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Youth demo demands ecology and equality of the Davos elite

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/24/2019 - 16:20
Around 100 demonstrators, gathered by the youth wing of the Swiss social democratic party, protested in Davos on Thursday against the inequalities and environmental damage they claim are exacerbated by the global elite. In January 2018 their request to demonstrate was turned down by local authorities: “too much snow”. Exactly a year later, however, the youth social democrats of Switzerland (JUSO) did make it onto the streets of Davos, staging a peaceful protest on Thursday afternoon to voice their opposition to the capitalist programme of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Under banners and chants calling for ‘system change not climate change’ or ‘degrowth rather than collapse’, the 100-odd demonstrators gathered on the main square of Davos to highlight three major gripes: persistent (sometimes burgeoning) economic inequality; looming environmental catastrophe; and a resurgence of extreme-right politics. Much anger was also directed towards newly-inaugurated Brazilian president ...
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Swiss president wants to do business with Saudi Arabia

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/24/2019 - 16:18
Comments by Switzerland’s president, Ueli Maurer, about normalising relations with Saudi Arabia, despite its alleged involvement in the killing of a prominent critic last year, have caused irritation among politicians and in the media. Asked about the issue by journalists at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, Maurer, who holds the finance ministry portfolio in the Swiss government, said the case of the killed Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was not raised in talks with his Saudi counterpart Mohammed al-Jadaan. “We have long since dealt with the Khashoggi case. We have agreed to resume the financial dialogue and to normalise relations,” Maurer said. He added that Switzerland had made its position in Khashoggi case clear in previous contacts with the Saudi government. In fact, the Swiss government in October stressed the “the need for a detailed, rigorous, and transparent inquiry”, following the killing of the Saudi critic allegedly by agents ...
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Are companies and consumers ready to shun plastic?

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/24/2019 - 12:35
The massive amount of plastic pollution has ignited public concern as well as debate in Davos, but the real work is still to come. The more than eight million tonnes of plastic leaking into the ocean each year – equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute – is a serious concern for countries like Japan. Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would call on fellow G20 leaders at the upcoming summit in Osaka to end-micro plastic pollution. Abe told a packed audience in Davos on Wednesday that, “At the deepest spot of the Pacific Ocean we now find something terrible going on. The bodies of small sea fleas down at the bottom of the ocean hold toxic PCB contaminants in very high density. Some say that microplastics are the cause.” It is not just our oceans. As Scientific American reports, the majority of plastic waste ends up in ten rivers – many of which are in Southeast Asia. In Switzerland, rivers and lakes are also affected.
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Cop Shiva: School dropout, street vendor, policeman and artist

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/24/2019 - 12:00
​​​​​​​ Born into a poor farming family in southern India, Shivaraju had to leave school to support his family. A job in the police force gave him financial stability but it was photography that helped him redefine his place in Indian society and gain recognition abroad.  It is a cold winter morning in Zurich. The Rote Fabrik arts centre along the lakeshore appears deserted. The only sign of life is a homeless man muttering to himself and scrounging the area for discarded cigarette butts to smoke.  Appearances can be deceptive. Inside, a few artists are at work in their studios in the red brick building that was formerly a factory earmarked for demolition. One of them is Indian photographer Banikuppe Siddaramaiah Shivaraju, aka Cop Shiva. The cavernous studio appears messy. There are strewn bits of paper everywhere. Shivaraju, who is colourfully dressed in a yellow shirt, red Nehru jacket and green shoes, explains that the mess was nothing but remnants of a public performance he ...
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Governments won’t fund sustainable development. Will private finance step in?

