Diplomatic initiatives in conflict resolution

In addition to direct peace deployments in conflict regions, Switzerland seeks to advance international peace policy by means of diplomatic initiatives. It attempts, together with like-minded States within and outside the UN, to improve the instrumentarium of peace and human rights promotion. It has launched diplomatic initiatives in the following areas:

  • for the control of small arms and light weapons
  • against armed violence and its negative impact on the development of the countries concerned
  • for dealing with the past and against impunity after the cessation of conflicts

Control of small arms and light weapons

In December 2005, the UN General Assembly issued binding regulations on the marking and traceability of small arms and light weapons. This new instrument was created in response to a diplomatic initiative by Switzerland.

  • It contains internationally binding minimum standards on the marking and registration of small arms
  • It regulates international cooperation between States as well as with the UN, Interpol and Europol
  • It contains for the first time a definition of the terms small arms and light weapons that is acceptable to all UN member States

Years of cooperation with strategic partners, notably with the research programme on small arms - Small Arms Survey – of the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (GGIIDS) made a crucial contribution to the success of this initiative.

Armed violence and development

A number of studies have shown that countries involved in an armed conflict or exposed to endemic armed violence often also belong to the group of the least developed countries.

In 2006 Switzerland and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Geneva held a ministerial conference at which 42 States adopted the Geneva Declaration of Armed Violence and Development (Geneva Declaration, GD). The declaration contains promises to take specific measures against the disastrous interaction between armed violence and socio-economic development.

Progress has been verified on a regular basis since then. The first Review Conference took place in 2008, the second in 2011. By then 112 governments have assured their support and have signed the Geneva Declaration.

The Geneva Declaration envisages 3 levels of action:

  • Promotion of knowledge and recognition of the problem in as many countries as possible
  • Measuring and quantification of the worldwide damage caused by armed violence
  • Implementation of specific projects in countries affected by armed violence

Since the adoption of the Geneva Declaration Switzerland has headed a group of 14 States which advocates the implementation of the GD by the signatory States.

Dealing with the past and the fight against impunity in transition processes

Human rights and international humanitarian law are often violated in armed conflicts. The term "dealing with the past " refers to measures such as the meticulous establishment of facts, bringing offences before the courts, aid to victims and institutional reforms. In transition processes, it is essential to deal with the past to ensure that violent events do not recur, that perpetrators are punished and to pave the way for a process of reconciliation in society. In the light of these requirements, Switzerland launched a further diplomatic initiative which led to the adoption of a resolution on the strengthening of human rights and of justice in transition processes in 2005 by the UN Commission on Human Rights and in 2008 by the Human Rights Council respectively. The aim of the resolution is:

  • by dealing with the past to give more weight to human rights, justice and peace
  • to strengthen the fight against immunity as a core task of the transition process from war to peace
  • to work towards concerted and uniform UN measures concerning the rule of law and justice in transition processes.