View of a large open-cast phosphate mine in Togo.
Developing countries such as Togo have an abundance of natural resources. The SDC is committed to ensuring that these are exploited fairly © Alexandra Pugachevsky

Exploiting natural resources is crucial to the economies of many developing countries and Swiss companies play a key role in commodities trading. Natural resources can be used to alleviate traditional forms of poverty, but many countries fail to take this step. The SDC aims to address this problem. 

The commodities sector is becoming increasingly important in developing countries. According to a 2016 report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), 91 developing countries in 2015 were dependent on commodities, where commodity exports accounted for more than 60% of a country's total merchandise exports. The World Bank also estimates that Africa alone is home to about 30% of the world's mineral reserves. Certain minerals, such as cobalt and tantalum, which are used extensively in electronic products, mainly come from fragile countries. 

With the expansion of 'clean' industries and technologies, the demand for minerals is set to increase, generating significant investment in exploration and developing new mines.

The various backgrounds and roles of the stakeholders involved have been debated for years by the academic community, international development policy committees, governments and civil society. The macroeconomic effects of exploiting natural resources and the factors causing price volatility have also been assessed. Attention has also been focused on extraction practices that cause damage to health and the environment, exploitative working conditions and conflicts over access to natural resources, which have the potential to unleash violence or even armed conflict.

Issues relating to financial flows from commodities trading are also the subject of intense debate. In general, funds that have been acquired illegally, or in questionable circumstances, and are transferred abroad present a major obstacle to economic growth and good governance in developing countries. There is broad consensus that illicit outflows from developing countries exceed the value of official development assistance many times over. A high percentage of these financial flows are attributable to commodities production and trading.

Switzerland is a key player in the commodities trading sector. It is estimated that more than 3 billion tonnes of commodities, calculated at over CHF 960 billion, are traded in Switzerland each year. In a report entitled 'The Swiss commodities sector: current situation and outlook' published in November 2018, the Federal Council states that it expects all companies operating in or out of Switzerland to demonstrate integrity and responsible conduct with regard to respect for human rights as well as environmental and social standards, both within Switzerland and abroad. The Federal Council also states that this applies to the entire value chain and is especially important for companies that operate in fragile states. 

 The SDC's main areas of activity

  • The SDC is committed to raising international standards for commodities production and trading and ensuring that governments and companies properly implement such standards.
  • Switzerland supports the implementation of multilateral instruments in the fight to control corruption and illicit financial flows.
  • In terms of international development cooperation, the SDC is committed to assisting its commodity producing partner countries in managing natural resources and creating sustainable value chains.
  • By supporting research and multi-stakeholder platforms, Switzerland is contributing to a better understanding of both the challenges and opportunities facing developing countries in relation to mining.

Current projects

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Organisation Mondiale contre la Torture (OMCT)

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2025

L’intervention a pour objectifs de renforcer la responsabilisation des acteurs publics pour les violations des droits humains et de contribuer à la réforme de l’environnement institutionnel pour prévenir la torture et réduire l’impunité en Tunisie. Elle offre une assistance directe aux victimes et promeut une meilleure conduite professionnelle des forces sécuritaires et carcérales. L’OMCT travaille aussi en lien étroit avec la société civile pour mener des plaidoyers communs contre la torture et l’impunité des responsables.


El Agua Nos Une – Water Stewardship “United for Water

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2025

Based on Switzerland’s decade long experience on private sector engagement and empowerment of public institutions, “El Agua Nos Une” focuses on strengthening evidence-based decisions for better water governance in 4 Latin American countries. It envisions systemic change towards corporate water use efficiency and pollution mitigation, mobilizing stakeholders and investments in ecosystem preservation; contributing to a more equitable society and responsible water use.


Empowering Media in Tanzania

BBC Media Action presenter Melissa Michael

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024

Citizens and governments rely on media to stay informed, communicate and be held accountable. Quality issues, revenue challenges, a difficult legal environment and security concerns limit the capacity of the Tanzanian media to play this role effectively. The Empowering Media Tanzania Program builds on long standing Swiss experience and works through contributions to six local and international media support partners to improve media quality, journalism security and content provided to young Tanzanian women. 


