Compiled by Savithri Rodrigo


Hanspeter Mock stresses the need to fight climate change together

In September, hundreds of people participated in a funeral march of sorts to the Glarus Alps to mark the disappearance of the Pizol glacier – yet another victim of global warming. Switzerland is among many nations experiencing the impact of climate change and this glacier was a devastating example of the phenomenon.

Switzerland is also making a clarion call for action rather than rhetoric. And the Swiss ambassador to Sri Lanka Hanspeter Mock outlines his country’s first goal in working for a CO2 neutral Switzerland by 2050 and halving emissions by 2030.

“Bold programmes are being discussed in our parliament to decarbonise Switzerland. These include increasing fossil fuel prices, additional limitations on CO2 emissions for new cars and incentives for clean heating technology,” he reveals.

The ambassador continues: “A trust fund has been established to finance innovative measures and instruments to reduce CO2 emissions, limit the use of resources (particularly electricity) and invest in renewable energy. Negative impacts do not stop at national borders so we engage in international cooperation on climate change.”

Mock asserts that rising sea levels pose a danger to the world: “Being a landlocked country, Switzerland isn’t directly affected but its glaciers are melting, contributing to rising sea levels. According to a recent survey, the melting of glaciers is so serious that if left unattended, Swiss ski mountains may cease to exist by the turn of the century.”

He adds that heatwaves and drought add to global risks. “The consequences are both manifold and complex – and the international community must intensify efforts to limit global warming for the sake of humanity.”

Switzerland’s emphasis on global issues is evidenced by its integral role in the international arena with the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos being one example. The diplomat points to the long history and tradition of neutrality, good offices, and engagement of peace and mediation that Switzerland has leveraged in international relations.

“This is an important facet in influencing global policies for a better and more peaceful world,” Mock affirms, citing the founding of the Red Cross in 1863 in Geneva, which has evolved into a centre of global governance, embodying Switzerland’s international humanitarian commitment.

Its neutral stance augurs well for Switzerland’s relationship with the country’s most important trading partner the EU. Having developed close ties with the Eurozone through a range of sectorial agreements, Mock points to the genesis of the Institutional Framework Agreement, which awaits approval in both markets.

He explains: “This is intended to consolidate Swiss-EU cooperation, make it fit for the future and secure mutual market access. It will apply to five existing and all future market access agreements ensuring the development of excellent relations between the two economies.”

“Switzerland and the UK have signed a series of agreements for the smooth continuation of relations. We call it ‘Mind the Gap’,” he reveals, employing an unusual application of the oft used phrase from the London Underground.

With a pool of diverse people who speak several languages and practise different religions, approximately 25 percent of Switzerland’s 8.5 million people hold foreign passports – one of the largest demographics of foreigners in Europe.

“This diversity is an asset to our economic success,” Mock maintains, elaborating that “every citizen feels respected as a full member of the national community with equal rights and obligations. We have achieved this by providing a large degree of autonomy to 26 cantons while our system of direct democracy offers the final word to citizens at all levels of government – viz. national, provincial and municipal.”

Continuing its tradition of humanitarian migration, Switzerland’s principle of granting protection to persons threatened in their home countries and fighting against human trafficking reflect its support for the ILO’s Safe Labour Migration Programme.

Having recognised Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948 and formalised diplomatic relations with it in 1956, Switzerland is home to about 50,000 Sri Lankans. These ties have intensified to encompass a range of issues and collaborations – including labour migration and vocational training, as well as a common engagement to fight corruption, and create lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

“The embassy remains committed to continuing and developing collaboration provided there’s a genuine will by Sri Lanka to do so. We’re convinced that multicultural societies can reach sustainable progress and growth that benefits all citizens only if past scars are healed. This implies a sincere resolve to address and redress open issues, which are fundamental for true reconciliation and lasting peace,” Mock asserts.

He observes that diversification, innovation, simplifying regulations for a just legal environment, fighting corruption, striving for excellence to attract investment and emphasising quality over quantity in the hospitality sector would provide Sri Lanka with the impetus to move forward.

The Swiss ambassador concludes: “Besides its strategic location, your people’s resilience is a major strength. It’s imperative to build on the country’s new state structures to protect democracy and ethnic relations, to create a better environment for investment and growth.”