Environment and development cooperation

The objectives of environmental protection and development must be integrated into development cooperation. To this end, the FOEN collaborates closely with the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

It is impossible for development to take place in a degraded environment in the long term. Hence, because the potential for development depends to a considerable extent on the state of ecosystems, environmental protection is one of the federal authorities' objectives in the area of development cooperation and an integral component of Swiss development policy.

Given the natural tendency for developing countries to focus on activities that yield greater immediate economic benefits, it is vital that developed countries, and Switzerland in particular, commit to protecting the environment and conserving natural resources. The preservation of climate stability, biodiversity and soil fertility are essential to global food security and poverty reduction.  

Accordingly, it is in Switzerland's interest for environmental policy and development policy to be mutually supportive. The objective is to improve the incorporation of environmental issues into development cooperation and vice versa. This should result in the more systematic implementation of environmental impact studies on development programmes and projects. The principles of Switzerland's development policy, which aim to facilitate the greater appropriation of the development process by the developing countries themselves, must not impair the effectiveness of aid from an environmental perspective. Therefore, it is important that development cooperation respect the principles of environmental protection and that developing countries build their own capacities for the pursuit and management of their development, in particular in the area of environmental protection.

Thus, the dispatch on Switzerland’s international cooperation in 2017-2020 envisages greater consideration of the environment and targets sustainable development of natural resources. It tasks international cooperation with contributing to Switzerland’s implementation of the multilateral environmental agreements and advocating for the environment in the development bodies in which it participates. Development projects should not have negative impacts on the environment, but rather make a positive contribution to its conservation.

The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which were adopted by the United Nations in September 2015, offers a good opportunity for reconciling the environmental and development agendas.

Close collaboration between the FOEN, SDC and SECO

The FOEN supports the integration of environmental and development objectives into development cooperation programmes with developing countries and countries in transition and the establishment of coherence between bilateral and multilateral activities. These goals can only be attained through close collaboration between the FOEN, SDC and SECO. The implementation of aid activities in developing countries for the benefit of the global environment is regulated by a piece of legislation passed in 1991.

Since 2012, the FOEN, SDC, the SECO, the Federal Finance Administration (FFA) and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) have been collaborating through a joint platform on funding international cooperation on environmental issues. This platform deals with both the mechanisms for funding environmental conventions and with bilateral and multilateral cooperation related to the environment.

At the international level, the FOEN is involved in OECD and UN activities (UNECE, UNEP, UNDP and conferences on development).

Further information

Last modification 13.03.2024

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