“In times of crisis, foresight is key”

Thomas D. Meyer, Chairman, and Philippe Schneuwly, CEO, explain how global conflicts and challenges such as climate change affect our work, and how despite this, our projects continue to be implemented successfully thanks to their ability to adapt to unusual situations.
Thomas D. Meyer, Chairman; Philippe Schneuwly, CEO (right).

Another year of unrest and conflict in various regions around the world is now behind us. What does this volatility mean for local populations? 

Philippe Schneuwly: This level of unrest and volatility destroys many people’s livelihoods. Emergency humanitarian aid must be made available. As an organisation dedicated to development, we recognise that foresight is key to preventing long-term dependencies. At the end of the day, it’s about the dignity of local populations. They want to be self-sufficient, and we strive to afford them this opportunity. For this reason, we are committed to strengthening abilities and systems, even in fragile contexts, so that people can – as far as possible - be liberated from the shackles of poverty. This requires medium- to long-term strategies, and while the risk of such interventions failing is higher than in stable contexts, we cannot deny support.

How has the constant upheaval affected Swisscontact’s development cooperation?

Thomas D. Meyer: Fragile contexts marked by armed conflicts, increasingly frequent natural disasters and widespread poverty pose complex development policy challenges. Viewed from the outside, the impression is often that it is no longer possible to implement international development cooperation in such contexts. This is, however, not the case if the projects are adapted to the new circumstances, as ours are. It is precisely in politically unstable countries such as Myanmar and Niger, where we are creating a new hope for the civilian population and the private sector. In Ukraine, international development cooperation embodies the international community’s desire to provide reconstruction assistance.

What is needed in these countries for Swisscontact to continue implementing the projects?  

Schneuwly: First of all, there is a need for visionary and flexible partnerships that - despite all the political and other challenges - continue to focus on their objectives. We try to make sure that our work has deep roots at the local level. For decades, we have placed local stakeholders front and centre in all the countries we work in, regardless of how difficult the circumstances are. This is the key to the success of our interventions. Geographical, cultural, and social proximity helps us to understand the actual needs of the communities involved and to work side-by-side with them. This requires flexibility and understanding of the special circumstances, including on the part of our donor partners. This allows us to continuously adapt projects to the changing realities on the ground. 

How, for example, does this play out in Ukraine?

Meyer: There is no question that Ukraine should be supported both during and after the war, and that Switzerland has to do its share. From our perspective, Switzerland should not only be providing financial aid. Our country and the private sector are capable of offering much more by sharing our expertise in successful economic development with Ukraine. Therefore, we must advocate for those elements that constitute the Swiss model of success – areas where Switzerland has established credibility. This is the case for example in vocational education led by the private sector. In our project in Ukraine, we are strengthening this element by training tradespeople, while leveraging the active support of Swiss companies Geberit and Sika.

" There is a need for visionary and flexible partnerships which continue to focus on their objectives despite all the political upheaval and other challenges."
Philippe Schneuwly, CEO

Climate change often contributes to the outbreak of conflicts and is an immense challenge to countries of the global south. Which aspects of our work have been the most successful up to now? 

Schneuwly: The climate crisis demonstrably impacts the world’s most vulnerable population segments. Many countries where we work – for example in the Sahel, Central America and South Asia – are especially vulnerable. Consequently, we are continuously adapting our tools and approaches to strengthen resilience at the local level. Examples include converting to agroecological practices that foster climate-resistant agriculture and promoting so-called “green skills”, i.e. skills that help people and businesses adapt to climate challenges and take advantage of the opportunities these challenges may present.

What staff changes took place in the Foundation Council in 2023? 

Meyer: After serving 12 years, Christoph Lindenmeyer reached the maximum service period in the Foundation Council and stepped down in May 2023. He was a highly valuable committee member for many years. We are pleased to have found an exceptionally qualified successor in Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch. For reasons related to age, Leopold Wyss, a longstanding member of the Foundation Council Finance Committee, and Fritz Gutbrodt, stepped down. Newly appointed to the Foundation Council were Peggy Grüninger (Hoffmann-La Roche), Isabel Dalli-Wyniger (Novartis), and Christoph G. Meier (Nestlé); all three individuals represent longstanding Swisscontact partners.


Interview: Swisscontact

Project case studies

A Solid Foundation: Promoting Vocational Education in the Ukrainian Construction Sector
Since March 2020, Swisscontact has been supporting the construction sector in Ukraine, in order to train qualified technicians. EdUP (Public-Private Partnership to Improved Professional Education in Ukraine) is designed to align the private-sector led vocational education system to the needs of the labour market, upgrading the training of tradespeople in the construction industry to meet EU standards.
An entrepreneurial Vision for Niger’s Digital Future
Niger ranks among the world’s poorest countries. Despite the Sahel region’s interior harbouring valuable raw materials, the majority of the country’s gross domestic product is earned in agriculture and the informal sector. Approximately 80 percent of the population survives on subsistence agriculture, and nearly half of Nigeriens live in extreme poverty. The goal of Swisscontact’s local entrepreneurship promotion programme (PROMEL) is to improve collaboration with institutional partners and the private sector, improving access to markets for businesses, and creating income opportunities for women and young people through educational qualifications.
Results and Impact 2023
A sustainability strategy with a solid foundation 
Financial Statement 2023