Big show, little Switzerland...

Mark Herkenrath, Director Alliance Sud
Political article
Switzerland's progress report could make for an embarrassing appearance before the UN and set a bad example for States that are even less serious about implementing the 2030 Agenda.

On 17 July Switzerland will put in a major appearance at the UN headquarters in New York where the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted three years ago. It will be reporting on its progress with implementation. The international community is awaiting the report with anticipation, as Switzerland stood out as a staunch defender of global sustainable development during the negotiations on the 2030 Agenda. Since the end of the negotiations it has repeatedly and strongly urged other countries to provide comprehensive and self-critical reporting on implementation.

Switzerland has recently found itself in an unfavourable light at the United Nations. The reason for this was the decision by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis to go it alone and criticize UN Middle East policy. New York is therefore all the more keen to see how Switzerland positions itself under its new Minister responsible for foreign affairs and development.

There will surely also be great interest in the report by Swiss NGOs due out on 3 July under the title «How sustainable is Switzerland?». The broad-based civil society Agenda 2030 Platform will lay out its own critical assessment of where Switzerland stands on the implementation of this important forward-looking project.

The Federal Council had in fact wanted to adopt the official Swiss progress report on the 2030 Agenda already in early June. The delayed publication could point to fundamental disagreement among the responsible departments, over what Switzerland should even be reporting. What is now clear is that we should no longer expect it before the submission deadline for this article (15 June).

It is rumoured that the official Swiss report will be just a few pages long and, in the style of a glossy brochure, will leave out all shortcomings and challenges in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. That would make for an embarrassing appearance before the UN and set a bad example for States that are even less serious than Switzerland about combating poverty, inequality, exclusion and environmental degradation.

The hope and plan had been for a report in which Switzerland would self-critically discuss its need for some catching up with regard to sustainable development. To identify gaps in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the Federal Administration conducted an extensive consultation with the private sector, academia and civil society. By now the Federal Council may well have discarded the analyses and recommendations of a high-level advisory group.