Last updated: January 27, 2024
In 2022, Switzerland provided US$4.5 billion in total ODA according to the OECD’s preliminary figures. By volume, Switzerland ranked 11th among DAC donors. Switzerland’s ODA/GNI ratio in 2022 was 0.56%, ranking 9th in terms of prioritization of ODA.
Between 2018-2022 Switzerland’s total ODA increased by 37%, driven by a surge in IDRCs.
When excluding IDRCs, support to Ukraine, and vaccine dose donations, Switzerland’s ODA decreased from US$3.5 billion in 2021 to US$3 billion in 2022. In the draft of its 2025-2028 Strategy on Development Cooperation, Switzerland planned to provide CHF1.6 billion (US$1.8 billion) in support to Ukraine. This funding competes with other funding for international development cooperation and is expected to result in future trade-offs. The ODA/GNI ratio for 2025-2028 is estimated at 0.36%, excluding IDRCs.
In 2021, Switzerland allocated 53% of its ODA bilaterally, well above the DAC average of 43%. Switzerland’s 2021-2024 Strategy on International Development Cooperation aimed for a 40/60 split between multilateral and bilateral development cooperation. Swiss civil society generally favors bilateral cooperation, as many CSOs also implement bilateral programs supported by public funding. However, this focus can sometimes challenge efforts for an increase in multilateral funding.
Swiss bilateral ODA for humanitarian assistance decreased by 39% between 2020 and 2021, while spending on health and populations rose by 67% during the same period. Funding for government and civil society and refugees in donor countries increased between 2020 and 2021, and donor administration costs remained stable.
Switzerland recognizes the goal to invest 0.2% of its GNI in LICs. However, progress toward this quota has stagnated between 0.13-0.14% in the past years.
Switzerland's 2021-2024 Strategy on Development Cooperation highlights four priority regions for bilateral development cooperation, namely
- North Africa and the Middle East;
- Sub-Saharan Africa;
- Central, South and South-East Asia; and
- Eastern Europe.
Within those regions, the FDFA aimed to reduce its partner countries from 46 to 35 by 2024. In 2021, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Nepal, Myanmar, and Ukraine were the top five recipients of Switzerland's bilateral ODA. The top 10 countries received 17% of Switzerland’s bilateral grant funding.
Switzerland’s ODA to core multilaterals by volume has increased yearly from 2017-2021, and funding as a percentage of ODA has remained stable around 24%. This value is significantly below the 2021 DAC average of 41%. Top recipients included the World Bank Group, UN agencies, and other multilateral institutions. In 2021, UNDP was the largest recipient among UN organizations, followed by UN Women, UNHCR, and UNFPA.
The Swiss parliament allocates the budget for international development cooperation every four years. For 2025-2028, Switzerland’s budget forecasts CHF11.5 billion (US$12.6 billion) for development cooperation. This is a minor increase from the 2021-2024 budget, which stood at CHF11.3 billion (US$12.3 billion). Support to Ukraine and climate change are priorities, set to receive CHF1.5 billion (US$1.6 billion) and CHF 1.6 billion (US$1.8 billion) accordingly. However, experts argue that the funding to Ukraine will likely cause trade-offs with long-term development programs and should come additional to funding for development cooperation.
Switzerland's government, known as the Federal Council, comprises seven members representing the main political parties. The political composition of the Council follows a 2:2:2:1 ratio, with the three major parties each having two seats, and the fourth having one. The current Federal Council consists of two members from each of the party ‘FDP.The Liberals,’ the Social Democratic Party, the SVP, and one from the Centre, a coalition of the Christian Democrat People's Party and the Conservative Democratic Party. Each federal councilor oversees a specific department. Ignazio Cassis from the FDP heads the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Aligned with Switzerland's consociational democracy, the Federal Council members must present cabinet decisions unanimously.
The seven members of the Federal Council are elected or re-elected every four years by the United Federal Assembly, Switzerland’s parliament. The Federal Assembly consists of two chambers, directly elected every four years. The last election took place on October 22, 2023.
Switzerland's development cooperation is overseen by three key institutions: the SDC, the HSD within the FDFA, and the Economic Cooperation and Development Division of the SECO within the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education, and Research. Additionally, the FOPH is responsible for global health policy, while global health is funded through SDC. Every four years, the Swiss parliament establishes strategic objectives for development and humanitarian assistance through its Dispatch on International Cooperation.
The 2023 elections resulted in a shift to the right for Switzerland’s government. The national-conservative SVP gained nine seats and holds the largest share of seats in parliament: 62 out of 200 seats. At the same time, the Green Party lost 5 seats and the Liberal Green party 6 seats. The Green party slipped below the 10% share of votes required to obtain a seat in the Federal Council.
Experts expect advocacy for global engagement, especially international climate finance, will become more difficult under the current government.
The abbrSDC within the FDFA is responsible for the coordination of Switzerland's development activities and cooperation and humanitarian assistance. Their thematic priorities include health, agriculture and food security, gender equality, and climate. The Division of Peace and Human Rights within the FDFA leads on policy around the promotion of peace and human rights.
In addition, the Economic Cooperation and Development Division of the SECO within the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education, and Research is involved in Switzerland's development policy. Its mandate is to support the creation of reliable economic framework conditions and innovative private-sector initiatives. Also, it defines Switzerland’s multilateral cooperation together with other federal agencies.
Switzerland’s International Cooperation Strategy 2021-24 identifies four thematic priorities:
- Contributing to sustainable economic growth, market development and the creation of decent jobs;
- Addressing climate change and its effects and managing natural resources sustainably;
- Saving lives, ensuring quality basic services, especially in relation to education and healthcare, and reducing the causes of forced displacement and irregular migration; and
- Promoting peace, the rule of law and gender equality.
As of January 2024, the 2025-2028 strategy was under development and subject to public consultation.
Additionally, the Swiss Health Foreign Policy 2019–2024 lists six priorities:
- Health protection and humanitarian crises;
- Access to medicine;
- Sustainable healthcare and digitalization;
- Health determinants;
- Governance of the global health regime; and
- Addiction policy.
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The Donor Tracker team, along with many DAC donor countries, no longer uses the term "foreign aid". In the modern world, "foreign aid" is monodirectional and insufficient to describe the complex nature of global development work, which, when done right, involves the establishment of profound economic and cultural ties between partners.
We strongly prefer the term Official Development Assistance (ODA) and utilize specific terms such as grant funding, loans, private sector investment, etc., which provide a clearer picture of what is concretely occurring. “Foreign aid” will be referenced for accuracy when referring to specific policies that use the term. Read more in this Donor Tracker Insight.
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