2018, Switzerland and the World Bank presented the 2019 World Development Report, which investigates the impact of new technologies on employment, particularly in developing countries.
The report concludes that robots pose a threat to repetitive work tasks in industrialised countries. In principle, the number of work tasks performed by humans should remain stable compared to the ones performed by robots. The World Bank predicts that human beings will continue to be the determining factor.
Higher productivity can have a greater positive impact on economic prosperity in developing countries than in industrialised ones. It can even create new jobs, for example in the tourism sector. However, it takes time before the results of increasing productivity begin to materialise.
Education is a key factor in economic development. The World Development Report recommends that governments around the world invest in early and lifelong education for people.
That is why vocational education and training programmes play a central role in Swiss development cooperation.
To enable governments to invest in human development, the World Bank recommends that they improve their tax systems in order to generate additional income. This constitutes another pillar of Swiss development cooperation.
The World Bank Group is one of the most important institutions for financing and knowledge transfer in developing countries. Switzerland is represented by an executive director at the World Bank's board of directors.
SECO Website: World Bank calls for investment in education and health
Social entrepreneurship as part of Blue Peace is revolutionising the water sector
"I'm working to ensure that those in need of clean drinking water can access it"
Co-founder of Lebanese start-up Clean2O
Clean2O has developed a clever, low-cost water filter to make the contaminated water in Lebanon's refugee camps safe to drink.
Mohamad Fakhreddine developed his business idea with the help of Swiss organisation cewas. Cewas Middle East is the SDC's first ever start-up programme specifically designed for entrepreneurs from the water and wastewater sector in the Middle East.
It is well known that start-ups can have a positive impact on a sector's or even a country's economic development. For the local population, starting a business opens up new prospects and is often the only means of finding work.
The water sector poses many challenges, and public institutions in low and middle income countries are often unable to deal with them alone. Combining an entrepreneurial mindset with local expertise and social and environmental engagement can help generate positive growth for the water sector.
Social entrepreneurship in the water sector creates new income opportunities – and not only for the owner of the start-up. The local population also benefits from improved access to drinking water and new employment opportunities. In turn, this promotes long-term stability in the region.
In 2010 Switzerland launched the Blue Peace initiative in the knowledge that countries which jointly manage their common water resources do not go to war with each other. The particular focus of Blue Peace is transboundary cooperation in water management. Through this, Switzerland creates a space for dialogue between countries or between local communities and the private sector. The long-term goal is to secure access to water for all by way of jointly negotiated solutions.
Through dialogue at the diplomatic level in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, partner countries are now focusing on regional economic growth, integrated markets and the common need for innovative and sustainable solutions for the water sector. In this way, the water sector can become a factor for stability in the Middle East.
PDF Global Brief: 'Blue Peace: An ideal turns into an international movement'
GTEX – more equality in the textile industry
By supporting the Global Textiles and Clothing Programme (GTEX), Switzerland strengthens the export capabilities of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the textile and clothing industries in Tunisia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Egypt and Morocco.
For many developing countries, the textile and clothing industries are the key to creating more jobs and income.
The GTEX programme supports its partner companies in establishing good working conditions and complying with both social and environmental standards.
"I moved from Issyk-Kul to Bishkek because I couldn't find a job at home. I like my work here at Barkhat, a company supported by GTEX. I have a good salary and even my family was able to come and join me here."
Sewer from Kyrgyzstan
"Thanks to the GTEX programme, the productivity of our company and the quality of our products have improved. In fact, we exported 80% more goods to Europe in 2018 than in 2015."
Entrepreneur from Kyrgyzstan
Sheisheyva co-owns the Kyrgyz art group SAMA, which mainly employs people with disabilities and offers them vocational training. GTEX provides product development and marketing training courses for SAMA.
Thanks to the support of GTEX, four handicraft companies took part in the 2018 world's leading trade fair for consumer goods AMBIENTE in Frankfurt. Six Kyrgyz producers were able to showcase their new collections. The companies were able to make 93 new business contacts and have already received 12 orders for their products.
PDF: Factsheet GTEX
A forgotten conflict on Europe's doorstep
In eastern Ukraine, more than 3.5 million people are in need of assistance as a result of a conflict that has raged since 2015. Two million of these on both sides of the contact line have no access to drinking water, medical care or other basic services.
In February and March 2018, a team from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit arrived in the region of Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine.
This assessment mission identified outstanding humanitarian needs for drinking water and medical care. The region of Luhansk has Europe's highest incidence of tuberculosis.
Video: Swiss Humanitarian Aid in Eastern Ukraine
To meet the needs identified, Swiss Humanitarian Aid organised a new round of humanitarian transport missions in June 2018. This operation – the eighth of its kind since 2015 – sought to deliver relief supplies to people living on both sides of the contact line. The convoy transported 1,600 tonnes of water treatment chemicals as well as medical equipment for five hospitals.
