Presentation of Swiss Voluntary National Review at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development HLPF

Bern, 17.07.2018 - Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard and Sophie Neuhaus, National Youth Council of Switzerland, New York, 17 July 2018

Doris Leuthard:

Madame President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC),


distinguished delegates,

ladies and gentlemen

Since its adoption in 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has driven Switzerland’s commitment to sustainable development.

From the outset, Switzerland was a driving force behind the 2030 Agenda. At the same time, we have always advocated for a robust mechanism for follow-up and review. At the HLPF 2016, Switzerland already presented its initial steps to implement the 2030 Agenda. Today, I am honoured and delighted to present the current status of implementation.

Sustainable development and the protection of the environment in particular has been of high importance to Switzerland for a long time:

  • About 150 years ago (1876) we introduced a law protecting the forests in our mountains, as we witnessed the negative impact of deforestation.
  • Thanks to the purification plants existing all over the country, the quality of the water in our rivers and lakes is excellent today compared to sixty years ago.

Protection of the environment and other aspects of sustainable development are today underpinned by different articles of our federal constitution, and many laws. Last year, the Swiss government submitted a new Energy Act, the so called Energy Strategy 2050, for popular vote, and it was accepted by a solid margin. The Act follows the objective of

  • Increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy and
  • A step by step withdrawal from nuclear energy.

Since 1997, the Swiss government has a Sustainable Development Strategy with priorities and concrete actions to foster environmentally sound economic and social development in Switzerland. The Strategy is renewed on a quadrennial basis, with the current one valid until 2019.

Immediately after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the Swiss Government commissioned a comprehensive baseline assessment and gap analysis of the implementation status at federal level. The analysis concerned all 169 targets of the Sustainable Development Goals and covered both Switzerland's domestic and international contributions.

Based on the monitoring system that already exists since 2003, the Federal Statistical Office adapted and expanded the indicator framework for the 2030 Agenda. It indicates that among the chosen 85 indicators 39 show a positive trend, 12 show no significant evolution, 14 show a negative trend, while for 20 no conclusive assessment was possible.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As you can see, also in our report in front of you, Switzerland has already achieved several SDG targets. For example, Switzerland is free from extreme poverty (target 1.1), and there is no hunger (target 2.1). Education (target 4.1) is free, compulsory and of good quality.

The assessment conducted for this Voluntary National Review also revealed that Switzerland is on track with regard to almost all targets of SDG 3 on Health; SDG 7 on Energy; SDG 8 on sustainable economic growth and employment; SDG 9 on Infrastructure and innovation; as well as SDG 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies.

However, the stocktaking also identifies areas where efforts at national and international level beyond our existing policies are needed in order to achieve the SDGs, for example:

  • with regard to SDGs 12 and 15: While the use of resources from within Switzerland for consumption by its population is decreasing, the use of resources from abroad is increasing in an unsustainable way.
  • Regarding the goal on Gender equality (SDG 5), further efforts are needed within Switzerland and in our international cooperation in order to fully achieve equal pay and equal opportunities for leadership.

My government has been aware of these challenges for quite a while, of course. That is why we have launched concrete measures in order to address them:

The certificate you see on this slide actually shows the UN Public Service Award, the Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality received this year for its engagement in the field of equal pay.

