Global cooperation as the solution

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Alain Gaschen - The Philippine Star

Happy New Year! Like most, I looked forward to the arrival of 2023. For me, the beginning of a new year brings with it an exciting mix of renewed optimism, boundless energy and determination to hit the ground running to achieve even greater things. This motivation helps as we continue strengthening ties between our two countries, as we end our celebration of the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

Perhaps it is in this spirit that the World Economic Forum (WEF) is set in January of each year. Every January, leaders from all around the world gather in Davos to discuss the issues that affect our present and could impact our future. This meeting of public and private sector leaders, civil society organizations, academe and investors is a great opportunity to help shape the solutions to the problems we face. So much so that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. decided to make his way to Switzerland to join the event.

Despite being a privately organized event, I believe that the WEF has engrained in it some Swiss DNA. This is not surprising, given that its headquarters is in Switzerland as well but, more importantly, the WEF holds in high esteem the values of global cooperation, entrepreneurship and innovation.

These values are not new to my country. As I have written here previously, we have always espoused the importance of cooperation and innovation with all our efforts in the Philippines and around the world. For example, Switzerland has contributed to the relief efforts at the time of natural calamities like typhoons and earthquakes. At the height of the pandemic and alongside many other countries, Switzerland had also invested resources into Gavi, the Global Vaccine Initiative, to help speed up the development of vaccines and to ensure their equitable distribution around the world. Coincidentally, Gavi was also established at the WEF – an example of the solutions that can be discovered at Davos!

Indeed, we see now, or rather we fully realize what many experts have been telling us for years, that the world’s challenges do not recognize borders. Transnational issues are concerns that affect all states, no matter their geographical or economical size. In the current global context with its various overlapping crises, the UN Security Council has a significant role to play for peace in the world. The role of the UN Security Council is even more relevant to Switzerland this year as we joined it as a member for the first time in our history. 20 years after joining the United Nations, Switzerland is ready to take on more responsibility to serve the cause of world peace and intends to represent its foreign policy values and interests in the Security Council.

While we strive for a credible engagement across the full range of the Security Council agenda, we have identified four thematic priorities representing our core values. First, considering the strong track records of Switzerland in promoting peace and providing good offices, we will promote sustainable peace by building up confidence among the member-states of the Security Council but also by promoting a more effective UN peacebuilding.

Second, Switzerland’s long-standing humanitarian tradition and commitment to international humanitarian law places the protection of civilians as another priority. The resolution introduced by Switzerland and Brazil at the beginning of the week on the renewed cross-border humanitarian aid into Syria is a good illustration. It was passed unanimously by the Security Council for the first time. The humanitarian mission includes emergency aid, enabling access to vital services, assisting in the protection of civilians and their livelihoods and promoting compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights.

Third, addressing climate security as we see today that climate change is a risk multiplier with the potential to exacerbate existing political, social, economic and ecological stress factors. The most vulnerable population groups are usually the most exposed to climate risks.

Finally, Switzerland will continue its advocacy work for greater transparency and accountably with the final goal of enhancing the effectiveness of the multilateral system.

It is important to note that it is not just governments working together to deliver solutions. What makes Davos stand out is its multi-stakeholder approach. It is one of the few places where high-level meetings where representatives of the civil society, the academe, the media as well as the public and private sector engage in constructive discussions to forge alliances and to seek solutions to global challenges. Public-Private Partnership (PPP) thus takes on a stronger role as the inputs of the business, academic and scientific community must be heard, with even the sentiment of the general public being a factor in building solutions. It is also in the interest of non-government actors to contribute and collaborate, because the challenges of today – such as the emergence of new health concerns, climate change and food security – are existential threats that must be addressed with haste.

I’m proud to say that this collaboration is gaining ground in the Philippines. PPP is the preferred means of support in modernizing infrastructure and services by the Filipino government, and the endeavor is widely supported by the private sector, as we heard repeatedly from both sides during our recent Innovation exhibit. We are keen to see more of those initiatives and to support them.

Just a few days ago, I was honored to attend the launch of a multi-stakeholder collaboration between a patient organization (ICanServe Foundation), a pilot and pioneer LGU (Taguig), a successful start-up and “baby” of the pandemic (Dashlabs.ai) and the private sector (Novartis, through its Alliance and Partnership for Patient Innovation and Solutions). Together and with the support of the Department of Health (DOH) to leverage and disseminate the best practices, they will scale up existing and remarkable breast cancer control programs, bring them to the next level and encourage data-driven decision making – a great showing of innovation and collaboration!

As I’ve continued to note in my pieces, I am an optimist by nature. It is with this outlook that I welcome 2023 and more opportunities to push for collaboration as we aim to address the challenges we all face. The various crises of the moment are no reason to sit back or to put the blame on the activity of some or the inactivity of others. On the contrary, they should encourage us to focus on what works and has always worked: cooperation!

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Alain Gaschen is the Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines since August 2019.

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