Implementation of the sdg targets: switzerland as a brake

Switzerland is hindering the development of poorer countries by importing raw materials and pursuing a low-tax policy. In doing so, it could change its behavior without any losses.

Even the cocoa for the famous Swiss chocolate has to be imported Photo: dpa

Switzerland lives more at the expense of other countries than any other country in the world. No one is preventing the others as much from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in 2015 by 2030. This is the conclusion reached by the Bertelsmann Foundation in this year’s report reviewing progress in implementing the 17 SDGs in 160 of the 193 UN member states.

For this year’s report, the authors examined each country for "negative spill-over effects." This refers to the costs that a country incurs per capita of its population in the areas of environment, economy and security for the rest of the world community.

In first place on the negative list of the ten biggest cost generators is Switzerland, just ahead of Singapore and at a greater distance ahead of Luxembourg. The other countries in the negative top ten are the United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Kuwait, the United Kingdom, the United States and Norway.

Consumption and banking secrecy problematic

To determine the negative spill-over effects, the report’s authors used the following questions and criteria, among others: What does a country’s national economy trigger through its linkages with the outside world? How do its actions affect the environment, economy, finances, government stability, and security of other countries?

How burdensome are the production and consumption structures for other countries – for example, in the case of palm oil or soy imports that increase deforestation in tropical countries? Here, Switzerland scores particularly poorly. It has almost no raw materials of its own and therefore has to import a disproportionately large amount, even compared with other industrialized countries.

Switzerland’s low taxation policy and banking secrecy are also particularly damaging. They encourage the misappropriation of foreign state funds and corruption. The commitment of rich countries to development aid, so that poor countries can free themselves from the poverty trap, is also evaluated. In Switzerland, this commitment is very low in relation to the country’s gross domestic product.

Sweden scores significantly better despite a level of wealth comparable to that of Switzerland

In the area of security, for example, the Bertelsmann study assesses negative consequences of small arms exports. In this area, Switzerland had explicitly lifted all restrictions through a parliamentary resolution last year, such as the ban on arms exports to countries with serious human rights violations.

Opportunity to change behavior

Switzerland’s wealth, measured by the high per capita income of its population, is not a determining factor in the costs imposed on other countries, according to the report. Sweden, despite an income level comparable to Switzerland, ranks only 25th among the biggest cost causers, and Denmark, one of the richest countries in the world, ranks as low as 39th.

The authors conclude that Switzerland and other rich countries with high negative effects on the rest of the global community would certainly have the opportunity to change their behavior in favor of other countries without limiting their own prosperity.

The Bertelsmann Foundation has been producing the annual report since 2015 together with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN), chaired by US economist Jeffrey Sachs.

Founded in 2012 by then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, the network of environmental and climate activists, scientists, politicians and representatives of the private sector aims to develop local, national and global strategies for sustainable development and climate change mitigation.

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