50 years Public Eye
Public Eye was founded in 1968 based on a manifesto (available in French and in German) demanding fairer relations between Switzerland and the world's poorest countries. The text aimed to raise awareness and influence official Swiss policy: the 1,000 signatories of the "Berne Declaration" committed to devote 3% of their income to cooperation and development - while demanding that the Swiss Federal Council do the same. In 1971, the movement became an association, which is currently supported by some 27,000 members.
Focusing Global Justice
From the Berne Declaration in 1968 to today's Public Eye, our association remains loyal to the view and values of its founders, who proposed to attack the causes of poverty rather than trying to treat its consequences. Since the 70s, the organisation has stood out thanks to the scale of its actions, such as the launch of the sustainable coffee "Ujamaa", imported from Tanzania, or the sale of over 250,000 jute sacks to support sustainable business in Bangladesh. During the 80s and 90s, the organisation became heavily involved in campaigning for the restitution of Marcos's funds to the Philippines and to clean up the financial centre. The "Medi-minus" campaign, and the corresponding book, which sold 50,000 copies, denounced the pharmaceutical industry for selling useless, inefficient or in some cases dangerous medicines in both Switzerland and developing nations. At the turn of the century, the association took the battle to massive pharaonic construction projects, such as the Three Gorges Dam in China and the Ilisu dam in Turkey.
Here are some of our recent success stories:
- Our report “Dirty Diesel“ (2016) revealed for the first time how Swiss commodity trading companies systematically exploit the lax African standards to optimize their profit margins with toxic fuels – at the expense of the health of millions of Africans. Thanks to the campaign, the West African economic community ECOWAS lowered the maximum thresholds for diesel and petrol to 50 ppm, which will significantly reduce air pollution.
- Launch of the Responsible Business Initiative as part of a vast civil society coalition. Thanks to the support of its members and volunteers, Public Eye managed to gather over 40,000 signatures and was also involved in the initiative's steering committee. The majority of Switzerland's 26 cantons rejected the initiative. However, the initiative succeeded in capturing 50.7% of the popular vote.
- The 2011 publication of ”Commodities: Switzerland’s most dangerous business”, a reference book that reveals the real role Switzerland plays as the world’s most important trading hub. In 2014, Public Eye first conceived the type of regulation that this sector could be subject to, with the creation of a theoretical authority supervising the commodity sector, which was given the name "ROHMA".
- The revocation of multiple patents claimed for traditional knowledge (Cape Pelargonium in 2010) and on life itself (Monsanto's melon in 2016) after registering complaints with the European Patent Office.
- The collaboration of companies working in the sports and leisure clothing sector, such as Mammut, Jack Wolfskin and Odlo with the Fair Wear Foundation.
- Public Eye has carried out numerous campaigns to denounce poor working conditions in the textile industry, examining the commitment of firms to ensure the respect of human rights throughout their supply chains (e.g. public procurement in 2012, campaign for a living wage in 2014, footwear industry in 2016).
- Several investigations on the ground, in very opaque environments, that denounced violations of ethics in clinical trials for medicines that were outsourced by Swiss companies to Russia, Ukraine, Argentina and India in 2013, and Egypt in 2016.
- Major awareness-raising campaigns relating to the conditions at cocoa plantations and evaluations of Swiss chocolate companies and procedures for responsible sourcing (2009 and 2013).
- From 2005 to 2015, the "Public Eye Awards" constituted an internationally renowned online campaign; attracting media attention to the worst cases of human rights violations and environmental damage. Through the campaign's scale, it made an important contribution to debates on corporate responsibility.
- To celebrate its 50th birthday, Public Eye set up an Investigation Award to support the work of journalists or NGOs that investigate the practices of Swiss companies and their harmful ramifications on developing or emerging countries.
Numerous organisations and coalitions have been started or co-founded by Public Eye over the last 50 years:
- "Les Magasins du monde" in French-speaking Switzerland, and the German equivalent, "3-Welt-Läden" (OS3 third-world import cooperative, which became "claro fair trade SA") (1977)
- Working Group on Tourism and Development (1977)
- "Action place financière Suisse" (part of Public Eye since 2012) (1978)
- Baobab Books (children’s literature) (1983)
- Solifonds (1983)
- FIZ - Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking (1985)
- Alternative Bank Switzerland (ABS) (1990)
- Der andere Literaturklub (Schweizer Präsenz, heute von artlink betreut)
- Solifonds (1983)
- Fribourg International Film Festival (FIFF) (1980)
- Geneva Federation on Cooperation and Development (FGC)
- Clean Clothes Campaign Switzerland (coordinated by Public Eye from its inception) (1999)
- Droit sans frontières
- Initiative for Responsible Business (2015)