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/24/2019 - 09:59
Just over three years ago, the UN launched its Sustainable Development Goals to push world leaders into addressing problems such as poverty, hunger and climate change by 2030. It sounded admirable, and these days those SDGs have become a useful framework for discussing global development. They have also spawned an eye-catching rainbow lapel pin that government officials and business leaders often wear as a virtue-signalling device. “The SDGs are a great road map,” enthuses Paul Polman, former Unilever chief executive. But there is one gigantic catch: money. Since the SDGs were launched, the World Bank has estimated that it will take about $4 trillion (CHF4 trillion) of annual investment to create the infrastructure needed to achieve the goals. Various UN bodies put the price tag at between $5 trillion and $7 trillion each year. However, the World Bank also reckons that western governments only provide an annual $150 billion of “overseas development assistance” - or aid. Even ...
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Ice-skating robots showcase Swiss innovation

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 01/23/2019 - 17:44
Ice-skating robots have proven a popular ambassador for Swiss innovation on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. While companies and innovators are excited about their tremendous potential, the rise of robots is a source of anxiety for many who worry their jobs will disappear. The WEF’s Future of Jobs Report 2018 notes that machines and algorithms will do more current tasks than humans by 2025. The same report, which assesses the outlook of 20 economies and 12 industries, predicts the robot revolution will still create 58 million net new jobs in the next five years. swissinfo.ch spoke to Professor Stelian Coros, who leads the Computational Robotics Lab at federal technology institute ETH Zurich, about the potential of the technology underpinning these robots and innovation Ice-skating robots, which get top marks for their cutting-edge cool factor, are paving the way for next generation mobile robots that can be enlisted for service, assistive care and social ...
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The ‘winter of terror’ that changed Swiss avalanche prevention

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 01/23/2019 - 15:49
In the extreme winter of 1951, more than 1,300 avalanches across Switzerland destroyed 1,000 buildings and killed 98 people. It was a disastrous moment in Swiss history that became known as the ‘winter of terror'. In our series #swisshistorypics we travel back in time to look at photographs which document past life and culture in Switzerland.
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Closing the gender gap: a Swiss view at WEF

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 01/23/2019 - 12:11
On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, IKEA Switzerland CEO Simona Scarpaleggia offers her view on what it will take for the global gathering in Davos to achieve a 50-50 gender balance among participants. Scarpaleggia joined Sylvie Durrer of the Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality, and Suba Umathevan of Plan international Switzerland at a WEF side event session on gender equality in Switzerland hosted by The Female Quotient – a female-owned business focused on workplace equality. IKEA Switzerland is one of the few companies, globally and in Switzerland, that has achieved a 50-50 gender balance in management. Italian-born Scarpaleggia called for an end to the part-time work taboo, which she views as one of the key barriers to increasing the pipeline of young talented women. “In Switzerland, it is really seen as a stop to a career but we [at IKEA] see it as an opportunity…why should we lose out on talent?” Under Scarpaleggia, IKEA Switzerland has established two ...
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The Swiss police are kind - even to offenders

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 01/23/2019 - 11:57
An encounter with the Zurich police left Arasan questioning their attitude towards law and order.  As a student on a tight budget, I hunted for part time jobs extensively. However, I was not able to land one despite my best efforts.  Luckily, a friend of my relative took over a kiosk in the infamous Langstrasse and I was able to work there.  Langstrasse is the abode of most of the illicit businesses in Zurich. You will find people howling, lying down on pavements, squabbling, etc. It is a place where you can easily forget you are in Switzerland.  Soon the happiness of finding a job faded away. I found it very troublesome to work with people living on the margins of society. Our main clientele are sex workers, drug peddlers, homeless people, asylum-seekers and party goers. I would have never known poverty existed in Switzerland if not for this place. People beg for 10 Rappen (around 10 cents) from every passer-by to buy a single cigarette (since the last six months we have ...
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Good neighbours: Liechtenstein turns 300

