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deza-seco-jahresbericht-2023-en

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Introduction

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«The increased number of conflicts and crises makes the global work to promote human rights, democracy, less suffering and poverty and more climate protection all the more urgent. These are the goals of Swiss international cooperation and an integral part of Swiss foreign policy. To achieve them, the SDC has reorganised itself. The aim is to achieve more with less.»

Patricia Danzi
Ambassador, director general of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
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«To live in dignity, people must be able to satisfy their basic needs and see prospects for development. To do so, they need jobs and economic opportunities. SECO's work to strengthen its partner countries' economies and further their progress towards sustainable prosperity is part of Switzerland's economic foreign policy and is intended to benefit all sections of their societies.»

Helene Budliger Artieda
Director of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)







 






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1 Basic services

Switzerland's international cooperation is committed to both providing humanitarian aid and to improving living conditions in low-income countries. This includes improving access to basic services such as education, health and finance.
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2 Economy

Switzerland is committed to economic and private sector development in low-income countries. It works with young entrepreneurs to create decent jobs. It also works on innovative financing instruments to mobilise public-private investment for businesses.
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3 Peace

The rule of law, respect for human rights and the inclusion of women and disadvantaged people are among the most important prerequisites for peace and long-term development. Switzerland supports local civil society and authorities in the fields of advocacy, monitoring state activities and public accountability.
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4 Environment

The climate is heating up and the effects such as droughts and floods are already causing great suffering. At the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2021, all countries agreed on how to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Switzerland is particularly committed in areas such as food, production, consumption, energy, health, cities and financial systems.
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5 Crises

The world is currently beset by crises and conflicts, making international cooperation more important than ever before. Switzerland is addressing these challenges while remaining a reliable partner for countries that are less in the global spotlight.
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Statistics

International cooperation implemented by the SDC and SECO accounts for almost two-thirds of Switzerland's official development assistance (ODA), which also includes contributions from other federal offices and aid provided by the Swiss cantons and municipalities.

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Fit4Purpose

«Our goal is to ensure that we are fit as a development organisation to work efficiently, quickly, effectively and flexibly in partner countries together with our partners.»

Patricia Danzi
SDC-Director
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The SDC concentrates its activities primarily on the lowest-income countries. The most important recipient region is sub-Saharan Africa, closely followed by the Europe, North Africa and Middle East Region. Expenditure in Asia and Latin America accounts for a smaller share and is declining compared to previous years.

SECO is more active in middle-income countries. Cooperation in Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East accounted for almost half of SECO's bilateral expenditure in 2023.
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SDC programmes and projects are based on the needs of its partner countries and tailored to match the given context. The SDC's humanitarian aid work is a reflection of Switzerland's solidarity towards people in need.
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SECO's economic and trade policy measures contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth.
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The SDC mainly focuses on the lowest income countries.

The main theme is governance, accounting for more than a quarter of expenditure across all regions. In the Europe, North Africa and Middle East region, more than 40% of resources were earmarked for emergency aid because of the war in Ukraine and the Middle East conflict.
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SECO concentrates on countries where it can make the most effective use of its expertise in the economic field through its projects, skills and network. Its work focuses on a number of countries in Africa, Latin America, South East Asia, and countries in transition in Eastern Europe and Central Asia that are facing problems of poverty and economic development.
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The climate crisis requires mitigation measures to reduce its effects and adaptation measures to limit its impact on people. Climate is a cross-cutting theme addressed by the international cooperation projects and programmes.
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Good governance is a cross-cutting theme addressed by the international cooperation projects and programmes. Good governance encompasses various aspects such as competent management of public services, democratisation, the rule of law, combating corruption and promoting human rights. In economic terms, this also extends to such principles as transparency, accountability, non-discrimination, efficiency and participation.
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Gender is a cross-cutting theme addressed by the international cooperation projects and programmes. Gender equality is factored into all projects, a significant number of which also include specific measures to reduce gender inequalities.
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With the aim of achieving the target set by Parliament of 0.5% of Swiss GNI for ODA, the resources allocated to the SDC grew steadily until 2015. Between 2016 and 2019, international cooperation funds were affected by cost-cutting measures.

The increase in spending from 2020 onwards is mainly due to additional credits approved by Parliament to support international efforts to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the war in Ukraine and the Middle East conflict.
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Budgetary resources allocated to SECO increased after 2011, in line with Switzerland's target of reaching an ODA/GNI ratio of 0.5% by 2015.

Between 2016 and 2019, its resources were reduced as a result of the federal government's cost-cutting measures.

The increase in 2022 and 2023 is linked in particular to the supplementary credits in response to the war in Ukraine.
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Europe, North Africa and the Middle East

Sub-Saharan Africa

Asia

Latin America

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Swiss cooperation with Eastern Europe supports the countries of the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus in their efforts to establish a social market economy and strengthen democracy and the rule of law. The support provided to the population affected by the war in Ukraine has an important humanitarian dimension, in line with the thematic priorities of the cooperation programme.

In North Africa, Switzerland's engagement is aimed at fostering a more inclusive, prosperous and peaceful region.

In the Middle East, the SDC is working to improve the protection of refugees and people in need, and their access to essential services, as well as to ensure sustainable water management. In view of the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza, Switzerland disbursed a further CHF 90 million in humanitarian aid for the region in 2023.
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The emphasis of development cooperation in sub-Saharan Africa is on giving disadvantaged populations access to basic social services (health, education), infrastructure (water), employment and income, as well as sustainable growth.

Switzerland runs humanitarian aid programmes in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Central Africa and Southern Africa. It is active in a number of areas, including building resilience to the effects of drought, protecting civilians in armed conflict, food security and access to water and sanitation.
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Through its transition aid to countries in Central Asia, Switzerland supports regional and national water ressources management, private sector development, as well as reforms in the public sector and the health sector.

The SDC's activities in East and South Asia focus on countries and regions with persistently high multidimensional poverty rates, for example in terms of income, security or limited access to basic services.

SECO's economic development cooperation supports Vietnam on its path to sustainable, market-led growth. Activities in Indonesia contribute to overcoming sustainable development challenges and making its economy more competitive, resilient, equitable and resource efficient.
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The SDC's activities in Central America focus on good governance, respect for human rights, inclusive economic development, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. After 40 years of fruitful international cooperation work, Swiss bilateral cooperation is planning to withdraw from the region by the end of 2024. Until then, Switzerland is working to consolidate the gains that have been achieved and withdraw from the region in a responsible and considered manner.

In Peru, SECO’s main areas of support are the development of economic institutions, private sector competitiveness and access to basic public services. In Colombia, where certain areas continue to be heavily impacted by the presence of armed groups and organised crime, SECO is working to create better economic prospects, thereby also contributing to lasting peace.
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Official development assistance (ODA) from members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) amounted to USD 224 billion in 2023. Switzerland is ranked 8th in comparison to the ODA of DAC member countries as a percentage of their gross national income (GNI). Five countries met the United Nations' target of allocating 0.7% of GNI to ODA: Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden, Germany and Denmark.

In terms of financial volume, the largest contributions came from the United States, followed by Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and France. Switzerland ranks 11th in absolute amounts.
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An increase in international cooperation funds made it possible to meet the 0.5% ODA/GNI target set by Parliament in 2015 and in 2016. After 2016, ODA decreased due to lower asylum costs and cost-saving measures for international cooperation credits. As a result of the additional resources allocated to combating the COVID-19 pandemic and to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, ODA increased again from 2020.

From 2022, the sharp rise in the cost of receiving asylum seekers in Switzerland following the war in Ukraine and the crisis in the Middle East led to a further increase in ODA.

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In recent years, international cooperation implemented by the SDC and SECO accounted for an average of 80% of total ODA. From 2022, as a result of rising asylum costs, this share fell to less than two-thirds.
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Multilateral ODA includes general contributions made by the SDC and other federal offices to international development organisations. International financial institutions (IFIs), including the International Development Association (IDA), are the main recipients of multilateral ODA, followed by United Nations agencies and other international organisations.

Over the last 15 years, the share of multilateral ODA remained relatively stable, representing between 20% and 25% of total ODA. In 2022 and 2023, this proportion exceptionally fell to 18% and 19% respectively, due on the one hand to the increase in bilateral ODA relating to the war in Ukraine, and on the other hand to a relative decrease in multilateral contributions.

Contributions to international NGOs, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, are considered as bilateral (and not multilateral) ODA.
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Die Welt verändert sich in nie dagewesenem Tempo. Die Krisen überschlagen sich. Um den gestiegenen Anforderungen gerecht zu werden, und um gemeinsam die ambitionierten Ziele der Agenda 2030 zu erreichen, hat sich die DEZA neu aufgestellt. Mit der Reorganisation «Fit4Purpose» wurden in den vergangenen Monaten die Humanitären Hilfe und die Entwicklungszusammenarbeit zusammengeführt und die Kräfte gebündelt.
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Entstanden ist eine neue DEZA-Organisation, die agiler und flexibler ist. Das Zusammenrücken der Humanitären Hilfe und der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit widerspiegelt sich sinnbildlich im 2023 bezogenen Verwaltungsgebäude in Zollikofen. Davor war die DEZA auf zwei Standorte in Bern verteilt. Heute arbeiten alle gemeinsam unter einem Dach.
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Die DEZA teilt sich das neue Gebäude mit weiteren Kolleginnen und Kollegen des Eidgenössisches Departement für auswärtige Angelegenheiten EDA. Insgesamt arbeiten 870 Personen der DEZA, der Direktion für Ressourcen und des EDA-Generalsekretariats seit Oktober 2023 am neuen Standort in Zollikofen bei Bern. Das erleichtert die Zusammenarbeit und steigert die Effizienz über Direktionen hinweg.

