Swiss development cooperation has been increasingly criticized by politicians in recent years. At the same time, more and more tasks are being assigned to it. Instead of budget cuts, it needs political support.
Development cooperation serves to combat poverty and exclusion, provides disadvantaged groups with access to healthcare, water and education, and helps in political, cultural and social life. They are supported in adapting to the effects of climate change. Through human rights-based approaches, development cooperation helps poor and marginalized communities to shape their own development. Development cooperation can initiate processes going and, in many places, it lays the social foundation for economic development.
At the same time, development cooperation has increasingly become a plaything of politics. On the one hand, it is expected to overcome global poverty, give economic impetus, and counteract unwelcome migration and climate change. On the other hand, it is accused of being ineffective and offers a welcome target for austerity exercises in annual budget debates.
Modest funding for development cooperation
Although Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world, its funding for international cooperation is modest at best. In 2016, the budget for international cooperation, which covers development cooperation, humanitarian aid, and peace-keeping and human rights work, accounted for CHF 2.6 billion (roughly €2.2 bn / $2.7 bn) or 3.9% of federal expenditure. This figure corresponds to 0.39% of Switzerland’s gross national income (GNI). The official figure for Swiss “Official Development Assistance” (ODA) according to OECD criteria is 0.54% of GNI, but this is misleading since one fifth of these funds is used to cover the domestic asylum costs . Helvetas calls on the Swiss Federal Council to comply with the international budgeting benchmark (set in 1970) of 0.7% of GNI for development cooperation, which is reaffirmed in the 2030 Agenda.