From 23 September to 2 October 2019, The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development, Saad Alfaragi, carried out an official visit to Switzerland in order to evaluate its implementation of the right to development and to indentify the challenges it poses in view of forming recommendations for the fulfilment of the aforementioned right in the country. During this period, he was met by the CETIM and the Geneva Federation for Cooperation and Development (GFCD).
In his preliminary findings and recommendations, which were made public following his visit, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development expressed his preoccupations concerning, amongst others, poverty and Switzerland’s international cooperation policy.
The Special Rapporteur indicated that 615,000 people are affected by poverty in Switzerland, and that 1.2 million are at risk of falling into poverty. Those affected by poverty include single-parent families with 3 or more children and untrained or undereducated individuals. According to the Rapporteur, the increased costs of rent and health insurance are a factor in their situation. In addition, the reduction of unemployment benefits and disability benefits has led a large number of people to claim benefits over the last 15 years.
The Special Rapporteur expressed his concerns regarding the new direction of Switzerland’s recent policy on international cooperation (2021-4), which featured new criteria for humanitarian aid and development cooperation. Alfaragi stated, “I fear that these new criteria are representative of a shift in priorities for Switzerland. This change may work to the detriment of their international commitments as part of its sustainable development goals.” The Special Rapporteur also expressed his fears regarding the Swiss Government’s planned reduction of its contribution to development assistance for the period of 2021-4, “It is also worrying that the government aims to reduce its level of development assistance between 2021-4. I urge the government of Switzerland to honour its commitment to contribute 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) towards official development assistance (ODA), as outlined in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and Agenda 2030.”
Alfaragi also touched on the continuance of gender inequality in Switzerland and argued in favour of implementing government initiatives to combat this issue.
The Special Rapporteur’s findings and recommendations echo the sentiments expressed by the Swiss civil society and the CETIM several years ago. Alfaragi’s full report will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2020.
In the Resolution 33/14, adopted in 2016, the UN Human Rights Council created the role of Special Rapporteur on the right to development with the goal of promoting, protecting, and fulfilling the right to development. This is achieved through a coherent and integrated implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other 2015 internationally agreed outcomes, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.