Catholic charity Caritas has announced that it will close offices in five out of the 20 countries in which it operates in the coming months. The reason: an expected shortfall in funding.
The countries affected are Bangladesh, India, Kenya, the Palestinian Territories and Colombia. There will be no job cuts. But some employees will be reassigned to duties in other countries, Caritas said in a statementexternal link on Friday. This will allow the charity to work more “effectively and efficiently” in other countries.
Caritas also wants to “consistently” implement aid in Indonesia and Mozambique as well as for the Venezuela crisis in Colombia and Brazil and aims to continue its support to countries affected by disasters.
The move comes at a time of change in development cooperation. At the beginning of May, the Federal Council (executive body) announced that it wanted to shake-up Switzerland’s international development strategy. This included narrowing its focus 34 countries instead of 44.
The proposed international cooperation strategyexternal link for 2021-2024 is currently being discussed by relevant partners before approval by parliament in early 2020.
Caritas expects the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC)’s budget for the main external charities – who often carry out projects in the field in collaboration with the SDC – to be slashed by CHF2.5 million. The charity said it was carrying out the new measures to be proactive about the changes ahead.
Earlier this year, ten Swiss non-governmental organisations received a letterexternal link from the European Union saying that they were no longer eligible for EU humanitarian aid fundingexternal link. Aid agencies in non-member Switzerland had previously received the funds due to the strong Swiss-EU bilateral ties. However, Caritas said that the shortfall here would be manageable.
The ten organisations pointed out in March that they were facing increasing financial and political pressure to fund their activities. Caritas’ Protestant counterpart, HEKS, has already said external linkthat it is withdrawing from two countries and would dismiss six employees.
Caritas nevertheless described its finances as in a good state, especially thanks to private donations, which have increased over the past years.