Swiss experts debate the post-2015 agenda

Article, 25.10.2013

Swiss cooperation experts met on the eve of the International Development Cooperation Forum organised by the SDC and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in Montreux on 24-25 October 2013. Their aim was to prepare a key Swiss message before the forum itself which seeks to define the post-2015 agenda. Portraits of some of the participants.

What role do Swiss actors in the field of development cooperation want to play in the current task of defining the post-2015 agenda? How do they view the future of cooperation?

Swiss experts met in Montreux on the eve of the International Development Cooperation Forum to discuss their priorities for the post-2015 agenda. This agenda, which is under consideration by players throughout the world, is required to provide a framework for future international development cooperation policies. Portraits.

Carlo Sommaruga, Member of the Swiss National Council (SP), Geneva

«I am taking part in this debate in my role as a parliamentarian, both as a future chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and as a member of the Swiss Advisory Committee on International Development Cooperation. I would like to act as a bridge between this kind of discussion and parliament. My aim is to help shape the Swiss position in the post-2015 agenda and ensure that the North-South distribution of wealth and the battle against poverty and extreme poverty remain central to the discussion. I also feel that eradicating illegal financial flows and transfers should be at the heart of the Swiss message.

I am convinced that the post-2015 agenda will transform our current development model. We are no longer in a North-South situation, as was the case in 2000. At this very moment there are countries in Europe facing huge economic and social problems. Thus, to remain effective, cooperation must take into account these profound changes that are taking place in the world. In other words, we in the North also need to change our modus operandi and adopt collective responsibility. This is why I think the post-2015 agenda should be universal. It must serve as a cornerstone document with a view to achieving sustainable development.

I believe strongly in this document, as it will be the result of a participative process with a much broader scope than the Millennium Development Goals, which were the result of discussions between states. Another advantage of the agenda is that it will suggest solutions to achieve its objectives.»

Urs Leimbacher, Head of Public Affairs, Swiss Re

«In the future, I think that a country's cooperation efforts should focus more on transfer of knowledge and experience with projects rather than attempting to implement such knowledge itself in other regions. However, it is still difficult for the business world to make concrete proposals for the post-2015 agenda.

Swiss Re is already involved via various platforms such as the United Nations Global Compact and the ’Principles for Sustainable Insurance’ drawn up by the UNEP Financial Initiative.

Every year we progress towards greater sustainability by defining specific targets and trying to establish how, for example, we can reduce energy consumption in our activities.

We feel that a sustainable economy must be a key part of compliance with international ecological criteria and the social environment of each country.»

Wolfgang Kinzelbach, professor at the Institute of Environmental Engineering at EPFZ

«My background is in the natural sciences and as such I think it is essential that nature preservation be included when we define the post-2015 agenda. Humans are now making their mark throughout the world, leaving less and less space for nature. In this context, an institution like the Zurich Federal Institute of Technology (EPFZ) can provide analyses and propose solutions to reduce this problem.

I would like the post-2015 agenda and all players in the field of cooperation to consider the fact that our planet is overpopulated and that overconsumption is a real issue. Given that the sustainability of the planet is at the heart of the agenda's message, we must inevitably consume less and reconsider our demand for continued growth.»

Maribel Rodriguez, Secretary General of the Geneva Federation for Cooperation and Development

«Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the post-2015 agenda opens up the dialogue to new players in civil society. This agenda proposes a more participative format which we hope will remain in place once it has been defined by the respective governments in order to ensure improved ownership of these new goals.

The Geneva Federation for Cooperation and Development has the advantage of combining a wide range of players both local to Geneva and from the countries in which we have a presence. We therefore hope we can cast a critical eye on proceedings based on our experience in the field. Local projects such as ours – based on the notion of food sovereignty – can be the ideal partners for wider-reaching agricultural programmes.

In my opinion, cooperation in the future must continue to depend primarily on the traditional players. However, in parallel, it must open its arms to welcome new and increasingly powerful partners such as China and Brazil, as well as the private sector, so as to set broader targets in a spirit of fairer sustainable development.»

Mark Herkenrath, officer responsible for the «International finance and taxation policy» programme, Alliance Sud

«Our members have programmes and projects across many regions of the world. They understand the needs of these countries and keep us informed accordingly. As an association, we try to ensure that these needs are heard in Switzerland, in parliament, in the public arena, and, if at all possible, in discussions to define the post-2015 agenda.

We have observed, for example, that the more a country is subject to fraudulent flights of capital, the more money needs to be injected into that country in the form of cooperation and development. This is a scandal! Thus It is Switzerland's duty to monitor this kind of tax evasion more closely and to keep an eye on the assets of politically exposed persons. Financing the fight against climate change is also a central issue we should like to promote.

Cooperation, as it will be defined in the post-2015 agenda, should focus clearly on the battle against poverty and promoting empowerment, so that individuals have access to their own resources to deal with social problems.

Switzerland, in turn, must understand that its climate and economic policies have a major impact on developing nations. This means that its actions must be consistent. To this end, I hope that the SDC will be viewed as a point of reference in these discussions and that it can offer its expertise, even though political challenges are not directly part of its mandate.»

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