Interview with the Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Martin Dahinden

Date: Thursday, February 6, 2014

Director General Martin Dahinden. Photo couresty of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
Director General Martin Dahinden.
Photo couresty of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

The Government of Switzerland announced core funding of CHF 12 million (approximately USD 13.3 million) for UN Women in 2013 and pledged to provide CHF 14 million, equivalent to approximately USD 15.4 million in core funding in 2014, making it one of the top donors to the organization's core budget. 

In an interview, the Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Ambassador Martin Dahinden, explains why his Government believes funding UN Women is such an important priority.

Why is UN Women a good fit for channeling your development assistance?

The implementation of gender equality policies and the adequate integration of gender dimensions in all programmes and projects pose multiple challenges and require expertise and the development of capacities at all levels. The Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) is contributing to the development of these capacities, as well as to gender equality and women’s empowerment through its programmes, but there is a need for the development of greater expertise in the UN and in all countries, in the governments, NGOs and the private sector.

UN Women can play an essential role in the implementation of gender equality policies and the development of expertise world-wide, if it has sufficient resources. Moreover, through its dialogue with governments and international organizations, it can play an important role in strengthening the political will, which is crucial in order to advance the implementation of gender equality. Its responsibility in monitoring the implementation of the UN system-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality, gives the opportunity to advance the accountability for the implementation of gender equality commitments across the UN system. Finally, UN Women has an important normative role to play by advocating that the UN does not regress, but advances in regards to gender equality commitments.

Why is gender equality important to your Government?

Inequality between men and women persists. It is the world’s most widespread form of exclusion. Gender inequality is both a violation of human rights and a major obstacle to sustainable development and poverty eradication. The promotion of human rights is an important part of Switzerland’s foreign policy and is strongly anchored in the Swiss Federal Constitution but is also part of Switzerland’s international commitments, such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action. Recent studies, such as the World Development Report, have shown that the reduction of gender inequalities has a positive impact on the gross national product of a country and contributes significantly to poverty reduction. In short, supporting gender equality is not only a question of justice, but also a precondition for development.

How do women’s empowerment and gender equality feature in your multilateral aid policy?

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are important in our bilateral programmes as well as in our multilateral cooperation. It is a cross-cutting issue in the work of the SDC since the 1990s. Our increased support to UN Women, making Switzerland one of the most important donors of UN Women, is a demonstration of this engagement. The priorities for Switzerland are women’s economic and political empowerment and gender equality in governance, national planning and budgeting. Moreover, we provide also additional support for ending violence against women and girls.