In a few short months, the coronavirus crisis has cancelled out much of the progress made in the fight against poverty. Increased military spending is swallowing up funds that are urgently needed to fight the climate crisis; the impacts of the Ukraine war on the energy and commodity markets are compounding existing problems. There is the threat of a massive food crisis, to which the international community seems to have no proper answer.
Interest rate hikes by central banks and China's zero-COVID policy are spawning further economic uncertainty. Another global financial crisis is possible, while debt crises and major economic setbacks are a certainty for many developing and emerging countries. No one has the proverbial crystal ball; what is not in doubt, however, is that the global challenges stemming from multiple crises are enormous.
Alliance Sud and the just transition
By 2050 at the latest, the world must replace fossil fuels and move beyond industrial agriculture, while making sure to preserve ecosystems that are vital to life. The groundwork must have been laid for this transition by the year 2030. Alliance Sud is keen to see a just transition – a transition to a world governed by JEDI, i. e., justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion. There can be no just transition without overcoming poverty.
As a country highly globalized in economic terms, Switzerland exerts a substantial influence on the social, ecological and economic conditions prevailing in other countries, especially the poorest ones. Alliance Sud is advocating for Switzerland to become globally sustainable and to contribute significantly to global justice.
International cooperation and humanitarian aid are key instruments in this regard. Because humanitarian aid can only provide a short-term response to crises, save lives and alleviate suffering, a more stable world free of poverty, with less inequality and more equitable life opportunities, will also require substantial development cooperation. Alliance Sud is calling for this with one voice. Societal changes are often tectonic in nature: unseen tensions build up over a very long period, and are then released, suddenly and powerfully. Alliance Sud helps to defuse tensions and is prepared to turn upheavals to good advantage.
The analytical and policy work to be done in the coming years by the Alliance Sud office, together with a growing number of members, may be broken down into three major thematic areas with a variety of interfaces and interactions. They are development cooperation policy, climate and coherence.
Development cooperation policy
Alliance Sud advocates for increased development spending by Switzerland. This spending should not be statistically inflated, nor should it continue to include asylum costs or donated vaccines when Switzerland reports on its progress in realizing the UN target of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Product (2021 figure: inflated, 0.51%, real, 0.48%). At the same time, Alliance Sud is critical of any misuse of international cooperation to pursue other foreign or economic policy goals, and systematically highlights the linkages between development cooperation and other policy areas (policy coherence).
In terms of the content of Swiss development cooperation, Alliance Sud aspires to the following:
- The various instruments of Switzerland's international cooperation are complementary, but follow a common vision. They are guided by the fundamental statutory mission to "assist in the alleviation of need and poverty in the world and promote respect for human rights and democracy, the peaceful co-existence of peoples as well as the conservation of natural resources" (Swiss Federal Constitution, article 54). This will mean focusing consistently on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, in keeping with the principle enunciated in the 2030 Agenda: "Leave no one behind". This applies also to cooperation with the private sector.
- Switzerland strives locally, nationally and internationally for a strong civil society and in its international cooperation, works with local civil society organizations, whenever possible, providing them with direct funding to help them better implement their own priorities.
- The "traditional" image of development cooperation (think "white saviours") has disappeared from the minds of the Swiss public, having given way to a differentiated understanding of development. Through their positioning and their partnerships with organizations from the Global South, NGOs contribute to a modern understanding of development and enhance the long-term credibility of development cooperation.
Climate and development
Alliance Sud consistently advocates for greater climate justice on the part of Switzerland. In the view of Alliance Sud, climate justice comprises three aspects: first, rapidly reducing Switzerland's emissions, with clear intermediate steps; second, climate funding consistent with Switzerland's historic responsibility and wealth, and which provides substantial and effective support and compensation for the people being most impacted by climate change in the poorest countries; and third, no offsetting of Switzerland's emissions in developing and emerging countries at the expense of the poorest (carbon colonialism).
On the policy front, Alliance Sud strives for a substantial increase in Switzerland's contribution to international climate funding – to at least one per cent of the global financial target (which today would be CHF 1 billion per year). Furthermore, as is called for internationally, this should consist of new and additional funds. As regards emissions trading, Alliance Sud focuses on problematic carbon offset projects, and therefore monitors Switzerland's activities in this area and highlights problems on the basis of concrete case studies.
Perennial lack of coherence
While Switzerland ranks eighth in terms of achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda, it occupies seventh from last place when it comes to negative impacts on countries (called "spillovers"), especially those in the Global South. The responsibility for this lies with Switzerland’s pre-eminent role as home to corporate headquarters, as trading power, and as a banking and financial centre and a tax haven. In other words, Switzerland’s economic, trading, financial and fiscal policies are not consistent with its foreign, human rights and development policy objectives. This is why greater coherence is and will remain a key action area for Alliance Sud.
Switzerland’s current trade and investment policy restricts partner countries’ economic and social policy space and blocks measures that the industrialized countries themselves have used or continue to use for their own advancement. Alliance Sud is calling instead for a trade policy that paves the way for fair and socially sustainable economic relations and investments.
Switzerland is still a tax haven for companies and the super rich. Despite development cooperation and private investments, more money flows from South to North than the other way round. Alliance Sud highlights the major significance of more tax income for the countries in the Global South. It also highlights the harmful role of Switzerland, which can afford a low-tax regime at the expense of the poorest, and which functions only because it is able to attract taxable funds from around the world.
Besides ensuring that politicians and the general public are aware of the powerful role played by Switzerland’s financial centre and commodity trading hub in the climate and debt crisis affecting the South, Alliance Sud also triggers policy reforms. Lastly, the organization is drawing up a concrete restructuring plan, which shows how Switzerland could make its financial policy contribution to a global Green New Deal and develop a new and globally sustainable business model. Alliance Sud is therefore setting its sights beyond 2030.