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 01/23/2019 - 09:00
The Principality of Liechtenstein is marking its tercentenary. But 2019 is also 100 years since its rapprochement with Switzerland. Since 1919, links have been so close in certain areas that one could almost consider Liechtenstein a Swiss canton.  On January 23, 1719, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI united and upgraded Vaduz and Schellenberg to the rank of imperial principality under the aegis of the Liechtenstein dynasty. This date marks the birth of the sovereign state of Liechtenstein, even if the principality didn’t technically become an independent state until the fall of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.  Wednesday’s commemorations mark the triggering of a series of events that will be held throughout the year.  “This jubilee is not only the chance for the residents of Liechtenstein to reflect on their history, but also to attract the attention of many tourists and visitors,” the principality said on its website for the festivities.  Liechtenstein was very close to the ...
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Klaus Schwab: Switzerland’s openness is being put to the test

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 01/22/2019 - 20:38
Founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, says Switzerland risks falling behind other economies in the face of rapid technological change. The country dropped from first to fourth in the WEF’s latest economic competitiveness index, ranking poorly in areas such as market openness and tariff complexity. + read more about how Switzerland ranked on the latest economic competitiveness index While openness has been the secret to the country’s success, Schwab says that it is being put to the test and he cautions the country about erecting barriers given its high dependence on exports. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) 
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As Chinese economy slows, Swiss seek greater access

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 01/22/2019 - 16:00
The presence of China’s vice president at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum comes at a time of slowing economic growth at home and growing scrutiny of Chinese investments abroad, including in Switzerland. Gloom. Apprehension. Concern. China's Vice President Wang Qishan, currently attending the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, might want to skip the local papers. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a leading newspaper, decried "dark clouds over Chinese skies" in an article about the outlook of the Chinese economy. "China's economy is cooling, and the West is feeling the impact," the business newspaper Finanz und Wirtschaft said, pointing to slowing sales of major international brands. Even 20 Minuten, a free tabloid distributed at major transport hubs, reported on unfavorable prospects for the world's second-largest economy. One reason for the gloom was the quarterly release of official economic growth figures in Beijing on Monday. The world's second-largest economy grew ...
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Corruption, inequality, tax fraud – and Switzerland

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 01/22/2019 - 15:58
Anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth calls on Switzerland to be tougher on tax havens and says growing populism in many countries means that it will increasingly fall to the private sector to tackle corruption. swissinfo.ch caught up with the founder of the Basel Institute on Governance during his 12th visit to the annual general meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.  He recalled attending the WEF more than a decade ago to launch the Partnering for Anti-Corruption Initiative. Participants “thought my colleagues and I were clowns” for talking about corruption, he said. The initiative is now one of the longest-standing CEO-led collaborations at WEF.  But Pieth warned of new concerns in the fight against corruption, with the rise of populist governments in Brazil and elsewhere. People believe populist governments will solve all their problems, he tells Jessica Davis Plüss, but “the real tragedy is that many are the worst of crooks”. In this context, he said tackling ...
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How the Tezos blockchain could empower the poor

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 01/22/2019 - 12:00
The Tezos blockchain is taking its first teetering steps following a difficult birth, marked by fractious rows and lawsuits. The Tezos foundation president has lofty goals for the platform, not least helping lift people out of poverty. But it first must deal with regulatory and investor demands. The Swiss-based foundation wants Tezos to be the premier blockchain platform for an anticipated decentralised social and economic revolution. To do that, the foundation - tasked with spending $500 million on the blockchain’s development – has to convince both the public and regulators of its merits. Foundation President Ryan Jesperson told swissinfo.ch that neither he nor the foundation have the power or the will to take over the controls. It’s up to the whole community of Tezos users to jointly shape its destiny, he says. However Jesperson, drawing on his Mormon background including two years spent on projects that “helped people lift themselves out of poverty”, has a personal vision ...
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Has the global labour organisation advanced workers’ rights?

