(Original intervention made in English – check against delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
“Protecting and promoting plurality and diversity” is the declared aim of today’s conference – an idea that Switzerland stands for with conviction and determination. As from our own experience, plurality and diversity represents a source of richness and strength for societies. However, the idea is being increasingly challenged around the world and discrimination and xenophobia are on the rise, including in Europe and in the Middle East. Switzerland therefore welcomes today’s opportunity to reflect on the protection of victims of ethnic and religious discrimination and violence and expresses its gratitude to Spain and Jordan for convening this conference.
Uncountable testimonies and terrifying pictures of violence from the Middle East exemplify the suffering of the affected societies and underscore the urgent need for action in their support. In response to this emergency, the Paris Conference of September 2015 – at which Switzerland participated – set out concrete and ambitious goals in an Action Plan. We are gathered here to take stock on our actions and define our future priorities.
What concrete measures has Switzerland taken to contributing to the implementation of the Paris Action Plan?
First, Switzerland supports the affected populations by providing humanitarian aid and strengthening the resilience of affected communities based on humanitarian needs and in full respect of humanitarian principles. Switzerland is supporting protection and humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable groups irrespective of their ethnic and religious affiliation. Consequently, victims of ethnic and religious violence are beneficiaries of Swiss humanitarian aid based on their individual vulnerabilities. Switzerland also supports projects in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon that strengthen the resilience of communities and therefore prevent ethnic and religious violence.
Second, Switzerland actively supports the international impartial independent mechanism on Syria created by the UN General Assembly in December 2016. This mechanism will assist in the investigation and prosecution of the most serious crimes committed since 2011, in view of fighting impunity and ensuring justice for victims. We further support civil society initiatives to document and collect evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights and link them with international accountability mechanisms.
Third, Switzerland implements projects in order to support inclusive political solutions, to strengthen the rule of law and to promote human rights without discrimination of any kind. The key concept in our eyes is political and social inclusion. The goal must be to strengthen the idea of citizenship, in a sense that allows every person to feel as an equal and dignified member of the community and state they live in, no matter of his or her ethnic or religious background, no matter if he or she belongs to a majority or a minority.
Finally, Switzerland launched an Appeal on 13 June 2016 to put human rights at the heart of conflict prevention and initiated – together with several other countries – a new resolution at the Human Rights Council in September 2016 highlighting the importance of protecting cultural heritage.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Despite the various efforts undertaken by all of us, many challenges remain and we welcome today’s occasion to renew our commitment. Switzerland will continue its efforts within and beyond the various fields just mentioned. And it will also continue advocating for durable political solutions and facilitating them by providing good services and mediation. Switzerland is ready to put Geneva at the service of international peace and stability: Geneva as a place of discussion and negotiation for durable solutions, for example for Syria, Libya and Yemen.
We are looking forward to continuing our discussion and exchange of ideas and best practices on how to protect the most vulnerable and how to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms without discrimination of any kind.