Und das SECO befindet sich weiterhin am Holzikofenweg 36 in Bern.
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High-magnitude earthquakes caused widespread devastation in Turkey and Syria in February 2023. Switzerland deployed Swiss Rescue specialists and a Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) team, and earmarked CHF 8.5 million for the survivors.
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On 6 February 2023, Turkey and Syria were hit by 7.8 and 7.5-magnitude earthquakes, followed by several aftershocks. The disaster left over 50,000 people dead and 100,000 injured in Turkey and more than 6,000 dead and 12,800 injured in Syria.
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A few hours after the disaster, the SDC mobilised Swiss Rescue to respond to the Turkish authorities' request for international aid: on Monday 6 February 2023, nearly 90 specialists with 8 rescue dogs took off from Zurich for Adana airport in south-east Turkey. The next day, the team set up camp in Hatay Province. After an initial briefing with the Turkish authorities to determine where they would be working, the Swiss specialists set off in a race against time to try and rescue survivors trapped in the rubble.
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In the space of a week, the Swiss Rescue team saved eleven lives, including a six-month-old baby and its mother. Even before Swiss Rescue was demobilised, the SDC launched the second phase of its emergency response by dispatching specialists from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) and relief supplies to the disaster zones in Turkey.
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Once there, the SHA members split into two teams, setting out for two different sites. One team distributed 400 tents for families and 2,000 hygiene kits (toothpaste, laundry detergent, soap, undergarments) with the help of a local NGO in seven villages in Kahramanmaraş Province. This aid reached over 15,300 people. The other team provided support to Mozaik Hospital in Hatay Province, ensuring medical care for 400 mothers and children.
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In Syria, where the humanitarian situation was already dire, the earthquakes exacerbated conditions. The SDC provided 300 winter tents for 1,500 people to the International Organization for Migration and made additional financial contributions to several partner organisations that already had humanitarian access in the areas hit thanks to their pre-earthquake operations.
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All in all, the SDC released CHF 8.5 million for those affected in the two countries, including CHF 5 million allocated to Syria. CHF 1 million was donated as a response to the appeal of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, CHF 3 million to the emergency funds of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for Syria and CHF 1 million to two international humanitarian organisations. These amounts came on top of the CHF 60 million that Switzerland allocated in 2023 to assistance for people affected by the Syrian crisis in Syria and the region.

Further information:
Switzerland provides emergency humanitarian aid to Turkey and Syria 





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Environmental degradation in Central America causes conflicts over access to natural resources. This exacerbates ongoing violence. The SDC supported women to address these challenges.
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Women are often neglected in reconciliation processes, although as the caretakers of communities their contribution to peace is essential. The SDC addressed this issue through the regional project "Grassroots Women Building Resilience and Peace in Central America" that ended in September 2023. It empowered women's groups to acquire skills and forge alliances to engage local stakeholders in dialogue processes in order to seek joint solutions to prevent conflicts.
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In El Salvador, given the high rate of illiteracy, the project used playful learning techniques, such as theatre. These helped participants to see the conflict from a perspective they were not familiar with and to be more willing to engage in dialogue. The main goals of the project were to support women in building local peace platforms and to increase their communities’ resilience to climate change. These challenges are often interlinked.
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Women community leaders were enabled to support survivors of domestic violence. These empowered women gained a constructive attitude to deal with conflicts in the community and were able to solve tensions that originated from the impacts of climate change.
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During training workshops, women learned how to identify local actors, such as community leaders and develop a roadmap to address and prevent conflicts. Now, they use this knowledge in their communities, to create dialogue among their local leaders to work on common solutions.
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In Costa Rica, for example, the overflow of the River Cañas caused loss of crops, especially in the lower areas of the river basin. The affected communities tended to blame the agricultural practices of those of the higher areas. The resulting tensions carried the potential to become violent. The programme supported the construction of a dam using recycled tyres and concrete by community members of the higher and lower basin area. The dam successfully reduced the loss of crops due to flooding and contributed to the prevention of a violent conflict.
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In addition, more than 400 women from El Salvador and four other Central American countries are now active members of the regional network of women builders of peace and resilience supported by the SDC’s partner, the Huairou Commission.

The project enabled grassroots women and their families to implement effective climate adaptation practices. It strengthened their abilities to build local peace processes and find common solutions to interlinked challenges.
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In view of the current backsliding on development indicators and the necessity for complementing humanitarian work to strengthen community resilience, development actors in conflict-affected contexts are key. In the case of Myanmar, the UNDP is one of the few development actors that ‘stays and delivers’, making the organisation a privileged partner for Switzerland.
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Myanmar is illustrative of a growing number of countries that have or are facing a military coup, resulting in disinvestment in development support, a reversal of hard-fought development gains, as well as increasing poverty and humanitarian caseloads. According to the World Bank, since the military coup in 2021 the poverty rate in Myanmar has doubled.
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In Myanmar, SDC partners with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). UNDPs’ Rakhine Triple Nexus Project (RTNP) applies the humanitarian-development-peace nexus approach (triple nexus) to address the complex challenges of underdevelopment, protracted displacement, poverty, and disaster and climate risks in Rakhine. It works in close partnership with local civil society and aims to meet the immediate needs of displaced and non-displaced vulnerable populations while also initiating sustainable solutions to tackle the root causes of conflict and crisis that perpetuate vulnerability, displacement, violence, and
instability.

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The project encompasses three key outputs, each tailored to complement and reinforce one another, addressing the development, humanitarian, and peace dimensions of the needs of Rakhine's most vulnerable communities, including those affected by disasters and conflict, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and stateless populations. The project aims to empower villages, village tracts, and townships to meet their basic needs, foster reconciliation within and between communities, and achieve sustainable socio-economic development amid a politically complex and uncertain environment.
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In 2023, UNDP reached around 400,000 people in Rakhine state. The project enhanced disaster preparedness and awareness among at-risk communities through awareness campaigns on disaster preparedness, evacuation procedures, and mitigation strategies. It also provided agricultural inputs (paddy seeds and fertiliser) to farmers, home gardening support to vulnerable households – allowing them to improve their income by selling surplus produce – as well as skills development and grants to selected individuals.
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The main challenges of the programme lie in the increasing level of conflict and insecurity in the areas where UNDP operates, the limited access to communities due to conflict or bureaucratic impediments, and the fluid operational environment. That said, the assistance cannot go through the ruling military government. UNDP tries to mitigate these challenges by working with local civil society organisations.
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Violence in the Sahel region has intensified over the past decade. Against this backdrop, independent media play a crucial role in preventing multi-dimensional crises. This means providing reliable and inclusive information that is accessible to as many people as possible.
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Exclusively security-based responses to the region's challenges are proving ineffective, as they do not tackle the root causes of instability, and overlook key factors such as social stability, education and food security.
The role of independent media is to report daily on precisely these concerns, to ensure that local communities – and marginalised groups in particular – are heard, and to try to bring all of the parties to the table.
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Unfortunately, the media in the Sahel are confronted by major challenges. The region's information ecosystem is fragmented and fragile. While there is certainly a proliferation of media outlets, levels of professionalism are wanting. Swiss engagement in the media of the Sahel region is based on strengthening journalists' capabilities, supporting local and community radio stations and promoting citizen journalism.
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False information, rumours, deepfake videos and manipulated audio circulate on social networks and are sometimes relayed by the media. The result may be confusing information that does not respect the fundamental rules of journalism. This is detrimental to high-quality reporting. In response to this situation, the three Fondation Hirondelle media outlets in the Sahel region that partner with the SDC – Studio Kalangou in Niger, Studio Tamani in Mali and Studio Yafa in Burkina Faso – offer fact-checking in addition to media education programmes.

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In 2023, a coproduction initiative was launched in the Sahel region to address the common challenges facing the people of the region, and to find solutions from the local perspective. The first productions were broadcast in 13 languages on 173 radio stations and 12 television channels, and reached an audience of more than eight million.
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Studio Yafa is dedicated to producing independent, objective and informative media content with the aim of shedding light on the complex realities of the region. For example, its 'Faso Yafa' programme, which is co-financed by Switzerland, produces content aimed at Burkina Faso's two million-plus internally displaced persons. It is a one-of-a-kind humanitarian initiative in West Africa that gives a voice to those who need it and helps them to overcome the trauma associated with their forced displacement.