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 01/22/2019 - 11:30
As the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO) marks its 100th birthday, experts reflect on the importance of the unique United Nations agency in today’s globalised world.  Back in 1919, the ILO’s unique tripartite structure, still present today, brought together governments, workers and employers with ambitious aims: to create a framework of worker rights, protection against exploitation and slavery, and to ensure the freedom to form unions.  One hundred years on, in a world of complex supply chains, insecure jobs, increasing global deregulation of the labour market and millions of people stuck in forced labour in factories, farms and fishing boats, is the ILO still relevant? For Sandrine Kott, professor of European contemporary history at the University of Geneva, the organisation still plays an important lead role defending social justice in the world of work. “But its weakness is that this discourse is not dominant right now, especially since the mid-1970s.
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Who’s in the WEF in-crowd?

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 01/22/2019 - 09:00
Making it on the participants list at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting is no easy feat. Just around 3,000 people make the cut. Despite efforts to attract more young people and women, the average participant is still a man in his 50s from Western Europe or North America. So, who can you expect in this elite crowd? More than half of the participants are from business, with a large portion chief executive officers and directors, such as Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg and Roche Chairman Christoph Franz. Of the more than 330 public figures, 60 heads of state are expected to attend, including Swiss President Ueli Maurer and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as many new faces including recently elected leaders of Iraq, Brazil and Ecuador. Over 40 heads of international organisations, including Robert Azevedo of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will attend. + See who made it into the in-crowd at the 2018 WEF Although more than half of the participants come from ...
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Humanitarians and Davos: Pure as the driven snow?

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 01/21/2019 - 21:00
It’s that time of year again: the moneyed, the powerful, the famous, some who are all three, some who strive hopefully towards just one of those qualities, all are making their annual pilgrimage up the valley to Davos and the World Economic Forum. It’s an odd event, the forum, and not the most professionally satisfying for a journalist. I spent years reporting on it before a merciful editor decided it was someone else’s turn. The problem for us in the media is that, while there are plenty of newsmakers attending, from prime ministers, to billionaires, to despots, most, during their time in Davos, are more interested in networking than they are in answering awkward questions from news reporters. But it’s a networking opportunity the world’s humanitarian leaders rarely miss. My first ever Davos coincided with my first year as Geneva correspondent, and I remember being surprised that, in the run up to the forum, I was receiving multiple emails from aid agencies informing me that ...
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Davos’s main runway, Zurich

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 01/21/2019 - 17:20
This time around, Trump, May and Macron will not transfer at Zurich’s main airport on their way to the World Economic Forum in Davos. For those in charge of security, these cancellations are by no means a respite. Here’s a look behind the scenes in the WEF control room at Zurich Airport, and at how motorcades are checked before accessing the runway.   As Zurich Cantonal Police Chief Thomas Würgler said at a media conference on Monday, “WEF might be in Davos, but it starts in Zurich”. Airport operator, Flughafen Zurich AG, expects around 130 extra aircraft movements per day compared to an average day. About 110 guests protected by international law, such as four members of royalty and 19 presidents, are expected among the numerous representatives of foreign governments and international organizations. The World Economic Forum is a major undertaking for the Swiss police corps, also outside Canton Graubünden, where the forum takes place. There too, as in previous years, the Zurich ...
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Historic nuclear accident dashed Swiss atomic dreams

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 01/21/2019 - 13:01
Fifty years ago today, a nuclear meltdown occurred in Switzerland’s first experimental nuclear power station. Built in an underground chamber in Lucens in the western part of the country, it was the site of the worst nuclear accident in Swiss history. The plant was opened in 1962, with the aim of not only producing energy, but also allowing Switzerland to develop a reactor bearing the “Made in Switzerland” label and enabling experiments with nuclear energy. But these plans were pushed aside when disaster struck in the plant’s reactor cavity on January 21, 1969. A pressure tube burst which created a power surge leading to the reactor malfunctioning and an explosion. Luckily, a member of staff who was scheduled to be working on the reactor at the time was found safe and sound elsewhere. The plant’s underground design also prevented people and the environment from being harmed. The accident’s severity registered at 5 out of a possible 7. The concentration of leaked cooling gas ...
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