Switzerland

Switzerland is a key multilateral player with a strong humanitarian tradition and a commitment to addressing fragility. Multilateral organisations and civil society organisations (CSOs) are its main implementing partners. Total official development assistance (ODA) (USD 3.9 billion, preliminary data) increased slightly in 2021, representing 0.51% of gross national income (GNI). ODA increases exceeded COVID-19 vaccine donations.

Find the methodological notes behind the profile here.

Switzerland’s International Cooperation Strategy 2021-24 identifies four thematic priorities: 1) creating decent local jobs; 2) addressing climate change; 3) reducing the causes of forced and irregular migration; and 4) promoting the rule of law, building on its extensive multilateral and humanitarian experience. Within this new strategy, Switzerland is planning to focus more its programmes on Asia, Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Switzerland sees its multilateral engagement as an important pillar of its development co-operation to address global and regional development challenges, including climate change, fragility, emergency relief, and the integration of developing countries into the global economy. Switzerland uses multilateral partnerships particularly for delivering emergency relief and to encourage more pro-climate private sector investment in developing countries.

The OECD-DAC mid-term review conducted in 2022 recognised Switzerland’s efforts to increase the focus of its bilateral co-operation by reducing the number of priority partner countries, as well as Switzerland’s strong commitment to gender equality and governance. It encouraged Switzerland to continue efforts to safeguard the focus of its ODA on poverty reduction and sustainable development, clarify its strategies for engaging civil society, and communication with the public. It also encouraged Switzerland further pursue efforts towards coherent policies for sustainable development. Learn more about Switzerland’s 2019 DAC peer review.

Switzerland provided USD 3.9 billion (preliminary data) of ODA in 2021,1 representing 0.51% of GNI. This was an increase of 5.99% in real terms in volume and an increase in share of GNI from 2020. Switzerland’s ODA budget had been declining since its peak in 2016, but increased again in 2020. Switzerland is line with its domestic objective of a 0.46% ODA/GNI ratio over 2021-24, but below international commitments to achieve a 0.7% ODA/GNI ratio by 2030. Within Switzerland’s ODA portfolio in 2020, 93.1% was provided in the form of grants and 6.9% in the form of non-grants.2

Switzerland ranked eigth among Development Assistance Committee (DAC) member countries in relation to its ODA/GNI ratio in 2021. In addition to its strong humanitarian tradition, Switzerland allocates high levels of its bilateral ODA to humanitarian assistance (20.3% in 2020). Switzerland is among the DAC members that channelled the highest share of its bilateral ODA support to and through CSOs in 2020 (39.6%).

Switzerland is committed to several international targets and Development Assistance Committee standards and recommendations. Learn more about DAC recommendations.

Switzerland provided most of its ODA bilaterally in 2020. Gross bilateral ODA was 76.9% of total ODA. Twenty-five per cent of gross bilateral ODA was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions). Switzerland allocated 23.1% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2020, Switzerland provided USD 593.3 million of gross bilateral ODA for the COVID-19 response, representing 20.6% of its total gross bilateral ODA. Less than 1% of total gross bilateral ODA was provided as health expenditure within the COVID-19 response.

In 2020, Switzerland provided USD 1.6 billion of gross ODA to the multilateral system, an increase of 5.8% in real terms from 2019. Of this, USD 868.5 million was core multilateral ODA, while non-core contributions were earmarked for a specific country, region, theme or purpose. Project-type funding that is earmarked for a specific theme and/or country accounted for 31.4% of Switzerland’s non-core contributions and 68.6% was programmatic funding (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

Seventy-three per cent of Switzerland’s total contributions to multilateral organisations in 2020 was allocated to the World Bank Group and the United Nations (UN) system.

The UN system received 45.8% of Switzerland’s gross ODA to the multilateral system, mainly through earmarked contributions. Out of a total volume of USD 731.5 million to the UN system, the top three UN recipients of Switzerland’s support (core and earmarked contributions) were: the UNDP (USD 130.1 million), the WFP (USD 95.9 million) and UNICEF (USD 59.6 million).