Further information:
SDC websites Mali Burkina Faso Niger
Fondation Hirondelle




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In the province of Niassa in northern Mozambique, only around half of the population has safe access to clean water and barely a third to adequate sanitary facilities. The SDC promotes access to clean water and sanitation.
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This project in Niassa demonstrates the connection between water and wastewater systems and the health system. The aim is to improve health in the province, for example by preventing waterborne diseases.
In addition to the local authorities, the project also involves community and civil society organisations as well as the private sector in decision-making processes.
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This is a decentralised approach that promotes local self-government and cohesion at the municipal level. Local advisory bodies for water, wastewater and health manage the sanitary facilities (e.g. water and wastewater infrastructure). Households are actively involved in maintenance and operation.
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Local government representatives participate in the dialogue in order to better address local needs and allocate resources appropriately. The respective districts develop plans and involve the private sector. In this context, trades cooperatives have been founded to enable sustainable maintenance systems to be set up for the infrastructure.
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The project has had a particularly positive effect on women and girls: they are systematically involved in decision-making processes. For example, half of the members of the above-mentioned advisory bodies are women. They also benefit from better access to enclosed and clean public facilities and hygiene products.
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In Niassa, over 280,000 people (52% women) have benefited from better access to drinking water and 400,000 people from improved latrines. As a result, the number of cases of diarrhoea in women and infants has fallen by more than half since 2017. The programme has also exceeded its target of 22,000 safe, professionally supervised births in birthing facilities by a factor of two.

Further information:
SDC website: Mozambique
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The pilot initiative for integrated local development (IPDLI) supports the decentralisation process in Tunisia, which transfers powers from central to local government. It supports 19 municipalities in disadvantaged regions.
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Faced with an economic and social crisis, people in these municipalities are demanding better living conditions and access to decent basic services. Support provided at two levels aims to mitigate the effects of the crisis: support for the ministry in implementing the transfer of competences to these municipalities and support for the municipalities in boosting economic activity. Over the past 10 years, through 72 projects, the living conditions of 400,000 Tunisians have been improved thanks to public investment in local businesses, labour, and materials.
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The initiative focuses on five main areas, in which several projects were completed in 2023.
Physical infrastructure: The renovation of buildings and facilities in the Berber village of Sned Jebal is helping to revitalise the town and its heritage. Boosted by its new status as a 'Commune touristique', with a mobile oil mill and studies on its olive oil, Sned Jebal is beginning to dream of obtaining a protected designation of origin (PDO) certification.
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Business: As part of an integrated forest landscape management project, small business cooperatives are being supported in five villages. In the same spirit, mixed training courses in forestry and oasis work are being organised to support people in setting up their own businesses or finding work. In addition, local people who herd livestock are being supported through a value chain development project. Women are also being provided with equipment and trained in the mechanical processing of wool.
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Community: The village of Zaouiet Ben Ammar is famous for its historic Koranic school. The construction of reservoirs and pipes has brought water to the village entrance. Easier access to the three primary school classes and the installation of sanitary facilities have made the school more attractive. As for support for women, a profiling study has just been launched to identify training courses that could help craftswomen to develop their business.
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Social infrastructure: Another project supports the protection of the surroundings of primary schools in several villages located in military zones that have suffered terrorist attacks. Bolstering the buildings' security allowed pupils to come back to school. With improved accessibility, there are also fewer road accidents. Decentralised government services and local businesses have made a strong commitment to children and sick people.
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Institutional support: IPDLI provides institutional support to the various partner ministries in collaboration with other projects (EU PARDi and the activities of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities). It has made a major contribution to the reform of the legal texts governing the operations of local authorities, the regional development programme, public procurement and the building and public works sector. The project also provided technical and logistical support for the Tunisian delegation's participation in the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) and the 19th Regional Seminar for Labour-based Practitioners.

Further information:
SDC website: North Africa
SDC website: IPDLI (fr)
ILO website: 10 ans de développement local en Tunisie (fr)

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For decades doctors have dreamed of an effective treatment for sleeping sickness.
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One way to solve systemic market failures that lead to the neglect of research and development of drugs against deadly diseases is by coordinating and pooling the separate efforts of governmental, private, and civil society organisations.
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The SDC supports research and development (R&D) organisations called product development partnerships (PDPs). PDPs have been set up to develop and improve access to new products for people who suffer from diseases and health threats and are underserved by the market.
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Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is one of these PDPs. DNDi is an NGO based in Geneva and has managed to develop 13 treatments for deadly but neglected diseases since it was founded in 2003. Millions of lives have been saved as a result.
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Currently, about 65 million people in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa are at risk of sleeping sickness. The parasite that causes sleeping sickness is transmitted by the tsetse fly. Patients suffer from terrifying neuropsychiatric symptoms, psychosis, and a debilitating disruption of sleep patterns. Without treatment, most patients die.
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DNDi has succeeded in developing a drug against sleeping sickness (fexinidazole), saving hundreds of thousands of lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Malawi, Angola, South Sudan and other countries.

Further information:
SDC website: Health
DNDi website: From nightmare to a dream
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224 million crisis-affected children are in need of education support. To mobilise funding for this support, Education Cannot Wait and Switzerland co-hosted a pledging conference in Geneva.
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Around the world, 224 million children and adolescents affected by the consequences of war, disaster and displacement are desperate to learn and are in need of education support. This is a substantial increase from previous estimates, pointing to an alarming trend and a global education crisis. Access to a quality education in times of humanitarian crisis is not only the right of every child and prevents a lost generation, it can also be both life-saving and life-sustaining.
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Education Cannot Wait, the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, was established to support the education of crisis-affected children. But increasing conflict, climate change and the aftermath of COVID-19 are putting untold pressures on economies, education systems and international assistance.

To respond to these alarming trends, Education Cannot Wait has launched an ambitious new strategy for 2023 to 2026 and is calling on world leaders, businesses, foundations, and individuals to donate at least USD 1.5 billion so it can provide education support to 20 million children and adolescents.

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To mobilise the resources needed for its ambitious strategy, Education Cannot Wait and Switzerland, in close collaboration with the governments of Colombia, Germany, Niger, Norway, and South Sudan, organised a High-Level Financing Conference. The conference took place from 16–17 February 2023 in Geneva with more than 2,300 participants from governments, international and local organisations, civil society, teachers and the private sector. Education Cannot Wait also ensured the participation of 40 young people from crisis-affected countries who had important roles as speakers and moderators.
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"There is no democracy without education. We must be able to count on well-educated future generations. The peace, freedom and prosperity of all nations depend on it," said Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis of Switzerland.
As co-host of the conference, Switzerland appealed to world leaders to put education at the top of their agenda – especially for the most vulnerable children in emergencies. Mr Cassis also highlighted that Geneva has become a global hub for education in emergencies, bringing together many actors to take joint action.

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The conference was a significant success: 17 donors announced pledges to Education Cannot Wait amounting to over USD 826 million – a historic milestone for education in emergencies and protracted crises and for Education Cannot Wait. With the war in Ukraine, global economic uncertainty and record-high forced displacement and humanitarian crises derailing development gains across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, these pledges signal an important global commitment to place funding for education in emergencies and protracted crises at the top of the international agenda.

Further Information:
Education Cannot Wait

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Forest fires and the floods that followed them ravaged several regions of Greece in the summer of 2023. Switzerland took part in international efforts to combat these environmental disasters.
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In Greece, wildfires broke out in several regions at the end of August 2023, particularly around Alexandroupolis, in the north-east. The Greek authorities asked for international aid. Several EU countries provided assistance, but the fires continued, and Switzerland decided to join the international efforts.
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Switzerland provided Greece with three Super Puma helicopters of the Swiss Armed Forces, along with a thirty-strong team, to reinforce the fight against the fires. The helicopters and crew took off for Alexandroupolis on Saturday 2 September 2023. Prior to their departure, a team made up of members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit and army specialists had left for Greece, where it took on the task of coordinating with the Greek authorities. SDC Humanitarian Aid was responsible for the overall management of this intervention.
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The first Swiss fire-fighting operations started on Sunday 3 September. Switzerland's aid helped put out or contain a number of wildfires, making the situation in the Alexandroupolis area much more manageable. The aircraft undertook fire-fighting flights for 27 hours, releasing around 270 tonnes of water onto the fires. On a visit to Alexandroupolis, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou thanked the entire Swiss team for all their efforts.
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But one disaster followed another in Greece, with heavy rainfall causing major floods in the Thessaly region, further inland. At the request of the Greek authorities, the Super Puma helicopters and the entire Swiss crew headed to the area to take part in the rescue operations. During their intervention of 23 hours, they airlifted 36 people stranded by the floodwaters, along with some aid workers. The Swiss helicopters also distributed six tonnes of aid.

