Global, Opinion

Constant flux

24.06.2021, International cooperation

The only constant in life, as Heraclitus taught us, is change. Yet, it was almost 13 years ago now that I took up my first position at Alliance Sud. For family reasons, the time has now come to say farewell.

Constant flux

© Daniel Rihs / Alliance Sud

In 2008 when I assumed responsibility for area of «tax policy» at Alliance Sud, Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz still believed that Switzerland’s banking secrecy was as immovable as the Gotthard Massif. Nothing stood in the way of tax evaders and corrupt dictators in developing countries who wanted to conceal their fortunes in Switzerland. Then came the global financial and economic crisis, which sounded the death knell for many of the Millennium Development Goals that should have been attained by 2015; on the other hand, however, it gave fresh momentum to the fight against tax evasion.

Suddenly, even the powerful industrial countries were keen to crack down on tax offenders. They urgently needed more government revenues to pay for their multi-billion bailout packages for banks. For its part, however, Alliance Sud had to fight on for years until Switzerland finally extended automatic information exchange in tax matters to developing countries. It is still campaigning against the deplorable incentives available to multinational corporations to shift their profits from poor countries to Switzerland, largely untaxed.

When in 2015 I succeeded Peter Niggli as Director of Alliance Sud, the Sustainable Development Goals were just taking the place of the Millennium Development Goals. Through the 2030 Agenda the rich industrial countries committed to a course of action geared not merely towards short-term national interests but to the long-term well-being of humanity and the planet. This makes it all the more surprising today to witness the degree of exasperation with which some Federal Councillors and Parliamentarians greet NGOs that get involved in Swiss policy in order to promote respect for human rights and the protection of the environment.

Then, as now, Alliance Sud was a political irritant. We should not be impressed by the latest tit-for-tat responses to civil society for taking an active interest in development policy. Now more than ever, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable world development calls for a Switzerland that aligns all policies coherently with this goal – from foreign to economic policy, and including climate policy. The Alliance Sud team, member organisations and allies will continue to advocate for this cause in the future, with dedication, indefatigable commitment and the power of the right arguments. I take this opportunity to thank them from the bottom of my heart for the wonderful cooperation we have had.

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The Alliance Sud magazine analyses and comments on Switzerland's foreign and development policies. "global" is published four times a year (in german and french) and can be subscribed to free of charge.