Focus on mediation

Article, 23.12.2015

Switzerland is seeking to become more actively involved in mediation. This commitment was reaffirmed by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the 2015 annual conference of the FDFA's Human Security Division (HSD). In this, Switzerland can build upon its long-standing tradition as a mediator.

Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter during the Annual Conference of the Human Security Division (HSD) 2015. © FDFA
Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter during the Annual Conference of the Human Security Division (HSD) 2015. EDA

The country's good offices form a cornerstone of Swiss peace policy. Mediation and facilitation play a key role and allow Switzerland to contribute to sustainable peace and security in the world. In order to exploit this strength to a greater extent, the FDFA wants to professionalise and expand Switzerland's mediation role and train up a new generation of mediators. Switzerland's strength lies in its position in the world (it does not belong to any power bloc), its democratic state structure and long years of experience.

Switzerland's services in mediating, facilitating and supporting peace negotiations are much sought after. The demand for Swiss mediators and specialists is rising, from both parties in conflict and international organisations such as the UN and OSCE. For example, the Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini acted as OSCE Special Envoy mediating between the conflicting parties in Ukraine. Further examples of successful mediation are in the Sudanese Nuba Mountains ceasefire agreement (2002), between Turkey and Armenia (2009) and between Russia and Georgia (2010-2011).

Credibility, impartiality and tenacity

Switzerland supports parties in searching for a solution to conflict, without taking sides. It is asked by the conflicting parties to act as mediator and either works directly with the parties or supports negotiations and the peace process indirectly. Switzerland supports the parties and other mediators by providing knowledge, expertise and experience. Civilians from the Swiss Expert Pool are sent on request to support international and regional organisations, and military staff are involved in international peace missions and election observation.

Mediation tends to take place behind the scenes; diplomatic skills, discretion and stamina are the order of the day. According to Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, mediators need to have credibility, impartiality and a good deal of creativity. Above all, they should never forget that the aim is to achieve the end to a conflict.