Switzerland had previously mobilised Super Puma helicopters for wildfires in Greece in the summer of 2021.
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The Mental Health Project in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) supported the country’s reform of mental health care services. It was implemented by a local partner organisation in close cooperation with local institutions.
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The burden of mental disorders in BiH is considerable due to psychological scars from the war, social deprivation and the difficult economic situation. In response, the health authorities in BiH have undertaken a fundamental reform of mental health care provision, focusing on decentralisation of service provision from hospitals to Community Mental Health Centres (CMHCs). The reform supports prevention, psycho-social rehabilitation and recovery. Today, there is a network of 74 CMHCs with multidisciplinary teams in BiH, as part of the primary health care system.
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Switzerland has been supporting the reform of mental health care in BiH since 2009. Previous project interventions achieved significant results: The policy and regulatory framework for mental health care in BiH was aligned with European standards and the system for monitoring the population’s mental health was established. Within the CMHCs, the quality of services has improved and the rate of patients’ referrals to hospitals has decreased by 30%.
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The project focused on improving and accrediting mental health services at the community level. 72% of CMHCs are meanwhile accredited. Professionals were educated in areas such as occupational therapy, psychotherapy, preventive community work, and crisis interventions. Thereby, the access to innovative mental health services has been improved, in close collaboration with local institutions and associations. Socially inclusive programmes involving vocational training and social entrepreneurship have been improving employment opportunities for people with mental health conditions.
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Today, all CMHCs are fully financed from the public health budgets in BiH. Over 700 mental health professionals were included in the project. Additionally, support was provided for associations and self-help groups of mental health service users in 28 municipalities. Thereby, the project could reach around 60’000 beneficiaries with mental health conditions and their families, and around 30’000 persons at high risk of developing those. It reached primarily disadvantaged and socially excluded people.
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The project was successfully concluded in 2023. The improved model of hospital discharge planning ensures continuity of care. Almost all 74 CMHCs intend to continue providing case management. Health authorities plan to continue working on mental health promotion, disease prevention and anti-stigma programmes.
The need for action remains highly relevant on a global scale, especially in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

Further information:
SDC website: Bosnia and Herzegovina
SDC project website

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The Swiss NGO CEAS, a partner organisation of the SDC, promotes sustainable waste collection and sorting systems. This protects the environment, improves living conditions and creates jobs.
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Thanks to their expertise, their knowledge of the local environment and their potential for innovation, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are important partners for the implementation of Switzerland's international cooperation. Therefore, the SDC currently supports more than 40 Swiss NGOs with annual Programme Contributions of CHF 135 million. These partnerships mobilise expertise and innovation for sustainable development and peace, while promoting local actors and creating valuable synergies.
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As a partner organisation of the SDC, CEAS is committed to protecting the environment and combating poverty in Africa. With its network, CEAS develops innovative projects to promote food self-sufficiency, sustainable development, and adaptation to climate change. In Burkina Faso, CEAS is supporting the establishment of a waste collection and sorting system, thereby contributing to improved living conditions and hygiene, and creating jobs.
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By 2025, half of the population on the African continent will be living in cities. This will also result in a massive rise in waste volume. However, in nine out of ten West African cities there is no waste collection and sorting system, providing an ideal breeding ground for diseases. Many small businesses would like to get involved in this field. However, they often work in the informal sector, and rarely have the resources and know-how to put their ideas into practice.
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That is exactly where the project in Burkina Faso comes in. Together with regional authorities, 20 micro-enterprises were selected to take part in a support programme. Thanks to support in technology, finance and marketing, these businesses were able to gain access to micro-loans or secure public-sector contracts. Moreover, in collaboration with five local authorities waste management plans have been drawn up and infrastructures operated by local civil society organisations have been built.
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Against the backdrop of extremely scarce resources, micro-enterprises in the waste management sector offer a great opportunity for sustainable socio-economic development: the turnover of the 20 participating businesses has increased by 20%, over 300 jobs have been created and 2,800 people benefit from the new waste collection service. Thanks to the waste management system the local authorities can rely on stable companies to improve their waste collection and recycling rates.
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In 2023, the focus was primarily on introducing the new services to an increasing number of people. The new waste management system was promoted trough radio broadcasts and in talks with village elders and opinion leaders, as well as in panel discussions and animated cartoons. As a result, 2,800 households have pledged to contribute the equivalent of 2 CHF a month towards a waste collection center, representing 3% of the minimum wage in Burkina Faso.

Further information:
CEAS website (de/fr)

Photos: Positiv’ Média
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In February 2023, Bern University of Applied Sciences, with the support of the Swiss Confederation and in cooperation with other Swiss universities, ran for the first time a Certificate of Advanced Studies course entitled “Rebuild Ukraine”.
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The course is aimed at women who have fled Ukraine, such as architects and engineers, as well as Ukrainian nationals who have been living in Switzerland for some time. It is also aimed at people from aid organisations who want to get involved in the country’s reconstruction.
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During the course, 30 participants look at how bombed Ukrainian villages and towns could be rebuilt. They learn how to organise and manage such projects. For example, the participants explore methods for analysing damage to houses and infrastructure. They learn about sustainability approaches and principles of the circular economy and energy efficiency, including how war debris can be reused. They deal with the sustainable supply of water and electricity to settlements. Last but not least, they deal with the political framework conditions for reconstruction.
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Natalie Terekhova

CAS Rebuild Ukraine alumna

Open video

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More than 20 partners from Swiss and Ukrainian industry, science and research are involved in the CAS. They enable participants to receive practical training and familiarise themselves with proven technologies and processes. The network should help course participants to successfully implement their reconstruction projects in Ukraine.
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Dr. Mariana Melnykovych

Co-Head of the CAS Rebuild Ukraine programme

Open video

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In 2023, the CAS Rebuild Ukraine course was run twice. It will be offered again in 2024 and will again be supported by Switzerland.

Further information:
Bern University of Applied Sciences CAS Rebuild Ukraine
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Prevention is better than cure. Following Hurricane Mitch 25 years ago, the SDC has done all it could to prepare Central America more effectively for similar events. The region now has comprehensive disaster risk reduction (DRR) structures in place.
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The impact of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 was devastating. Over 10,000 people were killed in mudslides and floods. In Nicaragua and Honduras, heavy rain triggered landslides, washed houses away, and destroyed infrastructure. Switzerland responded rapidly, dispatching emergency relief teams and providing financial support.
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It soon became clear that functioning disaster prevention systems could have avoided enormous suffering. The SDC thus began to cooperate with local authorities and a number of universities to build appropriate structures for the future.
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Extreme weather events are not the only hazards facing the region. Located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, it is also regularly exposed to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. By constructing earthquake-resistant housing and infrastructures outside flood zones, the SDC and its partners are helping to ensure that extraordinary natural events of this kind cause less damage and cost fewer human lives.
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In addition to building programmes, knowledge-sharing has been essential to heightening local peoples' awareness of the dangers of nature. Hazard maps have been produced, civil defence organisations established, evacuation drills held, and early warning systems optimised with the aid of satellite data and weather models. All of this work is aimed at preparing and protecting the local population better against future disasters. It has so far benefited some 19 million people.
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In all, Switzerland has spent more than 25 years running a comprehensive DRR programme in Central America, investing over CHF 40 million and conducting 70 projects. For the SDC it is the most extensive programme of its kind anywhere in the world.
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In 2023 the SDC worked through every single detail of its experience and findings from this engagement, and made its findings publicly available on a knowledge platform. These materials will enable other countries and organisations to benefit from the lessons that Switzerland has learned and its positive experience, and will help them improve their own DRR measures.
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Knowledge-sharing is especially important in this field, because climate change is further exacerbating extreme weather events. Flooding, landslides, droughts and hurricanes are becoming more frequent and more intense, and developing countries bear the brunt, accounting for 97% of the victims of these natural disasters.

Further information:
SDC website: Disaster Risk Reduction - Interview
SDC website: Disaster Risk Reduction
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On 14 May 2023 Cyclone Mocha made landfall along the coasts of Bangladesh and Myanmar, causing devastation. The world's largest refugee camp was also affected. Swiss Humanitarian Aid immediately provided CHF 3.2 million to meet urgent humanitarian needs.
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Three red storm flags signalled the highest level of alarm. An area of low pressure over the Bay of Bengal had developed into a category-four tropical cyclone and was approaching the city of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Rakhine State in Myanmar. Cyclone Mocha made landfall on 14 May 2023 with wind speeds of 250 km/h.
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Meteorologists spoke of the region's worst tropical storm for two decades. A total of four million people were affected. Heavy rain, gusty winds and flooding damaged or destroyed thousands of houses, arable land, and communications and transport systems. The death toll in Myanmar was estimated at between 160 and 400.
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In Bangladesh, the storm also hit the world's largest refugee camp, housing around one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Some 8,000 of their simplest shelters fell victim to the cyclone. The authorities evacuated thousands of people to prevent loss of life.
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Local organisations and religious networks swung into action with emergency relief. The UN made an urgent call for USD 333 million to support 1.6 million people. Swiss Humanitarian Aid immediately provided its partners in the area with CHF 3.2 million to meet urgent humanitarian needs, with CHF 2.4 million going to Myanmar, and CHF 800,000 to Bangladesh.
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In Myanmar, Swiss-financed partners reached more than 40,000 people with humanitarian aid in the form of food, water, accommodation, cash payments and seed. In Bangladesh, Switzerland contributed CHF 800,000 to the UNHCR, IOM, Swiss Church Aid (HEKS) and Helvetas. All in all, Swiss assistance reached 15,000 people in both the refugee and host communities.
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Work in Myanmar proved difficult. The ongoing conflict and local authorities' restrictions on access meant that aid could meet only some of the humanitarian needs. The country has been mired in a severe political, social, economic and humanitarian crisis since the military coup of 2021.

