Switzerland’s engagement worldwide

Swiss international cooperation is driven by the vision of a world without poverty and in peace, for sustainable development. This mandate is implemented by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and the FDFA’s Human Security Division. Switzerland has earmarked CHF 11.11 billion for international cooperation in the 2017–2020 period.

Sustainable global development is a key factor in reducing poverty and hardship, managing global risks and promoting peace. Switzerland pursues sustainable development with seven objectives:

  • Contribute to developing an international framework to address global challenges
  • Prevent and manage the consequences of crises, disasters and fragility, and promote conflict transformation
  • Ensure sustainable access to resources and services for all
  • Promote sustainable economic growth
  • Strengthen the rule of law and democratic participation while supporting institutions that serve society and the economy
  • Respect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • Strengthen gender equality and the rights of women and girls

Switzerland engages in international cooperation at both the bilateral and multilateral level, working with priority countries and regions as well as international institutions (finance institutions, UN organisations, global networks and funds).

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the FDFA's Human Security Division (HSD) lead Switzerland's work in international cooperation in the following five areas:

  • Humanitarian aid (SDC)
  • Technical cooperation and financial assistance for developing countries (SDC)
  • Economic and trade policy measures within the framework of development cooperation (SECO)
  • Cooperation with Eastern Europe (SDC/SECO)
  • Promotion of peace and human rights (HSD)

Switzerland has allocated CHF 11.11 billion to these five areas for the 2017–2020 period.

Humanitarian Aid (SDC)

Humanitarian aid helps to save lives and alleviate suffering. Swiss Humanitarian Aid, which operates on the ground with experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA), delivers aid either through its own programmes or by sharing its know-how with partner organisations. It also supports the implementation of partner organisations' programmes, particularly by way of financial contributions and relief goods. Its main partners are the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UN humanitarian organisations, national and international NGOs as well as Swiss aid agencies.

Switzerland's work in humanitarian aid focuses on emergency humanitarian relief and strengthening the legal framework and operational aspects of the humanitarian system. As well as providing emergency relief, Swiss Humanitarian Aid is also engaged in disaster risk reduction and reconstruction work both before and after natural disasters and armed conflicts.

Swiss Humanitarian Aid has four priorities for the period from 2017 to 2020. These are of key importance in responding to humanitarian challenges.

  • Protection of the civilian population
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Water and sanitation
  • Gender-based violence

The mandate of Swiss Humanitarian Aid is global. Its engagement is determined by the needs of the affected populations. The current focus is on crisis points in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, where sustained armed conflicts have left the civilian populations in dire need of humanitarian aid. At the same time, humanitarian aid must remain flexible enough to ensure a rapid response as new crises, conflicts or disasters arise.

Humanitarian aid: Saving lives and alleviating suffering

Technical cooperation and financial assistance for developing countries (SDC)

The SDC strives to reduce all forms of poverty and exposure to global risks such as climate change or food insecurity. Aligning itself with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the SDC works to improve living conditions for people in developing countries while, at the same time, ensuring the sustainability of natural resources and protection of biodiversity. Tackling poverty requires both local and global solutions. For the 2017–2020 period, the SDC again focuses its efforts on three main lines of action:

  • Bilateral cooperation with priority countries and priority regions
  • Five global programmes to address global challenges (climate change and the environment, food security, water, health, migration and development)
  • Multilateral cooperation through dialogue and contributions to UN development organisations, development banks and other global funds and networks.

The SDC works in thematic areas where Swiss experience and expertise are recognised internationally. It helps to create better prospects through basic and vocational education and training, job and income creation and local private sector development. The SDC is reinforcing its commitment in fragile contexts, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. Of particular importance in these areas are conflict prevention and the promotion of human rights. Also, it continues to stress the importance of gender equality and good governance.

In geographic terms, the SDC is allocating 55% of its bilateral aid in the 2017–2020 period to Africa and the Middle East, 30% to Asia and 15% to Latin America and the Caribbean. The SDC focuses on 14 priority countries and seven priority regions, selected on the basis of various criteria such as levels of poverty and fragility, openness to dialogue, and relevance in regard to Switzerland’s development policy and foreign policy.


