Key reasons for Switzerland’s commitment to multilateral cooperation

Switzerland supports multilateral organisations and systems as a member state, a donor and an active player in its partner countries. Multilateral cooperation is vital to address global challenges and to define common approaches tailored to different contexts, including the humanitarian emergencies. Through its multilateral cooperation, Switzerland can defend its values and interests, influence the reform of the UN development system, and complement its bilateral cooperation.

Switzerland is involved in the multilateral system for the following reasons:

Joint efforts and responses to global challenges and risks

Only a joint effort of the global community can effectively eradicate extreme poverty and address the current global challenges. Multilateral organisations benefit from political legitimacy and considerable resources to address challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, forced migration, conflicts, poor governance and gender inequality. By supporting these organisations, Switzerland is fulfilling its role in combating the challenges of the 21st century.

In addition, only an organised international community can define common goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, which is important to mobilize expertise and resources. Moreover, as multilateral organisations are active in all developing countries, Switzerland can widen its impact beyond its priority countries.

Multilateral organisations are engaged in a permanent dialogue with governments, civil society and other key actors and are recognised partners in the development and implementation of public policies. In this respect they carry out a coordination function to ensure that development assistance is used in a targeted and effective manner. Finally, the political issues they address – such as human rights – are also important to Switzerland.

Better coordination and response to humanitarian emergencies

The international system of multilateral humanitarian assistance plays a key role in crises, as it is able to mount a rapid, targeted and coordinated response. Switzerland plays a significant role in strengthening the effectiveness and the coherence of the international humanitarian system. It promotes the respect of humanitarian principles and advocates for compliance with international humanitarian law as well as for the protection of civilians during conflicts and natural disasters.

Safeguarding Switzerland's values and interests through multilateral cooperation.

Multilateral organisations, especially the UN agencies, are essential for drawing up globally recognised standards and norms to protect global public goods such as the environment and water resources. Thanks to its extensive experience, pragmatism and values, Switzerland is regarded as a credible and reliable partner for multilateral organisations. This engagement has a positive impact on Switzerland’s international image and its foreign and economic policies. Moreover, as the host of International Geneva, Switzerland plays an important role in promoting multilateral cooperation.

Influencing the reforms of the UN development system

Multilateral organisations are subject to limitations inherent to their structure and size: the large number of organisations present in one country can result in a fragmentation of development assistance, duplication of efforts, and losses in efficiency. That is why Switzerland is actively pushing for and supporting reforms of the multilateral development system to increase its effectiveness.

Multilateral and bilateral cooperation complement one another

Multilateral and bilateral cooperation complement each other in eradicating poverty. Indeed, the Swiss bilateral cooperation is flexible, tailored to specific contexts, and capable of implementing innovative approaches on the ground. It gives Switzerland a certain level of visibility in the partner countries. Through multilateral cooperation, such innovations can be replicated on a large scale and contribute to their integration into national policies, regional strategies as well as into the instruments of the multilateral organisations and partner countries.