  • With regard to Sustainable Consumption and Production (SDG 12), we have produced several action plans in recent years which we currently implement, for example: a Green Economy Action Plan, one on Corporate Social Responsibility, one to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, etc. Furthermore, the federal government promotes the circular economy, a smoothly functioning waste management, as well as sustainable public procurement. With regard to the recycling of electronic waste for instance, Switzerland disposes of a longstanding experience: Thanks to an anticipated recycling fee which has to be paid when buying a new product, electrical and electronic devices can be given free of charge for recycling. This results in a high return rate.
  • With respect to a sustainable use of natural resources (SDG 15 and others), there is still a lot to do. The Swiss government, and more specifically my own Ministry, has launched several initiatives within the last years. For example to prevent soil erosion and depletion, revitalise watercourses, reconcile biodiversity conservation, or to sustainably manage forest areas.
  • Our policy is: voluntary action instead of regulation – in other words, encouraging the development of a green economy through best practice.
  • Also the economy has an important role to play – in combination with education and research. Worldwide innovation is the key. It’s the trigger for green growth.
  • Switzerland is well known for its innovative strength. Our capacity for innovation and the quality of scientific research institutions are two of the factors that brought Switzerland to the top of many rankings. Swiss companies invest in research and development and collaborate closely with universities. As a result, the Swiss cleantech sector is growing strongly and creates jobs.
  • Over the past ten years, more than 200 cleantech start-ups have been established – for example in the field of energy efficiency in buildings. This “industry” now accounts for almost 5 percent of Swiss GDP and the number of jobs in the Swiss cleantech sector has increased by 25 percent over the past five years.
  • This leads me to the climate and energy goals (SDGs 7 and 13) which remain a major task to be achieved. In order to save and conserve our natural resources, to reduce the amount of CO2 and to influence climate change, the use of fossil fuels has globally to be reduced dramatically. In Switzerland, a CO2 –levy on fossil combustible fuels, such as heating oil and natural gas, has been levied since 2008. In making fossil fuels more expensive, it creates an incentive to use them more economically and choose more carbon-neutral or low carbon energy sources. We are well aware that the introduction of a CO2-levy or a CO2-tax can turn out to be a politically difficult task. However, we (would) recommend that carbon pricing will be introduced at global level.

In all these fields, Switzerland is also active at international level. Our international cooperation has fully adopted the 2030 Agenda and is aligning its development and humanitarian activities with the SDGs. With all instruments and activities of our bilateral and multilateral engagement we support developing countries as well as several middle income countries in implementing the 2030 Agenda and, eventually, in achieving the SDGs.

But to give you a more comprehensive and differentiated view on Swiss achievements and challenges, I would herewith like to invite Sophie Neuhaus, our representative from the National Youth Council of Switzerland, to share her view, and the assessment of Swiss non-state actors in general, with us.

Sophie Neuhaus:

Merci, Excellence, de me donner l’opportunité d’intervenir au nom de la jeunesse de Suisse, ainsi que du groupe d’accompagnement qui a suivi de près le processus de mise en œuvre de l’Agenda 2030 par la Suisse.

L’Agenda 2030 revêt pour les membres de ce groupe d’accompagnement une grande importance : nous le soutenons et tenons à contribuer à atteindre ses objectifs. Dans ce sens, nous avons ensemble identifié trois aspects que nous pensons nécessaires pour atteindre les ODD – des conditions-cadres pour la mise en œuvre de l’Agenda 2030. Nous pensons que:

  • L’Agenda 2030 doit être défini comme une priorité stratégique et bénéficier d’un ancrage institutionnel de haut niveau, à tous les échelons politiques
  • Les ressources et moyens financiers nécessaires devraient être mis à disposition, en particulier au niveau fédéral, afin de financer la sensibilisation, la recherche et la transmission de connaissances, ainsi que la réalisation de mesures concrètes

Nous devons nous assurer de la cohérence des politiques. L’ensemble des bases légales et des mesures politiques doit passer par examen de leurs principales répercussions positives et négatives sur les ressources naturelles, sur le bien-être des populations des pays défavorisés et sur celui des générations futures.

Nous reconnaissons que la Suisse est sur le bon chemin en ce qui concerne un certain nombre de cibles. Cependant, nous voyons encore d’importants défis. Dans ce groupe d’accompagnement, représentant des perspectives aussi diverses que l’économie, la jeunesse, le développement, l’environnement et les milieux scientifiques, nous avons réussi – grâce au soutien de l’administration fédérale – à identifier 20 sujets dans 8 domaines différents dans lesquels nous voyons la nécessité d’actions immédiates de la société suisse pour un développement durable de la Suisse et par la Suisse.

Ces domaines sont:

  • Une société solidaire
  • Produire et consommer durablement
  • Ménager les ressources naturelles 
  • Garantir l’accès aux soins pour toutes et tous
  • Renforcer la place économique et le marché de l’emploi
  • Concevoir une urbanisation durable 
  • Renforcer l’économie durable 
  • Renforcer la formation

Nous travaillons sur ces problématiques et nous souhaitons de plus voir la Suisse prendre des mesures pour combler ces lacunes avec nous.