See the section on Geographic and sectoral focus of ODA for the breakdown of bilateral allocations, including ODA earmarked through the multilateral development system. Learn more about multilateral development finance.

In 2020, Switzerland’s bilateral spending increased compared to the previous year. It provided USD 2.9 billion of gross bilateral ODA (which includes earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations). This represented an increase of 13.3% in real terms from 2019. In 2020, Switzerland focused most of its bilateral ODA on addressing the peace, gender equality, poverty and inequality goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

In 2020, country programmable aid was 37.9% of Switzerland’s gross bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 47.9%. In-donor refugee costs were USD 322.9 million in 2020, an increase of 8.1% in real terms over 2019, and represented 8.6% of Switzerland’s total gross ODA.

In 2020, Switzerland channelled bilateral ODA mainly through CSOs and the public sector. Technical co-operation made up 1.9% of gross ODA in 2020.

In 2020, CSOs received USD 1.1 billion of gross bilateral ODA. Ten per cent of gross bilateral ODA was allocated to CSOs as core contributions and 29.7% was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by the donor (earmarked funding). From 2019 to 2020, the combined core and earmarked contributions for CSOs increased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 34.7% to 39.6%. Learn more about ODA allocations to and through CSOs, civil society engagement in development co-operation, and the DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid.

In 2020, Switzerland’s bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Africa and Asia. USD 647.8 million was allocated to Africa and USD 389.0 million to Asia, accounting respectively for 22.5% and 13.5% of gross bilateral ODA. USD 187.3 million was allocated to ODA-eligible countries in Europe. Switzerland’s International Cooperation Strategy 2021-24 is to progressively move out of Latin America and the Caribbean as well as Mongolia. Asia and Africa were the main regional recipients of Switzerland’s earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations, in line with the policy priorities of its overall strategy.

In 2020, 14.1% of gross bilateral ODA went to Switzerland’s top 10 recipients. Its top 10 recipients are priority and/or fragile countries, notably in West Africa and Asia. The share of gross bilateral ODA that was not allocated by country was 50.1%, mainly due to expenditure for in-donor refugees.

In 2020, least developed countries (LDCs) received 22.5% of Switzerland’s gross bilateral ODA (USD 648.7 million). This is slightly below the DAC country average of 24.4%. Seventeen per cent was allocated to lower middle-income countries, noting that 50.1% was unallocated by income group.

Support to fragile contexts reached USD 801.1 million in 2020, representing 27.8% of Switzerland’s gross bilateral ODA. Twenty-four per cent of this ODA was provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, decreasing from 24.4% in 2019, while 17.4% was allocated to peace, an increase from 15.9% in 2019. Four per cent went to conflict prevention, a subset of contributions to peace, representing an increase from 3.3% in 2019.

Learn more about support to fragile contexts on the States of Fragility platform.

In 2020, social infrastructure and services was the largest focus of bilateral ODA. Investments in this area accounted for 40.6% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 1.2 billion), with a strong focus on support to government and civil society (USD 514.9 million), health (USD 358.3 million), and education (USD 135.3 million). ODA for other macro sectors totalled USD 766.0 million, with a focus on refugees and asylum seekers in Switzerland (USD 322.9 million). Bilateral humanitarian assistance amounted to USD 616.3 million (20.3% of bilateral ODA). Earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations focused primarily on social sectors in 2020.

In 2020, Switzerland committed USD 16.3 million of bilateral ODA to the mobilisation of domestic resources in developing countries, amounting to 0.7% of its bilateral allocable aid. Switzerland also committed USD 420.2 million (16.8% of its bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries’ trade performance and integration into the world economy in 2020.

In 2020, Switzerland committed 54.9% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment, as either a principal or significant objective (down from 58.1% in 2019),3 compared with the 2020 DAC country average of 44.6%. This is equal to USD 1.2 billion of bilateral ODA in support of gender equality. The share of screened bilateral allocable aid committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment as a principal objective was 5%, compared with the 2020 DAC country average of 4.8%. A significantly high share of interventions for population and reproductive health, production, education, and other social sectors address gender equality. Switzerland screens most activities against the DAC gender equality policy marker (89.4% in 2020). Learn more about ODA focused on gender equality, the DAC Network on Gender Equality and the DAC Recommendation on Ending Sexual Exploitation in Development Co-operation.

