Action in fragile states: sustainable support for governments and populations

Switzerland works to establish peaceful, just and inclusive societies as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is involved in the efforts of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS). Together with other development cooperation actors, it endeavours to make sure its actions are guided by an in-depth analysis of the context and to employ methods that take account of the dynamics of conflict in order to build community resilience, reduce political and social conflict and support pathways out of fragility.

The SDC adopted its own peacebuilding and statebuilding goals in 2015. These are based on the model developed thanks to the OECD’s efforts by the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS).

The goals underline the importance of supporting development partners in their pathways out of fragility. To achieve this, Switzerland makes fragility considerations an integral part of all its policies and its portfolio of operations. In particular, it strives to shape and strengthen those aspects that are linked to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16 and the OECD Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs).

Switzerland seeks to understand fragility in all its complexity and dimensions. It is developing operational and quality assurance standards that can be applied to the new strategies. When launching its new programmes in the regions concerned, the expertise of its staff in conflict-sensitive programme management (CSPM) and human-rights based approaches (HRBAs) allows it to draw on a wide range of appropriate instruments that are both context-specific and conflict-sensitive.

Together with its partners, it endeavours to deliver smarter aid in fragile contexts and to step up its efforts on prevention, consolidation and sustaining peace, while supporting the efforts and capacities of its development partners to deliver inclusive solutions to their own states of fragility.

Preventing and resolving crises

The SDC has set itself the goal of making a significant contribution to addressing the root causes of conflict, strengthening resilience to crises, improving respect for human rights and generally bringing about the peaceful resolution of social and political conflicts in the countries in which it operates.

The SDC’s work in fragile and conflicted-affected countries is guided by the 10 OECD principles, which are intended to help national reformers to build effective, legitimate and robust state institutions. Specifically, they state the following:

  • Take context as the starting point
  • Ensure all activities do no harm
  • Focus on statebuilding as the central objective
  • Prioritise prevention
  • Recognise the links between political, security and development objectives
  • Promote non-discrimination as a basis for inclusive and stable societies
  • Align with local priorities in different ways in different contexts
  • Agree on practical coordination mechanisms between international actors
  • Act fast… but stay engaged long enough to give success a chance
  • Avoid pockets of exclusion

Long-term engagement combined with a flexible approach

Increasing Switzerland’s involvement in fragile and conflict-affected states and regions calls for long-term engagement combined with a flexible approach. Building and stabilising state structures takes time, as does winning citizens’ trust. According to the World Bank, it takes at least 15 to 30 years for countries emerging from a lengthy period of conflict to establish a functioning government.

The SDC constantly adapts its development cooperation approach and instruments used to the local context and evolving situation. Its actions take the form of humanitarian aid, development cooperation, support for the activities of an international organisation or a combination of these instruments.

As a clear analysis of the situation is crucial to the success of development cooperation, the SDC works together with other members of the Federal Administration, civil society and multilateral organisations.

A mix of experience and long-term vision

In its work, the SDC can draw on several decades of experience, which it combines with forward planning. Long-term statebuilding and peacebuilding efforts can help to overcome fragility and violence. This was the case in Nepal, where Switzerland did not abandon any of its projects during the armed conflict of 1996–2006, but instead constantly adapted them, thus enabling development programmes in the areas of education, bridge and road construction, and forestry to continue throughout this period. The same goes for countries such as Haiti, Myanmar and Burundi, which have also experienced periods of tension in recent years.

Long-term engagement in complex and dynamic contexts – whether in relation to development cooperation, emergency aid or transition assistance – requires both better analysis of the situation in question and greater acceptance on the part of the various actors. Regular contact with the target groups, focusing on the needs of the poor and involving people from a wide range of social and ethnic backgrounds all help to make long-term support possible and to ensure its success.

Conflict- and risk-sensitive programming for pathways to change

The term conflict-sensitive programme management (CSPM) refers to a range of development cooperation methods used in fragile and conflict-affected countries and regions. Conflict sensitivity means being aware of the two-way interaction between the conflict and the action taken, in order to avoid any negative impacts (that could exacerbate the conflict) and instead maximise the positive impacts that serve peacebuilding goals. These methods call for a deeper analysis of the risks associated with contexts, programmes and institutions. Adopting this approach makes Switzerland’s interventions better equipped to support development pathways that offer the best prospects for the local population and to react to significant changes in the situation.

The main elements of this approach are:

  • Context analysis: The dynamics of a conflict are analysed and a strategy developed to help the country concerned resolve the conflict. At the same time, the interaction between a programme and its context must be understood and regularly monitored. 
  • Scenarios: Analysing conflict dynamics enables possible future scenarios that may contribute to changing those dynamics to be identified; in this way, the overriding objectives of Swiss development cooperation can be achieved by adapting programmes accordingly. The goal is frequently to 'stay engaged', i.e. continue working even when the situation worsens.
  • Management: Key management tasks include risk and security management, communication and putting together teams that include representatives of the various ethnic or social groups from the region concerned. 
  • Do no harm: As well as early detection of conflicts and providing support to affected countries, CSPM also requires conflict-sensitivity amongst SDC staff to ensure they do not inadvertently support factors that could aggravate an existing conflict. Above all, this means raising awareness of the 'do no harm' approach.

From fragility to peace: accompanying transition processes

The adoption in 2016 of SDG 16, the 2030 Agenda goal for promoting peaceful and inclusive societies with strong institutions, marked a turning point. Since then, the development community has directly included peace factors in its interventions.

