KFPE was co-organiser of this event, taking place 20 September 2016. The event was meant to provide an overview and stimulate dialogue about potential courses of action and solutions at both international and national level, while also providing different stakeholders (science, industry, NGOs and Members of Parliament) with an opportunity to share their views.
An short version of Thomas Cottier's final remarks
The process of decolonization resulted in an exclusive responsibility of host states of extracting industries under the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources. Home states had no share and stake in it; rather they were limited to support investors abroad and offer diplomatic protection. This is changing. We are in a period of developing appropriate shared responsibilities of host and home states and advanced cooperation, all to the benefit of people affected by extracting industries and international trade. Under principles of sustainable development, we witness a shift from physical characteristics of products to production and process methods (PPMs) as a prime reference in trade regulation.
So far, efforts at enhancing transparency, discussed today, took central stage. It is hoped that Switzerland, given its important role in commodity trading, will follow suit and also address potential distortions caused by the industry in host countries. The government should not wait until it will be forced to act under foreign pressure with nothing in return, as we witnessed several times, most recently in abolishing privileges of holding companies.
But the effort does not stop at transparency and the need to obtain better data and statistics. Academic research is called upon to develop ways and means to improve compliance with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by way of monitoring and unfair competition rules. It should focus on traceability of resources extracted, very much a challenge for hard sciences. It should develop the linkages of PPMs and transfer of technology and refine the rules on export restrictions in WTO law. It should study the linkages to investment protection and the need for policy space for host countries, and encourage the Swiss government in following modern developments in the US, the EU and Canada. Contacts as today, between science, industry and esteemed Members of Parliament are most helpful. It is hoped that a fruitful dialogue may continue.
Radio SRF4 broadcasted an interview with Adrew Govers and Andreas Missbach (in German) ->> below the pictures
Diese Veranstaltung der Akademien zeigt Hintergründe, präsentiert nationale und internationale Lösungsansätze und diskutiert brennende Fragen.
Switzerland occupies an important position in the global trade of hard and soft commodities. Companies headquartered within its borders directly or indirectly shape commodity extraction practices around the world, some of which carry considerable negative environmental and social risks on the ground, particularly in fragile contexts. Minimizing these risks and maximizing shared economic gains could enable mutually beneficial development and counteract persistent social and political inequality.
This factsheet outlines key challenges, knowledge gaps, and research questions centring on Switzerland’s role and potential responsibility as a leading commodity hub. It concludes with suggestions of possible avenues for future research and policy.