The Exchange of Personnel in Development Cooperation

The exchange of personnel in development cooperation, also called Personnel Development Cooperation (PDC), is a well-established and valuable element of Swiss development cooperation. PDC assigns qualified professionals in volunteer status (international volunteers) to countries of the Global South. PDC is a form of international cooperation, which does not focus on money or technology, but on personal and professional exchange between people from different cultural backgrounds. Together, they work to improve the living conditions in countries of the Global South.

Through sustainable partnerships at eye level, PDC has a direct impact on the empowerment of local organisations in the Global South.

The assignment of a specialist is always initiated by the demand on part of a partner organisation in the Global South. The development worker is then selected according to a requirements profile defined by the partner organisation. The assignment of an international volunteer within the framework of PDC strengthens the capacities of partner organisations and local institutions to provide services to the population, while emphasising learning from each other and working together to find the best solutions.

An important part of PDC is the fact that volunteering professionals share the living conditions of the local population during their placement, which fosters a direct, ongoing and equal exchange with Southern partners about professional knowledge and values. Through this exchange, the specialists gain a particularly high level of credibility and trust, which allows them to engage in a more direct dialogue with partner organisations from civil society, private businesses or government institutions. PDC lowers the risk of dependency on the North or the substitution of state functions as interpersonal and interprofessional exchange are the main focus. In addition, a PDC assignment is always limited in time. The long-term goal is the autonomous continuation of the jointly established projects/activities by the partner organisation after completion of the assignment (or several successive assignments).

The mutual exchange of skills and reciprocal capacity building has been demonstrated in several studies by Unité, the German Development Cooperation Evaluation Institute (Deutsches Evaluierungsinstitut der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit) and the International Forum for Volunteering in Development. Due to this exchange. the specialists can support effective and sustainable development aimed at the long-term self-reliance of the Southern Partners.

Within the framework of Swiss development cooperation, PDC significantly contributes to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in partner countries...

Owing to its continuity and sustainability, the exchange of personnel in development cooperation is a nationally and internationally recognised instrument of Switzerland's international cooperation. It contributes to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by Switzerland as well as to Switzerland's international cooperation strategy 2021-2024. The effectiveness of PDC and the added value it brings to Swiss development cooperation were confirmed in an independent study commissioned by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in 2018 (Hoffmann 2018).

PDC promotes engagement for sustainable development in the sense of global citizenship and contributes directly to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda through the exchange of expertise and know-how. Unité's activities as an umbrella organisation mainly contribute to Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by helping to strengthen the global partnership to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The exchange of personnel in development cooperation of Unité’s member organisations significantly contributes to the achievement of SDGs 2, 3, 4 and 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

... as well as in Switzerland: PDC promotes a humanitarian, engaged and open Switzerland through mutual exchange between North and South.

Swiss professional volunteers who work in development cooperation in a country of the Global South are ambassadors of a committed and open-minded Switzerland during their placement. The principle of reciprocity applies to assignments in PDC, with the focus on learning from each other and working together. The volunteers get to know a different reality of life, are sensitised to the interests of the Global South and learn from the local population and the partner organisations.

Upon their return to Switzerland, the specialists carry the experience they gained, the knowledge and skills they acquired and their sensitivity for the issues of development cooperation into the various areas of their lives, be it professionally or privately. Whether in the social or private sector, Switzerland's international cooperation or in public institutions, the returned professionals raise awareness and motivate their colleagues to work towards sustainable development themselves. Because of the experience gained during their placement, they dispose of a unique legitimacy and recognition for these activities.

To sum up, PDC volunteers significantly contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals not only in the partner countries, but also upon their return to Switzerland.

By virtue of the voluntary commitment of professionals, PDC requires only modest means to achieve a considerable impact

The exchange of personnel in development cooperation does not focus on large infrastructure projects, but on sharing knowledge and developing the capacities of local partner organisations. Owing to the personal commitment of the international volunteers, PDC is a form of international cooperation that achieves a great impact, while only requiring modest means.

The professionals deployed only receive a daily allowance adapted to local living conditions to finance their livelihood on site. They do not receive a salary and voluntarily renounce a Swiss-level income.

The overall added value created by PDC assignments is difficult to measure, as it is hard to quantify progress in the areas of capacity development, tolerance, solidarity or mutual understanding. However, to measure and ensure the impact of its member organisations' activities, Unité has developed new or adapted existing participatory evaluation methods. Unité's impact evaluations prove the effectiveness of PDC, which is also demonstrated in several international studies.