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Switzerland's good offices
Switzerland's good offices have a long tradition. As well as mandates to exercise protective power, today they play a significant role in Swiss peace policy. The Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) is keen to play an active role in diplomatic peace processes and use appropriate good offices to contribute to the peaceful settlement of conflicts.
Good offices can simply be a matter of Switzerland offering its territory as a negotiating venue (i.e. in a hotelier function). But the types of conflict prevailing today tend to need a much more active engagement in peace policy. Switzerland makes contact with conflict parties on the ground and functions as a mediator. Acting as a third party in this way, it can bring in its own experts and propose negotiating methods or solutions.
Switzerland's good offices include the following activities, which are listed in the United Nations Charter:
- Judicial decision
- Use of regional institutions
- Agreements or other peaceful means of choice
Where good offices are concerned, the longer one country tries to go it alone, the less likelihood there is of success. Today, small states in particular have better prospects of success if they offer their services in collaboration with groups of states or international organizations. In recognition of this reality Switzerland increasingly provides its good offices in the context of partnerships with other states or organizations (especially the UN).
Diplomatic mediation by Switzerland is in demand internationally, especially when the mediators can bring special skills to the job gained through long and profound involvement in the conflict in question. Only deep knowledge of the situation gives mediators the necessary credibility to establish useful contacts with the conflict parties and develop mutual trust.