This realisation also points to the success of the efforts made by Switzerland and the other donors within the OECD to enact the New Deal for engagement in fragile states (commonly referred to simply as the ‘New Deal’), which they had agreed in Busan in 2011. The main aims of this initiative are to support fragile states as they transition towards peace and to respond to the specific needs of their situation, specifically by adopting five peacebuilding and statebuilding goals (PSGs):

  • Legitimate and inclusive politics: Foster inclusive political settlements and conflict resolution
  • Security: Establish and strengthen people’s security
  • Justice: Address injustices and increase people’s access to justice
  • Economic foundations: Generate employment and improve livelihoods
  • Revenues and services: Manage revenue and build capacity for accountable and fair service delivery

Switzerland played an active role in the adoption of the New Deal and continues to use the PSGs as a foundation to guide its work in fragile situations.

The SDC’s engagement in fragile and conflict-affected contexts

Around half of the countries and regions in which Switzerland is actively involved qualify as fragile, i.e. they suffer from the effects of internal or external conflict, frequent natural disasters, weak or unstable state institutions and extreme poverty, and their populations are subject to violence and political arbitrariness.


Current projects

Object 1 – 8 of 8

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FDHAS - Strengthening Social Audits and Economic, Political and Civil Rights

01.05.2020 - 30.04.2024

The program contributes to the functioning of the Rule of Law by strengthening five civil society organizations and the United Nations Development Program that jointly fortify the social movements and organizations in the regions of the Gulf of Fonseca and the Muskitia, carrying out actions in favor of human rights, transparency and the fight against corruption, diminishing the high levels of polarization in the society. 

TUR CONCERN Capacity Strengthening of local NGOs for Effective Refugee Response in Turkey

01.12.2016 - 31.01.2018

Civil Society (CS) in Turkey only recently has developed a humanitarian focus. INGOs, donors and the UN rely on a few natinal NGOs to compleent the governmental refugee respone, which is increasingly strained as the Sate is undergoing a severe crisis. Humanitarian CS initiatives have also emerged at local and provincial level, but there institutional and operational capacities are still weak. This project will stregthen the capacities of 10 local NGOs to conduct refugee assistance. 

Renforcement d’IDEA phase Unique (RIDEAU)

01.08.2016 - 31.12.2018

Le programme d’IDEA en Haïti vise le renforcement des institutions (p. ex. Parlement) et des acteurs politiques (p. ex. partis), piliers institutionnels de  l’état de droit. Ce faisant IDEA contribue à bâtir une gouvernance nationale respectueuse de la participation citoyenne et paritaire entre les femmes et les hommes. La DDC apporte une contribution générale à IDEA avec un suivi particulier sur la participation politiques des femmes et sur les pratiques de reddition des comptes. 

PREST 5, Pistes rurales et désenclavement à l’Est

01.01.2016 - 30.06.2022

Les routes constituent un soutien à la croissance économique par la mobilité des personnes et des marchandises. Au Burkina Faso, elles demeurent en deçà des besoins et des référentiels de l’espace UEMOA. Partant de ce constat et sur l’expérience de la DDC, le gouvernement a souhaité que la Suisse finance conjointement un projet d’infrastructures et de mobilité avec la Banque Mondiale avec la méthode haute intensité de main d’œuvre (HIMO). Un inventaire des initiatives basées sur la méthode HIMO dans les 13 régions a été lancé en vue d’élaborer une politique nationale HIMO. La DDC s’engage à contribuer à ce projet et valorise la méthode HIMO à l’échelle nationale.

Multidonor Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB): Improvement of Citizen Security in Latin America and the Caribbean

01.12.2015 - 31.12.2023

The support provided by SDC (single- phase project) focusses on improving the effectiveness of public policies on citizen security in the Latin American and Caribbean countries, as a response to high levels of violence in the region. SDC will contribute to the IDB Multidonor Fund of the Citizen Security Initiative (CSI), aiming to strengthen the capacity of states to implement public policies on citizen security and promote exchange of lessons learnt through regional dialogue and bi- and multilateral cooperation in earmarked projects.

RCA: UNICEF Sous-cluster protection de l’enfance

01.06.2015 - 30.06.2017

Par son appui financier au Sous-cluster protection de l’enfance, la DDC souhaite contribuer au renforcement du système de coordination en RCA, pour assurer une réponse de protection coordonnée pour les enfants affectés par la crise. Ce soutien rentre par ailleurs dans le cadre de la stratégie de la protection de civils (PoC), et plus spécifiquement dans le plan d’action du DFAE pour la protection des enfants associés aux forces et groupes armés.

AfDB - SDC Partnership on enhancing the Bank’s fragility and conflict sensitivity

01.01.2015 - 31.12.2022

Based on its Ten-year Strategy, the Bank will strengthen its engagement in fragile and conflict affected coun­tries/situations which is also a priority in Switzerland’s development bill 2013-16. This partnership will assist the Bank in building the necessary capacities and instruments to translate fragility concepts and approaches into more effective operations on the ground.  Other outcomes will be a new diagnostic tool “Country Resil­ience and Fragility Assessment (CRFA)” and strengthened capacities in the Bank and in 30 African countries.

Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development - Research Module on Employment

01.09.2012 - 31.12.2023

SDC and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) are offering a new long-term funding scheme for development-relevant research on global issues ( The main focus lies on the generation of new insights and solutions as well as on the application of research results into policy and practice through partnership projects between researchers from Switzerland and from developing countries. The overall program consists of five thematic modules and a module for thematically open research. The second module focuses on employment in the context of sustainable development.

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