Today, Switzerland celebrates its national day amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is not only a severe health crisis but also has a deep and threatening impact on livelihoods and development prospects of people around the world.
A national day is a time of reflection. Solidarity, especially in times of adversity, and broadly shared principles that guide us on our way to move forward are part of it. This year, in Indonesia, we decided to hold a virtual celebration, which is unprecedented and exciting for all of us.
A crisis makes us aware of how much we depend on each other. This goes beyond national borders. The pandemic underscores the importance of a strong and reliable multilateral system, a point that was emphasized by Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis on the 75th anniversary of the United Nations last June, when he stated that “we need a coordinated response to overcome such crises together”.
Switzerland provides US$400 million to the global efforts to combat COVID-19 and its consequences. The funds are channeled through a number of international organizations, allowing them to redeploy and increase funding for their national programs, as is the case in Indonesia. Several Swiss companies in Indonesia either provided grant funding or offered other substantial services to support the government and communities in combatting COVID-19.
Switzerland’s international commitment has its roots in our own experience. Our cultural diversity, political institutions and traditions – in particular the population’s participation in democratic processes – federalism and consensual democracy are at the same time guiding themes of Swiss foreign policy. In the coming years, Switzerland’s foreign policy will focus on peace and security, prosperity, sustainability and an open and secure digital space.
Switzerland is a longstanding, trustful and reliable partner in the search for sustainable solutions to global challenges. We seek to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the period 2023-24 in order to further contribute to a peaceful, rules-based international order and to make international bodies more efficient. Switzerland wants to be “A plus for peace”.
The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets universally agreed and ambitious goals in the social, economic and environmental spheres. These goals knit us together, and I appreciate the strong partnership that exists between Switzerland, Indonesia and ASEAN.
Sustainability is a consistent theme in our relations. It is a guiding principle of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement signed between the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Indonesia. Sustainability is also at the heart of Switzerland’s bilateral economic cooperation and development program, which contributes to inclusive and sustainable economic development in Indonesia.
Through our projects in the areas of small and medium enterprise (SME) development, tourism promotion, sustainable urban development as well as public financial management, we support the country in achieving its development priorities and in responding to the current challenges posed by COVID-19. We are particularly proud to continue our collaboration with Indonesia in the area of skills development, which we started almost 50 years ago by setting up the Politeknik Mekanik Swiss, today known as POLMAN Bandung.
Mutual support is another key feature of our relations. In mid-July, the Indonesian House of Representatives approved the bilateral Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters; said Agreement is still under consideration in the Swiss parliament. The Agreement creates a basis in international law upon which justice authorities of our two countries can cooperate to detect and prosecute criminal activities, in particular crimes such as corruption and money laundering.
Indonesia is located on the “ring of fire”, making it particularly vulnerable to natural disasters triggered by geological and climatological hazards. Switzerland has been a trustworthy partner in times of need, be it after the 2004 tsunami in Aceh or 2018 in Palu, Central Sulawesi. Last week, I signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in disaster management with Lt. Gen. Doni Monardo, head of the National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB), and I look forward to the activities that will be conducted.
Sustainability and mutual support are also key features of our sectoral dialogue partnership with ASEAN. We work together on data collection: In order to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, governments need to focus their activities based on reliable indicators. We work together on technical and vocational education and training (TVET): Teaching relevant skills improves livelihoods and productivity.
We work together on climate change: The tree we planted at the ASEAN Secretariat in February symbolizes the 10-year partnership on social forestry and climate change. We work together on human rights: We will only find sustainable solutions if everyone is free to express their opinion and governments listen.
The COVID-19 crisis, a more fragmented political and economic order and the urgent necessity to protect our environment and natural resources pose us many challenges. The National Day is an opportunity to reflect on how to move forward together with our partners in Indonesia and ASEAN.
The writer is Swiss Ambassador to Indonesia, Timor-Leste and ASEAN.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.