A question of balance

Davos, 21.01.2020 - Opening Address by Simonetta Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Confederation, at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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Dear Professor Schwab


Ladies and Gentlemen

“The world is on fire”- the truth of the UN Secretary General’s words is evident. We see the rainforest burning in the Amazon and bush fires raging in Australia.

The consequences for humans and nature are disastrous.

What is less evident is what all this means when the ecological balance is disrupted.

What does it mean for us humans and for our planet in real terms?

I would like to give a voice to those who can explain to us, in just two minutes, what it means when plant and animal species disappear, and what the consequences will be – for all of us.

The message of the bees is clear and indisputable:

When economic interests are placed above the functioning of the natural world,

when insects, animals and plants disappear – eradicated by humans, by insecticides, pesticides and monocultures –

then the consequences for humans and for the economy are dramatic.

However, we do not really feel it in our everyday lives.

So why should we worry about it?

Because biodiversity is like the Eiffel Tower.

If you were to remove one screw a day from the Eiffel Tower, nothing would happen at first, but at some point you would remove the critical single screw that would cause the tower to fall apart.

The same goes for nature, where interactions are so delicately balanced.

We can no longer just stand by and watch. Biodiversity and climate protection are not hobbies for idealists. They need to be addressed by politicians and by business people.

We need the private sector to act on biodiversity and climate protection.

We need politicians to take action at home and internationally to ensure that the ecological balance is restored and that global warming is stabilised.

Ladies and gentlemen

It is not only nature that requires balance.

In international politics, too, balance is an essential factor. 

Today, I look at the state of the world with concern.

In some regions, passions are being stirred to achieve political goals –such as intolerance, hatred, prejudice, and revenge.

Let us not forget the lessons nature teaches us. Excesses in one direction can lead to a backlash in the opposite direction.

Injustice can prepare the ground for redress.

In international politics as in the managing of our environment, the search for the right balance, the use of informed reason and consensus-building are of the utmost importance.

We have all made our way here to Davos to this end: to find the right balance for our common future. (This is possibly what those bees - that you have just seen - would tell us.)

When the world is on fire, we cannot leave all the work to firemen alone. Politicians and society have to take action too.

So, let’s make good use of our time here together

to engage in dialogue

and to seek a balance that benefits all of us as human beings.

Address for enquiries

Communication DETEC, +41 58 462 55 11


General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC

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