“Switzerland is the only state that has helped us here. We also receive support from NGOs. With no humanitarian supply of chemicals and cleaning products we risk diseases such as hepatitis, cholera, or dysentery. So far we’ve been managing to function. We keep testing our water every 2 hours. I am quite proud that no water-related disease was reported so far, not even cases of diarrhoea. Our water is still healthy for the local population.”
Head of the Upper Kalmius Water Filtration Plant at Voda Donbasa, Donetsk
Reduce economic and social disparities
Since 2007, Switzerland has contributed just over CHF 1.3 billion to projects aimed at reducing the economic and social disparities within the enlarged European Union (EU). This also helps Switzerland establish an important basis for solid economic and political relations with the EU and EU member states. In addition, Switzerland's engagement is an expression of solidarity.
All projects under the enlargement contribution last 10 years from the tender process to project completion. The 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004 successfully completed their projects in 2017. The projects in Bulgaria and Romania are running until the end of 2019. In Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013, the projects will run until 2024.
In the area of economic development, Switzerland has several projects aimed at modernising vocational education and training (VET) systems so as to reduce high youth unemployment rates. To date, 1,134 apprentices in Bulgaria have started a dual VET course based on the Swiss model and 76 instructors have been trained to cover the 12 new curricula.
SDC Website: Results in Bulgaria
Switzerland supports different social welfare projects that aim to improve the situation for Roma and other ethnic minorities. In Bulgaria, for example, Switzerland supports special needs classes, language lessons and extracurricular activities for around 2,000 Roma children.
In the environmental field, a number of projects are helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions. In Romania, for example, Switzerland is supporting four cities in setting up sustainable energy supplies. Three of the cities have already installed around 7,500 new energy-efficient street lights.
SDC Website: Results in Romania
Following a consultation in which Switzerland's enlargement contribution received largely positive feedback, in 2018 the Federal Council decided to approve the dispatch on a second contribution to selected EU member states. It is now for Parliament to make a decision regarding the relevant framework credits.
The exodus of the Rohingyas
Since August 2017, more than a million Rohingyas have fled the violence in Rakhine State, in western Myanmar, and sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. They set up home in the overcrowded refugee camps around Cox's Bazar, in the south-east of Bangladesh. Tents stretch as far as the eye can see, in camps covering an area twice the size of Geneva.
Ensuring access to drinking water and sanitation is a real challenge. There is a high risk of malnutrition and of cholera outbreaks. Experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) have drilled wells, installed hand pumps and restored ten water points in the camps. At the same time, Switzerland is also financing the installation of water pumps and latrines for the host population.
Switzerland has also run a project with the Bangladeshi health authorities to improve the medical care available to both the local population and the Rohingya refugees. Initially, it provided equipment such as beds and drip stands to the main hospital in Cox's Bazar, which vastly improved patient care.
Switzerland's contribution to humanitarian action – CHF 20 million in 2018 – has helped to restore refugees' access to drinking water, food, sanitation facilities and medical care. Switzerland has also participated in setting up sites for building shelters. SHA experts have been assigned to the area to support the UN agencies on the ground.
In addition to emergency aid, Switzerland also supports medium-term development activities to support the host communities; their living conditions have also deteriorated since the onset of the crisis as a result of the enormous pressure on natural resources, intensive use of water resources, increased deforestation and waste generation.
To promote peaceful coexistence between refugees and the host communities, Switzerland is helping local authorities improve their management of water resources. It is also working with the host population to develop annual budgets and plans to improve the water supply and sanitation system for the region's inhabitants.
Switzerland supports initiatives in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to promote sustainable economic growth
The dominant economic activity in the region is agriculture. In Georgia, for example, 46% of the rural population works in the agricultural sector. The Alliances Caucasus Programme (ALCP) aims to increase productivity as a means of reducing poverty in rural areas of the South Caucasus.
The ALCP helps producers in the livestock industry and honey production to gain secure market access. Cross-border trade is also being encouraged as a means of increasing producers' incomes. In particular, the role of women in the dairy industry is taken into account.
SMEs in the processing sector (cheese manufacturers, agricultural equipment and feed suppliers, abattoirs, wool exporters, etc.) receive training and advice as well as financial support to make the necessary investments and diversify their product ranges. This creates jobs and guarantees farmers a secure outlet for their products.
Between 2008 and 2018, some 450,000 programme beneficiaries generated income of almost CHF 40 million. Farmers increased overall earnings by CHF 29 million, and 742 new FTE jobs (37% women) were created in processing facilities and service companies.
