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‘Dangerous mistake to ignore global uncertainty’, says Swiss President

Simonetta Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Confederation and Minister of Justice and Police
Simonetta Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Confederation and Minister of Justice and Police

Today’s global context is one of uncertainty, said Simonetta Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Confederation and Minister of Justice and Police, talking at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday.

“Overall, globalisation has led to greater prosperity and reduced poverty, but that is not the case everywhere,” she said. “It would be a dangerous mistake to ignore the uncertainty felt by many people,” she added.

Ms Sommaruga pointed to the rise of nationalist and populist parties in many countries in Europe that are critical of globalisation, reject immigration and incite scepticism towards the European Union. She called on business people and politicians to accept responsibility and address the uncertainties created by today’s global economy.

“Are we creating an economic environment in which only high performers working under constant pressure can prevail?” she asked. “Competition is growing for the highly developed economies too. In more and more countries, workers are still paid low wages but now offer highly skilled labour.”

This means that even leading economies can remain successful only if they are prepared to continuously make structural changes. “Structural change in itself is not a bad thing, but it produces winners and losers. This is something we cannot accept,” the President said.

Uncertainty has fuelled the rise of nationalist conservative parties in Europe, parties that invoke a nation’s sovereignty and a native country symbolising familiarity and safety. This describes an ideal past that never was, she added.

Sommaruga noted that business leaders have avoided assuming the responsibility for answering questions on the inequitable distribution of the benefits of globalisation for far too long. “We need business people who want to earn money but who also want something more,” she said. “We need business people who want to give others a chance; employers who set benchmarks in terms of profit and of corporate culture. We also need commodities groups that prohibit all forms of forced labour and exploitation, and that recognise the rights of others.”

The President also called on policy-makers to put in place – and enforce – a sound framework based on the rule of law, legal certainty, no corruption and protection of human rights and social justice. “These elements are key to a healthy economic and social order. This requires determination, clear values and steadfastness,” she added. “Nothing has greater value in politics than credibility.”