Youth Summit 2019: Development cooperation - nothing but hot air?

Workshop leaders at the Youth Summit: Pastor Obertina Modesta Johanis, Daniela Lilja and Franz Thiel from Helvetas as well as Nina Sahdeva from fair unterwegs and with the microphone organizer Veronika Henschel from young@mission21. Photo: Mission 21

Extreme poverty has been halved worldwide in the last 25 years. New HIV infections and child mortality have also fallen sharply. At the Youth Summit, an event organized by young@mission21 and the Swiss Young Parties, journalist and economist Markus Mugglin began by making it clear: "The focus on bad news is too great in the media. Actually, measured by standard of living, we live in the best world since the history of mankind." Nevertheless, the world is enormously unfair. Extreme poverty is on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa.

Development cooperation can make a contribution to improving living conditions - but it can only succeed if it is sustainable and based on partnership. "In addition, the global North also has homework to do. We cannot have development projects on the one hand and globally active companies based in Switzerland on the other, which contribute to the problems," as Fabian Ottiger of the foreign policy think tank foraus noted. 

"End of mother-child relationship"             

After this initial input, the participants were able to deepen their knowledge of development cooperation in six different workshops. For example, Adina Rom and Selina Bezzola from ETH presented astonishing facts on the global progress towards poverty reduction. In 1960, only 42 percent of people could read and write; by 2015, 86 percent could. Sabine Hohl from the University of Bern focused on ethics. She addressed questions like these: Are we obliged to help? And how do we deal with the fact that we spend money every day on little things that could save human lives? 

With the Indonesian pastor Obertina Modesta Johanis, a voice from the global South was also represented. She shared her experiences of development cooperation with Mission 21: "In the past, our relationship was like a mother-baby relationship. But for 15 years I've noticed a change, today Mission 21 acts as a bridge and a good friend."

Migration and climate change under discussion

Ambassador Manuel Sager, Director of the SDC, took part in the subsequent panel discussion on the Confederation's new strategy for international cooperation. He stated: "Any political action should be an expression of responsibility for socially and environmentally sustainable development and should not run counter to its goals".

The fact that the SDC links development policy with migration in its new strategy gave rise to much discussion. It was argued that it was illusory to think that development cooperation could stop migration. Many people migrate voluntarily and not out of necessity. Ambassador Manuel Sager said: "Development cooperation cannot prevent migration. The SDC is concerned with creating prospects on the ground and thus offering alternatives to flight and migration out of hopelessness."

Climate change was also a big point of discussion. One young man gave food for thought with his comment, "Right now, only 5 percent of people can participate in air travel. What will happen to our environment if everyone is middle class?"

The event showed how important it is to recognize that development cooperation cannot solve all problems. The Swiss people and the private sector are equally called upon to make their contribution. "We are all part of the problem and therefore we should also be part of the solution," said Ambassador Sager.

Text: Eva Sidler, Photos: Mission 21

► Radio report Life Channel

Speech by Markus Mugglin at the Youth Summit

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