In order to include women more systematically in the formal economy, the ALCP set up 28 women's rooms in municipal offices. Here, women as well as men can obtain information and advice on, for example, how to launch their own projects. To date, 99 projects have been funded by municipal budgets. Of the 482 business applications submitted, 88 have already been funded.
Together with the ALCP, Switzerland is working with the government to lower the costs of lab testing for honey producers. Lab tests with excellent results are a prerequisite for exporting honey. An umbrella organisation of honey producers is to be set up to ensure their interests are represented.
With this project, Switzerland is aiming to improve competitiveness in the agricultural sector. This helps to reduce rural-urban migration and contributes to stability in Georgia.
Diaspora – ein Entwicklungsfaktor
Mehr als zwei Millionen bosnische Bürger leben im Ausland, davon etwa 60'000 in der Schweiz. Viele von ihnen möchten zur Entwicklung ihres Heimatlandes beitragen, mit finanzieller Unterstützung oder mit ihrem Wissen. Dieses Potential soll mit dem Projekt «Diaspora for Development» besser genutzt werden.
Wertvolles Wissen von Bosniern kam bei der Gründung der Firma «Remus Innovation» zum Zug. Diese Firma wurde als Untergruppe von «Remus» in Sanski Most mithilfe der Schweiz aufgebaut. Sie beschäftigt heute 120 Angestellte.
Für rund 1000 Frauen und Männer konnte seit Projektbeginn eine Anstellung gefunden werden, was ihnen ermöglicht, in ihrem Land zu bleiben.
Im April 2018 wurde ein Hackathon in Mostar organisiert, an dem mehr als 30 junge Menschen teilnahmen. Sie entwickelten Software-Lösungen für lokale Unternehmen aus Landwirtschaft, Tourismus und Metallindustrie. Dabei bekamen sie Unterstützung durch Mentoren aus der Diaspora. Aus dem Hackathon entstanden 5 Startups im IT-Bereich.
In der Gemeinde Posušje in der West-Herzegowina wurden 2018 22 Mittelschüler auf Initiative der lokalen Gemeinschaft und der bosnischen Diaspora an einer CNC-Maschine geschult. Diese state-of-the-art Werkzeugmaschine hatte einUnternehmer aus der Diaspora gekauft und zur Verfügung gestellt. Ziel ist es,junge Menschen praktisch auszubilden, um die Perspektiven und diewirtschaftliche Entwicklung in der Gemeinde zu fördern.
Es ist wichtig, dass Bosnien und Herzegowina sich wirtschaftlich und politisch weiterentwickeln kann und junge Menschen berufliche Perspektiven erhalten, damit sie ihr Land nicht aus ökonomischen Gründen verlassen müssen. Eine nachhaltige Entwicklung in Bosnien und Herzegowina ist im Interesse der Schweiz, denn eine stabileSituation im Balkan sichert die Stabilität in Europa.
A country on the brink
More than 320 dead, 2,000 wounded, 700 political prisoners and nearly 40,000 Nicaraguans forced into exile – this is the human toll of the demonstrations since April 2018 calling for greater democracy and an end to the country's authoritarian regime.
Triggered by government plans to reform social security, the protests quickly spread across the country in a matter of days. Hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans demonstrated on the streets of Managua, demanding more democracy and restoration of freedom of expression and the press. The regime confronted them with force.
In this context, Switzerland has thus reaffirmed its commitment to safeguarding human rights. It supports initiatives to document the violations, while pursuing its dialogue with the Nicaraguan government. With the support of the United Nations and the European Union, Switzerland organised an exhibition to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where 30 Nicaraguan artists depicted on a canvas their interpretation of one of the 30 articles of the Declaration.
The socio-political crisis has been catastrophic for Nicaragua's economy, already the poorest in Central America. The tourism sector – a mainstay of the economy – is collapsing. Extreme poverty, which had declined in recent years, is again on the rise. Switzerland is supporting small entrepreneurs and craft workers as well as smallholder farmers, enabling them to keep afloat and provide for themselves and their families.
Switzerland also supports SMEs, an important part of Nicaragua's economic fabric. In doing so, it is helping to preserve jobs and key sources of income for the population.
To avoid a food crisis, Switzerland is assisting smallholder farmers in procuring seed.
The country's food security depends on the survival of the smallholders and their ability to adapt to climate change by diversifying their crops while improving quality and yield.
Since the crisis began, more than 40,000 Nicaraguans have fled the country, mainly to Costa Rica. Given the vast scale of displacement, Switzerland is providing emergency aid to those affected by the crisis, in the form of food as well as efforts to ensure that refugee children can return to school.
"I want a free democratic Nicaragua where people can express what we think to improve Nicaragua; to move forward and to get out poverty."
