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First International Cooperation Forum Switzerland

What does effective international cooperation look like in an age of continuing climate change? At the International Cooperation Forum Switzerland – which will take place in a hybrid format from 31 March to 1 April 2022 in Geneva – experts from the fields of academia, business, politics and civil society will be searching for ways out of the climate crisis. Switzerland is looking to strengthen international cooperation and help find solutions to current challenges. The IC Forum will be hosted by President of the Swiss Confederation Ignazio Cassis.

A woman carries a bucket of water.

Finding our way out of the climate crisis will require broad-based international solutions in development cooperation. © SDC

The latest report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it clear: extreme weather events are on the rise and are putting unprecedented constraints on society, economies and the environment.

In the words of President of the Swiss Confederation Ignazio Cassis: "The impact of climate change on peace and security is profound. Swiss expertise in modern technology can sustainably improve the living conditions of millions of people in areas such as climate change mitigation, agricultural engineering, healthcare, disaster resilience and construction." 

Without the climate adaptation strategies, resources and expertise to equip themselves against climate change, poorer countries in particular are under threat from drought, heat waves and rising sea levels.

Despite international efforts, the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are a long way from being reached. Switzerland has responded by organising the first International Cooperation Forum on climate change:

International Cooperation Forum Switzerland

The impact of climate change on peace and security is profound. Swiss expertise in modern technology can sustainably improve the living conditions of millions of people in areas such as climate change mitigation, agricultural engineering, healthcare, disaster resilience and construction.
Ignazio Cassis, President of the Swiss Confederation

Strengthening international cooperation

Portrait photo of Marco Martinaglia.
Marco Martinaglia, General Manager of the IC Forum. © M.M.

To meet the challenges of climate change, Switzerland wishes to strengthen and increase the impact of international cooperation (IC).

"There is untapped potential with regard to sustainability, both in IC and in humanitarian aid," says Marco Martinaglia, the International Cooperation Forum's General Manager. "Of course, the priority in humanitarian aid is to provide assistance as quickly and effectively as possible, but we also need to ask fundamental questions with regard to climate change in IC, for example: how can we pack and dispatch relief supplies in an environmentally friendly way? Can we retrieve tents and blankets made of petroleum-based materials and recycle them to make fuel?" 

The IC Forum replaces three previous SDC annual conferences and brings experts from academia, business and IC together with young people at the same table. It aims to develop broad-based solutions to the consequences of climate change through exchanges between all stakeholder groups. "We want to harness our collective intelligence and exploit synergies," says Martinaglia. "We're also looking for new ways to cooperate."

We want to harness our collective intelligence and exploit synergies. We're also looking for new ways to cooperate.
Marco Martinaglia

The need for systemic change

A collective rethink is needed at the international level with regard to food systems, energy and healthcare provision, the management of natural resources, and the financial sector. Climate change also needs to be incorporated into thinking on IC projects. Well pumps in Africa, for example, can start operating right away with solar power – there is no need to install a diesel generator in the first instance. The technical expertise is already there, Martinaglia explains – it simply needs to be properly implemented.


A man and woman in the Global South sit at a water pipe in front of an array of solar panels.
Switzerland's expertise has much to offer in development cooperation too. © SDC

Young people have their say

Young people are affected most directly by global warming, and are particularly welcome at the IC Forum. Their considerable engagement is evident in the 60 innovative sustainability projects submitted for the international 'Together we're better' competition, organised by the SDC and SECO. The projects will be presented at the forum, with the winning entries receiving prizes.

"It's important to us that the young people are present at all of the forum's sessions, and that they contribute and exchange ideas," says Martinaglia. "They are our future and offer great potential in the field of sustainability cooperation." For President of the Swiss Confederation Ignazio Cassis too, the younger generation is important. Mr Cassis will be taking the time to exchange ideas with the forum's young participants at an informal breakfast on the second day of the conference.

'Together we're better' project competition

The diverse projects created by young people can help combat poverty and mitigate environmental problems. They range from proposals for waste recovery and reducing plastic pollution through to digitalised educational programmes and innovative forms of social work.

The SDC is organising workshops, thematic discussions, a marketplace and networking opportunities for the 'Together we're better' project teams.

"Together we're better' projects

Interactive, hybrid and CO2-neutral

The IC Forum is taking place in a hybrid and interactive format. On both days of the forum there will be a marketplace where the 'Together we're better' youth projects will be exhibited alongside other innovative projects by start-ups. The programme also includes plenary and working sessions with panel discussions and lectures. Key ideas will be clearly explained to the general public in the plenary sessions, while the working sessions will see specialists focusing more closely on specific topics such as nutrition, water, energy and sustainable investments. "The general public can get involved either virtually or in person at all the sessions," says Martinaglia. The IC Forum is CO2-neutral: all emissions it generates will be compensated by the Resource and Environmental Management of the Federal Administration (RUMBA).

"The aim is for the IC Forum to achieve maximum visibility," Martinaglia says. "And that aim is shared by President of the Swiss Confederation Ignazio Cassis. Over time, he would like to see the event become a permanent fixture in the calendars of experts and interested members of the public."

IC Forum is marked by the war in Ukraine

Since the beginning of Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine on 24 February 2022, thousands of innocent people have lost their lives or are on the run. Not only has this war triggered a movement of refugees on an unprecedented scale – but it also threatens the reliable supply of food products such as wheat and cooking oil, of fertilizers as well as fuel and gas in large parts of the world. This development means an enormous challenge for IC and especially for humanitarian aid - and also shapes the agenda of the IC Forum.

Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23 (FPS)

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda are part of the Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23 and the International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24. By increasing its efforts to combat climate change, the FDFA is also helping to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the FPS in the areas of peace and security, prosperity, and sustainability.