Women's strike, climate and Libra shaped Switzerland's image abroad in 2019

Press release, 30.01.2020

Switzerland's image abroad in 2019 was multifaceted. Foreign media coverage of Switzerland focused mainly on the women's strike, Switzerland's efforts to address climate change and the electoral gains made by the Green parties in the federal elections. Facebook's plan to base its Libra cryptocurrency in Geneva also drew considerable attention. Switzerland enjoys an excellent reputation both in the media and among the general public abroad. Switzerland was once again near the top of the international league, at rank 8, in the Nations Brand Index (NBI), which surveys the global image of 50 countries.

The women's strike of the 14th June had a very significant media impact worldwide. Foreign media outlets seized on the women's strike to take a detailed and critical look at Switzerland's gender equality policy. While Switzerland was portrayed as a country that lags behind in gender equality, the gains made by women in the National Council and Council of States elections in the autumn offered the public something of a corrective to that image. Alongside the issue of gender equality, the electoral gains made by the Swiss Green Party and the Swiss Green Liberal Party in the federal elections also attracted attention from the foreign media. Switzerland's response to climate change drew frequent praise against the backdrop of the issue's global relevance in 2019. "The consequences of climate change are particularly evident in Switzerland because our glaciers are melting. This generates media interest around the world. Switzerland is seen as a country that is getting to grips with the challenges of climate change and looking seriously for solutions," said Ambassador Nicolas Bideau, head of Presence Switzerland at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

Switzerland's image was also strongly influenced by foreign policy issues, especially European policy. The negotiations on the institutional framework agreement per se attracted considerably less international media attention than specific developments relating to the bilateral relations such as the EU's decision to no longer recognise Switzerland's stock exchange equivalence. The European press was largely supportive of the EU's standpoint. Switzerland's protecting power mandates and good offices attracted much positive coverage from the foreign media, particularly because of its key role as an intermediary in the conflict between the United States and Iran. 

The Swiss financial centre also had an impact on perceptions of Switzerland abroad. The focus of media coverage continued to shift away from controversial financial and tax-related scandals towards topics that burnish Switzerland's image, such as the automatic exchange of information or the good regulatory environment for new fintech developments. While the court ruling against UBS in France and the Credit Suisse spying scandal generated renewed negative headlines about the Swiss financial sector in 2019, media coverage of the plans to base the Libra cryptocurrency in Switzerland and other fintech developments frequently portrayed the country as a pioneer in the regulatory arena. Other topics and events that boosted Switzerland's image abroad were the achievements of Roger Federer, the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics to Swiss astrophysicists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, the Swiss approach to firearms, the WEF, and the Fête de Vignerons.

The news items that were shared most widely on social media tended to have a high entertainment value or to appeal to people's emotions. Notable examples were posts on Switzerland's approach to animal rights and quirky pieces on things like the compulsory stockpiling of coffee or a Swiss cinema fitted with double beds. Ambassador Nicolas Bideau: "Switzerland’s image on social media is often very surprising. One should not underestimate this viral world whose themes often differ greatly from those of traditional media. It is important to be present, because it is in this virtual universe that the image of Switzerland is shaped by the young foreign audience.

Perceptions of Switzerland abroad are positive not only in the traditional media and on social media but also among the general public. In the Nation Brands Index (NBI) – a comparison of 50 countries – Switzerland ranked eighth in 2019, near the top of the league: its governance, its quality in terms of business location and standard of living continue to earn the country an excellent international reputation. Swiss products, Swiss innovation and the Swiss people themselves add a further boost to Switzerland's image abroad.

Address for enquiries:
Ambassador Nicolas Bideau
Head of Presence Switzerland
Tel.: +41 79 667 69 15

Further information:

Switzerland seen from abroad in 2019

Address for enquiries:

FDFA Communication
Federal Palace West Wing
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
E-mail: kommunikation@eda.admin.ch
Twitter: @SwissMFA


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs