What is Switzerland's specific objective?
All important GCC donor countries are currently professionalising their international cooperation processes. In doing so, they rely on the support of trustworthy and credible partners such as Switzerland.
Ultimately, Switzerland with its presence in the Gulf intends to improve the effectiveness of global cooperation by introducing a coordinated approach. We also wish to engage in specific financing partnerships designed to meet global challenges such as climate change, food security and water.
Apart from the UK, Switzerland is the only country that has an adviser stationed in the Gulf. We thus play a pioneering role and can earn much goodwill and credibility in a region that is of great interest to Switzerland in terms of security, energy, economic and migration policies. Switzerland is seen in the Gulf region as a credible, professional partner with no hidden intentions and no colonial past. At the same time, many people in the Gulf have positive memories of Switzerland, and this opens up good opportunities for us to establish a dialogue.
Can Switzerland's international cooperation be compared to the work of the Gulf Cooperation Council?
Some topics are similar: for example education, health, and work and income are focal topics for the SDC as well as for most of the Arab donors. The same is true for water, food security and measures to combat climate change.
However, there are differences in approach: the most important GCC donors to development cooperation invest in infrastructure, which the SDC hardly does any more. They are also very active in sustainable types of energy and often issue low-interest loans, while the SDC provides grants exclusively. Switzerland's strength lies in what is known as the soft components of a programme – the development of local knowledge, good governance and gender equality and the sustainability of investments. Switzerland can thus add value to joint programmes, and this is in strong demand.
These different approaches create great potential for complementary action: sensible cooperation as part of a programme can mean, for example, that the GCC donors finance the infrastructure and the SDC contributes the aforementioned Swiss strengths
Are there examples of joint action by Switzerland and the GCC countries?
Yes, there are examples in two areas. Firstly, in the area of results orientation in international cooperation, which serves as the foundation for improved effectiveness. This is a core principle of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation of Busan, which was signed by most of the GCC countries as well as by Switzerland. The SDC helps GCC donors with project cycle management (project planning, monitoring and evaluation), such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), the Emirates Red Crescent and the Qatar Fund for Development.
And secondly, we are also planning specific co-financing projects, e.g. health projects in Tanzania with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development. Following a common strategy, the two funds will finance health infrastructure projects through low-interest loans, while the SDC will be involved in training the local staff, for example.
Why is a meeting between the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Arab-DAC Dialogue) being held in Switzerland of all places?
The Arab-DAC Dialogue is really the DAC’s flagship event in its dialogue with the Arab donors. Because of our important engagement with donors in the Gulf region, the DAC asked Switzerland if we wanted to act as the host for the 2017 Dialogue. This is a special token of appreciation. For our part, it makes sense for Switzerland to act as the host.
What can we expect from this Arab-DAC Dialogue?
The dialogue offers an excellent platform for the exchange of knowledge, experiences and best practices on topics of mutual interest – in the case of the Arab-Swiss Water Day, for example, on water and sanitary facilities, i.e. the achievement of goal 6 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Arab-DAC Dialogue should also provide specific pointers as to the partnerships that can be established and the areas of focus and form of these partnerships to ensure the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the exploitation of synergies – creating added value for all the stakeholders.
Returning to the Arab-Swiss Water Day, we are hoping for specific ideas by the end of the dialogue on how to implement the water goal of the 2030 Agenda with the help of trilateral, multilateral and global partnerships. My task on the ground would then be to flesh out and hopefully also realise these ideas with the help of the different players in the Gulf.
Why are international partnerships becoming ever more important in development cooperation?
It is simple: the challenges facing the international community, the ambitious goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the humanitarian crises that are cropping up everywhere in the world require a coordinated approach with everybody working together towards a common goal in order to avoid duplication and to achieve the coordinated and effective use of scarce resources.
The need for financing, just to implement the 2030 Agenda, is enormous, and at the same time the traditional donors are slashing their budgets. Additional funds are needed that also have to be applied effectively, efficiently and sustainably. It is therefore crucial to involve new donors in the dialogue on development policy.