Migration and development – a strategic link

Three young apprentices training to be electricians in Nepal.
Young people benefiting from vocational training in Nepal, which will help increase their chances of sustainable and decent employment. © SDC

Millions of people leave their homes in search of safety, employment and a better future. Switzerland supports efforts to harness migration as a way of promoting development and to alleviate migratory pressure by creating prospects locally.   

2016 was characterised by large refugee movements and migratory flows. For many people, the uncertainty involved in fleeing is a lesser evil than the dangers they are exposed to at home: armed conflict, violent extremism, human rights abuses, state fragility, poverty and a lack of prospects. These people often have no other choice but to leave their homes with the few possessions they are able to carry. According to United Nations estimates, more than half of refugees are children and young people, and over 85% are currently living in developing and emerging countries.   

The major waves of refugees and migrants pose a significant challenge to Switzerland, too, both in terms of migration and asylum policy and development policy. The Swiss Parliament therefore decided that in implementing the new Dispatch 2017­-2020, international cooperation should be more closely linked up with Switzerland’s migration interests. For the SDC, this means that it will be more active in migrants’ countries of origin and will work in a more targeted way to tackle the root causes of migration. SECO will also continue its efforts in its partner countries to facilitate sustainable and inclusive growth, to create jobs and therefore to offer people the chance of a brighter future in their home countries.

Dispatch on Switzerland's International Cooperation 2017–2020 

Switzerland’s engagement at multilateral level

In September 2016, a UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants was held in New York. The resulting New York Declaration comprises a broad spectrum of measures to protect refugees, displaced persons and migrants, and to prevent forced migration. Switzerland played a key role in shaping the content of the declaration. However, the Summit is merely a milestone in a long process, which is set to result in a Global Compact on Migration by 2018. 

UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants: the international community's responsibility – Switzerland's commitment, article

Switzerland’s engagement on the ground

In the area of migration, Switzerland’s engagement in 2016 centred on preventing forced displacement, protecting local populations and promoting the economic and social autonomy of displaced people. Switzerland deployed various international cooperation instruments to counteract the causes of population displacement. Through a financial contribution to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), it supported projects to prevent conflicts and to tackle the causes of conflict in fragile contexts.

United Nations Development Programme

The SDC also funds partner organisations whose activities in crisis-hit regions include protecting refugees and displaced persons, above all the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). In many places, these partners were assisted by experts from the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA). The close involvement of local populations has consistently proven to be a key success factor to diffuse tensions and to help ensure social integration. For example, the SDC supported host families in first countries of asylum, who accommodated refugees in their own homes.   

The ultimate goal of many refugees and displaced persons is to return home safely. But according to the UNHCR, the average amount of time that refugees are uprooted from their lives is 17 years. By more systematically linking humanitarian operations with development instruments, their social and economic independence is to be promoted. For example, last year Switzerland launched a new start-up and training programme in the water sector. The programme aims to create jobs for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, train specialists and promote entrepreneurial solutions to water issues. In Sudan, the SDC has helped build economic prospects for peasant farmers displaced by war.

UNHCR - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Farmers displaced by the conflict acquire a business perspective, project SDC

Migration and implementation of the 2030 Agenda

Like the New York Declaration, the 2030 Agenda also underscores the important role migration plays in sustainable development. Some 150 million migrant workers worldwide play a crucial role. Through their labour, their innovation and their entrepreneurship, they are instrumental to economic progress in many societies. However, they are often exposed to unscrupulous labour brokers who violate their human and employment rights and charge them exorbitant costs just to take up a job abroad. 

Switzerland is therefore committed to ensuring better basic conditions for migrant workers. For example, together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) a certification process for employment agencies was developed in 2016 and is being launched in 2017.

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Economic migration – establishing decent working conditions

International Organization for Migration - IOM