Debt Relief, Asylum Fees Drive Increase in 2009 Swiss Aid

    Switzerland's official development assistance grew by 11.9 percent in 2009. Photo by: keepps / CC BY-NC-SA keeppsCC BY-NC-SA

    Switzerland’s official development assistance grew by 11.9 percent in 2009 to 2.49 billion francs (USD2.35 billion) due to increased costs for asylum seekers and debt relief for Togo.

    Of the amount, 379.9 million francs was earmarked for asylum seekers and 176.5 million francs for the Club of Paris debt relief, an organization of 19 developed nations seeking to find coordinated and sustainable solutions to the payment difficulties experienced by debtor countries. Swiss ODA for Togo reached 171.2 million francs in 2009, which includes bilateral debt relief measures negotiated within the framework of the Club of Paris.

    As a percentage of its gross national income, Swiss ODA increased to 0.47 percent last year, up from 0.44 percent in 2008. Switzerland said it will miss the United Nations target of allocating 0.7 percent of its GNI to ODA. It ranks 10th among the 23 members of the Development Assistance Committee under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development given its 0.47 percent ODA/GNI ratio, according to the 2009 annual report of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

    As part of SDC’s second phase of reorganization, its cooperation and program offices will be given more decision-making powers and responsibility. The new role of SDC’s offices overseas and their cooperation with the central office in Bern will be determined, the report states.

    These measures will be “introduced step by step” from August 2010 with the “new tools and processes” expected to be fully in place by the end of next year.

    SDC in 2008 modified its central organizational structure. Its media and communications and internal audit departments were transferred to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs’ General Secretariat to execute a “uniform information policy” for the department and to achieve greater independence for the SDC’s audit unit. Meanwhile services such as information technology, finances, translations and security were centralized with the foreign affairs department to enhance efficiency.

    The inclusion of debt relief and asylum fees has affected the breakdown of Switzerland’s aid categories. The share of Swiss ODA to development cooperation activities of SDC and SECO has decreased from 60 percent in the early 2000s to 50 percent in 2009. The portion of humanitarian aid in ODA has also diminished from 18 percent to 12 percent last year, according to the annual report.

    Swiss bilateral ODA is primarily intended for low-income countries and focused on Africa and Asia. These regions secured 41 percent of Swiss bilateral ODA in 2009.

    About the author

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      Ma. Rizza Leonzon

      As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.