Administrative assistant, SDC (Nicaragua)
SDC Website: Central America
Transparency in commodity trading
Switzerland is involved in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
Peru is tapping into its large copper deposits, Ghana is extracting significant quantities of oil, and Indonesia is mining minerals on a large scale. Many developing countries are rich in minerals and fossil fuels.
However, local populations usually derive little benefit from the commodities trade, and these countries do not fully realise their development potential.
Transparency is key in preventing funds being embezzled or diverted from the public budget. Who are the shareholders of extractive companies and where exactly does the revenue from mining and trading end up?
The EITI has established a voluntary standard that obliges companies and states to disclose such information. This strengthens the rule of law, hampers corruption and improves the investment climate.
The EITI currently has 52 commodity-producing countries that have already disclosed their payment flows or plan to do so. It also comprises representatives of extractive and trading companies, civil society organisations and supporting countries including Switzerland.
Website: EITI standard implementation status per country
Although Switzerland does not have any significant reserves of natural resources, some of the world's largest extractive and trading companies are based in the country. Switzerland therefore shares responsibility for ensuring that the economic prosperity generated by the commodities industry is fairly distributed.
In 2018, Switzerland represented its constituency of supporting countries at the board of the EITI. The board leads the initiative, sets priorities and monitors the implementation of the EITI standard in commodity-producing countries.
SECO Website: Strengthening public finances
Improving specialist skills in Egypt
Switzerland supports the Sewedy Technical Academy in Cairo to provide its students with better education and training.
Solid professional training is important because qualified staff make companies more competitive. This in turn enables companies to grow and create more qualified jobs, which is a deciding factor in reducing poverty and mitigating the structural causes of migration.
Since 2018, Switzerland has been supporting a project that improves the skills of 500 young people in Egypt. The goal is to make it easier for them to enter the domestic labour market by aligning their profile to the needs of Egyptian companies.
A large number of employers in Egypt consider the standard of training courses and the skills level of trainees unsatisfactory.
One of the project's goals is to help develop better curricula and employ qualified trainers at the Sewedy Technical Academy, which currently trains around 200 apprentices mainly in electronics. By the end of the project in 2021, the Academy expects to train 500 – mainly female – apprentices.
The project falls under the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's regional programme for economic inclusion in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan. Switzerland has allocated CHF 2.75 million for the programme over a four-year period. The project is part of Switzerland's 2017-2020 cooperation strategy for Egypt.
City Resilience Program
Cities need to prepare for natural disasters in a more systematic manner so that they can better withstand the effects of climate change.
Climate change-related natural disasters threaten millions of people – especially in cities. The higher the population density, the more destructive the impact of natural disasters on local populations and the economy.
Today's cities are growing rapidly. For the first time in human history, more people live in cities than in rural areas. Globally, urban settlements are growing by an extra 1.4 million people every week. 90% of this increase takes place in cities in developing countries.
Many cities in developing countries are experiencing unplanned and uncontrolled growth. Settlement areas are emerging in high-risk territory, such as flood-prone coastal areas and rivers. The poorer the people living in these areas are, the more vulnerable they tend to be.
The Vietnamese city of CanTho is an important economic centre in the Mekong Delta. In 2018, a massive flood hit the city. CanTho did not have the means to prevent such disasters at the time.
In the future, cities like CanTho should be better prepared for natural disasters caused by climate change and should be able to contain the negative consequences. That is why Switzerland and the World Bank have launched the City Resilience Program. This program helps participating cities identify risks and measures and supports them in mobilising necessary funding.
Switzerland has a great deal of experience in managing the effects of climate change, such as persistent rainfall, snowy winters and changes in permafrost. It also has expertise in mitigating the impact of floods, rockfall and avalanches. In 2018, Swiss companies with the respective know-how began transferring their knowledge to developing countries as part of the City Resilience Program.
SECO Website: Developing cities sustainably
Leave no one behind
Switzerland helps its partner countries to reduce social and economic disparities, which in turn creates peaceful and stable societies.
In Albania, the main focus is on improving access to social services for Roma and people with disabilities. This includes education, training opportunities and jobseeker support as well as strengthening local governments to develop effective social systems.
One example of Switzerland's engagement in this area is the Tirana-based institute for deaf students where young people receive practical training in a variety of fields such as tailoring, carpentry and shoemaking.
The institute has more than 100 students. Last year, the vocational skills development workshops were improved. The institute has also been furnished with modern equipment and the teaching content has been updated. This is intended to optimise the training courses for deaf students so that they have a better chance of getting a job in future.
Another disadvantaged group is the civilian population in eastern Ukraine, where daily life has become a real struggle. Since the start of the conflict five years ago, more than 3,000 civilians have lost their lives and 9,000 have been injured. Another 1.6 million people have fled to other areas. Although Switzerland has activities across Ukraine, it focuses in particular on areas directly affected by the conflict.
