Swisscontact celebrated its 60th birthday on May 16, 2019 with an event on the subject “Development cooperation in transition” at the Lake Side conference centre in Zurich. The primary focus was on the challenges of Swiss development cooperation in a globalised world.
More than 200 guests celebrated Swisscontact’s 60th anniversary at the Lake Side conference centre. The Swiss foundation took the opportunity to discuss changes in international development cooperation and its future goals. Swisscontact brought up the current debate over the direction that development cooperation is taking.
Heinrich M. Lanz, President of the Board of Trustees, opened the evening and took a look back at Swisscontact’s 60-year history – a story defined by change. But Swisscontact’s objective has remained unchanged since the beginning: the Foundation creates opportunities for people to develop economically and climb out of poverty on their own strengths, and this will not change moving forward. The President emphasised that Swisscontact will continue to focus on evolving conditions: “We can only keep up if we are willing to challenge ourselves and continue developing.”
Transparency creates trust
In his address, Samuel Bon, Swisscontact’s CEO, talked of the pressing issues in international development cooperation. He determined that disagreement about what to expect from international development cooperation was at the heart of discussions: “Development cooperation is not occurring in a vacuum. The influences and circumstances under which we are working are complex, therefore we need to engage in an honest and open dialogue about expectations and limits.” According to Michel Hilti, Honorary President of the Hilti Corporation’s Board of Directors, this means also addressing failures. We need to be mindful of quality, as well as how best to engage resources and people to achieve our goals: “If we wish to achieve something, it’s not enough just to be ‘good people’. We need to think as businesspeople.”
Lively discussion on the message for international development cooperation
Sabin Bieri, Associate Director at the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of the University of Bern, Ambassador Manuel Sager, Director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and Minister Ivo Germann, Head of Operations of International Development of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), debated the challenges and synergies in development cooperation and the current consultative legislative process for international development cooperation for the 2021-2024 period. At the end of this lively debate, the participants agreed that Swiss development cooperation is headed in the right direction. To ensure this stays so moving forward, it is important to make sure the new message does not become a political football.
In her closing address, Dr. Anna Crole-Rees, Member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, declared that development cooperation can help solve global problems. Moreover, although it is very important to verify efficacy of development projects, we shouldn’t spend more time ‘measuring’ than actually ‘doing’.