Zurich offers Swiss government insight on new international strategy to alleviate global hardship

Climate change and sustainability are among the top priorities in the effort to improve global living conditions, and Zurich outlines key considerations for addressing the challenges.

Zurich is offering its expertise in climate and sustainability issues to help the Swiss government develop its new international cooperation strategy aimed at helping alleviate hardship and poverty in the world.

Switzerland’s Federal Council and Parliament define the approach every four years, and for the 2021-2024 period are focusing on four strategic goals: local job creation, alleviating the impact of climate change on irregular migration and forced displacement, as well as the promotion of peace and the rule of law.

“Zurich, with its commitment to tackling climate change, sustainability and its Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance to help communities become more resilient, is contributing its skill and experience to support the public consultation on the renewed strategy,” said Michael Szönyi, Flood Resilience Program Lead at Zurich Insurance Group.

Zurich recommends three key considerations for Switzerland’s strategy to improve global living conditions through international cooperation:

  1. Coordination and alignment on climate change, disaster risk reduction and sustainable development issues addressed by the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Action and the Sustainable Development Goals.
  2. Financing of development and disaster risk reduction programs with a clear focus on pre-event resilience building and prevention rather than post-loss compensation, response and recovery.
  3. Ensuring the goals of the strategy of international cooperation adhere to principles of continuity, sustainability and a long-term vision, and are prioritized over short-term gains.

Also invited to participate in the consultation are Swiss cantons, political parties, economic sector organizations and associations. Zurich has taken a particular interest in participating as a private sector insurer with a strong commitment to sustainability, as shown by its commitment to become the first insurer to sign the UN Global Compact that aims to limit global temperature rise.

“We have worked together with the Z Zurich Foundation for more than six years on our global flood resilience program, a multi-sector collaboration with five organizations from the non-governmental organization and civil society sectors as well as three research institutions,” said Mr. Szönyi “We welcome the opportunity to contribute to this public consultation with the knowledge and expertise we have developed in disaster risk reduction, natural hazards management and climate change.”

While much progress has been made in reducing poverty, mortality rates and consequences of disasters, more effort is required to combat global warming, reduce the secondary consequences of natural hazard events and bring down the economic costs of disasters. In addition, more investment is needed in pre-event resilience and risk reduction, Zurich believes.

Zurich’s research shows that investments in pre-event resilience building are highly effective, with, for example, loss-cost savings on average of 5 CHF for every 1 CHF invested in flood prevention. However, studies also show that 87% of humanitarian assistance funds is spent on post-catastrophe relief and only 13% could be considered invested in disaster risk reduction [1].

“There is not enough investment in climate-smart and risk-informed development programs, which we would like to see strengthened through the new strategy,” said Mr. Szönyi “We hope the financial contribution to the international cooperation will reach or exceed the UN-agreed target of 0.7% of gross national income of donors by 2024.”

Climate change mitigation and the change of behaviors needed to adapt to its effects on society “should probably be the highest priority of the four goals of the international development cooperation,” Zurich recommended in the consultation paper. It fits well with the government’s aim to strengthen collaboration with the private sector, which is welcomed by Zurich.

“Given the right environment, innovative economic sectors in Switzerland will provide new solutions, products and services that can be used to address these challenges and support the international cooperation strategy,” said Linda Freiner, Zurich’s Group Head of Sustainability.

“Zurich’s commitment to societal risk management, particularly with regard to climate change and flood risks, with strong consideration of the wellbeing of people in their work environments, is an essential part of our business and an integral ingredient of our long-term strategy,” Ms. Freiner said. “We believe the new strategy on international cooperation will be a successful continuation of the long history of Swiss support in this regard and we welcome the opportunity to contribute to the public consultation.”

More information on the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance is available here.

[1] Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance White Paper: Making communities more flood resilient: The Role of cost-benefit analysis and other decision support tools in Disaster Risk Reduction. White Paper, Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, 2014

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