Further information:
SDC website: Bangladesh
SDC website: Myanmar
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In 2023 Switzerland announced it would contribute CHF 5 million to the Amazon Fund, an initiative that promotes reforestation through sustainable use of the Brazilian Amazon basin.
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The Amazon basin covers 6 million square kilometres spanning nine South American countries. Approximately 60% of this area is in Brazil, and much of it is covered by rainforest. The Amazon basin has a vital role in combating climate change as it absorbs a massive quantity of CO2. It is also home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.
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Today, economic activity such as illegal logging, intensive cattle breeding and unregulated gold mining threaten to destroy the region. The Amazon Fund supports projects to counteract this through monitoring and control systems and reforestation projects. Other projects, some of which are carried out in cooperation with the private sector, use the remaining forest in an economically and socially sustainable manner. The Fund provides targeted support to vulnerable sections of the population and promotes equality.
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Sustainable development in the Amazon is a high priority for Switzerland, particularly in light of its significant trade ties with Brazil. Its other activities in the region include sustainable development projects that utilise synergies with the Amazon Fund.
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The Amazon Fund was launched in 2008. Thus far its contributors include Norway, Germany, Switzerland and the United States, with the UK and the European Union also showing an interest in participating. The Fund is managed by the Brazilian National Bank for Economic and Social Development. Since its inception, it has provided a total of USD 600 million to support more than 100 projects.
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Air pollution is a problem in two respects. Firstly, seven million people around the world die each year as a result of breathing polluted air. Secondly, in addition to CO2, these pollutants are the principal causes of climate change. At the same time, protecting the climate also benefits health, as this example from Mongolia shows.
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Air pollution in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar is among the highest of any city in the world. "The pollutants that we inhale here every day are the equivalent of five to six packets of cigarettes," reports the national online portal News.mn. In the winter, when temperatures drop to minus 30 degrees Celsius, city residents burn 600,000 tonnes of raw coal for heating and cooking. It makes the air hazy and hurts the lungs.
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Respiratory and cardiovascular diseases: one in three deaths in Mongolia is attributable to airborne pollutants. Children and older people are particularly affected. "Air pollution poses one of the biggest threats to the country's future", explains Stephanie Burri from the SDC office in Ulaanbaatar. That is why Switzerland has recently been helping the local authorities to combat the smog. And they are winning. The Impact of Air Pollution on Maternal and Child Health project that was completed in 2023 produced impressive results at several levels.
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Alongside UNICEF, the SDC has supported the refurbishment of 28 schools and kindergartens. Renovations raised the inside temperature from 15 to 22 degrees Celsius, and the use of filters significantly improved air quality. The result was a 48% reduction in the number of sick children and a 78% fall in teachers being absent as the result of illness. The work also improved the buildings' energy efficiency by 40%.
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As part of the same project the SDC and its partners developed the Cooking, Heating and Insulation Products (CHIP) package as a convenient and affordable alternative to coal-fired stoves. Some 6% of families in Mongolia's urban areas are now able to benefit from this clean technology, and with it smoke-free homes. At the same time, they are helping to protect the climate.
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Air pollution is an enormous problem not only in Mongolia, but around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one in eight deaths is the result of breathing polluted air. That is the equivalent of seven million people. And that is only the effect on health. Air pollution also impacts on the economy and the climate. After carbon dioxide, pollutants such as soot, methane and fluorinated hydrocarbons are the biggest contributors to global warming, and responsible for half of current climate change.
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For over 30 years Switzerland has been sharing its experience with air pollution control and supporting its partner countries in combating air pollution. It also contributes this expertise to the international dialogue on joint efforts to tackle the challenges of climate change and air pollution.
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SDC engagement ranges from monitoring air quality to clean air action plans and getting businesses to switch to alternative sources of energy. From Latin America to China, its priorities include controlling air pollution from traffic through the use of particle filters, and the introduction of norms and standards for vehicle emissions and fuel quality.

Further information:
SDC website: Breathing new life into Mongolia: Addressing air pollution challenges
SDC newsletter: Clean air for all

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The Impact-linked Fund for Eastern and Southern Africa (ILF ESA) provides financial incentives to SMEs in Eastern and Southern Africa to reach measurable social and environmental impact goals.
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Impact-linked finance is an innovative finance tool, developed by the SDC jointly with its partner Roots of Impact. Impact-linked finance offers funders, investors and entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to re-invent finance: by pursuing “better terms for better impact” and baking impact into any type of private investment. High-impact organisations with market-based models – often referred to as social and impact enterprises – receive direct financial rewards for creating positive and lasting impact.
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The overall objective of the ILF ESA is to mobilise funding from both public and private sector and provide impact-linked finance to high-impact organisations in Eastern and Southern Africa, ensuring that these organizations strengthen or maintain the focus on vulnerable, lower-income population groups. From a business management perspective, the ILF ESA will ideally allow the organisations to strengthen their business models and make them economically viable over time, with the long-term objective of becoming independent of donor funding and grants.
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As of December 2023, eight high-impact organisations in East Africa have received funding from the ILF ESA. One of these organisations is Shamba Pride, a Kenyan agricultural products and services distributor. It purchases agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, etc.) at preferential prices through strategic agreements with manufacturers, thereby skipping several distribution levels. Shamba Pride then retains a percentage of the negotiated margin and distributes the inputs and services to its network of local agro-input dealers, called DigiShops, which operate under a franchise model.
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Shamba Pride’s business model is already impactful, but a social impact incentive (SIINC) from the ILF ESA incentivised the company to open up DigiShops in more economically challenging areas in Kenya (clustered as arid and semi-arid land (ASAL) counties). Without the funding, Shamba Pride would not have been able to expand as strategically. The funding also enabled it to sell a higher percentage of climate-smart agricultural products (allowing farmers to grow more climate-resilient crops and thus earn more income/reduce losses), and increase the percentage of organic products in all DigiShops.
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In the first measurement period (2021–23), Shamba Pride launched 84 DigiShops in ASAL counties, exceeding the initial 32 planned, adding 52 shops. Serving 385 customers yearly, each saves USD 8.30, totalling USD 166 in farmer savings in the first year. However, this underestimates the real impact, as exact productivity gains are hard to quantify. Savings enable farmers to buy more products used in agriculture such as fertilisers, seeds, etc. Shamba Pride leveraged almost three times the amount of the SIINC via private investors, expanding their reach and improving access to climate-smart seeds and organic farming products.
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Overall, the ILF ESA has supported impactful companies like Shamba Pride with incentives of USD 1.8 million in total, supporting them in the trajectory to become self-sustainable and grow their business, thereby providing more low-income customers with affordable products and services. The ILF ESA is a partnership between the SDC, the Medicor Foundation, Swiss Re Foundation, Fourfold Foundation, and Aqua for All, implemented by iGravity and Roots of Impact.

Further information:
Impact-Linked Fund for Eastern & Southern Africa
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North Macedonia’s Bregalnica region is a European biodiversity hotspot.

The “Nature Conservation Programme” has clearly demonstrated how nature conservation and local development can mutually reinforce each other.
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The project in the Bregalnica watershed, which covers 17% of North Macedonia’s territory, began in 2012 and was successfully completed in 2023. The applied so-called “landscape approach” made it possible to manage the multiple demands of diverse stakeholders in a participatory way. It resulted in partnerships with 15 municipalities, the government and national agencies, the private sector, the scientific community, as well as non-government organisations. Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation undertook the coordination role for the first 4 years, after which it was handed over successfully to the local organisation Farmahem.
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The project conducted an Ecological Gap Analysis to identify the richness of biodiversity. The results were visualized in an Ecological Sensitivity Map. Learning exchanges with students, professors, and practitioners from Switzerland fostered the integration of biodiversity issues into the curriculum of forestry faculties in North Macedonia.

The project trained mainly unemployed people in sustainable beekeeping and developed the first certified sustainable beekeeping education program in the country with an apiary and a training center.

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The protected areas of Osogovo Mountains and Maleshevo were officially recognized in the course of project implementation, arising the country's territory under protection from 8.9% to 11.2%. Furthermore, three new sites were identified under the Natura 2000 network of protected areas in the European Union.
Moreover, a 15 km strip of riparian vegetation was restored, which reduces the risk of flooding and soil erosion, and allows the preservation of riparian biodiversity.
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To raise public interest in nature conservation and sustainable natural resource management, a small competitive grants scheme was introduced, which funds initiatives related to nature conservation, sustainable natural resource management and energy efficiency. This platform resulted in the award of 36 initiatives, out of which 5 received projects were funded for upscaling.
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Eco-tourism was promoted as one of the project’s interventions in the newly established protected areas. This supports the continuation of local traditions and cultural heritage and helps to mitigate outmigration, offering jobs and economic opportunities. Both municipalities and existing tourism businesses in the Bregalnica region have put forward proposals that invite co-investment in infrastructure and tourism services. The demand for eco-tourism in the Bregalnica region has continued to grow steadily until today.
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Activities to raise public awareness were embedded in the project from the outset. One example is the movie “Honeyland”, which captures the life of the last woman ‘wildbee-keeper’ in Europe. It won more than 40 prizes across the globe and was nominated for an Oscar in two categories. Moreover, an educational centre for nature conservation was established, which collaborates with schools, faculties, and citizens’ associations in North Macedonia.
This has measurably increased awareness of the value of nature and the sustainable use of resources.

