Update to Swiss commodities report insists on voluntary principles and business as usual

One year after the release of its Background Report: Commodities, the Swiss government has released an update on the implementation of the 17 recommendations contained therein. These were already insufficient, and since nothing much has happened since then on this front, the federal administration has had to draw on some of its other activities to fill out the report, stretching them so that, where possible, these have suddenly become “commodity-related”. This also includes discussions with respect to the “multi-stakeholder initiative,” a process eschewed by the invited NGOs for failure to meet even basic requirements.

Despite the current and particularly public risk posed to Switzerland, the federal administration still fails to take trading in illegally acquired commodities seriously. The recently identified involvement of Geneva-based commodity traders in businesses of the Ukrainian Yanukovych clan illustrates once more the questionable role of Switzerland’s commodity hub in the enrichment of corrupt elites in commodity-rich countries. In the follow-up report (recommendation 4), once again only black money and money laundering are referred to – no mention is made of the trade in “black commodities”. And the very description of the publication of gold statistics broken down by country as a significant transparency step (recommendation 9) reflects how easily satisfied the government is. In fact Switzerland is doing no more here than finally applying practice that has been an international standard for the past forty years.

The report mentions a positive dynamic between the administration, companies and NGOs in the development process of “Corporate Social Responsibility standards for commodity trading” (recommendation 11). In reality, all ten NGOs involved in this would-be multi-stakeholder initiative (MSI) officially advised the federal administration that they were “not prepared to take part in such an MSI under the given conditions”. The NGOs set out their position in a paper, identifying the basic requirements necessary for a constructive process: a shared understanding as to the recognition of responsibility for the causes of the identified problems and a visible willingness to engage to find solutions. To date, not a single commodity trader has met these basic requirements. The fact that the government continues to refuse to even consider introducing legally binding measures to regulate this high-risk sector is politically, as well as economically, negligent.

For further information contact
Oliver Classen, BD media director, +41 44 277 70 06, oliver.classen[at]evb.ch

More: Background Report: Commodities