Swiss aid ‘too focused on stopping migration’

Aid on its way to Indonesia, hit by an earthquake and tsunami, in October 2018 © Keystone / Anthony Anex

Switzerland’s development aid should concentrate more on the needs of its partner countries and less on stopping migration, says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This content was published on April 5, 2019 - 12:02

Overall, Switzerland was a strong and reliable development partnerExternal link, and made its voice heard internationally on issues such as water, climate change and health, said the OECD on Friday in its peer review of cooperation work for SwitzerlandExternal link, which is undertaken every five years. 

+ Read what the OECD said in the last review

Development co-operation is an instrument of Switzerland’s international economic and foreign policies and must serve national interests as well as development challenges, the organisation noted in the review, which was presented to the media in Bern.

But the programme was under “increasing pressure to limit irregular migration to Switzerland, with some discussions on granting support on the condition that partner countries adjust their migration policies”.

“A programme that focuses on preventing migration to Switzerland at the expense of supporting partner countries’ priorities for long-term sustainable development could lead to reputational risk for Switzerland: the country’s renowned neutrality may be at risk, diminishing its influence on global policy,” the peer review said.

Changes ahead

The report comes as Switzerland prepares to make some changes to its international cooperation for 2021-2024.

Under the main points that have already been made public by the Federal Ministry for Foreign AffairsExternal link (FDFA) – the full dispatch is still being drawn up – “efforts will also be made to consolidate strategic links between migration policy and international cooperation”.

In addition, the geographic focus will be on four regions: Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe. Switzerland will pull out of Latin America and East Asia. 

Poverty reduction and human security will gain greater emphasis, as will "economic issues and harnessing the potential of the private sector more effectively".

The OECD peer review welcomed the move to reduce the number of regions and topics covered.

But it said that Switzerland could live up to its commitment of 2011 to invest at least 0.5% of Gross National Income in overseas development aid. The goal was kept for 2014-2016, but for 2017 it was 0.46%.

The OECD's Susanna Moorehead, who was in Bern for the press conference, said that it was hoped that the OECD recommendations would find their way into the Swiss dispatch.

For his part, Manuel Sager, the head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), underlined that it was not planned to make development aid dependent on a country's management of migration.

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