Nairobi Peace Talks 2015

Position, 12.11.2015

Remarks at the Nairobi Peace Talks by Dr. Ralf Heckner, Ambassador to Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda, on Thursday, 12 November 2015, 5:00-7:00 p.m., UNON 

Director-General Zewde,

Chief Justice,


Dear Johan,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to start by saying that I personally am impressed and deeply touched by the inspiring stories and statements I have just heard. Thank you for sharing your individual visions and formulas on how to achieve a common goal: peace.

Let me briefly explain why the Swiss Embassy supports today’s Nairobi Peace Talks. Why did I say Yes to Johan’s idea of supporting the Nairobi Peace Talks 2015? Well, I had a couple of good reasons for that: promoting peace is a long-standing priority of my country and Interpeace is an important partner in this endeavour. Furthermore, today’s event allows us to tighten the bond between two United Nations host cities – Geneva and Nairobi. Let me quickly elaborate on these three points.

Firstly, as you know, Switzerland is a very peaceful country. We have been enjoying peace for over 150 years. However, prior to that, Switzerland’s history was the history of a country of civil wars and conflicts. Even today, I am tempted to say that we have not "achieved peace" in Switzerland, but we were able to develop a highly successful conflict management approach. Peace is not a condition or a heritage, but a never ending process demanding much commitment and patience.

It should come as no surprise then that the Swiss Constitution puts a special emphasis on peace promotion. Article 54 of our Constitution reads: "The [Swiss] Confederation shall (…) promote respect for human rights and democracy, the peaceful co-existence of peoples as well as the conservation of natural resources." And at this year’s ambassadorial conference in Bern, foreign minister Federal Councillor Burkhalter tasked all Swiss ambassadors present to do their utmost to promote peace wherever they can. He gave us that mission because today’s world desperately needs peace, security and stability.

The second reason why the Swiss Embassy supports today’s event is tied to the U.N. The first Peace Talks were held in 2013 in Geneva. Switzerland is the host country to the United Nations Geneva Organisation and other International organisations. Geneva is a hub for global dialogue where solutions to the world’s challenges are discussed and answers to global problems are found. Nairobi is another important hub for global dialogue. In the future I hope to see many similar initiatives bringing the UN Offices in Nairobi and Geneva closer together and finding solutions to issues like peace. I would like to thank our host, the United Nations Office in Nairobi and its Director General, who have made this event possible.

I come to my third reason why Switzerland supports today’s event. The struggle for peace would be unthinkable without NGOs and civil society organisations such as those present here today. Geneva hosts a huge number of non-governmental organisations dedicated to the promotion of peace, many of those have their headquarters there, including Interpeace. The partnership between Switzerland and Interpeace dates back about two decades during which time we have joint forces for several initiatives in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region. A long standing collaboration I am happy to continue.

In closing, let me emphasise what I consider the central message of these Peace Talks - it is that peace is a goal that will never be achieved if one relies on Governments, international or non-governmental organisations alone. Peace is an undertaking, responsibility and a duty for each and every one of us. As today’s overarching theme states "I contribute to peace". The true agent of peace is the individual that decides to step up against injustice, violence, discrimination or corruption. Peace starts with us – this is what we should take away from this event.

Thank you for your attention.