The cultural aims of the Confederation within its diplomatic mission is articulated by three main points: institutional collaboration and networking, the promotion and dissemination of Swiss culture and artists abroad and investing in the artists and cultures of partner countries, recognising them as intrinsic to a sustainable process of development.
The FDHA (in particular: Swiss Federal Office of Culture (FOC), Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia) and the FDFA (in particular: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Presence Suisse (PRS)) coordinate their activities within the framework of international cultural policy. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, and the Swissnex network complete the activities and collaborate with one another to coordinate their actions and resources. By cultivating relations with regional authorities, cities and institutions outside Switzerland, the cantons and cities play an important role in facilitating partnerships on different levels.
The Federal Office of Culture’s (FOC) international engagement focuses on political exchanges, the establishment of relevant framework conditions and the representation of Switzerland in various multilateral platforms. It oversees implementing and monitoring institutional cooperation regarding bilateral film coproduction, transfer of cultural goods, as well as for various Cultural Conventions of UNESCO and the Council of Europe. It cooperates with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) for most of these topics.
Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia‘s work focuses on cultural and artistic exchanges (except for the film sector, which is the responsibility of the FOC). It provides funding for events, projects and translations in order to promote Swiss art and culture outside Switzerland and to foster cultural exchange with other cultural areas. To raise awareness of Swiss artists abroad, Pro Helvetia implements measures for international promotion and funds Switzerland’s appearances as a guest country at international events. It further operates and finances six Liaison Offices worldwide: in Cairo, Johannesburg, Moscow (since 2017), New Delhi, Shanghai and South America (since 2021). The Liaison Offices maintain contact with local partners, act as intermediaries on the ground and in the respective regions, and offer residency and exchange programmes. Pro Helvetia also runs a cultural centre in Paris (Centre Culturel Suisse), contributes financially, and works in cooperation with larger partner institutions in Rome (Istituto Svizzero di Roma), San Francisco (swissnex San Francisco) and New York (Swiss Institute New York). (see chapter 1.4)
According to the Culture Dispatch 2021-2024, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia makes a significant contribution to the presentation of around 5000 Swiss cultural events each year in over 120 countries. According to the annual report 2020, besides its domestic activities (43.2% of all projects), Pro Helvetia supported over 2400 Swiss art and cultural projects in 105 countries (over 70% of projects in Europe) in 2020, compared to 4500 projects in 120 countries in 2019 (around 70% of projects in Europe).
The main priorities for the 2021-2024 period are keeping this bridge-building of international dialogue, promoting cooperation, disseminating, promoting Swiss culture and arts, nourishing Swiss participation abroad, and creating new international exchanges and networks in yet untapped regions and markets.
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) offers its network of external representations and different promotional platforms to the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) to assist in the fulfilment of its cultural policy projects outside Switzerland. The FDFA is also responsible for maintaining contacts with the relevant organisations in the multilateral field. As the FDHA is responsible for the projects’ content, the coordination mechanisms and regular information exchange ensure healthy collaboration between the two departments.
Within the FDFA, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) supports culture through the SDC Cultural Percent with at least 1% of its operational budget in its partner countries (categorised under 3 headings: small actions, programmes at country level over several years, and regional programmes). In the “Reflection Papers on Culture and Development” (FDFA/SDC, 2020), SDC’s approach to international cultural work is distinguished from that of The Swiss Artists Council Pro Helvetia: Therefore, SDC invests in the artists and cultures of partner countries, recognising them as intrinsic to a sustainable process of development: “Rather than exercise its own cultural power, Switzerland helps partner nations cultivate their own.” (Source, S. 37 /ENG p.36) Through the SDC, Switzerland intends to help partner nations to strengthen their own cultural resources. In this sense, the SDC supports the promotion of arts and culture in and of SDC partner countries, for example through capacity building programmes or by facilitating access to Swiss audiences, international art markets and cultural industry networks (e.g. through film festivals or the multidisciplinary festival CULTURESCAPES). The SDC finances the Fonds culturel Sud/SüdKulturFonds (administered by the Swiss office for cultural cooperation artlink since 2010) which provides funding (appr. 725 000 CHF per year) for productions and performances in Switzerland by artists from developing countries and countries undergoing transition to democracy. According to Switzerland’s International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24, development cooperation concentrates on the following four priority regions: North Africa and the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia (Central, South and South-East Asia) and Eastern Europe.
Also within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Presence Switzerland (PRS; subordinate to the General Secretariat since 2009) is responsible for maintaining Switzerland’s image abroad, and for implementing the Federal Council’s strategy on Switzerland’s communication abroad. In 2012, PRS was merged with the Competence Centre for Cultural Foreign Policy. For the period 2021–24, PRS’s communication abroad will be guided by five thematic priorities, building on Switzerland’s Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23: innovation, the economy, Swiss-European relations, the Swiss financial centre and sustainability.
PRS supports the presence of Swiss culture abroad at events organised by the representation network and defines corresponding priorities. Cultural programmes also play a major role in the context of appearances at major international events (for example: world expos, Olympic Games, arts and design fairs). In this context, Presence Switzerland works closely with the FOC and The Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.
The constitution grants the cantons subsidiary competence in foreign affairs, particularly as regards the conclusion of treaties on matters that lie within their own jurisdiction and when dealing directly with lower ranking foreign authorities (Art. 56). The cantons have acted accordingly on a cultural level by cultivating relations with regional authorities, cities and institutions outside Switzerland. The cantons and cities play an important role in facilitating partnerships on different levels, which is demonstrated by the artists-in-residence opportunities offered by the Swiss Confederation, cantons, and cities (http://www.artists-in-residence.ch).