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Building a seaworthy security policy

A symbolic shipyard at the National Exhibition site in Murten shows how national security policy takes shape.

Its key message is that in a constantly changing world, easy answers are hard to come by.

The Swiss government has an exhibition at each of the four sites of the National Exhibition, Expo 02. Although they deal with different questions, there is a common theme – finding solutions to global problems strengthens Switzerland and its society.

“Die Werft”, or the shipyard, is a good example of this ethos. Its theme is security through openness, and it aims to show that security can be strengthened through cooperation, especially on the international stage – still a controversial notion for many in Switzerland.

Constantly moving

The exhibition consists of large metal arches of different sizes such as one would find at a boat-building yard.

These gantries, which sit astride each other, are in constant motion, separating and coming together as they glide on rails. The effect is to confront the visitor with a number of questions that do not necessarily have answers.

As the official description of Die Werft puts it: “the choreography of the gantries portrays the complexity of the relations and political problems surrounding the subject of national security [and] how difficult it is to exchange viewpoints.”

The shipyard, like Swiss institutions, is something in slow and constant evolution.

The ultimate message is that the safety of Swiss citizens can only be guaranteed by working with foreign partners. To symbolise this, the exterior gantry is dominated by the Swiss flag on one side, and a European Union negotiating table on the other.

This blue circle has 16 spaces, but only 15 yellow chairs – “some more yellow than others”, as the guide puts it. Should Switzerland take the vacant place? Meanwhile as the structure moves, the Swiss flag divides in two – does this symbolise a split or an opening up?

Crime has no borders

There are also other moving arches containing elements that might determine security policy: an abacus made up of globes displaying various images that remind us of conflicts and the displacement of populations.

There is an x-ray image of an articulated truck containing stowaways in cramped conditions, as well as a large banknote being “laundered” as if in a car-wash.

Here, the exhibit is telling us that crime knows no borders, so it must be combated without borders.

Elsewhere, electronic messages move around the pictogram of a large eye – security involves surveillance and information networks, but it also threatens data protection and privacy.

The Werft exhibit perhaps finds few answers to the questions it poses, but it succeeds in forcing visitors to think more deeply about the many changing factors that need to be taken into account when their security is being considered.

swissinfo, Roy Probert

The Shipyard – Die Werft – is one of four government exhibits at Expo 02
Its theme is “Security in Openness”, and is a metaphor for his national security policy is built
It consists of eight large metal gantries in constant motion

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