Further information:
SDC website: North Macedonia
Project website: Sustainable Forest Management



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In November 2023, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank cancelled USD 4.5 billion of Somalia's debt. The debt relief was approved after Somalia implemented significant reforms to combat poverty and ensure fiscal stability. Switzerland has actively supported Somalia in this process.
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The debt relief took place under the HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Country) initiative of the World Bank and the IMF. The HIPC initiative aims to support developing countries in implementing reforms to promote macroeconomic stability.
The HIPC process in Somalia ran from March 2020 to December 2023. During this period, Somalia implemented various reforms to strengthen economic institutions and promote inclusive economic growth.
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This enabled Somalia to reduce its public debt from 64% of GDP to 6%. Thanks to the reduction of debt to a sustainable level, the country can now normalise its relations with international financial institutions and gain easier access to funding for the country's development.
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In partnership with the UN and the World Bank, Switzerland has supported Somalia in achieving the HIPC targets. As part of the UN-led Joint Programme on Local Governance (JPLG), for example, Switzerland supported the strengthening of public financial management by local authorities.
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Switzerland supported the World Bank in its cooperation with the Somali authorities to promote the implementation of reforms in the areas of revenue and financial policy and public financial management.
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Together with the UN and the World Bank, Switzerland is supporting the gradual strengthening of the most important state institutions in Somalia and ultimately contributing to the country's stability and socio-economic recovery. The HIPC process in Somalia is an example of successful cooperation between international financial institutions, the UN, government authorities and donor countries.

Further information:
SDC website: Horn of Africa

Photos: Abihakim Mohamed, World Bank 
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The UN Industrial Development Organization and Switzerland agreed in 2023 to expand their Global Eco-Industrial Parks Programme (GEIPP) over the next five years.
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The goal of the GEIPP is to reduce the use of resources by industrial parks and the companies on site, while increasing compliance with more effective environmental and social standards. This is already happening in Egypt, Indonesia, Colombia, Peru, South Africa, Ukraine and Vietnam. Additional parks will be brought into the programme over the coming five years.
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Industrial park sites bring together a diverse range of manufacturing companies and service providers. They are common in developing and emerging countries and play a vital role in the economy. Nevertheless, their production methods are often suboptimal from the perspective of efficiency and resource conservation.
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The GEIPP provides industrial parks with support as they work towards becoming Eco-Industrial Parks. The companies located in these parks work together on environmental and resource-related issues, which helps to shrink their ecological footprint and improve the productivity of the overall parks.
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The GEIPP works with companies to identify steps that they can take to save resources and to create synergies among the companies at the park. For example, excess heat from one company’s production processes can be used somewhere else in the park to heat another company’s greenhouses.
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Park management is responsible for creating the conditions that enable companies to work in a more resource-friendly way. The GEIPP helps them to spot areas for improvement and create tailored solutions – measures such as on-site wastewater treatment facilities, sustainable power generation or on-site transport services. The programme also advises governments on creating legal conditions that incentivise resource-friendly production methods.
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Nepal has completed its 10,000th trail bridge with technical know-how and support from Switzerland. It is the result of remarkable development cooperation that stretches back over 60 years.
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The Nepalese landscape is extremely rugged, with over 6,000 rivers and streams. Switzerland has therefore been supporting the construction of pedestrian trail bridges since the 1960s. They span waterways, cross ravines, and link peaks. These bridges improve access to healthcare, education and markets.
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The nature of cooperation has evolved over time. While the SDC initially implemented construction projects itself alongside the Helvetas development organisation, the focus soon shifted to empowering local communities. Following the introduction of the new Nepalese federal constitution in 2015, the SDC concentrated on supporting the authorities with bridge construction, maintenance and operation. Now that Nepal has the necessary resources and technical expertise to continue the work on its own, Switzerland ceased its backing for the country's bridge-building sector at the end of 2023.
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The 10,000 bridges that have been built have a positive long-term impact on the living conditions of 19 million people, cutting journey times by an average of 2.5 hours. The construction of a new trail bridge means that around 16% more children will be able to walk to school, and health centre attendance will increase by 26%. One out of every five bridges also attract traders, who set up new stores, food stalls and workshops.
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In 2023 alone the Nepalese government provided direct financing for more than 750 bridges. Switzerland contributed only technical know-how and expertise in methods of implementation, quality assurance and maintenance. It also trained the relevant agencies so that they can continue this work independently after 2023.
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Nepal illustrates how Swiss development cooperation has changed over the past 60 years, from direct infrastructure programmes via participative approaches and local empowerment through to the establishment of federal structures and the provision of specialist knowledge to the authorities.

Further information:
SDC website: Nepal trail bridges
SDC website: Nepal


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The VEGI project has brought new vegetable varieties to Mongolia, boosted harvests, and reduced imports. The country is now largely self-sufficient agriculturally. VEGI has produced a lasting improvement not only in food, but also in household incomes.
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The Mongolian climate is harsh, with a short vegetable-growing season of only four months. It is one of the reasons that it stopped cultivating vegetables entirely under its socialist planned economy. "After the break-up of the Soviet Union the country was entirely dependent on imports," says Stephanie Burri, head of the SDC office in Mongolia. In 2004 the SDC began to help Mongolia grow potato varieties adapted to its climate. The country is now self-sufficient in potatoes and thus no longer depends on its neighbours Russia and China for this important crop.
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The success of the project whetted the Mongolian government's appetite for more. The potato project was followed by the VEGI vegetable project, focusing on onions, cabbages and carrots.
New varieties were cultivated, farmers trained, seed provided and productive land area increased.
The outcomes are impressive. While 20 years ago domestic harvests covered only 40% of Mongolian demand for vegetables, the figure now is almost 80%.
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This success is also being felt in producers' wallets, with the average annual income for a vegetable-cultivating household rising by almost 14% between 2020 and 2023. What's more, Mongolia's schools, and kindergartens in particular, have been encouraging healthy eating. Children, parents and teachers have come together to create school kitchen gardens under the expert instruction of specially trained staff. It is now taken for granted that vegetables will be a part of the children's meals.
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Close, trust-based cooperation between Switzerland and Mongolia has been a crucial factor in the project's achievements. Made possible by this special relationship, one such success was a change in legislation on seed and plant varieties. This piqued the interest of the scientific community in developing new vegetable varieties, and raised private investment in the sector.
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The SDC has been running programs in Mongolia since 2001. The extreme cold of that year killed 21 million livestock and cost 14,000 herders their livelihoods. The SDC provided emergency assistance and successfully supported sustainable animal and arable farming in the years that followed. Alongside this work it also expanded its engagement in democracy, human rights and gender equality in the country.
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After 20 years of fruitful partnership, Switzerland will wind down its bilateral development cooperation with Mongolia by the end of 2024. It will phase out its engagement in a responsible manner and ensure that results achieved to date will be preserved. Future partnerships and other forms of support remain on the table in areas such as climate change, humanitarian aid, policy development and trade.

Further information:
SDC website: Mongolia
SDC website: 20 years Mongolia
Spotify SDC Podcast: "Das mongolische Kartoffel-Projekt" (de)


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Since April 2023 millions of civilians have fled the conflicts affecting Sudan. Switzerland has released additional funds to support humanitarian efforts in Sudan and neighbouring countries.
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Violent clashes between two rival military factions broke out in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, on 15 April 2023. The fighting rapidly intensified and spread to other regions within the country. Millions of people have been displaced, including four million children, according to UNICEF. IOM figures for March 2024 indicate that nearly two million people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly Chad, South Sudan and Egypt.

The United Nations reports that in 2024, almost 25 million people, or one in every two inhabitants, will need humanitarian aid. This figure is three times the population of Switzerland.

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In 2023, Switzerland contributed almost CHF 64 million in response to the crisis and the enormous humanitarian needs. One third of this was allocated to humanitarian activities in Sudan, and two thirds to the neighbouring countries impacted by the conflict. This budget includes support for the activities of multiple partners, specifically UN agencies such as the Sudan Humanitarian Fund, the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as the ICRC and international NGOs.
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For example, Switzerland is funding a WFP project in Port Sudan. This coastal city has seen the arrival of large numbers fleeing violence and fighting in the country. Aid is distributed in the form of cash and vouchers, enabling those who are utterly destitute to meet their basic needs, such as food and other essentials.

X: WFP Sudan



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Switzerland has also allocated CHF 2.3 million to the FAO and its emergency response plan. The aim here is to tackle the food crisis that is worsening every day in Sudan, while shoring up the livelihoods of millions of farmers, herders and fishers. This funding has a local-level impact through the distribution of high-quality seed, the provision of fishing materials and equipment, and stepped-up vaccination campaigns to protect livestock from disease.
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Neighbouring countries have been seriously affected by the conflict in Sudan. Switzerland has contributed CHF 11.2 million to help host communities cope with the huge influx of refugees in eastern Chad, where basic infrastructures and services are inadequate.

