Engagement with NGOs

The SDC works together with local, international and Swiss NGOs according to the particular context. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Strategy on Switzerland's international cooperation provide the framework for cooperation with NGOs.

The competences and track record of an NGO form the basis for partnerships and cooperation, which also encourages civil society to play an active role and promotes the democratic participation of local people in development processes. 

The Strategy on Switzerland's International Cooperation defines the strategic framework for strengthening cooperation with Swiss NGOs by emphasising the contribution made by civil society organisations to poverty reduction and social justice, as well as to strengthening democratic processes and conserving global public goods.

Engagement with Swiss NGOs

The SDC guidance for cooperation with Swiss NGOs is based on the recommendations made by the independent evaluation of SDC partnerships with Swiss NGOs. 

The SDC works with Swiss NGOs that provide added value over other partners when it comes to implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Strategy on Switzerland's International Cooperation. They must meet the quality criteria in terms of governance, accountability and risk management. 

Independent Evaluation of SDC Partnerships with Swiss NGOs

Dispatch on IC

Goals and principles of engagement

The SDC's engagement with Swiss NGOs aims to create synergies and multiplier effects in order to achieve the objectives of Switzerland's international cooperation. Cooperation with NGOs that are well anchored in the Swiss population also strengthens understanding for this foreign policy activity.

This common goal is achieved by the following measures:

  1. Strengthening civil society in developing and transition countries as well as in humanitarian crises:
    a strong and well-organised civil society is essential for effective advocacy of human rights, promotion of gender equality, inclusive and sustainable development and participatory political processes.
  2. Enabling access to Swiss expertise, innovation and services:
    with their thematic and operational expertise and know-how and their sound knowledge of local contexts, Swiss NGOs are well positioned to disseminate knowledge and innovations to local actors. 

Principles of engagement

The SDC's engagement with Swiss NGOs is guided by the following seven principles to ensure the effectiveness, sustainability and efficiency of international cooperation.

  1. Strengthening the humanitarian-development nexus
  2. Applying a human rights-based approach to mainstreaming gender and good governance
  3. Integrating policy dialogue
  4. Promoting partnerships and cross-sector cooperation
  5. Promoting and respecting national ownership of development objectives
  6. Promoting and respecting effectiveness, transparency and accountability
  7. Optimising cost-effectiveness and minimising transaction costs

Engagement modalities

Contributions represent SDC support for NGO-initiated activities, whereas mandates are SDC-initiated activities carried out by NGOs or the actors. 

Overview of modalities (PDF, 1 Page, 370.3 kB, English)


Mandates are contractual arrangements to provide services. The SDC awards mandates to NGOs to implement projects in accordance with the objectives of Swiss cooperation strategies, humanitarian aid or SDC global programmes. 

There are essentially three procedures for awarding mandates: the tendering procedure, the invitation procedure and the direct award procedure. The requisite procedure is determined by financial thresholds. Calls for bids may explicitly mention Swiss expertise as a requirement, to strengthen the 'Swissness' of the mandate's implementation. 

Mandates are awarded by SDC operational units at head office or in the representations. Mandates may be awarded to implement not only SDC projects but also multi-stakeholder projects with SDC participation.



Contributions support NGO-initiated programmes and projects. The SDC differentiates between core contributions and targeted contributions.

Core contributions

Core contributions are grants provided to Swiss NGOs' international programmes. They enable NGOs to respond flexibly to changing situations. They promote agile management, strengthen work across the humanitarian-development nexus and allow NGOs to test innovative approaches.

Core contributions

Targeted contributions

The SDC may provide targeted contributions for specific projects or initiatives by Swiss or foreign NGOs. Such contributions are granted for activities that are in line with the SDC's thematic and regional or country strategies 

Targeted contributions