Expo 2017 Astana has opened in the middle of the Kazakh steppe under the theme future energy. Switzerland will be showcasing its energy efficiency and sustainability expertise while highlighting links between the two countries.
Two years after Milan, it is now Kazakhstan's turn to host an Expo, at its capital Astana. But while the Milan edition had caused a stir well before opening its doors – not just because of bribes and corruption – Expo Astanaexternal link seems to have gone unnoticed.
As a 'simple' Specialised Expo, and not a World Expo (see the explanation hereexternal link), Astana 2017 is smaller in scale. A total of 115 countries will participate in the event (compared with 145 in Milan), and the organisers expect around 2 million visitors, with the vast majority from Kazakhstan, former Soviet states and China.
Nevertheless, Expo Astana will be an important event. From 10 June to 10 September, it will provide a forum for discussing one of the great challenges facing humanity: future energy.
In its pavilionexternal link, Switzerland will invite visitors to consider their own energy consumption and the management of renewable resources, according to Presence Switzerland, the body responsible for the Swiss Confederation's image abroad as well as for Swiss participation in the Expo.
"The Confederation is taking this opportunity to present the values of its energy policy to the international community. The Swiss pavilion will present visitors with a creative and interactive installation featuring Swiss expertise and innovation on energy efficiency, renewable energy and international water management," said Nicolas Bideau, the head of Presence Switzerland.
With a total area of 560 m2, the Swiss pavilion (budget: CHF4.2 million), is divided into four thematic 'houses'. After an initial area displaying a short film on the innovative Monte Rosa alpine hutexternal link, which is virtually self-sufficient in energy, visitors next enjoy a culinary demonstration.
The purpose of the second house – where visitors can see how to make rösti, a traditional Swiss potato dish – is to show how even the most simple actions can contribute to a sustainable future, for example by using local products or limiting the quantity of water used in the kitchen.
The third house, which is a collaboration with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDCexternal link), focuses on global conflicts over water resources and the importance of international cooperation in this area. It highlights projects undertaken by the SDC, which has been active in the region for a number of years. Finally, in the fourth thematic space, visitors will be able to explore the edge of space and technology thanks to the SolarStratosexternal link project, the first solar-powered aircraft capable of reaching the stratosphere.
The Swiss presence in Astana goes beyond raising awareness. Kazakhstan is part of the Swiss constituency, a voting group within the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank led by the Swiss Confederation. It is also Switzerland's main trading partner in central Asia, and in recent years the two countries have established closer cooperationexternal link in numerous areas including the economy and education.
The swissnex Labexternal link set up inside the Swiss pavilion is therefore an important showcase, and will use conferences, workshops and exhibitions to present Swiss innovation, particularly in the energy sector.
In the context of this mobile laboratory - the first at a Specialised Expo - the specialised high school of western Switzerland will present an example of an innovative system for generating electricity. The Federal Polytechnic of Lausanne will illustrate technological progress on solar panels.
This will all be of interest to a country like Kazakhstan, among the largest producers of oil and gas in the world, which aims to make renewable energy sources 50% of its power generation mix by 2050.
What makes an Expo an Expo?
The Bureau International des Expositions (BIEexternal link), based in Paris, defines four types of Expos. The objective is to educate the public, share innovation, promote progress and foster cooperation.
World Expos: take place every five years, lasting up to six months, and welcome tens of millions of visitors. Each participating country builds its own pavilion. The first World Expo was held in London in 1851 and the last one took place in Milan in 2015. The next edition will be held in 2020 in Dubai.
Specialised Expos: smaller in size, these events take place between two World Expos and last up to three months. Participating countries customise a space provided by the organiser. The first Specialised Expo took place in Stockholm in 1936, and this year the Expo will be held in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Triennale di Milano: held every three years in Milan (the last edition was in 2016). Unlike the other Expos, it always focuses on the same topic: the design industry.
Horticultural Expos: lasting between three and six months and attracting millions of visitors, in a way these are the World Expos of horticulture. They are usually held every two years. The first event was held in Rotterdam (1960) and the next edition will be in Beijing (2019).