At the turn of the millennium, the international community of states pledged to halve world poverty by 2015 (Millennium Development Goals). In the following years other international conferences would further deepen the topic: WTO’s Doha Round (2001), the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development (2002), and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (2002).
SECO conducted a comprehensive assessment of the new direction taken in 1996. This formed the basis for the "Strategy 2006", which included contributing to poverty reduction, concentrating on its core function, and focusing on certain geographical areas. As a consequence, the number of priority countries and regions in the South was reduced to sixteen. The goal was to intensify the impact of SECO measures while developing strategic partnerships and raising additional private funds.
In 2005, new international principles and measures for obtaining better results were established with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. This was followed in 2008 by the Accra Agenda for Action to raise the effectiveness of development cooperation. However, the Millennium Development Goals were endangered by the global ‘Triple F’ crises - food, finance and fuel - of 2008/09.
SECO continued to reduce the number of priority countries in the South, focusing on seven partner countries and creating regional economic hubs. Strong hubs reinforced regional stability, so even surrounding countries, which were often poorer still, were able to grow. SECO’s financial support was in general to help leverage the mobilisation of private capital. Since 2008, SECO has also been responsible for implementing the contribution to EU expansion (Federal Act of 2006 on Cooperation with Eastern Europe), and since 2009 an external evaluation committee has been monitoring SECO’s evaluation policy. This committee, which reports directly to the SECO directorate, was the first of its kind in the federal administration.
Poverty remains rife in SECO’s priority countries Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Colombia, Peru, South Africa and Vietnam. With an active foreign economic policy and its development cooperation, Switzerland can contribute to stabilising these countries’ growth over the next few years and thereby reducing poverty.
Rudolf Minsch, chief economist at economiesuisse (in: The Complementary Nature of Development Cooperation and Foreign Economic Policy, 2008)