Switzerland has set new priorities with its 2017–2020 Dispatch.

2016 was a year shaped by crisis and conflict, which presented major challenges to the international community. The new Dispatch 2017–2020 gives Switzerland the means to continue to make an effective and sustainable contribution. 

Switzerland and the international community faced a turbulent global environment in 2016. Just a year after the UN’s 2030 Agenda was adopted, there was growing critical and in some cases populist sentiment, which increasingly called into question the liberal world order and the multilateral system of cooperation. Many countries saw a rise in nationalism. Movements that rebelled against open borders and open societies gained more political influence in 2016. An increasing number of countries appeared to become more inward-looking, shifting their focus back to domestic policy interests. 

The reasons for this are many and varied, but in particular include long-term weak economic growth, rising inequality in society and a growing sense of precariousness among the population. Ongoing conflicts, such as those in Syria and the Middle East, Ukraine and the Horn of Africa, as well as geopolitical tensions, created widespread economic and political insecurity in 2016. 

For many, it became apparent for the first time that the willingness of the international community to cooperate was seriously at risk – therefore also jeopardising joint efforts to develop sustainable solutions to combat poverty, crises and conflicts. With its Dispatch 2017–2020, Switzerland reaffirms its commitment to international cooperation to contribute to solutions and sends out a clear signal against isolationism. 

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Fragile contexts: a long-term commitment

If the trends of 2016 continue, it is the world’s poorest who will suffer most. An increasing number of these people already live in countries where government structures are largely lacking or weakened due to internal conflicts. The focus of Switzerland’s international cooperation is therefore on fighting poverty in such fragile contexts. The particularly tough challenges involved require a strategy and innovative approaches that link Switzerland’s humanitarian commitment even better and more effectively with its development cooperation and peacebuilding efforts. 

This aspiration also underpins the new Dispatch on Switzerland‘s International Cooperation 2017-2020. Following lively debates in the National Council and Council of States, Parliament adopted the new dispatch in autumn 2016. This also marked the start of the implementation phase. For the first time, the Human Security Division (HSD) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) is involved alongside the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). With the Dispatch 2017-2020, Switzerland is demonstrating a clear commitment for the next four years:  “For a world without poverty and in peace, for sustainable development”. 

Human Security Division FDFA

Strategic priorities for a better future

In the Dispatch 2017–2020, the top priority of Switzerland’s international cooperation remains the fight against poverty. The Dispatch sets out strategic priorities, which reflect the current development policy challenges on the one hand, and which are designed to further emphasise Switzerland’s core competencies in international cooperation on the other.  

Dispatch on Switzerland's International Cooperation 2017–2020

Increased commitment in the area of migration

When adopting the Dispatch, Parliament ruled that international cooperation should be better linked to Switzerland’s migration policy. This is intended to prevent the human tragedies that befell so many refugees and asylum seekers in 2016. In future, international cooperation and migration policy is to be connected where this is of mutual interest to Switzerland and its partner countries and where refugees themselves can be protected.


Drawing on lessons learned

Gauging the effectiveness and assessing the impact of international cooperation efforts have been among Switzerland’s key priorities for some years. During the Dispatch 2017-2020 period, they are set to become even more important. This was another concern of Parliament when it adopted the dispatch in autumn 2016. Impact assessments will be further strengthened by setting objectives using relevant reference indicators. 

International cooperation often takes place in difficult contexts. Systematic and comprehensive evaluation and impact assessment are essential, even in these circumstances, as they allow Switzerland and its partners to identify partial successes and failures and to take corrective action where necessary. This enables the SDC, SECO and the HSD not only to increase the credibility of their work, but also to draw on lessons learned to perform better in the years ahead and in the most difficult contexts, and to continue their efforts to build a fairer and more peaceful world. 

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