Dear Friend of Switzerland,
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We are approaching the end of a year which brought us many happy, but also sad and difficult moments. We all had to face several natural and humanitarian disasters, above all, the humanitarian catastrophe at the Horn of Africa and the tsunami in Japan. The worldwide willingness to help the affected populations is overwhelming. Also in Switzerland, the Glückskette(Swiss Solidarity Foundation) and other NGOs were able to help the affected countries and their populations—thanks to huge donations from individuals and the private and public sectors. I am very proud of the generosity of the Swiss people, who donate up to 1.3 billion Swiss francs to charity each year.
The statistics, particularly the most recent 2010 Swiss donation monitor, show that on average a Swiss household donates about 650 Swiss francs per year ($700). For the most part, the Swiss give out of solidarity and compassion with people in need. They are aware that it is a privilege to live in a country like Switzerland and therefore want to give back. Swiss people mostly donated to the fight against diseases, followed by donations for handicapped people, children, the protection of animals and finally disaster relief and poor people in Switzerland as well as in developing countries. The Swiss are very consistent and loyal donors—they usually give to the same five NGOs every year. They have a sense of ownership toward ¨their NGOs¨ and highly regard them as independent, qualified and efficient in their respective fields.
As President of the Swiss Red Cross SRC, I am happy that the SRC as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross ICRC are well known and rank among the most appreciated of NGOs. The SRC and its twenty-nine member organizations (the twenty-four Cantonal Red Cross and five rescue organizations such as the Samaritans and the REGA--emergency medical assistance by air) provide their services to the most vulnerable people in Switzerland and in developing countries in the fields of healthcare, integration/migration and rescue operations. SRC services also include the collection, processing and distribution of lifesaving blood and blood products for Switzerland. I am convinced that with its scope of activities, the SRC as well as the US Red Cross contribute to the fulfillment of the aim of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, ¨Saving lives, changing minds.¨
I hope that the remaining weeks of this year, dear Readers, will be filled with satisfaction and happiness for you.
President of the Swiss Red Cross
Former Chancellor of the Swiss Confederation
The International Commission against the Death Penalty Moves Its Headquarters to Geneva
For more than sixty years, Geneva has been a sanctuary for international humanitarian law and human rights organizations. Today no less than 18 organizations have their headquarters in the Swiss city. In October of this year, another important organization announced that it is relocating to Geneva. The International Commission against the Death Penalty will move its headquarters from Madrid to Geneva. The offices will be integrated into the University of Geneva´s Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Switzerland has always been actively involved in promoting humanitarian law and in defending human rights. Abolishing the death penalty is one of the core concerns in Swiss human rights policy.
That is why Switzerland supported Spain´s initiative to establish an independent international commission against the death penalty. The decision was made at the fourth World Congress against the Death Penalty in February 2010 in Geneva, which was aimed at persuading as many countries and actors as possible to commit themselves to the goal of abolishing the death penalty.
The Commission consists of high-ranking personalities from various countries and is chaired by Federico Mayor Zaragoza of Spain. It is assisted by a support group of representatives from several countries. As of October 2011, the support group has been chaired by Paul Koller, the Swiss ambassador for human rights issues.
PDF of Speech by President Micheline Calmy-Rey (French only)
University of Geneva School of Law, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights
International Organizations in Geneva
Switzerland on Human Rights
Spiez Laboratory Supports the International Committee of the Red Cross
The Spiez Laboratory is the Swiss ¨center of expertise¨ for protection against nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) threats and hazards. It uses its technical expertise to support Switzerland´s arms control and peacekeeping efforts. The Spiez Laborator´s main clients include a number of international organizations such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Since June of this year, Spiez Laboratory has provided services to a new client: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Spiez Laboratory will serve as a reference laboratory for the ICRC. It will assist the ICRC both technically and operational to deal with nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical incidents the organization might experience.
The laboratory´s analytical expertise is on standby for support on short notice and might involve the dispatching of experts to assist the ICRC in the field. That commitment supplements the already extensive international activities carried out by the experts in Spiez, including operating a designated laboratory in connection with the Chemical Weapons Convention and conducting missions for post-conflict and disaster management. Spiez Laboratory has also received awards for significant contributions to international capacity-building missions.
The Spiez Laboratory
A Tropical Paradise Where You Would Least Expect It
It sits at the foot of the Bernese Oberland mountains: the Tropenhaus (tropical greenhouse) in the town of Frutigen. It all began with warm water coming from the Lötschberg railway tunnel. The water could not be emptied into the nearby river because it would endanger trout living in its cold water. The solution: building a pioneer in land-based aquaculture. The Tropenhaus breeds Siberian sturgeon—for meat and caviar—and exotic fruit. A group of innovative businesspeople teamed up with engineers, scientists and architects to build this high-tech greenhouse. But innovation has not stopped since it opened in 2009. Tropenhaus Frutigen constantly seeks to find more ways to improve the venture´s sustainability, e.g. the high-protein food for the sturgeon might come from only Swiss sources in the future.
The Tropenhaus is open to visitors. Geothermal power, renewable energy, aquaculture and sustainable food production can all be seen and experienced under one roof. A tour of the center includes a walk through the greenhouses with their flourishing tropical fruit trees and exotic plants as well as a stop at the fish ponds to watch impressive sturgeon of all sizes. The fruit grown on the premises as well as the center´s sturgeon meat are served as fresh, authentic dishes in the Tropenhaus´s very own restaurants.
Swiss Successful at World Skills Competition
"Teamwork was key to win this competition. We prepared and trained months in advance and knew each other´s the strength and weaknesses. This helped us acting as a high-performance team. It was a great experience¨, says Christof Schweizer of Rothrist, Switzerland, one of the two landscaping gardeners participating in this year´s World Skills Competition in London. He and his colleague, Andreas Stadlin of Zug, competed as a team against the world´s most skilled young landscaping gardeners. In 22 working hours, the young professionals had to plan and build a small garden of 30 square feet in size. The competition rules: build a Celtic dry stonewall, a wooden bridge over a running creek, a seating area, a wooden fence and set it on a lush lawn interfused with trees, bushes and flowers. Well, they evidently did well and won the gold medal. Overall, Swiss professionals won six gold, five silver and six bronze medals in London. According to total medal points, Switzerland ranked third behind Korea and Japan this year.
One of the reasons why Switzerland always scores well at the World Skills Competition is the solid foundation provided by vocational education and training.
The Confederation, the cantonal professional organizations and private-sector companies all contribute to the success of apprenticeships. During an apprenticeship, after graduating from high school, young people have a two- to four-year education in a specific profession. To become a certified landscaping gardener, auto mechanic or a nurse, for instance, students become apprentices for four years. During that time, they work at a company in their respective field, learning on the job. The other two days, they attend school, where the curriculum covers general education from languages, geography, history, accounting and so forth to specific courses in their field of expertise.
More about World Skills International
Overview of Swiss winners in the last three years
Information about vocational education and training in Switzerland from the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology