EAF’s ballot initiative doubled Zurich’s development aid


  • In 2016, the Effec­tive Altru­ism Foun­da­tion (EAF), then based in Switzer­land, launched a bal­lot ini­ti­a­tive ask­ing to in­crease the city of Zurich’s de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion bud­get and to al­lo­cate it more effec­tively.

  • In 2018, we co­or­di­nated a coun­ter­pro­posal with the city coun­cil that pre­served the main points of our origi­nal ini­ti­a­tive and had a high chance of suc­cess.

  • In Novem­ber 2019, the coun­ter­pro­posal passed with a 70% ma­jor­ity. Zurich’s de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion bud­get will thus in­crease from around $3 mil­lion to around $8 mil­lion per year. The city will aim to al­lo­cate it “based on the available sci­en­tific re­search on effec­tive­ness and cost-effec­tive­ness.” This seems to be the first time that Swiss leg­is­la­tion on de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion men­tions effec­tive­ness re­quire­ments.

  • The ini­ti­a­tive cost around $25,000 in fi­nan­cial costs and around $190,000 in op­por­tu­nity costs. Depend­ing on the as­sump­tions, it raised a pre­sent value of $20–160 mil­lion in de­vel­op­ment fund­ing.

  • EAs should con­sider launch­ing similar ini­ti­a­tives in other Swiss cities and around the world.

Ini­tial pro­posal and sig­na­ture collection

In spring 2016, the Effec­tive Altru­ism Foun­da­tion (EAF), then still based in Basel, Switzer­land, launched a bal­lot ini­ti­a­tive ask­ing for the city of Zurich’s de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion bud­get to be in­creased and to be al­lo­cated more effec­tively. (For in­for­ma­tion on EAF’s cur­rent fo­cus, see this ar­ti­cle.) We chose Zurich due to its large bud­get and leftist/​cen­trist ma­jor­ity. I pub­lished an EA Fo­rum post in­tro­duc­ing the ini­ti­a­tive and a cor­re­spond­ing policy pa­per (see English trans­la­tion). (Note: In the EA Fo­rum post, I over­es­ti­mated the pub­lic­ity/​move­ment-build­ing benefits and the prob­a­bil­ity that the origi­nal pro­posal would pass. I overem­pha­sized the quan­ti­ta­tive es­ti­mates, es­pe­cially the point es­ti­mates, which don’t ad­e­quately rep­re­sent the un­cer­tainty. I un­der­es­ti­mated the suc­cess prob­a­bil­ity of a fa­vor­able coun­ter­pro­posal. Also, the policy pa­per should have had a greater fo­cus on hits-based, policy-ori­ented in­ter­ven­tions be­cause I think these have a chance of be­ing even more cost-effec­tive than more “straight­for­ward” ap­proaches and also tend to be viewed more fa­vor­ably by pro­fes­sion­als.)

We hired peo­ple and co­or­di­nated vol­un­teers (mostly an­i­mal rights ac­tivists we had in­ter­acted with be­fore) to col­lect the re­quired 3,000 sig­na­tures (plus 20% safety mar­gin) over six months to get a bind­ing bal­lot vote. Sig­na­tures had to be col­lected in per­son in hand­writ­ten form. For city-level ini­ti­a­tives, peo­ple usu­ally col­lect about 10 sig­na­tures per hour, and pay­ing peo­ple to col­lect sig­na­tures costs about $3 per sig­na­ture on av­er­age.

Pic­ture: Start of sig­na­ture col­lec­tion on 25 May 2016.

Pic­ture: Sub­mis­sion of the ini­ti­a­tive at Zurich’s city hall on 22 Novem­ber 2016.

The leg­is­la­tion we pro­posed (see the ap­pendix) fo­cused too strongly on Ran­dom­ized Con­trol­led Tri­als (RCTs) and de­manded too much of a bud­get in­crease (from $3 mil­lion to $87 mil­lion per year). We made these mis­takes be­cause we had in­ter­nal dis­agree­ments about the pro­posal and did not ded­i­cate enough time to re­solv­ing them. This led to nega­tive ini­tial re­sponses from the city coun­cil and in­fluen­tial char­i­ties (who thought the bud­get in­crease was too ex­treme, were pes­simistic about the odds of suc­cess, and dis­liked the RCT fo­cus), im­ply­ing a <1% suc­cess prob­a­bil­ity at the bal­lot be­cause pub­lic opinion tends to be heav­ily in­fluenced by the city coun­cil’s offi­cial vote recom­men­da­tion. At that point, we planned to re­tract the ini­ti­a­tive be­fore the vote to pre­vent nega­tive PR for EA, while still aiming for a fa­vor­able coun­ter­pro­posal.


As is com­mon for Swiss bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives, the city de­cided to de­velop a coun­ter­pro­posal. Their ini­tial draft did not say any­thing about effec­tive­ness and fo­cused on other top­ics that we did not con­sider im­por­tant. On 28 June 2018, I was able to pre­sent the ini­ti­a­tive to the fi­nan­cial com­mis­sion of the city coun­cil, care­fully pre­empt­ing ob­jec­tions and mis­con­cep­tions (see the slides). I man­aged to con­vince them to make sig­nifi­cant changes to the coun­ter­pro­posal in re­turn for promis­ing to re­tract the origi­nal pro­posal (which is also stan­dard prac­tice in Switzer­land). The city coun­cil voted to bring a coun­ter­pro­posal to the bal­lot that in­creases the de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion bud­get from $3 mil­lion to $5–17 mil­lion per year (0.3–1% tax per­centage points (calcu­lated as 0.3–1% of the fed­eral tax amount), with ex­cep­tions in case of bud­get defic­its) and states that grants should be made “based on the available sci­en­tific re­search on effec­tive­ness and cost-effec­tive­ness.” The coun­ter­pro­posal was sup­ported by all par­ties (SP, glp, GP, AL, EVP) ex­cept for the right-wing ones (FDP, SVP), with 79 in fa­vor, 38 against, and no ab­sten­tions (see the min­utes (p. 883)). We sup­ported the coun­ter­pro­posal be­cause it con­tained the key points of our origi­nal ini­ti­a­tive and had a high chance of suc­cess. As promised, we then re­tracted the origi­nal pro­posal.

His­tor­i­cally, 75% of coun­ter­pro­pos­als had passed in the city of Zurich. Ac­cord­ing to pub­lic opinion pol­ling (“Sicher­heit 2018” p. 147), 59% of the Swiss elec­torate and 85% of left-wing vot­ers (a ~70% ma­jor­ity in Zurich) agree with the state­ment “Switzer­land should provide more for­eign aid.” Other polls had found similar re­sults. For these rea­sons, I as­signed a 77% prob­a­bil­ity that the coun­ter­pro­posal would suc­ceed at the bal­lot.

Cam­paign and vote

As is usual, the par­ties in fa­vor of the coun­ter­pro­posal in­vited us to their cam­paign­ing com­mit­tee. On the EAF side, the cam­paign was co­or­di­nated by Noémie Zurlin­den, a de­vel­op­ment eco­nomics Ph.D. stu­dent at the Univer­sity of St. Gallen, and Pa­trick Stadler, who pre­vi­ously worked at a Swiss aid agency and New In­cen­tives (a char­ity which went through Y Com­bi­na­tor and re­ceived sev­eral GiveWell in­cu­ba­tion grants). They worked with the com­mit­tee on billboards, me­dia in­ter­views, a press con­fer­ence, and a press re­lease. The par­ties con­tributed sub­stan­tially to the bud­get (around $20,000, of which we con­tributed $5,000) and ad­minis­tra­tion of the vote cam­paign.

Pic­ture: Vote cam­paign billboard. Trans­la­tion: “One tax per­cent against global poverty – YES on 17 Novem­ber 2019. Zurich for a good life, also el­se­where. For effec­tive de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion.”

The vote took place on Novem­ber 17th, 2019. The coun­ter­pro­posal passed with 69.7% in fa­vor, which is con­sid­ered a very strong ma­jor­ity. Vot­ing turnout was 36%.

Pic­ture: Vote re­sults.

See also:

Policy implementation

This seems to be the first time that Swiss leg­is­la­tion on de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion men­tions effec­tive­ness re­quire­ments. We are very ex­cited about this. At the same time, this means it’s pretty un­clear how the ad­di­tional fund­ing will be al­lo­cated in prac­tice. Much of it will go to large lo­cal char­i­ties, but parts of it might also be al­lo­cated to pro­jects that are con­sid­ered par­tic­u­larly effec­tive by EAs (e.g., the Swiss branch of TamTam, a char­ity that pri­mar­ily con­ducts fundrais­ing for the Against Malaria Foun­da­tion).

Well-known de­vel­op­ment economist Prof. Dina Pomer­anz of the Univer­sity of Zurich offered to ad­vo­cate for the coun­ter­pro­posal pub­li­cly and par­ti­ci­pated in sev­eral me­dia in­ter­views. (We had been in touch for many years, she’s a mem­ber of our ad­vi­sory board.) Hope­fully, the lo­cal ad­minis­tra­tion and mem­bers of par­li­a­ment will make use of her ex­per­tise in pro­fes­sion­al­iz­ing the al­lo­ca­tion of funds to de­vel­op­ment pro­jects. Plans for such a pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion an­nounced by city offi­cials could con­sti­tute an­other pos­i­tive out­come of the bal­lot ini­ti­a­tive.

We have the rele­vant con­tacts to en­courage proper im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ini­ti­a­tive, but our or­ga­ni­za­tion now has a differ­ent fo­cus and so won’t be able to spend much time on this. If any Swiss effec­tive al­tru­ists in­ter­ested in in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment would like to help im­prove im­ple­men­ta­tion (on a vol­un­teer ba­sis or paid), I en­courage them to get in touch (jonas.vol­lmer at ea-foun­da­tion.org). I think this could be a highly effec­tive use of their time, likely worth hun­dreds of dol­lars per hour in­vested.

Cost-benefit analysis

I quickly pre­pared a post hoc cost-benefit anal­y­sis of the ini­ti­a­tive. For de­tails, see the Guessti­mate model. In the bul­let points be­low, the num­bers some­times do not add up pre­cisely due to round­ing and small im­pre­ci­sions in­tro­duced through the ran­dom­ness of Monte Carlo simu­la­tions.


  • Fi­nan­cial cost: $9,000 for col­lect­ing sig­na­tures, $9,000 in other salaries, $5,000 for the vote cam­paign.

  • Op­por­tu­nity cost: $190,000 worth of se­nior staff time, $8,000 worth of vol­un­teer time.

  • A larger de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion bud­get im­plies ad­di­tional taxes or cuts from other bud­get items in Zurich.

  • To­tal costs: $220,000.


  • The bud­get in­creases by around $5 mil­lion per year, or an ex­pected 4 mil­lion af­ter ac­count­ing for ex­cep­tions due to bud­get defic­its. With a 2–12% dis­count rate and a time frame of around 50 years, this cor­re­sponds to a pre­sent value of about $20–160 mil­lion.

Costs vs. benefits:

  • The above im­plies $80–1,100 raised per dol­lar spent.

  • How cost-effec­tive is the city’s new bud­get rel­a­tive to di­rect cash trans­fers? Donat­ing to GiveDirectly is per­haps ~30x bet­ter than giv­ing money to ran­dom peo­ple in the world. The cost-effec­tive­ness of Zurich’s cur­rent bud­get might be some­where in be­tween and might im­prove thanks to the ini­ti­a­tive. For in­stance, the city might sup­port highly effec­tive pro­jects (like TamTam) with a small part of its bud­get. This leads me to as­sume that cash trans­fers may be 1–10x more cost-effec­tive than Zurich’s new bud­get. Un­der this as­sump­tion, the ini­ti­a­tive raised $20–600 per dol­lar spent.

  • If we com­pare to giv­ing to GiveWell’s top char­i­ties rather than cash trans­fers (ac­cord­ing to their 2019 model), it raised $1.40–50 per dol­lar spent.

This com­pares fa­vor­ably to most con­ven­tional fundrais­ing meth­ods, which usu­ally raise $1.50–10 per dol­lar in­vested. It seems similar to other EA fundrais­ing pro­jects, though it looks less at­trac­tive from a longter­mist per­spec­tive (be­cause these funds are speci­fi­cally go­ing to­wards global de­vel­op­ment).

That said, some sub­stan­tial in­di­rect benefits aren’t ac­counted for:

  • This leg­is­la­tion cre­ates a prece­dent for (cost-)effec­tive­ness re­quire­ments. As a re­sult, large Swiss char­i­ties and the fed­eral de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion agen­cies may adopt ev­i­dence-based ap­proaches more quickly. (E.g., some ex­ec­u­tives at the largest Swiss char­i­ties read our policy pa­per and ex­pressed in­ter­est in im­pact eval­u­a­tions.)

  • Bal­lot votes are tak­ing se­ri­ously by poli­ti­ci­ans and ver­ify the re­sults from pub­lic opinion pol­ling. The clear out­come from this ini­ti­a­tive could ar­guably im­prove the chances of an in­crease in fed­eral de­vel­op­ment fund­ing or re­duce the chances of a cut (which has been pro­posed re­peat­edly by the right-wing party).

  • Tan­gible suc­cesses can help boost the cred­i­bil­ity of the EA com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing in other cause ar­eas.

  • The knowl­edge gained could also be valuable for repli­cat­ing the ini­ti­a­tive el­se­where.

Po­ten­tial replications

Given the clear suc­cess of the ini­ti­a­tives, effec­tive al­tru­ists should likely con­sider repli­cat­ing similar bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives el­se­where. Ideas in­clude:

  • Other Swiss cities. Basel, Lau­sanne, Bern, Win­terthur, and St. Gallen seem par­tic­u­larly promis­ing be­cause they have leftist ma­jori­ties and are not too small. Un­like Zurich, they do not have ex­ist­ing aid bud­gets. Geneva might work as well but has a large ex­ist­ing aid bud­get with more vested in­ter­ests. Repli­ca­tions would be low-cost be­cause we can rely on the learn­ings from this ini­ti­a­tive. That said, it seems un­usual and against the cus­toms to scale lo­cal bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives to a large num­ber of cities, and de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion is gen­er­ally un­der the purview of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. This could lead to some push­back, which would have to be pre­vented or man­aged care­fully.

  • Other places. Bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives are pos­si­ble in many U.S. states and many other coun­tries in the world. There may also be other ways to in­fluence gov­ern­ment aid fund­ing from the “ground level” in some coun­tries (though I am not im­me­di­ately aware of any).

  • Differ­ent pro­pos­als. Carl Shul­man points out: “Cal­ifor­nia has had sev­eral re­gional ini­ti­a­tives to spend on sci­en­tific re­search (e.g. a suc­cess­ful one for stem cell re­search, and a lost one to tax to­bacco for can­cer re­search).” There have also been sev­eral suc­cess­ful an­i­mal welfare bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives, both in Switzer­land and the United States. Bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives seem promis­ing for is­sues that are low on the poli­ti­cal agenda and on which the pop­u­la­tion tends to vote differ­ently from leg­is­la­tive bod­ies, per­haps such as bud­get in­creases or an­i­mal welfare.

Depend­ing on the type of ini­ti­a­tive, this could be a promis­ing ac­tivity for EA groups (con­sist­ing of vol­un­teers and some part-time staff), as­piring EA poli­ti­ci­ans, or or­ga­ni­za­tions with sev­eral full-time staff.

If you are in­ter­ested in launch­ing an­other ini­ti­a­tive in Switzer­land, please let us know in the com­ments and email jonas.vol­lmer at ea-foun­da­tion.org. I won’t con­tribute my­self, but I can put you in touch with fun­ders and oth­ers who are in­ter­ested and share ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion. Those in­ter­ested in U.S. bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives can reach out to Re­think Pri­ori­ties.

For an ex­ten­sive re­port, see Re­think Pri­ori­ties’ In­ter­ven­tion Pro­file: Bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives.


I would like to thank Kas­par Et­ter, Aaron Gertler, Zachary Robin­son, Ja­son Schukraft, Pa­trick Stadler, Pas­cal Zim­mer, and Noémie Zurlin­den for giv­ing feed­back on this ar­ti­cle.


Coun­ter­pro­posal by the city council

Ge­gen­vorschlag des Ge­mein­der­ats zur Volksini­ti­a­tive «Ein Prozent gegen die globale Ar­mut (1%-Ini­ti­a­tive)» (Ge­mein­debeschluss)

AS 856.100

Beiträge für die in­ter­na­tionale Zusammenarbeit

Art. 1 Die Stadt gewährt jährlich Beiträge für die in­ter­na­tionale Zusam­me­nar­beit. Der Um­fang der Beiträge entspricht min­destens 0,3 und höch­stens 1 Steuer­prozent.

Art. 2 Wenn die Stadt einen Bilanzfehlbe­trag aufweist oder wenn die let­zten drei Rech­nungs­jahre in­s­ge­samt mit einem Defizit von mehr als 30 Millio­nen Franken abgeschlossen haben, kön­nen die jährlichen Beiträge tiefer aus­fallen oder ganz ent­fallen.

Art. 3 Die Stadt strebt für das Ver­gabev­er­fahren möglichst tiefe Kosten und, wo sin­nvoll, eine Ko­or­di­na­tion mit dem Bund an. Die Ver­gabepraxis ori­en­tiert sich an der vorhan­de­nen wissen­schaftlichen Forschung über Wirk­samkeit und Wirtschaftlichkeit sowie an den Aspek­ten der Trans­parenz und der Ökolo­gie.

Art. 4 Der Ge­mein­debeschluss vom 5. März 1972 be­tre­ffend En­twick­lung­shilfe im In- und Aus­land (AS 856.100) wird aufge­hoben.

Art. 5 Der Stad­trat setzt diesen Beschluss in Kraft.

Unoffi­cial English translation

Coun­ter­pro­posal of the mu­ni­ci­pal coun­cil to the pop­u­lar ini­ti­a­tive “One per­cent against global poverty (1% ini­ti­a­tive)” (mu­ni­ci­pal re­s­olu­tion)

AS 856.100

Con­tri­bu­tions to in­ter­na­tional cooperation

Art. 1 The City shall grant an­nual con­tri­bu­tions for in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion. The amount of the con­tri­bu­tions shall be a min­i­mum of 0.3 and a max­i­mum of 1 tax per­centage point.

Art. 2 If the City shows a bal­ance sheet deficit or if the last three fi­nan­cial years have, in to­tal, con­cluded with a deficit of more than 30 mil­lion Swiss francs, the an­nual con­tri­bu­tions may be re­duced or omit­ted al­to­gether.

Art. 3 The City shall aim to keep the cost of the grant award pro­ce­dure as low as pos­si­ble and, where ap­pro­pri­ate, to co­or­di­nate it with the Fed­eral Govern­ment. The award prac­tice shall be based on the available sci­en­tific re­search on effec­tive­ness and cost-effec­tive­ness as well as on the as­pects of trans­parency and ecol­ogy.

Art. 4 The mu­ni­ci­pal re­s­olu­tion of 5 March 1972 on do­mes­tic and for­eign de­vel­op­ment aid (AS 856.100) is re­pealed.

Art. 5 The City Coun­cil puts this re­s­olu­tion into effect.

Origi­nal pro­posal (bal­lot ini­ti­a­tive)

See also the ini­ti­a­tive sheet.

Städtische Volksinitiative

Ein Prozent gegen die globale Ar­mut (1%-Ini­ti­a­tive)

Gestützt auf Art. 15 ff. der Ge­mein­de­ord­nung der Stadt Zürich und das Ge­setz über die poli­tischen Rechte stel­len die un­terze­ich­nen­den Stimm­berechtigten der Stadt Zürich fol­gen­des Begehren:

Die Ge­mein­de­ord­nung der Stadt Zürich wird wie folgt geän­dert:

Art. 2 septies

1 Die Stadt un­ter­stützt hochwirk­same Hilfswerke im Bere­ich der In­ter­na­tionalen Zusam­me­nar­beit mit einem Prozent ihres Bud­gets.

2 Mit den zusät­zlichen Mit­teln soll eine möglichst grosse Wirkung erz­ielt wer­den, ins­beson­dere im Bere­ich der globalen Ar­mut und Ge­sund­heit. Die Stadt un­ter­stützt da­her Hilfspro­jekte, welche durch un­ab­hängige wissen­schaftliche Forschung, ins­beson­dere ran­domisiert-kon­trol­lierte Stu­dien aus der En­twick­lungsökonomie, als kosteneffek­tiv eingestuft wur­den.

3 Die Stadt setzt sich im Rah­men ihrer Möglichkeiten beim Bund und beim Kan­ton Zürich dafür ein, die Öffentliche En­twick­lung­shilfe (APD) auf ein Prozent des Brut­to­na­tionaleinkom­mens zu er­höhen.


Die globale Ar­mut ist eines der wichtig­sten ethischen Prob­leme un­serer Zeit: Nach wie vor ster­ben in En­twick­lungslän­dern je­den Tag 20’000 Kin­der – ein Elend, das wir nur er­tra­gen kön­nen, weil wir es nicht selbst täglich vor Au­gen se­hen.

Über zwei Drit­tel der Sch­weiz­er­in­nen und Sch­weizer wol­len, dass die Sch­weiz mehr En­twick­lung­shilfe leistet (repräsen­ta­tive ETH-Um­frage «Sicher­heit 2015»). Trotz­dem in­vestierte die Sch­weiz 2015 nur 0.52 Prozent des Brut­to­na­tionaleinkom­mens und er­re­ichte damit nicht ein­mal das UNO-Min­destz­iel von 0.7 Prozent. Weniger wohlhabende Län­der (z. B. Nied­er­lande, Gross­bri­tan­nien, Däne­mark und Sch­we­den) spenden deut­lich mehr als die Sch­weiz. Als ein­fluss­re­ich­ste Ge­meinde der Sch­weiz kann sich die Stadt Zürich beson­ders gut auf Bun­de­sebene dafür einset­zen, die hu­man­itäre Tra­di­tion der Sch­weiz fortzuset­zen.

Der Nutzen der En­twick­lung­shilfe wird im­mer wieder pauschal in­frage gestellt, vor allem me­dial. In den let­zten 10 Jahren wurde je­doch in­ten­siv geforscht, und wir wissen heute be­deu­tend mehr über erfol­gre­iche En­twick­lungszusam­me­nar­beit: Un­ab­hängige Forschungsin­sti­tute haben Hilfspro­jekte iden­ti­fiz­iert, deren hohe Wirk­samkeit durch wissen­schaftliche Forschung und ins­beson­dere ran­domisiert-kon­trol­lierte Ex­per­i­mente («RCT») mehrfach nachgewie­sen wurde. Selbst skep­tische Ex­per­t­in­nen und Ex­perten an­erken­nen die Wirk­samkeit dieser Pro­jekte. Die Stadt kann sich auf diese un­ab­hängi­gen Eval­u­a­tio­nen ver­lassen und einen wissen­schaftlichen Beirat beiz­ie­hen.

