Switzerland has taken another step toward meeting its pledge to spend 0.5 percent of its gross national income on foreign aid by 2015: On Tuesday (Sept. 11), the Council of States moved to close the country’s foreign aid budget plan at 11.35 billion Swiss francs ($12.06 billion) for the next four years.
The council approved the budget plan with a vote of 28 to 15 — almost three months after the budget received similar support from the National Council, swissinfo.ch reports. The move would see the country spending 6.9 billion Swiss francs or 61 percent of the total budget on technical cooperation and financial aid for developing countries, specifically with Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Bolivia, Cuba and countries in Central America.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, which will be handling the funds, has also pledged stronger focus on fragile and conflict countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Key program areas will continue to be on health, education, employment, rural development and good governance.
Sixty percent of the 6.9 billion Swiss francs will be for bilateral cooperation, and the rest will be for international financing institutions, U.N. agencies, and global funds and networks.
Further breakdown of the how the budget will be used is as follows:
2.03 billion Swiss francs for humanitarian aid: one-third for direct bilateral programs and for contributions to local and international nongovernmental organizations, and two-thirds for U.N. agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
1.28 billion Swiss francs for economic development.
1.13 billion Swiss francs for political and economic reforms in Eastern Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs will be in charge of implementing the budget for economic development, of which 50 percent will go to eight priority countries: Tunisia, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam, Colombia and Peru. The focus will be on strengthening economic and financial policies, improving basic infrastructure, promoting private sector growth, trade, and jobs creation.
Both agencies, meanwhile, will share the allotted budget for Swiss cooperation in Eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union, particularly Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Programs will focus on the promotion of human rights, strengthening of public institutions, jobs creation and improved access to finance.
The move comes on the day U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the Swiss Parliament on the 10th anniversary of the Switzerland’s accession to the United Nations, wherein Ban expressed his gratefulness for Switzerland’s support to the global body. He voiced the need for the country and the United Nations to continue working together on a number of issues, including poverty, climate change and the political stability of countries in transition, according to a press release.
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