I’m writing from Bern, where I’m attending the Swiss Network for International Studies‘ (SNIS) first yearly conference. The Network was established two years ago to promote interdisciplinary research in issues of international relevance among Swiss academics.
The international relations field is still pretty new at Swiss universities. It might well be a corollary of the fact that, for much of the past century, the country’s neutrality in international politics boiled down to passivity. Several speakers at the first day of the conference reminded us that Switzerland only joined the UN in 2002.
In any case, the young Swiss’ interest in international affairs is exploding at the moment: A Geneva professor talked to me about the exponential rise in student numbers since his university launched an undergraduate program in international relations.
Here are two highlights from the first day of the conference – based on my own biased personal interests…
Firstly, Oliver Bakewell, from the International Migration Institute at Oxford University, smashed a few prejudices on migration in Europe in his keynote address.
Among others things he argued that development goals in the South shouldn’t be pursued with a view to “tackling the root causes of migration.” It won’t work, he said, and what’s more, development should be pursued for its own sake.
According to him, people who migrate to Europe are not the poorest, but rather people with a minimum level of education and resources. Thus, the development of a very poor region usually leads to an increase in migration in a first stage.
Second, I recommend you watch Oliver Wünsch’s speech on the challenges faced by Switzerland as a financial center. Representing the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), he gives insights into the task of financial regulation in a small country with big banks. Here is the video of all “panel A” discussions; his speech begins at 173:45 and lasts about 30 minutes.
I’ll be back soon with a few thoughts on the second day of the SNIS conference. It will tackle the interface between international studies and policymaking.