The Confederation must quickly improve its crisis management

Twice, the Swiss population has shown by a clear majority in the vote that it supports the management of the Covid-19 crisis by the Federal Council. But the latter and the federal administration cannot rest on their laurels, warns the report which analyzes the period from August 2020 to October 2021.

“There will be other unexpected crises, we see it with Ukraine. We have good structures, but our political processes are relatively long. And crises don’t wait,” Chancellor Walter Turnheer told the media in Bern on Wednesday.

Three main problems are pointed out and must be quickly addressed: strategic crisis management by the federal administration, coordination between the Confederation, the cantons and the municipalities, and the institutionalization of scientific advice to political decision-makers.

insufficiently prepared

One element emerges from all the results of the analysis: the need to better anticipate possible crises and their developments. A general strategy was recognizable in the action of the Federal Council. But forward-looking crisis management has sometimes been lacking, notes the Chancellery.

Read also: Pandemic management: institutional communication must improve

The insufficient preparation of the federal administration and the cantons for the magnitude of the second wave of the pandemic, in autumn 2020, demonstrates this well. Despite the increase in the number of cases, cantonal governments were reluctant to take action and were divided on which ones to take. Dissension between the cantons and between the Confederation and the cantons wasted precious time and the situation deteriorated, the report says.

By the end of September 2022, the Federal Council must outline in a letter to the cantons the potential for improving collaboration within the federal system. Future digital solutions will allow consultations to be conducted electronically. They should also lend themselves to urgent informal consultations.

scientific Council

Regarding the organization of scientific advice to policy makers, several options are on the table. They will be presented to the Federal Council as part of a response to a National postulate. The role and competences of a possible advisory body in a crisis situation must be clarified.

In the field of communication, the federal administration will also have to do better, in order to reach wider sections of the population, through more channels and in more languages. Certain aspects of the vaccination campaign will also be evaluated in order to draw lessons for future health crises.

Our file: Covid-19, the vaccination challenge

To produce this report, the administration carried out a self-assessment and submitted its work to the assessment of the cantons and other players concerned. 155 people were questioned, by means of interviews or an online questionnaire. Previous evaluations were also analyzed. An external partner, “Interface Politikstudien GmbH”, was commissioned to guarantee the independence of the data collection.

Thirteen recommendations

The Federal Council indicates that it has taken note of this report and accepts its thirteen recommendations, which also cover interaction with Parliament, integration into international networks, support for federal administration personnel and the exchange of data on a national level.

He had done the same at the end of 2020 with the report concerning the assessment of the first phase of the pandemic. Several analyzes on the pandemic or certain aspects of the crisis have since been produced, some carried out by the administration itself, by the parliamentary management committees or the cantons.

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