The NCCR North-South is one of twenty National Centres of Competence in Research currently supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). It was created in the understanding that development research and cooperation are matters of primary concern to Switzerland. The purpose of the NCCR North-South is to create an institutional structure for sustainable development studies in Switzerland. Additional substantial funding for research and cooperation projects in developing and transition countries is provided by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Since its inception in 2001, the NCCR North-South has established a worldwide research network including seven institutional partners in Switzerland and some 160 research centres, universities and development organisations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Approximately 400 researchers worldwide contribute to the activities of the NCCR North-South.