In 2000, the international community adopted eight Millennium Development Goals to reduce by half world poverty, hunger and disease by 2015. There are four years left to achieve these goals.
In her opening speech, Micheline Calmy-Rey noted that developing countries are particularly exposed to the consequences of the economic and financial crises, climate change and resource scarcity. She went on to say that Switzerland needs a strong development policy because appropriate responses to the problems of poverty and to global challenges can only be found within the framework of close cooperation with developing countries.
The agenda of the Millennium Development Goals also includes the goal of a "global partnership for development". Industrialised and developing countries have a shared responsibility to create the conditions to enable people to live in dignity. This demand was made by all participants of this conference at the Palais de Beaulieu in Lausanne, which was organised by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). Environment and climate-friendly development processes are particularly important to successfully combat poverty today. Substantial initiatives for adaptation and innovation are necessary to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Population growth, climate change and increased demand for agricultural goods require a greater emphasis on agricultural production in poor countries.
The partnership programme launched in 1997 by the SDC, with the participation of 11 rice-growing countries in South Asia and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has become even more significant in this context. Rice cultivation techniques and local management strategies have been developed as part of this partnership, leading to improved wet rice cultivation in each of these countries. A key principle of this partnership is to increase production under environmentally friendly conditions, including through the efficient use of resources (soils, water and fertilizers).
The SDC managers pointed out that the UN Conference on Sustainable Development ("Rio +20"), which will take place next June in Rio de Janeiro, offers the opportunity to set international environmental and development policy more clearly on the path towards global sustainable development. Innovations in development cooperation must find answers to bottlenecks in development and to new challenges. The challenge for development policy is to continue to make effective contributions to poverty alleviation and the design of global processes.
In this context, SECO managers underscored the fact that over the past 20 years, reducing and managing the debts owed by poor countries has been one of SECO's priorities. Between 1991 and 2011, SECO bought debts totalling CHF 1.8 billion (total outstanding loan amount) and subsequently cancelled them.
The SDC Director-General, Martin Dahinden, recalled that the Swiss Confederation has been active in the field of development cooperation and humanitarian aid over the past 50 years and that innovation has always been one of the SDC's central concerns. As an example, he cited Nepal, where more than 3000 bridges have been built in recent decades with the assistance of the Swiss Confederation. He emphasised this programme's innovative approach, which involved the local population in the implementation of these projects, and in this way made a significant contribution to sustainability.
To SECO, innovation frequently means thinking ahead and anticipating, to borrow the words of Beatrice Maser Mallor, Head of Economic Cooperation and Development at SECO. SECO realised early on the private sector's significance for development. For example, more than 360 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in partner countries have benefited from the approximately 400 million US dollars that have been invested in recent years thanks to SECO's participation in venture capital funds.
In addition, some 170,000 jobs have been created since 2002, and 100 million people now have access to new infrastructures thanks to a public-private initiative in which SECO has participated.
At the end of the year, the Federal Council will present to Parliament an bill on international cooperation and a corresponding credit line for the years 2013 – 2016.
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