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Hard times Political hurdles risk undermining Swiss aid groups

Sea of red candles with person wearing black

Swiss NGOs involved in development aid projects abroad struggle under pressure from politicians and a complex application system. 

(Keystone/Lukas Lehmann)

Development aid organisations in Switzerland say they face increasing financial and political pressure to fund their activities.

Alliance Sudexternal link, made up of ten major Swiss organisations, said competition from foreign groups and calls by politicians to cut spending on aid projects made it difficult.

“Mandates by the [foreign ministry’s] Swiss Agency for Development and Corporation (SDC) are open for international aid groups, but the European Union only accepts offers from groups from EU countries,” Alliance Sud director Mark Herkenrath told German-language public radio, SRFexternal link.

Catholic charity Caritas criticised that it had become more and more complex and costly to apply for SDC mandates.

Its counterpart from the Protestant churches, HEKS, added that the overall conditions had deteriorated, notably as result of “massive criticism which is quite unfounded, in our view”, according to a spokesman.

The group recently announced it had withdrawn from two countries and dismissed six employees.

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party last year mooted plans to cut spending on development aid and use the money to shore up the state’s old-age pension scheme. Reaffirming its proposal in January, the People’s Party said it was considering launching a people’s initiative.

swissinfo.ch with SRF/ug

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