En parallèle à l’examen national volontaire de la Suisse, une plateforme d’organisations de la société civile a rédigé un rapport sur la mise en œuvre de l’Agenda 2030 en Suisse.

Pour les jeunes, l’Agenda 2030 représente une grande opportunité pour les jeunes de par le monde. Tout d’abord parce qu’il les met dans une perspective globale. L’Agenda 2030 nous dit de regarder l’impact de nos actions individuelles et collectives, à la fois sur notre environnement immédiat et sur le reste du monde. Il nous dit de prendre soin de notre voisin, aussi bien que des océans – et cela, qu’il y ait un océan chez nous ou pas. C’est une vision qui remet au centre la participation et les droits de toutes et tous. Une majorité des jeunes en Suisse bénéficie de vivre dans une société prospère et démocratique. L’Agenda 2030 nous dit de nous assurer que personne ne soit laissé de côté, en Suisse et dans le monde.

“Ne laisser personne de côté” est l’exigence la plus significative de l’Agenda 2030. Elle implique que nous ne pouvons pas profiter de richesses si les autres ne le peuvent pas, qu’on ne peut pas se contenter des progrès de la moyenne. Or, comme le montrent les indicateurs de son examen national volontaire, les inégalités en Suisse sont en augmentation. De plus, certaines parties de la population sont tout bonnement exclues des statistiques – les personnes sans-papiers par exemple. Ces personnes ont pourtant aussi le droit de ne pas être laissé-e-s de côté. C’est pourquoi nous demandons que le prochain examen national volontaire suisse se concentre de plus prêt sur les plus vulnérables, qu’il ait une approche prenant en considération le genre et les jeunes, qu’il analyse l’état des lieux des personnes en situation de handicap, des personnes qui ont un parcours migratoire, ainsi que celui d’autres groupes marginalisés et désavantagés.

Afin d’ancrer l’Agenda 2030 dans la population d’une manière durable, un effort particulier doit être fourni dans la sensibilisation des jeunes, afin qu’ils et elles puissent s’approprier cet agenda et le mettre en œuvre. Un Agenda 2030 qui est connu et porté par un large éventail d’individus dans la population est un Agenda 2030 qui peut bénéficier d’une large mise en œuvre – c’est pourquoi l’information et la participation doivent être pris en charge de manière sérieuse.

L’Agenda 2030 dit dans son préambule : « Nous sommes déterminés à prendre les mesures audacieuses et porteuses de transformation qui s’imposent d’urgence pour engager le monde sur une voie durable ». Il est fait appel ici à un changement structurel. Or, l’Agenda reconnaît “les jeunes comme agent-e-s essentiel-le-s du changement”. Les jeunes sont donc des partenaires incontournables dans la transition nécessaire vers un système dans lequel l’économie est au service du social, dans la limite des capacités environnementales.

Doris Leuthard :

Thank you, Sophie. I agree with most of the conclusions of your analysis regarding the challenges we all still face. And I agree with you that young people are the actors of change! Thank you for your engagement and to all non-state actors for their great support.

This actually leads me to quickly elaborate on how we implement the 2030 Agenda in Switzerland:

This Voluntary National Review actually provides an excellent opportunity to adapt, streamline and fine-tune our efforts to address all the mentioned challenges in a targeted and intensified manner. Of course, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at federal level is mainly taking place within the framework of regular sectoral policies. However, the nature of the SDGs requests us to work across sectoral silos, at all levels of government, and to invest more in multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Given the federalistic system of Switzerland, the 2030 Agenda is also being implemented at the cantonal and communal levels. Many cantons and communes have defined their own strategies for sustainable development. The federal government supports them, for example through exchange platforms and networks.

Switzerland’s private sector, civil society and science community have also been committed to sustainable development for a long time. Therefore, we have involved them from the beginning of the intergovernmental negotiations on the Agenda, and they become even more important in the current phase of implementation. The Advisory Group composed of non-state actors, of which Sophie is a member, forms the institutional basis for further dialogue with the federal government and partnerships.

While I herewith reaffirm that my government remains highly committed to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, I am very happy that many non-state actors support us in this endeavour.

Together we can multiply our results, together we reach more people, together we strengthen accountability, and together we are definitely stronger!

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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