H.E. Alain Gaschen
Ambassador of Switzerland to the Philippines
On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, we congratulate the Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI) on the implementation of many successful projects aiming at sustainably developing local communities in the Philippines. The Foundation’s strategy to focus on people, the planet and profit, and thus to support community-oriented, ecologically-sound, and financially-viable business ventures known as “eco-enterprises”, has become an effective instrument in alleviating the hardships of underprivileged communities.
The story of FSSI is compelling and a demonstration of what two countries together with a strong civil society can achieve for a common purpose. The story began in 1991, when the Federal Parliament, celebrating the 700th Anniversary of the Swiss Confederation, created the Swiss Debt Reduction Facility amounting to 700 million Swiss Francs. With the firm realization that sustained development cannot happen while countries suffer under heavy debt, Switzerland substantially reduced this burden in 28 developing countries, including the Philippines. Both countries agreed to an inventive scheme for which the Philippines put up a counterpart fund in Pesos equivalent to a portion of the original debt that was cancelled by the Swiss debt reduction facility. These funds were ear-marked to support and finance domestic development activities for poverty reduction, to promote human rights and to fight environmental degradation. Different to models elsewhere and creative for the time, the scheme foresees that decisions on the allocation of funds are not taken by government, but by a foundation, the FSSI, whose highest decision-making body is made up of civil society representatives. The Philippine and Swiss governments acted merely as observers which also reflects and recognizes the strong role that NGOs play in the development process in the Philippines.
25 years later, the world is a different one. Many states including the Philippines have achieved solid economic growth and sustainably manage their debts. However, the challenges remain manifold, while global issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have added further vulnerability and complexity. The FSSI’s accomplishments give me confidence that the Foundation will also in the future be able to contribute with creative solutions and programs, complementary to governmental efforts, to the empowerment of communities, to resilience and to sustainable development. In working together towards these goals, Switzerland remains a constructive and reliable partner of the Philippines.