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17 February 2021

YES to democracy and political debate!

Franziska Lauper With Rainbow Flag IMG 7307
Franziska Lauper With Rainbow Flag IMG 7307

Switzerland's international solidarity was at issue in the referendum campaign for the initiative on corporate responsibility. terre des hommes switzerland campaigned for a YES to the popular initiative, which enjoys unique and broad support. In her position paper, Franziska Lauper, Director of terre des hommes schweiz, argues why standing up for the poorest and most vulnerable is a quintessentially Swiss virtue.

Last November, we were finally able to talk about the Corporate Responsibility Initiative vote. Both sides fought hard for votes, and nerves were sometimes on edge.

It has been a long time since an issue of international solidarity has attracted so much public attention in Switzerland. It is unique that a narrow majority of voters supported the issue of improving human rights and respecting international environmental standards in developing countries - the bill ultimately failed only by a majority of the cantons.

What is most remarkable is that a broad alliance of organizations from church and trade union circles, internationally active aid organizations and the private sector has credibly entered the political debate. Tens of thousands of volunteers in some 450 local groups have worked tirelessly for the cause. That is democracy in action!

Already in the hot phase of the referendum campaign and now in the aftermath of the vote, the role of internationally active aid organisations is primarily being questioned by actors from politics, business and their lobbying organisations. Several parliamentary motions are pending. In future, aid organisations should not comment on political issues in Switzerland and should restrict themselves to their "real" field of activity, namely project work in developing countries.

Politically, these attacks are quite transparent. They are aimed at the credibility of the aid agencies and their broad support among the population. Trying to eliminate these voices is highly questionable from a democratic point of view! Fortunately, the initiatives are unlikely to be successful. They offer us another opportunity to make the public aware of the way we work.

Awareness-raising and information work and the inclusion of the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the political debate in Switzerland have always been firmly anchored in the statutes of terre des hommes switzerland, as has support for projects in selected countries in Africa and Latin America. At the latest since the adoption of the Agenda 2030 in 2015, this is a broad consensus.

If we are to achieve the 17 sustainable development goals by 2030, we need everyone's support - especially in Switzerland, which should play a pioneering role in terms of international human rights and environmental standards.

Franziska Lauper, Managing Director terre des hommes switzerland

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