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.
Switzerland has recently emerged as one of the world’s most important hubs in the global trade of commodities. But its rise has been accompanied by concerns about transparency, appropriate regulation, and risks to resource-exporting developing countries. A growing body of evidence points not only to beneficial, but also to harmful effects of commodities trading and extraction on resource-exporting poor countries. These include risks of undiversified economic development, political corruption, environmen- tal damage, and human rights violations.
However, there is a profound lack of scientific research on the role of major commodity hubs like Switzerland, where vital commodities such as oil, metals, and grains are traded and extractive companies are headquartered. Could policy changes in Switzerland make the commodity sector more sustainable and its impact more mutually beneficial?
This factsheet was jointly conducted by the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of the University of Bern, the World Trade Institute (WTI) of the University of Bern, and the Institute for Business Ethics (IWE) of the University of St. Gallen.
The factsheet was written in the context of the project “Global change and developing countries: why should we care?” managed by the KFPE and the Forum for Climate and Global Change (ProClim).
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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.
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.
On 21 April 2015, a group of scholars and stakeholders discussed research gaps in the field of commodities and trade at an academic workshop.
Since the worldwide food price crisis of 2008, foreign investors have rushed to acquire large amounts of agricultural land in poorer coun- tries. Some observers welcome this, claiming that outside investment in ostensibly underused land will jump-start local development. Others regard such investments as land grabs, stressing that the areas are rarely empty and that local people have little say. This brief identifies the types of land targeted by investors and reveals key socio-ecological patterns of such deals. The evidence indicates that foreign investments are inten- sifying competition for the best land. Ensuring that such deals instead contribute to sustainable, inclusive use of land requires strong public guidance and oversight.