However, additional funding will be required to assist the people of Chad who have been rendered vulnerable by climate shocks and food insecurity.
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In another neighbouring country, South Sudan, Switzerland released CHF 11 million in 2023 to meet the needs arising from the arrival of more than half a million people from Sudan. This young country is home to a population of just over 12 million, nine million of whom are dependent on humanitarian aid.

Further information:
SDC website: Sudan
SDC website: Sudan's unseen crisis
Donors' conference in Paris: press release
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The difficult economic situation in many Latin American countries makes it imperative to create prospects and employment opportunities for young people. The SDC is helping to promote training and share best practices.
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Bolivia remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in South America. Youth unemployment is very high. Vocational education and training projects are therefore one of the priorities for SDC cooperation in the country. They also include initiatives to promote internships, employment services and entrepreneurship.
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The program has a positive impact on employment and incomes for the young people who take part. They see their earnings rise by an average of 36% after completing their training, and are also able to raise their financial independence by an average of 34%.
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Some 40,000 students overall have benefited from SDC programs to place them in internships and employment. Part of this success have been two free apps that can help them look for suitable placements and jobs.
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The SDC has analysed its vocational education and training projects in Latin America in depth, with a focus on impact and long-term effect. In addition to Bolivia this analysis covers Cuba, Honduras and Nicaragua. The aim is to consolidate the knowledge that has been acquired and to share it with interested organisations worldwide on a new web platform. This is a legacy that will remain even after the SDC's withdrawal from bilateral cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean in 2024.
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It is important to remember that, to succeed, vocational education and training programs must be adapted to individual contexts. Partnerships with the private sector are crucial. Where these aspects are considered, these programs can have positive long-term outcomes for the development of the region.

Further information:
SDC website: Basic education and vocational skills development
SDC website: Thematic Capitalisations (en)

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The Sahel region is facing complex challenges. To remain effective, Switzerland continually adapts its programmes to the changing context and needs of the local population.
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The Sahel region was the setting for multiple crises in 2023. It was hit by political instability, a coup in Niger, growing insecurity, a food crisis exacerbated by climate change, and population displacement.

In addition, the withdrawal of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the announcement that Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger were to exit the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the creation of the Alliance of Sahel States (ASS) between those three countries all have major implications for the region as a whole.

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With all that is going on, the Sahel region is demonstrating a remarkable capacity for resilience. It offers great potential for mixed farming and has enormous human capital thanks to its young population. Switzerland supports this potential through three instruments: humanitarian aid, development cooperation and peacebuilding. It adapts its programmes continually to the changing context and needs of the local people.
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In response to greater protection needs in Mali, for example, Switzerland is seeking lasting change by investing in equitable access to basic social services, and supporting local authorities with:
 • civil status documents (birth certificates, identity cards)
 • child protection (safe school spaces)
 • combating gender-based violence (counselling centres)
 • assistance for internally displaced persons (accommodation, youth training).

More than 330,000 individuals benefited from this support in 2023.

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The security crisis in Burkina Faso closed over 5,000 schools by the end of 2023, depriving more than 830,000 children of their education, half of them girls. Switzerland provided CHF 36 million in funding for 75 projects covering education in emergency contexts, vocational education and training, and accelerated education alternatives. Priority was given to education for girls.
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To promote peace and stability, Switzerland works to address the deep-seated causes of conflict. In the north of Burkina Faso, it has joined forces with the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) to mediate in agropastoral matters.

Organised into networks, some 630 local mediators intervene to prevent and manage conflicts between users of the land. As they are integrated into their communities of shepherds or farmers, they are fully familiar with the practices and customs relating to the shared use of natural resources, the seasonal movement of livestock, and community life.

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The spread of violent extremism in West Africa is of major concern. Within the coastal Sahel corridor, Switzerland is supporting the establishment of economic and social infrastructures in the cross-border areas between Burkina Faso, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin. It is also helping to strengthen social cohesion by means of conflict resolution and prevention mechanisms.
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In the context of the violence perpetrated by Islamist militias in north-eastern Nigeria, Switzerland is supporting vulnerable households with small sums of money that enable them to access healthy food and to rebuild their lives. Some 2,000 households have benefited from a card credited with the equivalent of just under CHF 10 per month, which they can use to buy goods or withdraw cash in local shops.

Further information:
SDC website: Interview with Patricia Danzi
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In 2023 Switzerland renewed and extended its commitment to working with developing nations on taxation. CHF 28.5 million will be provided to partner countries through 2028 as they work to reform their tax systems.
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Tax revenue is generally very low in developing countries, comprising just 10–14% of GDP – whereas this figure reaches 20–30% in more affluent nations. This is mainly due to weak tax systems, insufficient resources for tax administrations, unpaid taxes, large informal economies and corruption.
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Low tax revenue is a serious problem that can prevent countries from investing in their own development. Increased revenue would allow developing nations to advance their social and economic development, provide important public services, meet the public’s basic needs more effectively and reduce their dependence on development aid.
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It has also been shown that residents are more actively concerned with public affairs when they pay taxes. Their involvement would in turn increase the pressure on governments to take action against corruption and misappropriation of public funds.
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Effective tax systems also have an impact on the private sector. Taxes should not put an undue burden on companies, especially SMEs, and the payment process should be straightforward.
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That is why Switzerland launched the Swiss Tax Programme for Development (STP4D) in 2023. This programme supports tax administrations in partner countries in expanding their capacity to set up fair and efficient tax systems. STP4D combines programmes from partner institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the OECD and regional institutions and reinforces them with Swiss expertise. The new Swiss programme is also helping Ukraine to improve its tax system, which has been severely affected by Russia's military aggression.
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Such programmes are having an impact: in 2023, countries implementing the IMF's tax programmes recorded higher tax revenues than other countries.

Further information:
SECO website: Tax programme for developing countries
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Switzerland is responding to the urgent humanitarian needs of the civilian population. It calls for compliance with international humanitarian law, the protection of the civilian population by all parties, the release of all hostages, an immediate ceasefire and unhindered humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip.
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On 7 October 2023, Hamas carried out terrorist attacks against Israel that claimed the lives of almost 1,200 people. 240 hostages were taken. The armed conflict that has escalated since then has had catastrophic humanitarian consequences for the region. According to UN estimates from April 2024, over 30,000 people have already died as a result of the fighting. About 1.7 million people have been driven from their homes within the Gaza Strip. Switzerland calls for unhindered humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip.
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The humanitarian needs in Gaza are immense: according to the UN, around 1.1 million people are at risk of catastrophic food insecurity as of April. UNICEF warns of a rapid increase in malnutrition and disease among children. Access to clean drinking water and sanitary facilities is severely restricted. Over 60% of buildings are critically damaged or destroyed.
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In view of the dramatic humanitarian consequences of the conflict, Switzerland has allocated an additional CHF 90 million in humanitarian aid in 2023, CHF 81 million of which go to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the rest to the region. The funds will go to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the United Nations and Swiss non-governmental organisations. These organisations offer shelter and protection to the people affected, provide them with basic foodstuffs, medicines and hygiene products, and are active in the field of water and sanitation.
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The director-general of the SDC, Patricia Danzi, travelled to the region in February to gain an impression of the humanitarian situation. Across seven days she visited Egypt, Jordan, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv, where all of her interlocutors painted a picture of a devastating humanitarian situation in Gaza. The increase in Swiss aid was well received in the region.
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In the Near East, Switzerland's approach is anchored in the vision set out in the UN Security Council resolutions: two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and within secure and recognised borders. In this context, Switzerland supports inclusive dialogue, the promotion of human rights and respect for international law. Active for several decades in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the SDC is committed to responding to humanitarian needs.

