Center to protect the Red Sea ecosystem

The seabed of the Red Sea. © Maoz Fine

The seabed of the Red Sea. © Maoz Fine

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), announced on Tuesday Switzerland’s support for EPFL’s project to create a "Transnational Red Sea Research Center". The project is based on EPFL research on corals in the Gulf of Aqaba.

The coral reefs of the Gulf of Aqaba were the focus of an international conference held on Tuesday in Bern on the theme of dialogue between science and diplomacy. The head of the FDFA, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, announced Switzerland’s support for an EPFL project to establish a transnational Red Sea research centre.

A study published in 2017 by researchers from the Laboratory for Biological Geochemistry (LGB) directed by Professor Anders Meibom at EPFL, showed that corals in the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea are more resistant to rising water temperatures than corals anywhere else in the world. This discovery has the potential to help restock coral reefs in other parts of the world which are more vulnerable to the effects of global warming.

Transnational Red Sea Centre

Against this backdrop and in order to facilitate collaboration among the region’s scientific communities, the EPFL has decided to set up a regional research facility, the Transnational Red Sea Centre. 

Addressing the conference, Federal Councillor Cassis explained the reasons that motivate the FDFA to support projects that provide opportunities for dialogue between scientists and policymakers. As an innovative country with a large scientific community, Switzerland has the resources and credibility to facilitate and promote dialogue in the Red Sea region, which remains a politically and culturally fragile part of the world.

Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator foundation

Mr Cassis stressed that this kind of project is in line with the Federal Council’s decision to create, together with the canton and city of Geneva, the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator foundation. This foundation aims to provide the international community with an innovative and flexible vehicle that will spur international organisations into swift action to address the challenges of multilateral diplomacy in the 21st century. Meeting the challenges brought about by these developments, identifying governance needs and proposing solutions requires innovative partnerships among a variety of stakeholders across national borders.

At the conference in Bern, EPFL president Martin Vetterli explained the importance of the project for the Red Sea region: "For me personally, there is nothing more inspiring than working for an institution like ours, which, as we mark the EPFL’s 50th anniversary, is making a clear commitment to the future of our planet."

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Anders Meibom climate change corals ENAC environment Laboratory for Biological Geochemistry (LGB) research