Post-2015 agenda: taking stock of Switzerland’s contribution to the formulation of global sustainable development goals

Article, 12.12.2013

On 9 December 2013, the SDC organised a panel discussion entitled «Towards a sustainable future: Switzerland and the post-2015 agenda». Representatives from the scientific and academic communities, NGOs, the private sector and the federal administration examined Switzerland’s contribution to the UN’s post-2015 sustainable development goals and took stock of the consultation process that has taken place so far in Switzerland. Among other topics, the participants discussed the significance of food security and the role of the private sector.

Switzerland is currently elaborating its position for the post-2015 agenda.

Under the leadership of Michael Gerber, ambassador and special representative for global and sustainable development, the panellists drew up an interim balance sheet on Switzerland’s position regarding the sustainable development agenda for the period after 2015, which is when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will expire.

Caroline Morel, director of Swissaid, underscored the importance of the themes and priorities contained in Switzerland’s position, such as human rights, respect for planetary boundaries, universality and an integrated approach to policy-making. She also noted that the role of the private sector remains unclear and that the Swiss position fails to take due account of food security and governance.

Hans Hurni, professor of geography and director of the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern, also lamented the fact that food security is not one of the priorities in Switzerland’s position on the sustainable development goals. Food security, noted Professor Hurni, is an important global issue: almost one billion people are still suffering from periodic or chronic hunger.

Defining the role of the private sector
The role of the private sector was widely discussed. Michael Gerber spoke in favour of using funding and know-how from the private sector, foundations and philanthropic donors for development goals, as mentioned in the Swiss position paper for the post-2015 development agenda. How to mobilise foreign direct investments, money transfers from migrants or new financial instruments for this would have to be tested, he said.

Christian Frutiger, global public affairs manager at Nestlé, considers the sustainability of agriculture to be an important priority. At the same time, argued Frutiger, to prevent abuses such as the use of child labour in cocoa production, it is necessary to put regulations in place and to ensure that they are actually enforced on the ground. He also stressed the importance of promoting dialogue between the government, the scientific community and civil society. Caroline Morel added that the private sector must be supported in the countries of the South. In addition, innovative funding mechanisms must be found to implement the new objectives.

Post-2015: focus on sustainability, poverty reduction still important
In the post-2015 period, the MDGs are to be replaced by the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The aim is to bring about a paradigm shift that puts sustainable development in the North as well as in the South at the centre of global attention. Resources must also be secured for future generations, explained Michael Gerber. He added, «But poverty reduction also remains an important goal after 2015 and is therefore at the heart of a new global frame of reference.»

As far as Switzerland is concerned, the following aspects need to be addressed first when formulating the SDGs.

  • Sustainable development
  • Eradication of extreme poverty
  • Mainstreaming human rights, peace and security
  • Taking account of planetary resource limits

Switzerland is calling for 14 key themes to be included in the SDG agenda. These include, for example:

  • Food security
  • Water security
  • Energy supply
  • Gender equality
  • Sustainable growth, employment and decent work for all
  • Education
  • Sustainable consumption and sustainable production
  • Migration and development
  • Disaster risk reduction

Switzerland is currently focusing its efforts on four areas and has defined several individual goals for: water, health, gender equality, and peace and security. Each of these proposed goals is three-dimensional: each covers environmental, economic and social aspects.

The next step, explained Michael Gerber, will be to continue to work on the Swiss position and to address issues such as financing, capital flows, policy coherence and inter-linkages between the individual goals in a more concrete way. By the summer of 2014, the task force in charge of the post-2015 agenda will develop the Swiss position in ongoing consultation with the public. By the autumn of 2014 this is expected to result in a Federal Council negotiating mandate for the UN General Assembly negotiations scheduled to take place at the end of 2014.

Switzerland and the post-2015 agenda
Switzerland is participating in the development of the SDGs at UN-level. The Federal Council has defined its policy priorities in its position on the post-2015 agenda on sustainable development. Switzerland considers five principles to be fundamental to meet the global challenges ahead:

  • Human rights
  • Respect for planetary boundaries
  • Social inclusion and justice
  • Universality
  • Policy coherence

The international community decided to develop the SDGs at the UN Rio+20 conference in June 2012 .