Fifty years of advocacy for solidarity

Bernd Nilles, President of Alliance Sud and Director of Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund
6.10.2021
Article as analysis
Alliance Sud has been working for a Switzerland of solidarity for 50 years. Our President Bernd Nilles looks back - and into the future.

Fifty years of Alliance Sud, 60 years of Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), 60 years of Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund, 75 years of HEKS/EPER – a few decades ago the mood was overwhelmingly upbeat regarding global responsibility. Is there cause for celebration today, or perhaps not, considering the number of unsolved problems in the world? We are constantly facing new challenges and crises – including the climate crisis and the considerable time pressure it entails.

When in August 1971 – shortly after the introduction of women's suffrage – our founding fathers set up the Swiss Coalition Swissaid/Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund/Bread for Brethren/Helvetas, they presumably had no idea that the journey was to last five decades and beyond. The initial focus was on informing the Swiss public about the situation in developing countries and about global interconnections; development policy was only added later, in the 1980s. The early realisation that long-term transformation would necessitate changes in the North and South was a far-sighted one, and the successful unification of Swiss aid agencies with a coordinated and credible voice in development policy matters has been a historic accomplishment on the part of Alliance Sud.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped shape and make this story possible. Alliance Sud has initiated a series of policy changes over these past 50 years; it has played a part in expanding and further enhancing development cooperation and has been an unflagging advocate for a Switzerland that practises solidarity.

Alliance Sud too is ready to evolve. We set this in train in 2021 and will accordingly be strengthening our focus on advocacy and hence our impact by that means. This seems imperative in the light of persisting global challenges and injustices, especially where Swiss policies bear some share of the blame. Besides, the business sector continues to wield disproportionate power and influence, a fact that leads not infrequently to policy decisions that are detrimental to people and environment. It must be legitimate in this connection to ask why Federal Councillors are now calling for the business sector to be more politically engaged, while at the same time attempting to reduce civil society's room for manoeuvre.

What is good for the business sector is not automatically good for Switzerland and the world. Good and sustainable policy decisions also need to take the voices of citizens and civil society into account – we have underscored this repeatedly over the past 50 years. We intend to continue to be actively involved and to stand up for global justice through expertise, dialogue and debate.