In 2020, Switzerland committed 24.2% of its total bilateral allocable aid (USD 599.8 million) in support of the environment and the Rio Conventions (the DAC country average was 38.8%), down from 24.5% in 2019. Five per cent of screened bilateral allocable aid in 2020 focused on environmental issues as a principal objective, compared with the DAC country average of 10.8%. Eighteen per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 457.3 million) focused on climate change overall, down from 20.9% in 2019 (the DAC country average was 34%). Switzerland had a greater focus on adaptation (17.2%) than on mitigation (12.4%) in 2020. Learn more about climate-related development finance and the DAC Declaration on Aligning Development Co-operation with the Goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Switzerland provides resource flows to developing countries beyond ODA and makes use of leveraging instruments to mobilise private finance for development.

Switzerland uses its ODA and other official development finance to mobilise private finance for development. In 2020, the Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) mobilised USD 33.9 million from the private sector through shares in collective investment vehicles and simple co-financing.

A share of 24% targeted middle-income countries, noting that 76% was unallocated by income.

Private finance mobilised by Switzerland in 2020 related mainly to activities in the industry, mining and construction (76%); trade (9%); and agriculture, forestry and fishing (6%) sectors. Moreover, 20% of Switzerland’s total private finance mobilised was for climate change mitigation and/or adaptation.

Learn more about the amounts mobilised from the private sector for development.

Three institutions share responsibility for Switzerland’s development co-operation: the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC); the Division of Peace and Human Rights (HSD) within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs; and the Economic Co-operation and Development Division of SECO within the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research. Every four years, the Swiss parliament adopts its Dispatch on International Co-operation, which sets strategic objectives for the country’s development and humanitarian assistance. The latest dispatch was approved in 2020, for the period 2021-2024. A “Fit for Purpose” restructuring process is ongoing within the SDC, with a new organisational structure expected by September 2022. The Swiss Federal Audit Office regularly assesses aspects of Swiss co-operation, for instance, it published a report on the sustainability on SDC interventions at the end of 2020.

Switzerland has a consultative and consensus-based system of government, and the preparation of the Strategy for 2021-24 involved broad public consultation. Several CSOs active in development co-operation, humanitarian assistance and global citizenship education co-ordinate through the umbrella body Alliance Sud.

Internal systems and processes help ensure the effective delivery of Switzerland’s development co-operation. Select features are shown in Features of Switzerland’s systems for quality and oversight.

Explore the Monitoring Dashboard of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate for Development and Cooperation: https://www.eda.admin.ch/sdc

State Secretary for Economic Affairs: https://www.seco.admin.ch/seco/en/home/Aussenwirtschaftspolitik_Wirtschaftliche_Zusammenarbeit/Wirtschaftliche_Zusammenarbeit_Entwicklung.html

CSO umbrella organisation Alliance Sud: https://www.alliancesud.ch/en

Switzerland’s practices on the Development Co-operation TIPs: Tools Insights Practices learning platform: https://www.oecd.org/development-cooperation-learning?tag-key+partner=switzerland#search

Member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee since 1968.

The methodological notes provide further details on the definitions and statistical methodologies applied, including the grant-equivalent methodology, core and earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations, country programmable aid, channels of delivery, bilateral ODA unspecified/unallocated, bilateral allocable aid, the gender equality policy marker, and the environment markers.

Notes

← 1. DAC members adopted the grant-equivalent methodology starting from their reporting of 2018 data as a more accurate way to count the donor effort in development loans. See the methodological notes for further details.

← 2. Non-grants include sovereign loans, multilateral loans, equity investment and loans to the private sector.

← 3. The use of the recommended minimum criteria for the marker by some members in recent years can result in lower levels of aid reported as being focused on gender equality.

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