On-going corruption, growing inequalities and simmering conflicts mean that the abundance of natural resources leads to suffering rather than gain in too many developing countries. Switzerland, as the world’s most important commodities hub, plays a decisive role in this “resource curse.” An independent Swiss Commodity Market Supervisory Authority as launched by the Berne Declaration today would present an effective counterweight to this trend, regulating this high-risk sector with a mixture of due diligence and transparency requirements.
Three years after the publication of the Berne Declaration’s ground-breaking book “Commodities: Switzerland’s Most Dangerous Business” Switzerland has finally come to recognise the importance of its commodities sector and policy makers and public opinion are aware of the risks it presents. Looking at the finance sector, it is obvious that Switzerland has finally come to accept the necessity of regulating high-risk areas. Yet, in the commodities sector, the real problems continue to be ignored and the country waits in vain for realistic policy solutions to emerge. Against this background and following the reputational and real damage Switzerland experienced in the finance sector, the Berne Declaration recommends the establishment of a Swiss Commodity Supervisory Authority (ROHMA). This body would serve as a guarantor of a responsible and yet competitive Swiss commodities hub, and would help to ensure that extractive countries can use the wealth generated by their raw materials for the benefit of their populations.
An eight-person “Board of Directors” made up of prominent figures is actively supporting the authority proposed, in detail, by the Berne Declaration. Board member Dick Marty member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe believes, “The regulation of the Swiss commodities sector will only trouble those companies that do not behave properly. Those companies that conduct their businesses correctly will in fact be strengthened. This is in the interest of our economy, and our country.” The anti-corruption expert and professor of criminal law Mark Pieth recalls that, “just ten years ago, automatic information exchange and an end to banking secrecy in Switzerland were written off as being fully unrealistic. Today they are reality.” He goes on to ask, “How long will it take until we have the Swiss Commodity Supervisory Authority?” Pieth’s fellow Board member Monika Roth, compliance expert and professor of financial market law, calls upon the government: “Switzerland should lead the way with regulation, and not again wait until the noose from foreign initiatives tightens.”
The Berne Declaration’s proposal is not a position paper. Rather, it is a comprehensive and detailed visionary example of what a regulation authority would look like. www.rohma.ch introduces the body’s regulatory mandate alongside newly drafted legal frameworks, licensing processes and a list of companies that should be the subject of supervision. The pioneering work of ROHMA represents a concrete opportunity for Switzerland to become part of the solution to the ‘resource curse’ and to no longer be a part of the problem.
Oliver Classen, Mediensprecher ROHMA, oliver.classen[at]rohma.ch, +41 (0)44 277 70 06
Analysis: A supervisory authority to combat the regulatory lacuna in the commodities sector (PDF, 1.7 MB, )
This analysis explains how the resource curse is connected to the Swiss trading hub and draws conclusions about the political responsibility that results.