Switzerland

A few weeks ago the Finance Committee of the National Council moved for Switzerland's official development assistance to be reduced to 0.4% or even 0.3% of gross national income over the coming years. That would mean cutting expenditure on actual development cooperation abroad by 30% to 50%. Care of asylum seekers here at home, which Switzerland absurdly counts as development spending, would then account for one fourth to one third of this expenditure.

In the National Council itself, the Finance Committee's radical cost-cutting proposals will hardly find a majority. It transpires from centre-right circles, however, that a call will indeed be made for cost-cutting in long-term development programmes in order to release more funds for short-term emergency humanitarian aid. The call will also be for development cooperation to be more closely tied to Switzerland's own interests, namely to migration partnerships and agreements for the repatriation of asylum seekers.

Tax avoidance and evasion represent a systemic drain on government revenues needed for the fulfilment of women’s rights and gender equality. As the international human rights system begins to grapple with the consequences of tax policy for human rights, a groundbreaking initiative is about to shine a bright light into the dark corners of financial secrecy.

Switzerland – arguably the world’s most important tax haven — may soon face scrutiny from the United Nations human rights system over its role in facilitating cross-border tax abuse. A coalition of civil society organizations has asked the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) — the UN body mandated to oversee compliance with governments’ legal obligations related to women’s human rights — to examine the extra-territorial impacts of Switzerland’s opaque financial legislation on women’s rights and gender equality, particularly in developing countries.

The Swiss Parliament is discussing corporate tax reform III. In development policy terms, with this reform Switzerland is going from the frying pan into the fire.

For every US dollar a developing country gains, it loses more than two. A wide range of capital transfers help account for the constant drain of financial resources away from developing countries. According to calculations by Eurodad, the European Network on Debt and Development, developing countries lost US$1,583 billion in this way in 2012. That is more than 10 times the US$120 billion that flowed into developing countries in 2012 in the form of official and private development assistance.

Photo: Raffael Waldner,
Tageswoche

Peter Niggli was honoured by the Swiss development community with a farewell party last August 27 in Bern, as he retired after 17 years at the helm of Alliance Sud, the Swiss coalition of development NGOs. Parliamentarians, government officials, journalists and NGO colleagues expressed their recognition. Speakers highlighted Niggli's contribution to the 2011 Swiss decision to increase ODA to 0.5% of GDP, which is a major step forward even if short of the 0.7 international target.

On behalf of the Social Watch network, of which Alliance Sud is the Swiss member, Roberto Bissio summarised Niggli's contribution as having taught a lesson in commitment.  

Peter Niggli

Climate change is costing us dear. Unless we rein it in, there will be more failed harvests, flooding in low-lying coastal areas, disease, mass migration and armed conflict over resources. Stopping it also comes at a price. It would mean completely switching energy generation, industrial production and transport systems to renewable energy sources – which is what the concept of climate protection means. Moderate estimates are that as of the year 2020, US$200 billion will have to be invested every year in emerging and developing countries. In addition, 50 billion would need to be invested annually in adaptation to climate change. This would include coastal protection systems for coping with rising sea levels, altering water courses or resettling communities in the countries affected, to mention but a few points.

The Third UN Conference on Financing for Development will take place in Addis Ababa in July 2015. The key question will be how to finance the Sustainable Development Goals.

In September 2015 the UN will finalize the new global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The political negotiations within the Open Working Group (OWG) have produced an ambitious catalogue of 17 main goals and numerous sub-goals, all of which focus equally on economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development. It is yet to be seen whether the goals put forward by the OWG will be watered down by the time the negotiations are over. Several countries have already announced their opposition to specific proposals.

People demand clear rules
for Swiss corporations.
(Photo: Philipp Rohrer/Alliance Sud)

In some areas of its foreign policy, Switzerland does not earn the best marks for its contribution to the Millennium Development Goals. Its finance and trade policy is driven by self-interest and contributes to restricting the policy space of poor countries. Although Switzerland has substantially increased its development budget and pursues good pro-poor development cooperation by international comparison.

As a donor country Switzerland is bound primarily by the eighth Millennium Development Goal (MDG). This means that it should support the poorest countries in realising development goals 1 to 7 and adapt its trade policy and that of its financial centre to the needs of the poorest countries. Its endeavours towards a coherent, pro-development policy have also remained rather modest.

In some areas of its foreign policy, Switzerland does not earn the best marks for its contribution to the Millennium Development Goals. Although Switzerland has substantially increased its development budget and pursues good pro-poor development cooperation by international comparison, its finance and trade policy is driven by self-interest and contributes to restricting the policy space of poor countries.
Peter Niggli. (Photo: Swissinfo)

Conflicts on water all over the world responds to “the absence of recognized policy mechanisms and public institutions for managing water resources and allocating water in accordance with criteria that can be understood by the public” and can not be settled by market mechanisms, according to Peter Niggli, director of Alliance Sud, focal point of Social Watch in Switzerland.

Photo: Philipp Rohrer/Alliance Sud

The "Corporate Justice" petition was signed by 135.285 people. This campaign urges the Federal Council of Switzerland and the Parliament to compel Swiss transnational corporations to respect human rights and the environment worldwide, reported Alliance Sud, focal point of Social Watch in the European country.

According to the campaign, subsidiaries of Swiss transnational companies such as Xstrata, Glencore, Syngenta, Nestlé, Danzer, Triumph and Holcim violate human rights or pollute the environment abroad, while there is no way for the parent companies to be held accountable.

Syndicate content