NGOs: important development partners
Swiss private agencies built relationships in developing countries long before official government aid started cooperation with the governments of these countries. Today, Swiss official aid is closely interlinked with the work of NGOs, many of which receive, in addition to the private support, funding from the state. Among the major organizations are Swissaid, Catholic Lenten Fund, Bread for all, Helvetas, Caritas and Interchurch Aid. In 1971, to delegate a part of their political work, they founded the Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations, today called Alliance Sud. Over the past decades Alliance Sud has been trying to ward off budget cutbacks and ensure that development assistance reaches the poorest populations. Another main advocacy organization is the Berne Declaration, founded in 1968. Alongside their work on development policy, both organizations tackle financial and trade issues. The two organizations co-founded the Tax Justice Network, which cooperates with the Aktion Finanzplatz Schweiz, an independent network monitoring the Swiss financial system founded in 1978. Recent campaigns concern odious debts, dirty money and Apartheid debt.
Approximately 20 Swiss NGOs support the Clean Cloth Campaign for decent production conditions and labour rights in manufacturing industries. Switzerland is a leading country in Fair Trade consumption. Many NGOs in this sector cooperate with partners in the South, some supported by SECO’s “trade and development” programme.
There are at least 500 NGOs in Switzerland working on international development issues. Societal interest groups in Switzerland are allowed to formally participate in the preparation of legislation before it is presented for parliamentary approval via a consultation procedure. They can also influence policy by collecting signatures for a referendum or a petition. The NGOs working on development issues regularly make use of those possibilities.