Peace promotion, humanitarian aid and sustainable urban planning are new components of Switzerland's strategy on cooperation with Ukraine for the period from 2015 to 2018. In addition Switzerland plans to build on tried and tested elements of its support in the areas of healthcare, decentralisation, energy efficiency and the private sector.
Switzerland's new strategy on cooperation with Ukraine for 2015–2018 continues its engagement in the country to date and at the same time expands its field of activity. The new dimensions respond to two central developments: the change in the situation as a result of the armed conflict in the country and the government's efforts to carry out reforms.
The activities planned in each of Switzerland's four areas of activity thus respond to the conflict and its consequences. They will be carried out, as before, by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the FDFA and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER). In addition, the Human Security Division (HSD) of the FDFA and Swiss Humanitarian Aid, part of the SDC, will now participate in implementing the strategy:
Governance and peacebuilding
A peacebuilding dimension will now be added to Switzerland's support for local governance and decentralisation.
The SDC, which has been active for more than 10 years in the field of maternal and child health, will now extend its activities to include promoting primary healthcare and preventing non-communicable diseases, in particular in communities affected by the conflict.
Energy and sustainable urban development
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs' engagement in the field of energy efficiency will now include promoting sustainable urban planning.
Sustainable economic development
The strategy will further pursue and strengthen Swiss support for the private sector, in particular by helping to create a better environment for business and finance and by promoting small and medium-sized enterprises.
Two new Swiss actors
New Swiss actors will be involved in developing and implementing the new cooperation strategy programme: In addition the SDC and SECO, which have been active in Ukraine for more than 15 years, the Human Security Division (HSD) and Swiss Humanitarian Aid will supplement Switzerland's activities in Ukraine.
The HSD will focus primarily on the conflict situation in the east of the country to continue the efforts Switzerland undertook during its chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). In addition to various bilateral projects Switzerland plans to step up its participation in the OSCE's monitoring. It will aim to improve relations between the conflicting parties, promote respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, and strengthen the key political processes needed to resolve the conflict
Swiss Humanitarian Aid is responding to the humanitarian situation and has given funding to the activities of organisations such as the ICRC, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Swiss cooperation office in Kyiv will also be provided with additional staff and its budget will be substantially increased from CHF 57 million for the 2011–2014 period to almost CHF 100 million for 2015–2018. SECO remains the largest contributor to Switzerland's cooperation programme in Ukraine.
Support for the most vulnerable groups
Switzerland's involvement will be neutral and impartial and will be strengthened in those regions directly affected by the conflict and/or those with a large number of displaced persons. It will aim to support the development of the country, including the poor, the most disadvantaged and minority groups.
Switzerland's new strategy on cooperation with Ukraine for 2015–2018 has been developed in the context of the current turbulent socio-political and geostrategic context. The annexation of Crimea in violation of international law in spring 2014 and the outbreak of armed conflict in the Donbass region are two factors behind the internal and international tensions. Large numbers of people have been forced to find refuge in other parts of the country. Ukrainian society has polarised and poverty is increasing.
This is all taking place against the backdrop of a major economic crisis involving a dramatic fall-off in industrial production and the devaluation of the national currency, which has lost half its value in one year. These are just two indicators of the extent of the economic collapse under way.
Urgent reform needed
The armed conflict and its economic consequences, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and other agencies have provided massive financial support to overcome, have made clear the urgent need for the country to restore its finances and carry out radical and rapid structural reforms.
Under pressure from western creditors and the domestic reformist movement the Kyiv government has undertaken first steps to reorganise the power structure, the economy and the workings of the state.
Building a new system
This situation has presented Ukraine with an enormous challenge but also an opportunity to make major decisions on the direction of a new, more modern and efficient system, one based on the principles of the rule of law and market economics, democracy and transparency that will put an end to corruption which is one of the main problems of contemporary Ukrainian society. For the lenders, this necessary reorientation offers an opportunity to contribute to the development of the country through supporting its strategic priorities.