Renowned for its long history and extensive experience in international cooperation, Switzerland played a key role in determining the content of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in drafting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More specifically, Switzerland was instrumental in integrating a water-specific goal in the UN’s 2030 Agenda, namely SDG #6 “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. Switzerland strives to achieve this as well as other objectives of the SDG Agenda also by collaborating with various key players on the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, as part of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) conducts dialogues on various issues related to sustainable development with major donor countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), especially the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
In order to facilitate this, SDC has assigned a Regional Advisor for Sustainable Development and International Cooperation to the Swiss Embassy in Abu Dhabi. The Advisor has the mandate to engage in a dialogue with selected donor organizations and key domestic actors from the UAE and other GCC focal countries, both domestically and in partner countries of our foreign assistance. A particular focus is placed on global challenges, such as climate change, water scarcity or food security. Through regular thematic exchanges, knowledge sharing and learning from each other’s experiences, a mutual understanding is fostered and efforts are combined to more efficiently tackle global challenges which require collaborative, effective and sustainable responses.
GCC countries, such as the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or Qatar, have traditionally been generous donors and renowned worldwide for their major contributions to foreign assistance efforts. The UAE, in particular, has been playing an increasingly prominent and internationally acknowledged role in this field: Since 2012, the UAE ranks as the world’s top donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in proportion to its Gross National Income (GNI). It is the first GCC country to have a Minister of State for International Cooperation and to become, on July 1, 2014, a participant (i.e. member as a non-OECD country) of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Other GCC countries also became DAC participants afterwards: Qatar in 2016; Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in 2018. Moreover, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are, like Switzerland, among the countries that have endorsed the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. The Busan Partnership is specifically concerned with promoting dialogue and concerted efforts to make development cooperation more effective.
In the UAE, SDC is currently working primarily with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the Emirates Red Crescent, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) as well as important public and private water users and decision-makers. Water and water diplomacy or Blue Peace is a key topic that will be presented by SDC in the Swiss Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai.