The global interdependence of social, economic and environmental issues was particularly evident in 2015. A firm commitment to sustainable development is key to effectively tackling the root causes of crises and poverty.
Development policy environment
The partner countries of Swiss international cooperation have to contend with increasingly tough economic conditions. Although the global economy grew slightly in the first half of 2015, the rate of economic growth in many regions was much slower than expected. Falling commodity prices, lower capital flows in emerging and developing countries and increasingly volatile financial markets are dimming global economic prospects. This downturn hits developing countries particularly hard.
2015 was dominated by ongoing and emerging crises. In Syria, five years of civil war have left around 90% of the country’s 18.2 million population dependent on international humanitarian aid. In Yemen, which has seen an escalation in hostilities over recent months, over 60% of the population require humanitarian assistance. At the present time, 1.6 million Yemenis, including 850,000 children, suffer from acute malnutrition. While the eyes of the media are focused on these humanitarian disasters, many forgotten conflicts rage on in countries like South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq, exposing the population to the most brutal violence.
Crises force people to flee
In 2015, the impact of political crises and humanitarian disasters in the Middle East and Africa was felt more strongly in Europe. The number of displaced persons and those seeking protection in European states reached a record high. According to figures issued by the United Nations (UN), the number of people forced to flee their homes in 2015 totalled some 60 million. However, it is the countries of origin and their neighbouring states – not Europe – that bear the brunt of this exodus.
Often, the suffering of refugees does not end when they leave their homeland. Many transit countries, for example, are unable to provide them with adequate protection and access to basic vital services. The response to these humanitarian crises must involve not only the provision of acute emergency aid but also efforts to address their root cause. This is why one of the long-term goals of Switzerland’s international and economic cooperation is to assist countries of origin with their efforts to establish an environment which offers their people the prospect of a better future at home.
Prevention and preparedness are key to mitigating the risks of natural disasters. The third UN Global Summit on Disaster Preparedness in 2015 saw the signing of a new international framework in which Switzerland played an instrumental part. Tragically, the devastating earthquake in Nepal once again demonstrated the importance of disaster preparedness efforts. The mitigation and management of humanitarian risks in the future depends on far-sighted measures.
From the Millennium Development Goals to the 2030 Agenda
2015 also saw the international community take stock of the progress that has been made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Major advances have been made in many areas, including education and water. In addition, the share of people in developing countries living on less than USD 1.25 a day, i.e. in extreme poverty, fell from 47% in 1990 to 14% in 2015.
These are indeed encouraging signs, but international cooperation is far from being surplus to requirements. In September of last year, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda was another milestone on the road to global sustainable development. The centrepiece of the Agenda is a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This new integrated international framework for sustainable development took three years to draft and negotiate. Switzerland played a major part in this process. As well as taking the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – into account, the 2030 Agenda is also universally applicable. In other words, every single country and every single public, civil society and private stakeholder has a role to play in the attainment of these goals.
Implementation – the true test of commitment
After several rounds of negotiations, the Third International Conference on Financing for Development was held in Addis Ababa in mid-July 2015, with a view to mobilising the resources needed to implement the bold goals of the 2030 Agenda. The outcome document – the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – establishes a comprehensive funding framework for both state and private-sector stakeholders in all countries.
The success of the 2030 Agenda will be measured by the implementation of its goals. All stakeholders therefore must play their part. With the pending adoption of the new Dispatch on Switzerland's International Cooperation 2017-20, 2016 is set to be another important year for Swiss international cooperation.