The global threats to peace and security have changed and are no longer exclusively military in nature. Internal conflicts, organised crime, international terrorism, poverty, a lack of resources and the consequences of climate change constitute threats to peace. The peaceful coexistence of nations is one of the five goals of Swiss foreign policy. Peace programmes, mediation, dealing with the past, diplomatic initiatives, election observation and collaboration in multilateral organisations are the means by which Switzerland endeavours to prevent conflicts and bring about a peaceful end to confrontations.
Switzerland works together with Swiss experts and international partners in the field of peace policy. With wide-ranging knowledge at its disposal, it has greatly expanded its global commitment to peace. It carries out the following activities:
- Peace programmes
- Support for parties to a conflict and states in transition through mediation and advice on conflict resolution
- Dealing with the past
- Making diplomats and specialists from its pool of experts available for international peace and election observation missions
- Diplomatic initiatives
- Submitting motions in international organisations concerned with drawing up global peace policy guidelines
Switzerland is present on the ground in conflict regions. In Myanmar, it is supporting the transition from military rule to democratic government with peace negotiations and projects. In North Africa, it is providing assistance with elections, promoting human rights and thus accompanying the political transition towards democracy. It also involves political actors who invoke Islamic values in dialogue processes. In the African Great Lakes region, Switzerland is fostering dialogue with government representatives and local civil society. It thus promotes democracy and strengthens fragile state structures.
Through mediation, Switzerland has supported over 30 peace processes in more than 20 countries. It conducted its own mediations, for example between Armenia and Turkey, and between Georgia and Russia. Additionally, it is lending its support to numerous mediation processes e.g. in Colombia, Mali and Syria.
Dealing with the past
The international community recognises Switzerland's expertise in dealing with the past efforts. The country advises governments and civil society actors. It has created an international task force for this purpose.
Colombia, Guatemala, South-Eastern Europe, Francophone Africa, the Caucasus and the countries in the Great Lakes region draw on the services of Switzerland in the field of dealing with the past. Dealing with the past is based on the principles on combating impunity that were developed by Louis Joinet and approved by the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1997. They focus on the rights of victims. States are called upon to take action against impunity following serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Swiss Expert Pool for Civilian Peacebuilding
Civilian experts in the areas of peacebuilding and promotion of human rights are in demand to accompany the missions. Particularly since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, and since the Balkan wars in the 1990s, that demand has risen sharply. Switzerland has created a pool of experts for civilian peacebuilding. The experts provide advice to authorities and institutions on the ground, assist in building up state structures, support international peace missions and elections, and promote human rights.
The UN, EU and the international Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are partners of the expert pool.
Switzerland participates in international efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in and the misuse of small arms and light weapons. Since the end of the Cold War, the illegal arms trade has been extremely high on the international diplomatic agenda.
In 2006, Switzerland, together with the United Nations Development Programme, organised a ministerial conference on armed violence and development at which the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development (Geneva Declaration) was adopted. The signatory states agreed on a measurable reduction of armed violence by 2015.