After the elections...

Mark Herkenrath, Director Alliance Sud
Political article
Much has already been written about the 2019 parliamentary election results. One searched the media in vain for an assessment of their implications for Switzerland‘s development policy approaches or its foreign policy.

The elections were green, youthful, and feminine, such was the tenor of the coverage. But they were not red. What has emerged is a National Council whose politics, broadly speaking, is one-third left, forty per cent right, and one-quarter somewhere in between. The Council of State as a whole has become greener, but politically the conservative camp clearly remains weightier than in the National Council.

How much more open the new Parliament will be to development issues is still uncertain. The political Centre, that is to say the Christian Democrats (CVP), will always be able to tilt the balance on key questions. It will be pivotal in determining whether Switzerland positions itself in international politics as the liberal, solidarity-driven and forward-looking force that the country really ought to be. Ultimately, the Centre parties will also be the deciding factor as to whether our country makes the requisite contribution to implementing the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development or whether more than ever it pursues its own short-term economic interests, to which Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis wishes to subordinate Switzerland’s development cooperation.

As a country highly networked in political and economic terms, Switzerland depends in the long term on a stable — i.e. just and peaceful— global environment. In addition to targeted and adequately funded development cooperation, that also requires a foreign and economic policy guided by the principle of fairness beyond its own borders. The latest country report by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights indicates as much. It reminds Switzerland that on its foreign and economic policy rests a significant share of the responsibility for whether other countries have sufficient opportunities to implement these key rights and provide their people with a life in dignity and safety.

The report recommends, among other things, that before concluding free trade agreements such as that with Mercosur, Switzerland should systematically assess them for their potential human rights impacts. In line with the responsible business initiative, rules are also called for to compel corporations headquartered in Switzerland to respect human rights around the world. Tax incentives for multinational corporations that shift their profits from poor countries to Switzerland should, on the other hand, be scrapped.

One can only endorse these recommendations. It is to be hoped that the newly elected Parliament too will pay due attention to them.