The World Resources Forum 2021, taking place on October 12-14 under the theme of “A Green Deal for Sustainable Resources” is officially co-hosted by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation of the Republic of Ghana. This year’s conference is organised in a hybrid format, with three days of online sessions and two small-scale in-person events in Switzerland (October 13th) and Ghana (October 14th). The Swiss event will focus on the conference track of primary resources, with two panel debates delving into the prospects for responsible mining and the roles of the financial and trading sectors.

As Co-Host of the conference, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment is closely collaborating with the World Resources Forum Association to shape the overall programme and make this conference an opportunity for strengthening international collaboration to solve the environmental crises we are facing on a global level. We recently had the pleasure to sit down with Ms. Martine Rohn-Brossard, Head of Europe, Trade, and Development Cooperation Section and Deputy Head of International Affairs Division of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), to hear more about FOEN’s objectives and motivations for WRF2021.

 

 

We urgently need to rethink our way of managing natural resources if we want to tackle the three planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. Mineral resources have a key role to play in that respect, as they are essential for low-carbon technologies. Strengthening the environmental governance of mining is therefore more important than ever before

– Martine Rohn-Brossard

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As a matter of introduction, Ms. Rohn-Brossard, for those who are not familiar with the work of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment – what are its mission and key focus areas?

The mission of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) is to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources. To deliver on that mission, the FOEN pursues the following overarching goals: the long-term conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, the protection of human life against environmental impacts, and the protection of human life and material assets against natural hazards. To that end, the FOEN not only monitors the environment, but also aims to develop and implement coherent and effective policies. It is also responsible for Switzerland’s international environmental policy.

This year FOEN is co-hosting WRF2021 together with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation of the Republic of Ghana. What is the value and message behind this partnership? 

Switzerland and Ghana maintain excellent relations, and the sustainable management of resources is an important aspect to our bilateral relations. For instance, gold imports from Ghana to Switzerland make up 95% of the bilateral trade volume. Ghana is Switzerland’s most important supplier of cocoa – a key resource for Swiss culture of chocolate! Ghana is also a key partner with respect to Switzerland’s economic cooperation.

Co-hosting the WRF 2021 together with Ghana is a strong signal. It shows that two different countries–one with a strong mining sector, the other with a strong trading and financial sector–share similar concerns regarding the sustainable management of resources and are ready to work together towards that aim. Our cooperation not only concretizes with co-hosting the WRF, but also leads us to develop together – with other countries – a proposal for a resolution on mineral resource governance at the next United Nations Environment Assembly in February 2022.

In fact, mineral resource governance is a key topic of WRF2021, especially concerning the creation of integrated and SDGs aligned governance frameworks through international cooperation. This sits at the core of UNEA-4 resolution on mineral and metal resources and was also stressed in the latest IRP report on the topic. In this context, what activities is FOEN engaging in to build momentum on a global scale and what do you see necessary to achieve the goal?

Switzerland, as many other countries, is very active at the international level in the discussions regarding mineral resource governance. With Mexico, we co-sponsored the resolution on mineral resource governance which was adopted by the Fourth United Nations Environment Assembly in 2019. That resolution put the topic of mineral resource governance at the top of the international environmental agenda.

To implement the resolution, we supported UNEP to facilitate a series of 23 regional consultations that gathered 1280 participants from 123 countries to discuss together challenges, best practices and options for further strengthening the global environmental governance of minerals. Based on this work, we are now engaging with countries to prepare for the next UNEA. To bring that work up to the next level, the regional consultations showed that it is necessary to set up an intergovernmental working group to take action on areas where gaps were identified – such as tailings, artisanal and small-scale mining, and sand – among others.

The UNEA-4 resolution on sustainable infrastructure stressed the centrality of sustainable infrastructure to the 2030 agenda. What activities is Switzerland engaging in towards this objective?

We do not necessarily realise the importance that infrastructure has for sustainable development, but actually infrastructure influences 92% of the 169 individual SDG targets, and accounts for approximately 70% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, no country can tackle the issue alone. International cooperation is needed, because the pollution linked to infrastructure does not stop at state borders, nor do the impacts on biodiversity. Many countries need financial and material resources, as well as knowledge to develop their infrastructure that may not necessarily be available locally. To that end, Switzerland actively supported the UNEA-4 resolution on sustainable infrastructure and its implementation, advocating for an integrated and effective approach towards sustainable infrastructure.

As Co-Host of WRF2021, what message would you like to send to the international and multi-stakeholder community in order to incentivize their participation and engagement?

We urgently need to rethink our way of managing natural resources if we want to tackle the three planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Mineral resources have a key role to play in that respect, as they are essential for low-carbon technologies. Strengthening the environmental governance of mining is therefore more important than ever before. The World Resources Forum is a key platform for exchange on this topic and provides the opportunity to bring together a variety of stakeholders around the globe. I hope – and look forward – to lively discussions and ideas for innovative solutions. It’s time to act, so let’s be creative.

 

 

Martine Rohn-Brossard

Martine Rohn-Brossard is Head of Europe, Trade and Development Cooperation Section and Deputy Head of International Affairs Division of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). She is in charge with her team of trade and environment; green economy international including sustainable consumption and production, mineral resource governance, sustainable infrastructure and green finance; development and environment; bilateral relations; EU environmental issues (incl. EEA) as well as OECD; UNECE Environment. She has a broad experience in negotiation as well as in institutional and financial issues of international organizations. Martine Rohn-Brossard is an economist with a postgrade degree in ecology and environmental science.