CDE is Switzerland’s centre of excellence for sustainable development. One of the University of Bern’s strategic research centres, we are tasked with mainstreaming sustainability throughout the university’s research and teaching.
We conduct research and teaching on behalf of a more sustainable world. Our aim is to chart pathways to sustainable development and to initiate transformations in line with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In our strategy, we show how we are committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda through our theory of change. We combine sound research with inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to analysis and transformation. Our research agenda is created within long-standing partnerships spanning the global North and South.
Many universities have taken up the cause of sustainability. But what about its practical implementation? In Bern, a great deal is happening right now. For example, the universities have joined forces to promote Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). CDE scientist Lilian Trechsel heads the ESD programme at the University of Bern, and she’s convinced the universities can learn a lot from each other. Read the interview (in German).
The look back
The Swiss Federal Council has presented its draft Dispatch on International Cooperation 2025–2028. Among other things, the government plans to shift CHF 1.5 billion from development cooperation to urgently needed support for Ukraine. For CDE, this is unacceptable, as the funds would be diverted away from the poorest developing regions, where they are just as urgently needed. The proposal could also be more ambitious and more coherent with existing strategies in other respects – especially when it comes to implementing the 2030 Agenda, combating rising inequality, and protecting the climate. In its response to the ongoing consultation, CDE shows how (in German).
In the Sambirano watershed of Madagascar, small-scale farms grow high-quality cocoa. However, the region is prone to devastating cyclones that are worsening due to climate change. Additionally, there are competing interests and overlapping crises. Building on the achievements of initial work of Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation and the cocoa sector, this new project aims at collectively engaging local stakeholders in the development of a sustainably managed landscape in the Sambirano Valley.
Roads, rails, ports – projects aimed at launching or expanding transit routes from Asia to Europe are mounting. In the middle of it all are the countries of Central Asia and the South Caucasus. What do the mega-infrastructure projects mean for the local populations? This question was studied in a CDE pilot project on Georgia's west-east axis.
Switzerland imports 96% of its fish. Given their environmental and socio-economic effects, existing measures are insufficient to ensure sustainable fisheries production – especially in terms of social dimensions such as labour and human rights. Our new project aims to chart a path forward towards more sustainable fish imports.
The prices of food we see on supermarket shelves rarely reflect the real costs to the environment or human health. This is because the real costs of cheap food are “externalised”. In this new project, CDE and its partners are exploring how best to implement true cost accounting in Switzerland for a more sustainable food system.
The government of Laos has committed to a socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth strategy. In practice, however, problems implementing this strategy abound. Export-oriented land investments, for example, still often have undesired environmental and social impacts. A new project aims to improve the sustainability of land management and governance in Laos by means of enhanced knowledge, capacities, and processes in both government and the private sector that promote quality investments and climate-resilient practices.
When it comes to fighting poverty, the prescription of most economists is growth. This means growth of agriculture in many low-income countries where production of food and commodity crops is the biggest employer. But there are risks – especially for local populations marginalized by rising commercial activity or incorporated into it on adverse terms. Based on evidence from the coffee heartlands of Rwanda and Laos, this policy brief highlights tools for measuring the impacts of agricultural growth on poverty in rural areas. And it emphasizes the oft-overlooked importance of labour dynamics in such settings.
CDE Policy brief
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