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17. mai 2000 - The Federal Council has today endorsed and returned to Parliament the constitutional change allowing the alternative use of 1300 tonnes of gold held at the Swiss National Bank, which is no longer needed as an instrument of monetary policy. It has also approved the Act and opinion concerning the Swiss Solidarity Foundation. The proceeds from the management of 500 tonnes of the gold (subject to a ceiling of seven billion francs) will be transferred to the Foundation for use over an initial 30 years from entry into force of the Act. This period is extendable. The consent of the people and the cantons is mandatory for the article of the Constitution, while the Act is subject to an optional referendum.
The Federal Council has today endorsed and returned to Parliament the constitutional change allowing the alternative use of 1300 tonnes of gold held at the Swiss National Bank, which is no longer needed as an instrument of monetary policy. It has also approved the Act and opinion concerning the Swiss Solidarity Foundation. The proceeds from the management of 500 tonnes of the gold (subject to a ceiling of seven billion francs) will be transferred to the Foundation for use over an initial 30 years from entry into force of the Act. This period is extendable. The consent of the people and the cantons is mandatory for the article of the Constitution, while the Act is subject to an optional referendum.
The Federal Council has given clear and decisive backing to the plan to establish the Swiss Solidarity Foundation. It has stated its wish now to proceed quickly with the practical arrangements for this great and important work of renewing Swiss solidarity. Today the Government approved the bill and opinion with appropriate adaptations, plus the article of the Constitution. There have been slight amendments to the text of the opinion - especially including sport as a possible area of involvement of the Foundation. The Act will also limit the Foundation's funding to 30 years in the first instance (Article 23). Renewal will be possible on expiry of that period.
A broad concept of solidarity
In the specific form of the Foundation now presented, solidarity is deliberately understood in an open-ended way and not restricted to individual target groups. Limiting its scope from today's point of view might rule out focuses of activity which could be of particular value in future. The Foundation intends to concentrate primarily on projects which work permanently to prevent deprivation, violence and poverty arising at all. It differs in this from the rescue and aid initiatives already implemented by many major and competent organizations. The Foundation does not sponsor individuals but projects, working in partnership with their organizers. Its mission is not to replace what already exists, but to close gaps in the social safety net for which there would otherwise be no funding.
Openness to needs not foreseeable at present is a strength which lends the Foundation plan a high level of credibility among experts. On the other hand, such openness of course makes it harder to be specific about the Foundation's scope, which cannot be limited to specific crises or the destinies of individuals. Nevertheless, the following examples of subjects of possible projects can be given:
All these examples affect the future and reflect a concern to improve and secure the environment in which children grow up. Decisions on projects in accordance with the purpose of the Foundation will be taken by an independent Board of Trustees.
The Act also governs how the Foundation works: its organs are the Board of Trustees, its committees and the registered office. Every four years the Board of Trustees will devise a program setting out the main focuses of activity, to form the basis of project sponsorship. The Board will also award a solidarity prize and decide whether to grant immediate aid.
Background and idea
Switzerland can look back on over 150 years of peace and democracy. Solidarity, both within the country and beyond its borders, has always played a prominent role in its history. Generous gestures of national and international solidarity which have earned Switzerland a high standing include its Old-Age and Survivors' Pension Scheme and its involvement in the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Swiss Solidarity
Foundation continues this tradition in a new and fitting form. The Federal Council considered the undertaking of this future-oriented solidarity project a morally important and materially necessary response to increasing poverty and violence at home and abroad.
Deprivation must not only be tackled where it is currently visible. It also calls for measures which, so to speak, do not just put out fires but prevent new ones from breaking out at all. Prevention can be used where inadequate structures lead to new distress or gaps in provision. Preventing distress from arising is a central concept of the Swiss Solidarity Foundation. While less eye-catching to a world audience than current initiatives, this form of prevention has a lasting, long-term impact.
After thorough debate the Federal Council reached the conclusion that future generations will have to judge for themselves whether the priorities considered right and necessary today are still valid. By setting a time-limit, the Federal Council has also introduced an incentive for the Foundation to use its resources responsibly.
A component of the bill is the article of the constitution concerning the use of the proceeds of the sale of 1300 tonnes of gold from the Swiss National Bank's reserves. The article concerned is an interim provision under Article 99 of the Federal Constitution (Monetary and Currency Policy). A consultation process on the use of the remaining 800 tonnes of gold reserves is to begin in a few weeks' time. The timetable allows this year and next for parliamentary procedure, so that a vote would be possible from mid-2001.
Article 2: Object:
1 The Foundation is intended to strengthen solidarity at home and abroad.
2 It is intended to alleviate the causes of poverty, need and violence and their consequences.
3 It is intended to support those concerned by constructing a humane future.
Art. 3: Tasks:
1 The main tasks of the Foundation shall be as follows:
2 The work of the Foundation shall pay special attention to offering prospects and possibilities of development to children and young people.
Article 4: Sponsorship
1 The Foundation shall:
2 There shall be no legal entitlement to sponsorship from the Foundation.
Daniel Eckmann, Federal Department of Finance, phone: # 41 31 / 322.63.01
may 17 2000
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