The OSA and COVID-19

The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) was not immune from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now we are working at full speed again towards our goals – driven by a vision for the future.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused much anguish around the world. Infections, deaths, business closures, and unemployment are now part and parcel of daily news reports. Over 770,000 Swiss live abroad in all continents, calling more than 100 different countries their home. The OSA, which represents the Swiss diaspora’s interests in Switzerland, cannot say for sure how many Swiss Abroad have been affected by the pandemic in one way or another. But we know just how important the work of our support network is in the current situation.

COVID-19 also had consequences at our administrative office in Berne as well as within the OSA Executive Board and the Council of the Swiss Abroad (CSA). We had to postpone our annual congress as well as numerous meetings. Winter and summer camps for young people were cancelled. In Berne, we introduced homeworking and then short-time working. This helped to prevent possible contagion as well as job losses. In short, the OSA responded to the situation and addressed the in-house challenges posed by the pandemic.

We also had to improvise. For example, the first-ever virtual CSA meeting took place on 10 July, featuring participation from over 80 delegates in Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Oceania. This information and discussion platform saw Lucas Metzger (Binningen, canton of Basel-Landschaft) elected as the new treasurer, while a statement rejecting the SVP’s limitation initiative was also formulated at the meeting. Everything about the video call went to plan. Maybe this new experience will lead to a different way of doing things in future, involving less travelling but more regular interaction among delegates.

Our goals have not changed

The OSA administrative office is currently a hive of activity. Many of our annual objectives have already been met. Our major initiative aimed at merging the three existing websites (www.revue.ch, www.aso.ch, www.swisscommunity.org) into a single new website (www.swisscommunity.org) is also making good progress. This project should be completed by spring 2021.

Not all current difficulties are down to the pandemic. The sudden unavailability of e-voting and the – to put it diplomatically – lukewarm attitude of the big banks towards the Swiss Abroad are attributable to other factors. These ongoing sagas need to end. We are still doing all we can to make that happen.

Visions for the future

After a difficult few months, we have formulated a mission that stakes out the direction of travel and offers impetus for the future. Here are my visions for the OSA:

  • All Swiss Abroad eligible to vote will be able to participate in elections and popular votes in Switzerland. Their constitutional political rights will be protected.
  • Swiss banks and insurance companies will also offer their services to the Swiss Abroad on satisfactory terms comparable to those offered to the Swiss in Switzerland.
  • The CSA will finally have a representative composition, with delegates elected directly via e-voting.
  • The number of Swiss expatriate associations will increase worldwide, with greater representation among all age groups.
  • The OSA Executive Board and the CSA will be headed by a female president for the first time.
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