This year's Ambassadors' Conference – an annual exchange between the heads of Swiss representations, FDFA senior management, and members of the Federal Council – is taking place in an unusual location: Pontresina in the canton of Graubünden. The location was chosen by President Cassis in order to emphasise Switzerland's cultural and linguistic diversity, one of the thematic focus areas of his presidential year. This year's conference is taking place against the backdrop of war raging in Europe and a number of other challenges – the pandemic, climate change, inflation, and energy shortages. "These multiple crises create an urgency that needs to be anticipated," President Cassis said at the opening of the conference, which was also attended by Pontresina's mayor, Nora Saratz Cazin, and the president of Graubünden's Cantonal Council, Marcus Caduff.
Anticipation is key in times of crises
The basis for tackling problems is a diversity of views. "Particularly when facing overlapping crises, when nothing seems certain any more, is it time for our diversity to help us see the whole picture so that we can determine the right course of action to take and prepare ourselves," said Cassis, also with a view to Switzerland. He went on to state that this was the secret to anticipation. "To understand diversity as a source of inspiration, as a constant questioning of our certainties."
Repercussions of Ukraine war for Swiss foreign policy
The impact of Russia's military aggression against Ukraine on Switzerland's foreign, security, peace and foreign economic policy will be discussed at the conference during various panel discussions and workshops.
The repercussions of the war for European security also present Switzerland with new questions in terms of its cooperation with the EU and NATO on security policy. In this context, conference participants will discuss Switzerland's potential role and the contribution it could or should make out of solidarity.
The war in Ukraine and growing rivalry between global powers are putting a strain on the rules-based international order. Cooperation in multilateral bodies such as the UN has also become more difficult. The conference will therefore seek to address the consequences of these trends as well as what Switzerland can do to counteract such developments.
The war in Ukraine has further impacted the international trading system, which has been on the defensive since the global pandemic – creating more economic blocs, and making access to international markets increasingly difficult. Conference participants will therefore discuss the challenges Switzerland is facing in this sector and how it can respond.
Run-up to UN Security Council
This year's edition will also focus on Switzerland's seat on the UN Security Council in 2023–24. Given that Switzerland's external network has a key role to play in this matter, participants will contribute to the ongoing preparatory work for the Security Council seat by discussing current global developments and possible opportunities for Switzerland during its membership. In addition, a number of workshops will be held in order to enable in-depth discussions on how Switzerland will actually implement the thematic priorities put forward by the Federal Council – promoting lasting peace, protection of civilians, strengthening the Security Council's effectiveness, and climate security.
Coherent handling of foreign policy issues
There will also be other workshops in Bern for ambassadors to exchange views directly with Federal Council members, for example on current foreign policy-related topics being addressed by the different federal departments. This is intended to bolster the coherent handling of foreign policy issues that are relevant to the entire Federal Administration.
Under the banner of Swiss diversity
In keeping with the focus on Switzerland's diversity, the approximately 180 conference participants will also have the possibility to learn more about the Romansh language and culture in Engadine.
Annual exchange since 1887
The Ambassadors' Conference dates back to 1887 when President Numa Droz suggested a meeting with Switzerland's five heads of mission at the time – Paris, Vienna, Rome, Berlin and Washington. The idea to exchange views on topical issues continues to this day. The 2021 conference focused on digitalisation; in 2020, the main topic was COVID-19.
At this year's conference, the 'Diplomacy through the ages' project will be launched by Secretary General Markus Seiler, presenting a series of digital images giving an insight into the broad range of Swiss diplomatic activities from the beginnings of the federal state to the present day.
Address for enquiries:
Federal Palace West Wing
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Tel. Communication service: +41 58 462 31 53
Tel. Press service: +41 58 460 55 55