Swiss Export Risk Insurance

SERV Swiss Export Risk Insurance Zeltweg 63 8032 Zurich

SERV Swiss Export Risk Insurance covers the political and economic risks when exporting goods and services. The insurance and guarantees of SERV provide protection against non-payment, facilitate the financing of exports, and help companies to maintain their liquidity.

Who is involved

As a public-law institution of the Swiss Confederation, SERV offers its services in addition to those of private credit insurers.

Steps in the right direction on debt

The Swiss ERG landed in public disrepute end of the 1980, when it became public that developing country’s governments owed SFR 1.3 million export credit debts to Switzerland. At that time there were no transparency rules and thus there was no public information on which Swiss companies received export insurance, on what was exported and to which project or company in developing countries. Yet, it was obvious that the majority of the debts resulted from failed projects or dubious non-productive investments and a smaller part from currency fluctuations (mostly in West-Africa).

Pressed by the Berne Declaration and a large coalition of Swiss NGOs, the Swiss Government made international headlines in 1992 as the first country to forgive the larger part of these trade debts to poor countries and implementing a successful debt-for-development swap program.

Improving standards on transparency, but not perfect

SERV now pursues a better information policy and regularly invites NGOs for consultations and ad hoc meetings on important projects. SERV publishes details of projects involving contract values in excess of CHF 10 million, although the Berne Declaration would also like to see smaller projects and less sensitive projects be published.

In line with the „Revised Council Recommendation on Common Approaches on the Environment and Officially Supported Export Credits“, SERV also publishes environmental information on Category A projects at least 30 days before deciding on the definitive issuance of an insurance policy.  

Dodgy deals related to SERV

The Berne Declaration first started to monitor the Export Credit Risk Agency’s (then called ERG) lending practices in the early 1990s. Then, the agency had no environmental and social standards and Berne Declaration heavily critiqued the insuring of Swiss exports to controversial large dam projects, like Manantali (Mali), Tarbela (Pakistan), Three Gorges Dam (China), Atatürk and Karakaya (Turkey), Chixoy (Guatemala), El Cajon (Honduras), El Guavio (Kolumbien), Itaipú (Brasilien). Berne Declaration also revealed that the Swiss ERG also granted export insurance for dodgy weapon trades and to highly corrupt countries (Indonesia). SERV also initially offered finance to the disastrous Ilisu dam.

Urged by Berne Declaration and in line with SERV’s new law, SERV now states on its homepage that it respects Swiss foreign-policy goals with regard to development, human rights, democracy, the peaceful coexistence of nations and also environmental aspects and to take these aspects into account when assessing applications for an insurance commitment in principle. 

In 2012, SERV finally agreed to do human rights assessments in the future, when granting export guarantees to politically sensitive countries or regions.

More information

Take a look at all current requested and approved SERV applications/policies

Publications related to Swiss Export Risk Insurance