Switzerland is committed to transitioning from short-term humanitarian intervention to long-term development activities in Ukraine. The Ukrainian economy has been hit hard by the armed conflict, and unemployment in the conflict-affected areas is extremely high. That is why Switzerland is supporting companies in these areas to develop new businesses and create jobs. It does this through microcredit.
"I had to leave everything behind in Horlivka. But my sister and I decided that we wouldn't give up. When we heard about this programme, we drew up a business plan and won a grant. Thanks to this seed money we were suddenly in a position to relaunch our business. After just a few months we were able to employ four people in our workshop, one at the warehouse in town, and we now operate a delivery service too."
Internally displaced, Manager
Kramatorsk, Donetsk area
Leaving no child behind: school as a space for creating opportunities and cohesion
Following the 2012 crisis, nine-year-old Leila had to leave her village in northern Mali with her family. Moussa, a nomadic child, moves around with his community along transhumance routes. These and many other displaced or nomadic children now have access to innovative education solutions launched and supported by Switzerland.
Following attacks and threats, more than 1,200 schools in northern and central Mali had to close in 2012. Teachers and the local population were forced to flee. Hundreds of thousands of children were left without a school. The enrolment ratio dropped from over 80% in 2011 to below 70% by 2014.
From 2015 to 2017, Switzerland supported Mali's Ministry of Education in opening nearly 300 accelerated education centres in the Mopti, Timbuktu and Kidal regions. Through accelerated education, displaced children can – in a matter of months – catch up on lost school years and obtain their school certificates wherever they are.
Teachers, communities and education authorities are trained to care for girls and boys affected by the conflict and also help them overcome their traumatic experiences.
"What motivated me to take this course is the fact that the school enrolment rate is so low. And with the crisis in the north, many schools have had to close. With this training, I will be able to help many children go back to school."
Class facilitator in Taoudenni
A blackboard hanging on an acacia tree indicates the presence of a mobile classroom. The traditional schooling model is not suited to the lifestyle of nomadic communities. Switzerland therefore supports the innovative approach taken by mobile schools. The teachers, furniture and school supplies travel alongside nomadic communities as they move from one grazing area to another. More than 1,000 children have been enrolled thanks to 50 mobile schools.
To meet the challenges of fragile contexts such as Mali, Switzerland favours an approach that combines short-term humanitarian aid with longer-term development cooperation.
Going to school creates opportunities for their future and a chance to participate in their country's social, economic and political development. As well as knowledge, the school also transmits values and plays a key role in promoting peace.
SDC Website: Universal right to basic education
Die Schweiz unterstützt seit dem Ende der Sowjetunion Anfang der 90er Jahre die zentralasiatischen Staaten in ihrer politischen, sozialen und wirtschaftlichen Transformation.
Neben vielen anderen Herausforderungen ist das gerechte Aufteilen des Wassers in den Anliegerstaaten von grosser Bedeutung.
in der Sowjetzeit die Wasserverteilung zentral gesteuert wurde, ist das
Wassermanagement heute unter den verschiedenen Ländern multilateral
Trotz bestimmter Differenzen sind sich die Staaten der Region darin einig, dass Wasser eine stabilisierende und friedensfördernde Rolle spielt.
Usbekistan und Turkmenistan sind grösstenteils auf das Wasser aus den Gletscherflüssen
der Nachbarstaaten Tadschikistan und Kirgisistan angewiesen.
Gerade die ländlichen Regionen spüren die Wasserknappheit als erste. Um dem Wassermangel vorzubeugen, fördert die Schweiz einen regen Austausch zwischen den zentralasiatischen Staaten. Dies wird «Wasserdiplomatie» genannt.
Zentralasien liegt der Fokus des Dialogs auf Themen wie Wasserqualität, Erheben
von Wasserdaten und gemeinschaftliches Management von Infrastrukturen.
2018 hat die Schweiz für Wasserexperten der verschiedenen Staaten einen Besuch in Westafrika im Gebiet des Senegal-Flusses organisiert. Dort pflegen Senegal, Mauretanien, Mali und Guinea eine erfolgreiche Zusammenarbeit.
Schweiz arbeitet seit vielen Jahrzehnten mit ihren Nachbarländern im Bereich
des nachhaltigen Wassermanagements zusammen. Dieses Wissen vermittelt sie im
Rahmen der zentralasiatischen Wasserdiplomatie.
Beispielsweise unterstützt die Schweiz die Länder beim Aufbau einer funktionierenden Infrastruktur. So können unter anderem zuverlässige Daten erhoben werden. Dies erhöht wiederum die Transparenz beim Austausch der Länder untereinander.
die Nachhaltigkeit der schweizerischen Interventionen zu sichern, wurden lokale
Benutzerorganisationen gegründet, welche sich selbst verwalten.
