Parliament has decided to boost Switzerland’s development aid contributions by SFr640 million ($690 million) over the next two years.
On Monday the House of Representatives followed the Senate increasing aid payments to 0.5 per cent of gross national income (GNI) by 2015.
The additional funds will go towards the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) as well as to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco).
The decisions came on the first day of the regular three-week spring session of parliament.
Members of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party argued unsuccessfully that the money was wasted.
“I wonder how much more money we want to throw out before we admit that it’s money squandered,“ said Christoph Mörgeli.
Supporters mainly from centre-left and centre-right parties, as well as the government, said Switzerland as a rich country had a moral obligation to help people in need and those without access to drinking water.
“In Swiss interest”
Both Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said an increase in development aid was also in the interest of Switzerland.
“It can help give people job opportunities in their countries and ease the pressure to emigrate. Poverty is also at the root of insecurity and conflicts as the recent examples in North Africa have shown,” Calmy-Rey said.
However, proposals for a more limited as well as for a much bigger increase were dismissed by the parliamentarians.
Switzerland currently spends 0.4 per cent of GNI on development aid, falling short of the 0.7 per target of the United Nations Millennium Project.
Alliance Sud, an alliance of development aid organisations, welcomed the the parliamentary decision.
"Switzerland has made a step towards living up to repeated international promises," a statement said.
Four years ago some 70 groups collected more than 200,000 signatures for a petition calling for the millennium goals to be implemented by Switzerland.
Millennium Development Goals
All 192 UN member states, including Switzerland, and at least 23 international organisations have agreed to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015.
They include eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as Aids, and developing a global partnership for development.end of infobox