“2022 was marked by immense challenges”

Thomas D. Meyer, Chairman, and Philippe Schneuwly, CEO, look back on 2022. Swisscontact has reviewed its strategy and placed more emphasis on collaboration with the private sector.

2022 was marked by immense challenges, such as the outbreak of war in Ukraine and high inflation. How significantly have these developments changed international development cooperation?

Thomas D. Meyer: The negative developments over this past year have weighed on international development cooperation, and this at a time when we are still having to deal with the consequences of the pandemic. In Ukraine, for example, great flexibility is needed. Thanks to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Geberit, we were able to adapt our vocational education and training project to address the new needs of the people and situation. The resilience of these public-private partnerships have been proven here: our programme in Ukraine continues, even under difficult circumstances.

The new situation in the world also poses an additional burden on people in developing and emerging countries: poverty has begun to rise once again; higher energy and food prices, a weakened global economy, and the dramatic effects of climate change are undermining our efforts at progress considerably.

Climate change affects many countries in which Swisscontact is present. How are you dealing with this?

Philippe Schneuwly: The effects of climate change affect disadvantaged populations disproportionately. For this reason, our priority is to prevent climate damage and adapt to the new challenges. We are searching for solutions together with our partners to strengthen the resilience of rural populations and foster alternative sources of income. 

Cambodia presents an interesting example of our work. In close cooperation with various ministries, the private sector, and science, we are helping smallholder farmers transition to a regenerative model of agriculture. This not only helps the rural population, but also fosters climate protection because the earth is able to absorb more carbon dioxide (CO2). The introduction of improved agroforestry practices in our cocoa and coffee projects helps to mitigate the damaging effects of climate change.

In autumn 2022, Swisscontact’s Foundation Council approved the Organisational Strategy 2028. What are the goals that Swisscontact has set for itself?

Meyer: We asked ourselves what exactly Swisscontact should stand for in the future and what our added value might be. The answer was straightforward: We would like to return to Swisscontact’s roots as a development organisation of the Swiss private sector, in order to achieve the greatest possible impact. Additionally, we must improve the relevance and quality of our work continuously, developing innovative solutions for the challenges of our times. We would like to share more of the knowledge we have gained over 60 years with our partners and have it flow into new projects where the local private sector is actively participating.

How do you wish to achieve this?

Schneuwly: We would like to enhance Swissscontact’s name recognition in the Swiss private sector in order to build new partnerships and strengthen our skills in those areas that are key to solving greater development problems such as climate change. We will leverage the knowledge and network provided by the Springfield Centre to continue improving our work approaches, advise our partners, and develop innovative solutions, which we expect to test in pilot projects. Furthermore, we will evaluate the quality of our work systematically, remaining transparent and self-critical throughout. This creates trust and helps us to improve continuously.

Swisscontact was founded by the Swiss private sector over 60 years ago. How important will collaboration with the private sector be in the future?

Meyer: Promoting the local private sector is Swisscontact’s raison d’être. Our projects collaborate closely with companies to maximise their impact, outreach, and sustainability. In the future, we hope to increase the private sector’s role as a contractor and active partner in designing our projects. Swiss companies should know that with our experience we can help them find solutions to the complex development and sustainability problems they face in their work.

There have been a few personnel changes in the Foundation Council this year. Who exactly was involved, and what have you done together?

Meyer: This past year, Anna Crole-Rees and Urs Grütter stepped down from the Foundation Council after retiring. Anna Crole-Rees was an important voice in the Foundation Board of the Foundation Council for many years; Urs Grütter had supported Swisscontact repeatedly over the years with project contributions. Thus, we are very grateful to both. In addition, Thomas Gutzwiller stepped down for personal reasons, and Hans Jöhr left after retiring from Nestlé. We wish to thank all of them for their commitment over the past few years. As the new Nestlé representative, Christoph Meyer has been appointed to the Foundation Council. Further changes are planned this year. We will establish a scientific advisory board under the stewardship of Foundation Council member Sabin Bieri, of which I am particularly proud.


Interview: Swisscontact

A dual training model for Kenya
Together with the Hilti Foundation, and in close collaboration with leading local businesses and vocational schools, Swisscontact is creating a new vocational training model in Kenya. The project objective is to equip young people with the professional skills and abilities needed in the construction sector. Since starting in April 2022, the project has become a showcase for an employer-guided dual apprenticeship-based training model for Kenya’s construction sector as well as for other sectors and developing countries.
Bangladesh: Dealing with climate change and strengthening resilience
In June 2022, the Northeastern Lowland of Bangladesh was hit by once-in-a-century flooding, the effects of which are still felt today. Bangladesh is one of the countries most affected by climate change; economic damage to the agricultural sector is many times greater than the effects of Covid-19. In particular, smallholder farmers are vulnerable to weather-related risks, the intensity of which is steadily increasing due to climate change. They contend with losses from damage to seasonal crops or from animal illnesses and epidemics. Swisscontact is working with a multitude of private sector partners to provide adequate insurance protection in the agricultural sector.
Results and Impact
Financial Statement 2022