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International cooperation UN expert fears creeping isolationism in Switzerland

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There are fears that Switzerland is distancing itself from former sustainable development policies.

(© Keystone / Anthony Anex)

A senior UN official has warned that Switzerland’s new policies on international cooperation could “clash with some of its obligations under the 2030 sustainable development agenda”.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to development, Saad Alfarargi, gave his views on Switzerland's stated goalsexternal link in this area for the period 2021-2024. Switzerland says it plans to rationalise its international cooperation with some changes of priority.

But during a visit to Switzerland on Wednesday, Alfarargi expressed fears that the new look policy may drive a wedge between the Swiss and global development targets.

"I am concerned that these new criteria show a shift in Switzerland's priorities. This shift has the potential to contradict Switzerland's international commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals," he saidexternal link.

"It is also worrying that the government is planning to reduce its rate of development aid between 2021 and 2024. I appeal to Switzerland to honour its commitment to allocate 0.7% of its gross national product to official development assistance.” Alfarargi said this was at odds with Switzerland’s “excellent reputation” on international cooperation.

In April, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) criticised Switzerland’s new international cooperation goals for focusing too much on limiting migration.

Alfarargi was at the end of a ten-day visit to Switzerland to learn more about how the alpine nation applies its development policy domesticallyexternal link. He praised Switzerland’s record of integrating young migrants and refugees into the education system and for initiatives aimed at reducing gender pay inequality.

But he said more could be done to integrate children with disabilities into the education system and noted that few women can be found in management positions in Swiss companies.

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