Economic and trade policy measures within the framework of development cooperation (SECO)

SECO works to reduce poverty through economic development cooperation. It supports middle-income countries in efforts to improve their framework conditions and leverage the economic potential of the private sector in combating poverty. SECO's mandate is to promote sustainable and inclusive growth. In keeping with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the focus for the 2017–2020 period is on the social dimension of sustainability. In other words, all segments of the population should benefit from economic growth.

SECO has four target outcomes for its economic and trade policy measures:

  • Effective institutions and services: For example, a clear legislative framework and a reliable energy supply are necessary to set up and develop small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • More and better jobs: SECO helps to create jobs and decent work conditions by investing in companies and promoting international labour standards.
  • Enhanced trade and competitiveness: SECO engages at the multilateral, regional and bilateral level to build on its partner countries' economic strengths and sales potential.
  • Low-emission and climate-resilient economies: SECO supports measures in urban development, energy supply and resource efficiency in the private sector, for example, to help reduce carbon emissions and improve economic resilience to climate change.

SECO's overarching objective is to promote growth which is sustainable in economic, environmental and social terms, creates employment, increases productivity and helps to reduce poverty and disparities. It also supports partner countries in their efforts to integrate into the global economy and strengthen their domestic economies. Economic governance and gender equality are transversal themes underpinning all aspects of SECO's work.

SECO's priority countries in the South are: Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Peru, South Africa, Tunisia and Vietnam.

Cooperation with Eastern Europe (SDC/SECO)

In the Western Balkans and countries of the former Soviet Union, Switzerland contributes to the promotion of security and stability as well as sustainable economic growth. The priorities for cooperation with Eastern Europe are:

  • Democratisation, decentralisation, local governance and combating corruption
  • Health sector reform
  • Economic development of agriculture
  • Aligning vocational education and training with the needs of the labour market
  • More efficient and equitable water management
  • Prevention of conflicts and promotion of the rule of law

Around 55% of financial and technical assistance goes to five countries in the Western Balkans: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia. The remaining 45% is allocated to eight countries of the former Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Swiss cooperation with Eastern Europe – supporting the transition to democracy and a social market economy

Switzerland’s contribution to the enlarged EU – a contribution for countries joining the EU since 2004

In addition to its cooperation with Eastern Europe, Switzerland is also contributing CHF 1.302 billion to help reduce social and economic disparities in the new EU accession countries. This contribution to the enlarged EU is allocated to the following countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Overall, the SDC and SECO have a budget of CHF 1.302 billion at their disposal for projects in these countries. This funding falls under Switzerland's cooperation with Eastern Europe but is not counted as official development assistance (ODA).

The programmes in the ten countries that joined the EU in 2004 have been successfully completed. In Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia, which joined later, implementation is still under way.

Switzerland's contribution to the enlarged EU

Promotion of peace and human rights (HSD)

The Swiss Federal Constitution (Art. 54) explicitly stipulates that Swiss foreign policy must promote respect for human rights and democracy and contribute to the peaceful coexistence of peoples. The centrepiece of this policy is the protection of individuals and their dignity. Every human being should be able to live in peace, free of fear and need.

The legal basis for this is the Federal Act on Measures pertaining to Civil Peace Support and the Promotion of Human Rights (SR 193.9) (de, fr, it). Within the FDFA, the Human Security Division (HSD) is responsible for implementation.

The HSD is engaged in the following areas:

  • Peace policy
    The HSD contributes to the peaceful resolution of conflicts through mediation and facilitation or by sending experts. It may take on the role of mediator itself, offer its support in peace negotiations, or make mediators and/or experts available to international organisations.
  • Human rights policy
    The HSD works to ensure that human rights are respected and supports states in implementing them. Through its engagement in promoting standards of rule of law and democracy, the HSD helps to tackle the roots of radicalisation and extremism.
  • Humanitarian policy
    The HSD works internationally – in addition to Swiss Humanitarian Aid – to ensure the protection of civilians during and after conflicts, crises and natural disasters.
  • Foreign policy on migration
    The HSD works to ensure the effective protection of displaced persons and migrants. It promotes a policy on migration based on respect for human dignity and combats human trafficking.

The HSD's geographic focus is on sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, the OSCE region and individual countries in Asia and Latin America.

Peace and human rights

Human Security Division