Mit dieser Ini­ti­a­tive set­zen wir hohe Qual­ität­sansprüche an Hilfspro­jekte und nehmen un­sere globale Ver­ant­wor­tung wahr.

Unoffi­cial English translation

Mu­ni­ci­pal Pop­u­lar Initiative

One per­cent against global poverty (1% ini­ti­a­tive)

Based on Art. 15 et seq. of the Mu­ni­ci­pal Code of the City of Zurich and the Law on Poli­ti­cal Rights, the un­der­signed vot­ers sub­mit the fol­low­ing pro­posal to the City of Zurich:

The Mu­ni­ci­pal Code of the City of Zurich is amended as fol­lows:

Art. 2 septies

1 The City shall sup­port highly effec­tive aid or­ga­ni­za­tions in the area of in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion with one per­cent of its bud­get.

2 The ad­di­tional funds shall be used to achieve as large an im­pact as pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially in the area of global poverty and health. The City shall, there­fore, sup­port aid pro­jects that have been deemed cost-effec­tive by in­de­pen­dent sci­en­tific re­search, in par­tic­u­lar, ran­dom­ized con­trol­led tri­als from de­vel­op­ment eco­nomics.

3 Within the scope of its pos­si­bil­ities, the City shall com­mit the Fed­eral Govern­ment and the Can­ton of Zurich to in­crease offi­cial de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance (ODA) to one per­cent of gross na­tional in­come.


Global poverty is one of the most im­por­tant eth­i­cal prob­lems of our time: 20,000 chil­dren con­tinue to die ev­ery day in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries—a mis­ery that we can only bear be­cause we do not see it be­fore our eyes daily.

Over two thirds of the Swiss peo­ple want Switzer­land to provide more de­vel­op­ment aid (rep­re­sen­ta­tive ETH sur­vey “Se­cu­rity 2015”). De­spite this, Switzer­land in­vested only 0.52 per­cent of its gross na­tional in­come in 2015 and thus did not even reach the UN min­i­mum tar­get of 0.7 per­cent. Less pros­per­ous coun­tries (e.g., the Nether­lands, the United King­dom, Den­mark, and Swe­den) donate sig­nifi­cantly more than Switzer­land. As Switzer­land’s most in­fluen­tial mu­ni­ci­pal­ity, the City of Zurich is par­tic­u­larly well-placed to pro­mote the con­tinu­a­tion of Switzer­land’s hu­man­i­tar­ian tra­di­tion at the fed­eral level.

The effec­tive­ness of de­vel­op­ment aid is of­ten ques­tioned across the board, es­pe­cially in the me­dia. In the last ten years, how­ever, there has been in­ten­sive re­search, and to­day we know con­sid­er­ably more about suc­cess­ful de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion: in­de­pen­dent re­search in­sti­tutes have iden­ti­fied aid pro­jects whose high effec­tive­ness has been demon­strated sev­eral times through sci­en­tific re­search and, in par­tic­u­lar, ran­dom­ized con­trol­led tri­als (“RCT”). Even skep­ti­cal ex­perts ac­knowl­edge the effec­tive­ness of these pro­jects. The City can rely on these in­de­pen­dent eval­u­a­tions and con­sult a sci­en­tific ad­vi­sory board.

With this ini­ti­a­tive, we set high qual­ity stan­dards for aid pro­jects and meet our global re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Me­dia coverage

Note: All me­dia cov­er­age is in Ger­man. If you do not speak Ger­man, I recom­mend us­ing DeepL to trans­late the re­ports.

When the ini­ti­a­tive was launched, me­dia cov­er­age was mostly pos­i­tive:

When the city found is­sues with the ini­ti­a­tive and recom­mended against it, re­ports were more crit­i­cal:

Dur­ing the vote cam­paign and af­ter the vote, me­dia cov­er­age was mostly pos­i­tive. Some re­ports were crit­i­cal in a way that ap­peared rea­son­able to me.

After the vote: