History

Great things spring from modest beginnings: SWISSAID has worked for more than 60 years providing aid to encourage self-help. The organisation was previously known as "Schweizer Auslandhilfe" in war-torn Europe. From the 1960s, as SWISSAID it has managed projects in southern hemisphere countries.

1947
“Schweizer Spende” – the agency providing emergency aid in war-ravaged Europe – is renamed “Schweizer Europahilfe” (SEH) – an umbrella organisation for the “Schweizer Hilfswerke” active back then.



1950
The SEH not only carries out coordination work and procures funding, but also manages its own campaigns in West Germany and Austria. The concept of “self-help” emerges for the first time.



1956
Activities in West Germany are wound up. New projects are funded in Greece. At the SEH’s General Meeting, members agree in future “to include in its mandate campaigns to help areas in need in other regions of the world”. Thus, development aid is recognised as a new area of activity. Consequently, the organisation is renamed “Schweizer Auslandhilfe” (SAH).



1960
The SAH’s initial projects in India mark the real beginning of development aid. Loosely cooperating with a Swiss national living abroad in India, the SAH supports irrigation systems, rural training centres and the rehabilitation of leprosy sufferers.



1964
The SAH starts work in Chad.



1969
The “Schweizer Auslandhilfe” is renamed – to make its mission clearer – SWISSAID.



1971
To educate the Swiss population more effectively about development aid and poverty, SWISSAID joins forces with “Bread For All”, “Fastenopfer” and “Helvetas” to form a consortium today known as “Alliance Sud”.



1974
In the same year, SWISSAID gains a foothold for the first time in Latin America. From Ecuador, the relief organisation initiates projects in Colombia before the country gains its own office in 1983.

1975
After 24 years, Heinrich Fischer retires as SWISSAID’s Secretary-General. His successor is Ernst W. Schnellmann. He worked for SWISSAID from 1948 and had a key influence on the organisation’s development and overall attitude.



1981
SWISSAID sets up an office for women’s affairs. 



1983
SWISSAID is transformed from an association to a foundation independent of religious or party political affiliations with a mission to “promote the solidarity of the Swiss population with the world’s disadvantaged people.”



1984
In Lausanne, a branch office of SWISSAID’s headquarters opens.



1990
The SWISSAID team adopts a more political tone and sets up an “agriculture and environment” information office. 



1991
SWISSAID commences work in Myanmar (Burma) or, initially, in the area bordering Thailand.



1992
The Max Havelaar foundation is established. SWISSAID plays a substantial role.



1994
SWISSAID undertakes to provide “development aid from the inside out and the bottom up”, so those concerned take the initiative and are themselves in control.



1998
SWISSAID marks its 50th anniversary, including a celebration in the hall of the Swiss National Council. 



2006
SWISSAID’s subsidiary office in India is the first to be “decentralised”, thus largely self-determining which projects will be carried out. Local professional managers are in charge of all SWISSAID offices.

2008
SWISSAID celebrates its 60th anniversary. At the festivities in Bern town hall, Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey praised the organisation’s work.

2009
After a successful lobbying campaign by SWISSAID and other non-governmental organisations Switzerland agrees to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The EITI works to ensure transparency concerning the revenues from resources of raw materials in developing countries.

2011
Eight Swiss NGOs, including SWISSAID, found the Swiss Water & Sanitation Consortium funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). SWISSAID can assist 101,000 people to access cleaner water in the Sahel states of Niger and Chad.

2015
In Myanmar (Burma), together with the relief organisation Oxfam and other partners, SWISSAID can implement an EU Major Project of approximately 500,000 Swiss francs.

2015
In Tanzania, along with other civil society organisations, SWISSAID’s partner organisation Tabio opposes the overpowering pressure of the agricultural lobby to ensure that genetically modified seeds only continue to be used for research purposes and that the users still bear the risks.

2016
The Responsible Business Initiative is established. More than 140,000 people and 76 non-governmental organisations have signed up to the SWISSAID initiative and clarified that Swiss companies abroad should also respect human rights and the environment.