Further information:
SDC website: Near East
SDC website: Situation in the Middle East


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Switzerland supports partner countries in areas such as urban development, for example when it comes to reshaping public transport and spatial planning in a climate-friendly way. By way of example, Switzerland is helping a number of Ukrainian cities to implement new sustainable transport models and to prioritise and carry out the necessary investments. It recently delivered decommissioned trams to the cities of Vinnytsia and Lviv and supports the modernization of dilapidated railway lines.
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The Ukrainian cities of Vinnytsia and Lviv need to expand their tram fleets and have asked for Switzerland’s assistance. Due to Russia’s war of aggression, large numbers of internally displaced people and businesses have moved to these two cities. This is causing the population to grow rapidly, driving up the volume of traffic. Additional trams are needed to cope.
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Following mediation by SECO, the cities of Bern and Zurich decided to make a total of 78 decommissioned trams available. The vehicles are in good condition and can be used in Ukraine for many years to come. Switzerland is organising and financing their shipment to Ukraine and covering the cost of training transport company staff.
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BERNMOBIL has donated 11 ‘Vevey’ trams to Lviv. These were the first low-floor trams to be built in Switzerland. They will be used in Lviv on a new line to a hospital, which lends itself to operating this kind of tram.
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SECO already reached an agreement with the Zurich transport authority in 2021 and then organised the shipment of 28 Tram2000 modules to Vinnytsia in 2023. A further eight units are to follow at the beginning of 2024. SECO and the Zurich transport authority also decided at the end of 2023 to deliver a further 31 Tram2000 units to Vinnytsia.
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Switzerland is not only supporting the expansion of Ukraine’s tram network, but is also committed to modernising its rail network. In 2023, it helped to repair around 270 kilometres of track in the direction of Poland and Odessa. A Swiss company supplied the rail fasteners. Investment in the rail network also enables Ukraine to export larger quantities of grain and import more aid supplies from Europe.
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In the past, hunger was mainly the product of poverty, but today it is mainly caused by armed conflict: almost 70% of the 309 million people currently suffering from acute food insecurity live in countries in conflict.
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During its first year on the United Nations Security Council, Switzerland consistently advocated for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts. It actively sought to promote and defend people's food security in Security Council debates, notably on Gaza, Haiti and Burkina Faso.
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During its two-year term on the Security Council, Switzerland seeks to ensure that the resolutions adopted fully respect international humanitarian law, ensuring that the mandatory nature of that law is not relativised, and stressing the importance of accountability.
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This commitment culminated in the organisation of an open debate under the Swiss presidency of the Security Council in May 2023. The debate was chaired by Alain Berset, the president of the Swiss Confederation at that time. A number of high-level representatives were in attendance, including the secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, and President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique.
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Switzerland can draw on the SDC's dense network of contacts with local civil society in contexts where food insecurity is prevalent. For this open debate, Switzerland invited Aisha Mounkaila of Niger, director of the Network of Women’s Organisations of the Lake Chad Basin. Civil society organisations rarely have the opportunity to address the Security Council directly.
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Five years after the adoption of Resolution 2417 on food insecurity in armed conflict, the debate gave new visibility to the issue by linking it to the protection of basic goods and services. The interventions highlighted the need for the Security Council to act more quickly when the threat of food insecurity looms.

Further information:
WFP website: Conflict and hunger
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Hundreds of people flee Venezuela every day in search of security and stability. The SDC assists them along hazardous migration routes.
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Faced with political instability, economic crisis, poverty and gang violence, more than 7.7 million Venezuelans have been forced to leave their homeland since 2018. Only Syria, Ukraine and Afghanistan are currently experiencing greater outward migration.
Many people are leaving the South American country with only what they can carry. The 'caminantes', or wayfarers, attempt to enter neighbouring countries or the USA on foot with the aim of building a new life in security and dignity.
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Migrants are exposed to particular dangers, however. There is lack of accommodation, clean water and food along the routes they take, and they are unprotected from armed gangs and human traffickers. The path through the notorious Darién Gap on the isthmus between South and Central America is especially hazardous. Those who have taken on the six-day walk through the jungle report wild animals, robberies, rapes and murders.
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The SDC is committed to protecting migrants and helps to meet their basic needs. To achieve this, it works closely with UN organisations, Red Cross societies and various NGOs in Venezuela and Colombia.
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Switzerland supports the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with the operation of 41 centres along migration routes within Venezuela. These are managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and have so far provided 79,000 refugees and displaced persons with food, shelter and psychological counselling. They have also advised them on their rights and obligations.
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Via the Italian organisation CISP, the SDC reaches the most vulnerable refugee groups in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. These are single mothers and unaccompanied minors who do not have any social network, who are in the country illegally and are the victims of human trafficking. In 2023 CISP provided support and advice to 11,000 migrants from Venezuela.
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Almost 40% of those crossing the Colombian/Venezuelan border return to Venezuela as their dreams of a better life in the destination country are shattered. Many have faced exploitation and discrimination with single mothers and children strikingly over-represented in this group.
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The true dangers of the migration routes were illustrated by the SDC-supported 'Rutas' campaign in Venezuela, which was run in buses in Caracas and Maracaibo. Featuring the pictures and stories of migrants, they were intended to raise awareness of the risks of migration.
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Migration flows in Latin America and the Caribbean have grown to an enormous scale. In 2023 alone 500,000 refugees and migrants crossed the narrow strip of land between South and Central America – twice as many as the previous year. By comparison, around 250,000 people crossed the Mediterranean during the same period. Switzerland is adopting an increasingly regional approach to better protect the most vulnerable with both direct assistance and knowledge-sharing.
 

Further information:
SDC website: Migration

Photos: Ronald Pizzoferrato



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Refugee numbers worldwide reached a record of over 100 million in 2023. This challenge was addressed at the Global Refugee Forum, organised in Geneva by Switzerland and the UNHCR.
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The Global Refugee Forum (GRF) enables the international community to decide jointly how to implement the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees more effectively. The steadily rising number of refugees raises the following questions:
  • How can refugees become self-sufficient again?
  • What relief can be offered to host states?
  • How can refugees' access to third countries be broadened?
  • How can the conditions for a safe return be created?
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Switzerland took a whole-of-society approach to preparing for and participating in the GRF. Civil society, the cantons, cities, educational institutions, sporting organisations and refugees themselves all provided input alongside representatives of the relevant federal offices. The resulting Swiss delegation included the city of Zurich, Asylex and a refugee from Geneva.
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Switzerland has announced that it will continue to disburse around CHF 300 million annually for the Global Compact on Refugees, in the form of international cooperation and migration partnerships abroad. The focus is on protecting refugees, supporting local actors and the refugees themselves, and admitting and integrating refugees in an environmentally friendly way. One of the priorities here is access to education for refugee children.
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Switzerland must also continue to improve the way in which it admits and integrates refugees, and should step up cooperation between the federal government, cantons and communes. There should also be an advisory board to ensure that refugee concerns are heard at the international level, too. Action should be taken to integrate refugees into vocational training colleges and sporting institutions. Legal advocacy in the admission procedure should be guaranteed. This also applies to people with disabilities.
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The GRF was a great success, with 4,200 individuals and delegations from 168 countries taking part, including 320 refugees. More than CHF 2 billion in additional funding was pledged, including CHF 235 million by the private sector. Switzerland announced a total of 40 initiatives as part of its whole-of-society engagement.
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The number of refugees and their needs are likely to rise further, in part because the world's humanitarian crises show no sign of abating. That is why new solutions must be found and new partnerships forged with the widest range of actors. With a plethora of important projects, the GRF is helping to make real progress on this front.

Further information:
UNHCR website: Global Refugee Forum 2023
UNHCR website: The Global Compact on Refugees
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Millions of civilians in Ukraine continue to suffer from the impact of Russia’s military aggression. Switzerland remains committed by providing humanitarian aid, engaging in development cooperation and contributing to recovery efforts.
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On 6 June 2023, an explosion partially destroyed the Kakhovka dam – a critical infrastructure in southern Ukraine. This had consequences for thousands of people in regions both below the dam (flooding) and above the dam (water shortage). The danger of displaced and washed-up mines made access and aid to the region more difficult.
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With the help of Swiss Humanitarian Aid (SHA) experts deployed in Ukraine, Switzerland provided rapid support and urgently needed equipment. For example, locally purchased pipes and pumps ensured that water supply systems could operate at lower levels. Additionally, 31 water tanks provided drinking water for more than 60’000 people affected by water shortages. A special vehicle was purchased for the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SESU) to transport people and materials on any terrain, including through water.
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Since the beginning of Russia's military aggression, relief supplies have been an important part of Swiss support to Ukraine. Ambulances and fire engines are particularly needed to provide life-saving assistance to civilians. In 2023, Switzerland delivered a total of 25 ambulances and 10 firefighting trucks to Ukraine. Other deliveries included winterization items such as blankets, mobile heaters or fuel briquettes. The equipment is donated by the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (DDPS) or Swiss municipalities.
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Switzerland has been supporting decentralization reforms and digitalization of public services in Ukraine since 2015. This has greatly contributed to the resilience of the country as it supports a better functioning of the government at all levels and provides fundamental online public services to citizens and the private sector. E-governance tools can improve government transparency, accountability and efficiency and therefore reduce corruption.
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The war against Ukraine is leading to massive contamination by mines, cluster munitions and other remnants of war, making Ukraine one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Tragic accidents have been on the rise, with farmers stepping on anti-tank mines while ploughing their fields, and other civilians, including children, losing life and limb to explosive ordnance.
In 2023, Switzerland has supported Ukraine in humanitarian demining with more than CHF 15 million.
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Those funds support the operations of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and the Fondation suisse de déminage (FSD). Thereby, Switzerland makes particular use of national expertise in this field. The projects aim at supporting the Ukrainian authorities in conducting surveys, clearance and explosive ordnance risk education in order to prevent further accidents.
Switzerland added humanitarian demining as a priority to its existing international cooperation program, with an additional CHF 100 million package for humanitarian demining between 2024 and 2027.

Further information:
SDC website: Ukraine


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Overview
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Chapter 2 1 Basic services

Chapter 3 2 Economy

Chapter 4 3 Peace

Chapter 5 4 Environment

Chapter 6 5 Crises

Chapter 7 Statistics

Chapter 8 Fit4Purpose

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