At a plenary meeting in Debrecen, Hungary, the representatives of the 31 member countries of the IHRA accepted Switzerland's candidacy to chair the organisation in 2017. Switzerland, which has been an IHRA member since 2004, will take over the chairmanship from Romania. The head of the Swiss delegation, Ambassador Benno Bättig, secretary-general of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), will take on the position of IHRA Chair in 2017.
The IHRA aims to promote, especially in its member countries, historical research and education about the Holocaust and to preserve the memory of victims through commemorations and memorials. The IHRA is an intergovernmental organisation that works closely with institutional partners such as the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and UNESCO.
Following an FDFA proposal approved by the Federal Council on 14 October 2015, Switzerland will organise two IHRA plenary meetings in 2017, the first in Geneva and the second in Bern. Switzerland looks forward to welcoming some 200 IHRA delegates to strengthen our shared commitment against genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, as set out in the IHRA charter (Stockholm Declaration). Furthermore, at the beginning of 2016, the University of Teacher Education Lucerne will host an international IHRA research conference on education about the Holocaust.
Switzerland is very active in the IHRA's priority areas. In 2003, the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education designated 27 January, the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, as Holocaust Remembrance Day in Swiss schools. On this day, various activities are traditionally organised in several cantons, and the President of the Swiss Confederation delivers a speech. In addition, the FDFA actively supported the publication of previously unpublished memoirs by Holocaust survivors which were handed over to the President of the Confederation in January of this year.
When Switzerland joined the IHRA, the FDFA set up an advisory group composed of key federal, cantonal and non-governmental actors that will be involved in shaping and promoting Switzerland's future chairmanship.
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