In his opening speech, Ambassador Manuel Sager, director general of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), declared that neither governments, civil society nor the private sector can solve the problems facing the world on their own. "Each of these actors has resources and capabilities that the others lack. Cooperation makes them stronger," said Mr Sager to the over 1,200 experts, politicians and representatives of UN agencies and civil society gathered at Forum Fribourg.
Engagement with the private sector
According to the UN, the involvement of the private sector is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The official development assistance that governments are able to provide falls far short of what it will cost to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, combat climate change and its impacts, and ensure access to good-quality education worldwide.
That is why the SDC has launched the WAPRO (water productivity) project, a public-private partnership undertaken with the Swiss supermarket chain Coop and Mars Food, aimed at increasing the incomes of smallholder farmers while ensuring efficient use of water in rice and cotton production. This is achieved through the use of improved technologies such as planting seedlings earlier and spacing them further apart, combined with phased irrigation and laser-guided precision levelling of fields. Farmers using these technologies have increased their income by at least CHF 50 per hectare and reduced their water consumption by 30%. The SDC is working with Helvetas to implement this approach in India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Madagascar.
State Secretary Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, director of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), also addressed the conference, declaring that Switzerland intends to step up its collaboration with the private sector. "Dynamic and innovative companies spur competition and economic growth and create jobs and income-earning opportunities," said Ms Ineichen-Fleisch. She also stressed the urgency of mitigating the consequences of climate change and boosting the resilience of Switzerland's partner countries.
Swiss Youth and Future Prize
The five winners of the 'Together we're better – Swiss Youth and Future prize 2019' were also awarded their prizes at the conference. The SDC and SECO launched this competition earlier this year to promote initiatives by young people and provide them with a platform to contribute to sustainable development in developing countries.
Ninety-two projects were submitted from all over Switzerland, covering a wide range of areas, including agriculture, the environment, water, job creation, health, street children, orphanages and schools in impoverished urban settings. A six-member jury composed of representatives of the SDC, SECO, NGOs and sustainable development actors selected the winning projects.
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