Damit können diese auch nach dem Abschluss des Projekts weiterfunktionieren. Nicht weniger wichtig ist es, die junge Generation miteinzubeziehen.
Deshalb setzt sich die Schweiz dafür ein, junge Menschen für die Thematik zu sensibilisieren, sie auszubilden und ihnen ein Netzwerk zu bieten, damit sie aktiv werden können.
Reforms at the United Nations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015, the international community set itself 17 ambitious objectives to steer global development until 2030 in a sustainable, peaceful and socially responsible way. Because the 2030 Agenda requires new approaches however, UN organisations must first adapt to these new practices.
To this end, the UN secretary-general submitted a set of ambitious proposals for reform. While some member states were in support of the proposed reforms, others – including many UN bodies – expressed reservations. Switzerland successfully handled negotiations between member states. A package of reforms for the United Nations development system entered into force on 1 January 2019.
As a result of the reforms, the UN can better coordinate its activities within a host country and use its funds more effectively. To this end, UN country teams now have new responsibilities and are led by independent coordinators who report directly to the UN secretary-general.
Administrative services of the UN are being merged with shared service centres, which means that the freed-up resources can be used to implement development programmes. By repositioning itself in this way, the UN can save time and money and directly benefit the people on the ground.
The reforms also call for a new funding compact, which is largely supported by Switzerland. The new compact aims to increase the percentage of non-earmarked contributions from UN member states, which would enable UN bodies to allocate resources where most needed – such as managing emergency situations and fighting poverty, for example.
Thanks to these reforms, the UN can provide more comprehensive assistance for people in low and middle-income countries, such as dealing with the consequences of climate change or global epidemics. In so doing, the UN makes a significant contribution to advancing a healthy environment and development opportunities for those who cannot overcome today's global challenges alone.
Healthy diets as a key to development
A child's healthy development does not depend on the quantity of food they eat, but on the quality. But healthy food is usually expensive. Three billion people across the globe are suffering from hunger, malnutrition or obesity. Switzerland is committed to ensuring that everyone has access to a healthy diet.
If children do not get enough protein, vitamins and minerals during the first 1,000 days of their life, their bodies and brains cannot fully develop. This limits their ability to develop their full potential at school and to become leading members of society later in life. It also increases their risk of becoming overweight or obese later in life.
Investing in good-quality nutrition for people pays off – each dollar that is invested sees a 16-fold return. Healthy people are not just more productive; they also incur fewer healthcare costs. That is why diet is an important topic on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, because it is both an objective for and a means of achieving economic and social development.
The SUN movement (Scaling up Nutrition) brings global attention to this issue in connection with malnutrition and develops solutions. The goal of the members is to end all forms of malnutrition in the world.
"In 12 out of the 17 sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda, there is a link with nutrition. To achieve these goals, we need governments, parliaments, UN organisations, society, the private sector and research institutions. SUN brings these actors together. Because all of them are part of the solution."
She has been leading the international movement with great momentum.
Switzerland plays an active role in the development of agricultural policies, production and processing standards, and in raising awareness of the importance of a healthy, balanced diet. Moreover, it focuses on scaling up the involvement of civil society and the private sector in combating malnutrition.
Through its involvement with the SUN movement, Switzerland is helping children eat a balanced diet, which improves their physical and cognitive development and, in turn, their chances of doing well at school and developing into productive and self-reliant individuals.
Twitter: Scaling Up Nutrition Movement
SDC Website: Global Programme Food Security
Rebuilding the state after the long civil war
After two decades of civil war, Somalia is rebuilding its state structures. Services and democratic space need to be reestablished at national and local level. Switzerland, in partnership with the United Nations and local governments, has been supporting decentralisation through 292 service and infrastructure projects since 2013.
Skills are a precondition for local governments to fulfill their functions effectively. Therefore, Switzerland supports local governments in enhancing staff competencies:
"If you are fresh from college or university, it’s hard to get a job. When you get one, it’s difficult to perform without any training. Training and mentoring before taking any job are crucial."
Hilaal Abdi Elmi
Former graduate trainee
In order to deliver basic services to the Somali population, local governments need funds. Tax revenues are a sustainable source of income. Switzerland invests in business conditions that support small enterprises. This generates additional income for businesses, and increases tax revenues.
Newly installed software and capacities have improved the management of tax payments. This contributes to increased accountability and transparency in relation to tax collection.
Public spending is discussed with the population. Through consultative forums, communities prioritise their needs. This creates ownership and trust and improves delivery of basic services.
Education is a key public service that was prioritised through consultative forums. With the support of Switzerland, 275 schools have improved facilities for 61,000 pupils.