Reintegration of Returnee Migrant Workers Project

01.01.2021 - 31.05.2027

The project will contribute to ensure migrant workers benefit fully from their migration experience by supporting the reintegration of returnee migrant workers in Nepal. It will work with the Nepali Government to provide reintegration services and support policy development to anchor them in the federal structure. Switzerland has a key interest that the potential of migration for development is fully used and is well positioned to engage on the topic, given its track record in migration in Nepal. 


MLRBP - Motorable Local Roads Bridge Programme

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024

The project contributes to the consolidation of Swiss Knowhow transfer in the bridge building sector by supporting the government of Nepal in institutionalizing the implementation of local infrastructure at provincial levels in the spirit of the devolved provisions made in the new Constitution. This will increase people’s perception that their provincial government delivers most essential physical access to basic services and economic opportunities, boosting their confidence in the new federal system.


Strengthening the Anti-Corruption Committee of Armenia

01.12.2020 - 30.11.2022

In partnership with the OSCE, Switzerland supports the Armenian Government in establishing a new Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC). This specialized body will be key in investigating and combatting corruption crimes. Through capacity-building activities and policy support, the ACC will be in a position to contribute to curb corruption, strengthen the Anti-Corruption system and the rule-of-law in the context of the Government’s Anti-Corruption Strategy 2019.


TTDP - Trail Based Tourism Development Project

01.12.2020 - 30.06.2026

The project aims at increasing income of Nepalese people through the promotion of trail based tourism. By attracting national and regional visitors along safe and scenic trails, it will contribute to preserve social and cultural heritage while generating local revenues. Switzerland’s convening power to bring together federal, provincial and local governments will be catalytic in promoting intergovernmental cooperation in view of strengthening local economic development.


Strengthening Systems to Combat Corruption and Impunity in Central America

01.12.2020 - 30.06.2024

The program contributes to the reduction of corruption and impunity in the Northern Triangle of Central America, strengthens the anticorruption investigative and criminal prosecution capacities of the specialized units of the Public Prosecutors and reinforces the political lobbying of civil society organizations to promote institutional reforms.


Resil - Projet de renforcement de la résilience et de la cohésion sociale au plateau dogon

01.12.2020 - 31.12.2022

Au Centre du Mali, les groupes armés exploitent la concurrence pour l’accès aux terres afin d’envenimer les relations entre communautés et de créer un climat d’extrême violence. En visant une meilleure productivité des terres et le renforcement des mécanismes de gestion des différends fonciers, le projet contribue à apaiser les relations et accroît la résilience. La Suisse contribue à la cohésion sociale, au développement rural et à la résilience des victimes du conflit. 


Civil Society Support in Bosnia and Herzegovina

01.12.2020 - 31.05.2027

Citizens will increase their influence on policy making through their active engagement with civil society organisations. Through improvement of their know-how on civic participation and engagement in civil society alliances, civil society organisations will effectively participate in democratic processes, demand reforms from the authorities, and contribute to social change in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They will increasingly act as advocates for democratic reforms, gender equality, human rights and social inclusion rather than as service providers.


Support the juvenile justice system in Egypt

01.11.2020 - 31.10.2023

A more independent, impartial, and efficient judiciary is a prerequisite for the current protection of citizens. The juvenile justice system is one avenue where there is both a demonstrated need for engagement and government acceptance. Capitalising on OECD framework agreement with Egypt on rule of law, the proposed intervention will lead to enhanced sector specific governance practices and contribute in increasing trust with government stakeholders.


PSPET - Programme de soutien au processus électoral en Tunisie

01.11.2020 - 31.12.2024

L’intervention contribue au renforcement de la bonne gouvernance des autorités électorales et à leur résilience pendant les périodes de crise. Elle veille également à assurer l’inclusion des différentes couches de la société dans la participation électorale et politique, à travers des approches innovantes et durables, ainsi que par la diffusion auprès des citoyen.ne.s tunisien.ne.s d’une information électorale fiable et sensible au genre. Le programme sera mis en œuvre par le PNUD et l’IFES.

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