Swiss diplomats gather in Andermatt

The annual Ambassadors' Conference, beginning on 17 June 2024, follows on the heels of the Summit on Peace in Ukraine. It offers an excellent opportunity for a seamless reflection on the Bürgenstock summit with all of Switzerland's representatives abroad. This conference is also a unique opportunity to discuss the challenges facing Swiss foreign policy, strengthen its coherence, and compare it with realities on the ground – all this while taking into account the current state of the Confederation's finances.

Group photo with participants at the Ambassadors' Conference.

Around 210 people are taking part in the 2024 Ambassadors' Conference in Andermatt. © FDFA

As the Summit on Peace in Ukraine concludes, another conference is beginning for Swiss diplomacy. While less well known to the general public, it is nonetheless an important event for Swiss foreign policy. This is the Ambassadors' Conference, which will take place from 17 to 21 June 2024 in Andermatt. Each year, this meeting in Switzerland brings together the ambassadors posted to the around 170 Switzerland's representations abroad as well as those in post in Bern.

Holding this year's Ambassadors' Conference right after the Bürgenstock summit provides an ideal opportunity to brief all ambassadors on the discussions that took place. We will also be able to discuss their perceptions of the summit. This will enhance the consistency of our foreign policy," noted FDFA State Secretary Alexandre Fasel. 

Implementing foreign policy strategy in a context of budgetary pressure

The Foreign Policy Strategy 2024–27 is also at the heart of this year's Ambassadors' Conference. To implement the Foreign Policy Strategy 2024–27, the FDFA must also consider the current state of the Confederation's financial resources in their day-to-day work. "Switzerland will likely need to cut spending in the years ahead, in light of the state of federal finances. However, the FDFA has developed creative strategies and tools, such as science diplomacy and the function of ambassador-at-large in some regions of the world, which allow for effective foreign policy implementation even with limited resources. Their application will be further explored at the conference," explains Alexandra Baumann, head of the FDFA's Prosperity and Sustainability Division in Bern and organiser of the conference.

The Ambassadors' Conference offers participants direction on Swiss foreign policy. "It gives us a better sense of the FDFA and other departments' priorities. Hearing from Federal Council members gives us an unparalleled chance to hone and tailor our messaging in the countries where we serve," says Andrea Semadeni, Swiss ambassador to Senegal. 

 Photo of Andrea Semadeni
Andrea Semadeni is Switzerland's ambassador to Senegal. © FDFA

The strategy's thematic priorities (democracy and governance; environment; peace and security; prosperity and competitiveness) will be the subject of specific workshops. "Our aim is to build bridges between the strategy's thematic priorities and each specific context by involving the entire external network," explains Alexandra Baumann.

The themes of peace and security and democracy and governance are of particular interest to Emilija Georgieva, Switzerland's ambassador to Jordan. "In our region, there is currently strong interest in how Switzerland can make tangible and lasting contributions to these two priorities," notes Georgieva. 

Photo of Emilija Georgieva
Emilija Georgieva is Switzerland's ambassador to Jordan. © FDFA

Foreign policy put to the test

The conference also allows ambassadors to juxtapose the Swiss foreign policy formulated by the Federal Council in Bern against the realities they experience in the field. The financial situation influences the work of FDFA staff at head office in Bern and abroad. "Exchanging together is crucial in a world characterised by intensifying conflicts and economic and political instability, and an increasingly transactional approach to international relations," stresses Fasel.

Emilija Georgieva echoes the comments of the FDFA's state secretary: "I see this conference as a unique opportunity to share ideas with colleagues at head office and across our external network. In the current context, it's all the more important to share our respective experiences and chart courses for our foreign policy."

Photo of Félix Baumann
Felix Baumann is the swiss ambassador to Ukraine. © FDFA

Each ambassador brings their own experience and vision to the table. Felix Baumann, Swiss ambassador to Ukraine, highlights the difference between the realities experienced depending on where you are in the country. "In Ukraine, we need to simultaneously implement a wide range of initiatives: humanitarian aid for the most vulnerable populations near the front lines; cooperation programmes focused on healthcare, good governance and decentralisation; support for small and medium-sized businesses; and projects promoting peace and human rights. Ukraine can serve as a model for international intervention in other conflict situations worldwide, as the international community typically takes a sequential approach during armed conflicts."

Ambassador Semadeni intends to highlight "the generational shift in Senegal and its impact on the region. He will also focus on the insecurity and the need for balanced action in the Sahel."

An oasis, the Stammtisch at Piz Cam and a source for ideas

When ambassadors stationed overseas return to Switzerland, they rekindle ties with their origins, cherished locations, loved ones and friends. What aspects of returning home are they most looking forward to?

For Ambassador Georgieva, who is based in Amman, attending the Ambassadors' Conference in Andermatt is like "a temporary mountain oasis". Indeed, "although Jordan is considered the anchor of stability in the Middle East, my host country is deeply affected by the Gaza conflict in political, economic, and social terms, which is also felt by the team at the representation," notes Georgieva.

Ambassador Semadeni, based in Dakar, is looking forward to the lively discussions at the Stammtisch at Piz Cam, a restaurant in his home village of Vicosoprano in Val Bregaglia. "It's a chance to gauge people's understanding of Swiss foreign policy." For Ambassador Baumann the exchanges with his colleagues are what he is most looking forward to. These interactions are an incredibly rich source of inspiration, ideas, and motivation. "That's also the magic of this conference," he concludes.

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