Another key public service was health. Switzerland’s support has enabled a municipality to build additional hospital rooms. 53 hospitals and health centers can now provide better services to 260,000 patients.
Infrastructure allows people to engage in economic and social activities. In Garowe city, new roads have been constructed. The enhanced access to markets has improved people’s business opportunities and livelihoods.
Video Puntland: The United Nations Joint Programme on local governance and decentralized service delivery
Video Somaliland: The United Nations Joint Programme on local governance and decentralized service delivery
Effectiveness report on gender equality
Switzerland sees great potential in gender equality as a force for sustainable development, economic growth and poverty reduction. Gender equality means that women and men have equal rights and equal access to resources. They should also be given equal social recognition. In its partner countries, Switzerland is committed to economic empowerment, women participating in politics, and combating all forms of violence.
In 2018, an independent team of specialists examined the effectiveness of Swiss gender equality projects implemented from 2007 to 2016. The results from all of the analysed projects were encouraging: 50% led to greater political participation by women, 30% advanced the economic empowerment of women, and 40% contributed to reducing violence against women.
Projects that only targeted gender equality were particularly effective: 73% led to structural changes such as increased participation by women in political processes, more women in management positions, equal access to land resources and a change in men's attitudes to gender norms.
Most of the projects that were reviewed included gender equality as a cross-cutting theme: 31% were effective and produced positive results regarding gender equality. The evaluation concluded that a project's design was key to its success or lack thereof. Undertaking a solid context analysis and considering gender issues prior to project implementation were central factors. Interestingly, focusing on gender as a cross-cutting theme also helped achieve other project goals..
New financing mechanisms in international cooperation
The UN estimates that by 2030, an additional 2.5 trillion dollars will be needed to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
If sufficient private capital can be mobilised, the 2030 Agenda can be successfully implemented. In January 2018, Switzerland hosted a conference that highlighted the potential of new financing mechanisms, such as social impact bonds (SIBs).
Video: SIB-Conference, Welcome Remarks by State Secretary Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch
With SIBs, private investors pre-finance programmes and bear the risks. The programme managers only pay out the investors once the pre-defined objectives have been achieved.
Switzerland is supporting SIBs in Colombia. The aim here is to improve the vocational skills of disadvantaged people. A group of foundations pre-finances the required training. The Colombian government only reimburses the investors in full if the trainees have actually found a job.
At a conference in Zurich, other financing mechanisms related to international cooperation were presented, such as humanitarian impact bonds and development impact bonds in the health sector. Participating experts debated related ethical issues and possible ways to scale up successful projects.
SECO Website: Social Impact Bonds Conference 18.01.2018
Gaza: vital support bringing relief to the inhabitants
For two decades now, the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip have continued to go about their daily lives, despite the insecurity and constant stress they face. With the economy in decline, young people are particularly badly hit by the record unemployment rates. More than half the population live in poverty.
Nearly 300,000 children and more than 200,000 adults are in need of psychological support. With Swiss aid, the community mental health program offers counselling, courses and therapy sessions for inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. Three community centres offer daily support for children and adults facing mental health issues.
These centres provide a safe environment where people can be heard and receive help. A free helpline service is used by many women – over 2,000 between 2015 and 2017. Domestic violence and relationship and parenting issues are the topics most frequently raised.
Many children and young people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Thanks to the community centres, they can receive the care they need to get back to school or complete their qualifications. The school offers a safe environment where they can also relax, play or take part in sports.
"It is a victory and a great joy for me every time I see a child regain their inner security through the games we offer here. My goal is met when the child can again engage in positive communication and interact with others."
Last year, more than 1,200 teachers and other education and health professionals confronted with mental health issues attended workshops organised by the centres. Switzerland has been supporting this program since 1997, together with Sweden and Norway.
SDC Website: Occupied Palestinian Territory
Mid-term report on the implementation of the Dispatch on Switzerland's International Cooperation 2017–2020
In the 2017–2020 dispatch, the Federal Council set out targeted priorities based on expected outcomes. These priorities are to reduce poverty and hardship in Switzerland's partner countries, conserve natural resources, create sustainable economic prospects and promote peace, democracy and human rights.
At the end of 2018, the Federal Council reported to Parliament on the current state of implementation of the 2017–2020 dispatch.
The mid-term report shows that Switzerland is on track. The success rate for Swiss projects is 85%, which is a very encouraging result.
- Switzerland has reached 5.3 million people in emergency situations..
- 9 million people, more than half women, have been able to access basic education and vocational skills development.
- 517,000 businesses have obtained access to capital such as repayable loans, holdings and advice on improving company management.
- 8 million people now have better access to clean drinking water and efficient irrigation systems for agriculture because of Swiss support.
