Addressing the Conference, which was held at the BERNEXPO, Didier Burkhalter noted that the efforts of the international community in the area of development cooperation are bearing fruit and producing concrete results. He went on to cite tangible examples of the progress that has been achieved, including the reduction in the mortality rate among pregnant women and children in all regions of the world during the past few years, the improvement in the rate of children attending school especially in Africa and Asia, the reduction in the number of HIV infections, and improved access to drinking water, in line with the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations.
Federal Councillor Burkhalter emphasised the vital and innovative contribution Switzerland is making to these improvements through the programmes implemented by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). He also underscored the key role played by this commitment in strengthening Switzerland’s economic foreign policy.
In his address, Didier Burkhalter also underscored the importance of assuring the effectiveness of aid provided by Switzerland, as well as the necessity to cast a critical eye on this commitment in order to draw lessons from it and continually improve it. In his view, development cooperation has to continue to take place in areas in which Switzerland possesses the necessary expertise, e.g. education, healthcare, water supply, financing, promotion of the private sector.
In her address, state secretary and SECO director, Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, drew attention to the principle of Swiss cooperation. “We work on the principle of helping people help themselves,” she explained. “In the area of international cooperation, we do not simply give gifts - we support our partners’ own efforts. One of SECO’s main objectives is to help integrate Switzerland’s partner countries into the world economy and promote their sustainable growth.”
Martin Dahinden, director-general of the SDC, declared that there was now wide acceptance of the view that good projects are not sufficient on their own to permit development, adding that it was necessary to assign bigger roles to the partners concerned, namely governments and private organisations. This required, he said, improved coordination with other donors at both the bilateral and the multilateral level. He emphasised that cooperation can only be truly effective if commitments are long-term and predictable, and that here all donor countries need to take additional action.
Numerous experts also took the floor during the conference, including Catarina de Albuquerque, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, who spoke about the global risks associated with development cooperation.
Philippe Fayet, coordinator of the SDC cooperation office in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), illustrated the support provided by the SDC in Africa by describing a project involving a cattle market in the Fada N’Gourma district. This project, which is being financed and supported by Switzerland and brings together hundreds of cattle breeders and dealers each week, is a good example of how local development can yield major benefits.
Various representatives of SECO cited the example of Switzerland’s commitment in the area of fiscal and administrative reforms in Ghana. Thanks to Switzerland’s support, fiscal revenue rose from 12.7 to 18.8 percent of GDP in the period from 2002 to 2010, which increased Ghana’s capacity to self-finance its efforts to combat poverty.
It should be noted here that, in February 2011, Parliament resolved to increase Swiss development aid to 0.5 percent of gross national income by 2015. The main priorities of this objective have been formulated in the Dispatch concerning international cooperation in the period from 2013 to 2016 which is currently being debated in Parliament.Contact persons:
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