Kick-off meeting for a sustainable Switzerland

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) - an initiative initiated by the previous UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012 - appointed the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Bern, and Biovision Foundation as the co-hosts for a SDSN branch in Switzerland. The kickoff meeting took place on Friday, 5 May 2017, in Bern - bringing together around 40 representatives from the Swiss research and science community, government, business and civil society.

The Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change are new and important steps towards sustainability. Their implementation requires the active participation and contribution of everybody - also in Switzerland. "However", as pointed out by Professor Urs Wiesmann, President of CDE, in his opening statement, "the scientific community has so far remained fairly silent. This is why we are establishing a SDSN for Switzerland, which will take this issue up." Dr. Hans Herren, speaking on behalf of Biovision, added that science can help making complex issues comprehensible, allowing for informed decisions and actions, and also demonstrating the consequences of not taking action.

SDSN Switzerland aims at bringing together world-class science, responsible and innovative businesses and impact-oriented civil society organisations to co-create and implement solutions as well as transformation pathways towards sustainability. Such solutions - including social innovations - shall be carried into decision-making processes in politics, business and society. According to one participant, a Swiss SDSN branch has great potential because of the depth and breadth of knowledge on sustainable development among public institutions, business and universities in Switzerland.

It emerged from the lively group discussions that SDSN Switzerland could in particular add value by focusing on issues such as (multi-level) governance, finance systems and sustainable consumption - all areas where Switzerland can either offer specific expertise, has specific levers, or needs to urgently take action. It was also mentioned that increased efforts should be undertaken to explain the SDGs to the citizens, including by demonstrating how each and every one of us can positively contribute. On a more positive note, several participants were under 30 years old - therefore representing the ones who have to live longest with the consequences of today's decisions and (non-)actions.


Building on the positive energy and dynamics of this first gathering, the two co-hosting organisations together with partners will continue their work in setting up SDSN Switzerland. Only with a network of committed actors from different corners of society, including their combined knowledge and collective intelligence, will we be able to come up with practical solutions for sustainable development.


Meeting Summary

Dr. Hans Herren, President of Biovision, delivering his opening speech on the role of transdisciplinary science for sustainable development.

Prof. Peter Messerli, Co-Director at CDE and Co-Author of the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), leading an interactive group discussion.

Ready to set up SDSN Switzerland: Urs Wiesmann, President of CDE; Hans Herren, President of Biovision; Martin Fässler, Board Member of Biovision.

Dr. Hans Herren, President of Biovision, delivering his opening speech on the role of transdisciplinary science for sustainable development.