- Thanks to Switzerland, 3.3 billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy have been produced.
- Switzerland has supported 10 official peace processes such as the Syrian peace process.
Swiss federal offices work together on finding solutions to problems wherever possible. In North Africa, for example, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Human Security Division (HSD) cooperate with the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) on improving democracy, well-being and stability..
More results and challenges for Switzerland's international cooperation can be found in the mid-term report on the implementation of the Dispatch on Switzerland's International Cooperation 2017 – 2020 (de, fr, it).
SDC Website: Mid-term report (de/fr/it)
Smallholders forced to give up their land for the economy
For more than two decades, the Mekong region (Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam) has experienced rapid but uneven economic development. As they strive to expand industrial agriculture, mining and hydropower, the governments of these countries are increasingly granting land in the form of concessions to domestic and foreign companies. Tens of thousands of smallholder farmers are being dispossessed of their land or forests, thereby losing their livelihoods.
To improve food security in the Mekong region, Switzerland initiated and launched a regional project to safeguard land tenure in 2014. The goal was to ensure better recognition of smallholders' land rights and to improve access to natural resources.
In Myanmar, current practices are being documented in several villages and communities to promote the recognition of customary tenure – or customary land law – in laws and policies.
"If we don't have records, we have no protection against land grabbing. If we don't document this properly, the next generation won't know where their land is."
In Laos, Switzerland encourages local communities to get involved in decision-making. Agroforestry companies operating there are now increasingly consulting with the local inhabitants.
"The company supported the village's development fund. With this fund, they have set up a water supply system for the villagers. This helped us because we no longer have to walk far to fetch water. The company also provides jobs in the village."
"For a long time, we didn't have much land for farming, so it was difficult. But now we are grateful to the state and the project for giving us the land we need to make a living. We will work hard so our children have enough to eat and can go to school."
Dang Van Xi
Land rights security and land access play a central role in the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and in food security. New national policies and changes in practices are expected to benefit more than 15 million smallholders here, particularly women and ethnic minorities.
Video: Mekong Region Land Governance
Bolivia: a judicial system addressing the needs of the most disadvantaged groups
Bolivia has adopted innovative approaches to reforming its judicial system, including a conciliation mechanism that has shortened the average time to resolve civil disputes from five years to two months and a mobile courts programme in rural areas.
A broad range of dysfunctions, including a lack of judicial independence, excessively long delays and corruption, has paralysed Bolivia’s judicial system. Since 2013, Switzerland has been supporting a reform of the judicial system aimed at improving access to law and justice, in particular for the most disadvantaged segments of the population.
Support is given to government initiatives aimed at setting up alternative systems to the courts, such as conciliation. Conciliation is the most affordable and quickest way to resolve disputes. It also makes corruption less likely because it reduces the time it takes to settle a dispute in court from an average of five years to two months. Last year, 8% of civil cases were settled through conciliation, reducing the costs borne by the parties and the Bolivian state.
To improve access to justice for low-income people, Switzerland is supporting conciliation initiatives at the local level. A general law on conciliation at the municipal level is currently pending approval.
The next step will be to explore the possibility of using conciliation to settle family and employment disputes and criminal cases involving minor offences. Moreover, training will be provided for government agencies, including those under the Ministry of Justice.
Further progress has been made in the reform process through joint efforts involving the judiciary, the ombudsman and civil society. For example, better protection of the rights of persons deprived of their liberty, in particular women and young people, the development of a gender equality policy and the integration of a gender-sensitive approach into judicial procedures and practices.There is already a visible improvement in women's access to justice: between 2013 and 2017, 40% of the 64,000 cases resolved by the courts were brought by women.
SDC Website: Bolivia
Lebanon: the impact of the Syrian crisis on water
Since 2011, the conflict in Syria has forced millions of people to flee their homes. Although the majority have remained in Syria, more than five million Syrians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. This mass exodus has reached dramatic proportions in Lebanon, where one in four inhabitants is now a Syrian refugee.
Such demographic pressure is exacerbating the difficulties in accessing water and sanitation. This is a problem throughout Lebanon but it is especially acute in the Beqaa Valley. One million people live in this area the size of the Swiss cantons of Vaud and Neuchâtel combined.
In some places, Syrian refugees now outnumber the local population. Power cuts are an increasingly common day-to-day occurrence. The situation is even worse for the Syrian refugees, many of whom have been living for years in makeshift shelters with no real access to water.
Since 2016, Swiss Humanitarian Aid has been running a project to manage water use, distribution and treatment in the Beqaa Valley. The SDC's engineers work in collaboration with the local water authority, Beqaa Water Establishment. The goal is to secure access to water and sanitation for all, both the Lebanese population and Syrian refugees.
Video: Switzerland's commitment to sustainable water management in Lebanon