On 1 May 2020 Patricia Danzi took up her new post as SDC director general. She did so in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is hitting developing countries particularly hard. To address the crisis, Switzerland has allocated additional funds for partner countries and international organisations, and the SDC has adapted existing programmes. "We responded swiftly and unbureaucratically. The COVID-19 crisis remains a major challenge and will keep us busy for some time to come. The pandemic shows how important it is for Switzerland to help reduce global risks and strengthen health systems in developing countries. The crisis shows us the great value of having robust systems in place," notes Danzi.
Patricia Danzi hopes to be soon able to meet with her colleagues in the representations abroad and with partners around the world. The COVID-19 crisis has prevented her from travelling abroad. "The Swiss representations in the SDC's priority countries are extremely important to me. Our colleagues have established an excellent network of contacts and know the needs of our partner countries and their populations," says Danzi.
Switzerland's new international cooperation strategy
One of Patricia Danzi's priorities this year is to lay the groundwork for the introduction of Switzerland's new international cooperation strategy (IC Strategy 2021–24). The strategy is currently being deliberated in Parliament: it was adopted by a wide margin by the National Council during the summer session, and the Council of States will decide on it in the coming autumn session. If the Council of States also approves it, the strategy will be implemented from 2021. The strategy is specifically framed to ensure that international cooperation can be flexibly adjusted to new challenges. This approach has proven effective, as the COVID-19 crisis has shown. "The strategy comprises various mechanisms to enable us to respond in a targeted manner and for as long as necessary to events such as the COVID-19 crisis. We have a broader scope for action than most other donor countries. Switzerland maintains a presence and will continue to do so when our partners need us most. We are there for them for the long term. Switzerland may be a small country, but it has considerable multilateral leverage and Swiss Humanitarian Aid is able to respond quickly and effectively," notes Danzi.
The IC Strategy 2021–24 strengthens the focus of development cooperation and makes it more effective. It is based on criteria that reflect the needs of local communities, Switzerland's long-term interests and the added value offered by Swiss international cooperation in international comparison. It attaches even more importance than previous strategies to global challenges such as combating climate change and its impacts. Switzerland is working with all states to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda are implemented. Switzerland has earned considerable credibility because of its strong track record with respect to most of these 17 goals, adds Danzi.
A strong mandate is a major asset
Patricia Danzi draws a positive assessment of her first 100 days as head of the SDC. "I feel good about where I am. I was very well briefed and made to feel welcome. We have a strong mandate, based on our country's constitution, which puts people's needs and poverty reduction at the heart of our work. I see that as a big plus. I have much to learn. It's a big job with big responsibilities." Danzi underlined that her previous work, in particular her experience in the field, should stand her in good stead at the SDC, be it in negotiations, as a listener and in her daily work.
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