International cooperation

SDC: new structure for modern development cooperation

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation will align its activities with the fields of action of modern international cooperation and adapt its organisational structure over the next year. The SDC's new structure will become operational in autumn 2022 and be completed by summer 2023. The implementation of the International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24 will remain unchanged.

The impacts of climate change know no geographical boundaries. They affect the global population as a whole and are felt particularly keenly where people's livelihoods depend directly on the natural environment. Climate change leads to poverty, hunger and natural disasters. © Keystone

Flooding, famine, war – the international community is facing a wide range of challenges. Meeting these challenges and achieving the ambitious goals of the 2030 Agenda together requires modern international cooperation supported by a diverse range of instruments and broad expertise in a variety of priority areas.

Switzerland has a long tradition of international development cooperation and enjoys a high reputation as a reliable partner. To ensure that this continues into the future, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is restructuring itself. The aim is to structurally align the SDC in such a way that it can fulfil its mandate efficiently and with greater impact in line with current requirements for increasingly complex and networked international cooperation. "We must learn how to convey what international cooperation is about today. Today's international cooperation is not what it was 30 years ago. The world has changed and with it, communication. We now share a common language at international level: the 2030 Agenda. Countries have other concerns; they need a response tailored to their own needs, which differ from those of donor countries," explains SDC Director General Patricia Danzi in this interview.  (“How to talk about international cooperation today").

Flat hierarchy, extensive networking and greater responsibility

The planned overhaul of the SDC's organisational structure will not only involve adjustments to the organisational chart, but also a review of processes and responsibilities. The aim is to reduce hierarchical levels and give specialists more responsibility. The focus will be on aligning the organisation with the task performance processes in the external network and at head office.

Countries have other concerns; they need a response tailored to their own needs, which differ from those of donor countries.
Patricia Danzi, SDC Director General

Both the SDC's senior management and staff have contributed to developing the new organisational structure. "Internally, all SDC staff were involved in a stocktaking process to elucidate what we can do to improve our work. We need to make our instruments interact with each other even better and deploy them in a more coordinated way. This includes getting people to interact better, between Bern and the cooperation offices around the world, which are essential for a continuous reality-checking process. Communication – within the SDC and with Parliament, the public and partners – will play an increasingly crucial role," notes Patricia Danzi.

Three geographical, one thematic and one multilateral division

The alignment with the external network will result in closer collaboration between humanitarian aid and development cooperation and increased integration of thematic expertise. It will also streamline processes and increase efficiency. Switzerland will also bring its experience in project implementation to the thematic and multilateral dialogue in order to influence international norms and policies and increase their impact on sustainable development through the multilateral leveraging of resources. 

Communication – within the SDC and with Parliament, the public and partners – will play an increasingly crucial role.
Patricia Danzi, SDC Director General

In concrete terms, this means that the SDC will be structured into three geographical divisions, one thematic division and one multilateral division. The seven sections of the thematic division correspond to the priority themes of the International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24. The tasks of the Staff Office of the Directorate will be grouped together in the Policy + Support Division. Swiss Humanitarian Aid will continue to be run as an autonomous division. The Federal Council delegate for Swiss Humanitarian Aid will also serve as deputy director general and head the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA).

Transfer mandate and personnel changes

The SDC's new structure is expected to be operational from autumn 2022 and the restructuring process to be completed by summer 2023. The structural reorganisation will also involve staff transfers. The precise composition of the organisational units has not yet been finalised. Most SDC personnel are transferable staff whose diplomatic activities require a change of post about every four years. The high flexibility and strong commitment of SDC staff is one of the great strengths of Switzerland's international cooperation.

The SDC's mandate remains unchanged. The restructuring of the SDC will be cost-neutral and will therefore not result in any additional costs. The main goal of the increased efficiency is to improve the effectiveness of Swiss international cooperation on behalf of people in poverty and need.

Overview of the SDC

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) implements the Federal Council's foreign policy on humanitarian aid, development cooperation and cooperation with Eastern Europe and also at multilateral level. For the period 2021–24, Switzerland's international cooperation pursues four strategic goals that address development challenges and build on Switzerland's unique expertise. (Further information on Switzerland's international cooperation)

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