This is Thao. He lives in Asia, under poor conditions. To make a living, Thao wants to open up a small snack bar. But to do that he needs a permit from the authorities, which is hard to get. Thao doesn't have the necessary information, so he keeps getting sent from one office to another and doesn't appear to be getting anywhere. Just as he seems to have found the right place at last, Thao isn't allowed in. If he wants the counter to open for him, he has to pay – money that he doesn’t have. Thao is disheartened and anxious. He feels powerless.
This is where the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC comes in. It works to improve the lives of poor and marginalised people through better governance. The SDC empowers marginalised groups in particular to exercise their rights. It supports civil society organisations that can help people like Thao. So that he can get the information he needs and they can work together to make their voices heard.
The SDC also supports the media in their role to take up public concerns and expose corruption and the abuse of power. This makes Thao and his organisation stronger. If nevertheless nothing changes, they have the option to take legal action. For this to happen, the SDC is committed to ensuring access to an independent and professional judiciary – for poor and marginalised people, too. It supports legal advisory bodies and courts so that cases aren't put off indefinitely.
In addition, the SDC works to ensure that effective authorities are in place and take the needs of poorer populations into consideration. They do this by training and advising decentralised authorities, which are more aware of the community’s needs and more accessible for local people. To make sure that local authorities have the required competence and funds they need, the SDC supports decentralisation reforms.
But it is also important that the local authorities respond to the concerns of the community. To this end, the SDC promotes tools that include citizens in decision-making. Parliaments are tasked with checking what the authorities do and creating legal frameworks, such as frameworks to make it easier for people to set up small businesses like Thao’s snack bar. This is another area where the SDC is active, helping to improve how national and local parliaments perform via training courses, consultations and the exchange of experiences with other peers.
If Thao thinks that the authorities are still not working satisfactorily and he doesn't feel properly represented by his MP he can vote for someone else in the next election. The SDC is also committed to fair and transparent elections. That’s why it promotes initiatives aimed at providing the public with balanced information and supports the electoral authorities in preparing and holding elections correctly.
All of these elements make up good governance. Although you need technical expertise to achieve this, changing existing practices and imbalanced power structures is just as important. The SDC ensures that its activities are well-informed by policy, builds on existing initiatives and provides long-term support.
Switzerland’s engagement has helped improve Thao’s living conditions and he doesn't feel as powerless any more. Now he can see new opportunities and possibilities for his future.
SDC – Switzerland taking action.