International cooperation on security matters

The past twelve years have wrought radical changes in the security-policy environment on both sides of the Atlantic. Though the threat of terrorism has been at centre-stage since 11 September 2001, it is just one of a large number of contemporary challenges in the field of security policy. Others are organized crime, smuggling of all kinds, migration, environmental pollution and ethnic conflict.

The international community has modified and extended existing multilateral cooperation mechanisms to take account of these far-reaching changes. The mechanisms are coordinated by a range of international organizations.

United Nations (UN)

Maintaining peace and security is a principal objective of the UN. Primary responsibility for this lies with the Security Council, which initiates both diplomatic and legally binding measures and conducts peace-keeping operations – determining their extent and defining their mandate. Other problem areas such as combating terrorism also come under its purview. The Secretary General makes a decisive personal contribution by offering his good offices.

The UN also plays a central role in disarmament. It provides the forum for all negotiations, working to maximize global security while minimizing the level of arms held. It combats the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and also the illegal trade in small arms and light weaponry.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

NATO’s objective is political, economic and military cooperation to preserve peace and manage crises. Since 1991 it has been strengthening its political functions, taking on new peace-keeping and crisis-management tasks. It cooperates with the OSCE and the UN.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

The OSCE’s objectives are stability and security throughout Europe, closer cooperation in the economic, scientific and cultural fields and on environmental protection, and the creation of a European security structure for the 21st century. Its mechanisms are preventive diplomacy, reconstruction aid after conflicts, and reductions in conventional weaponry.

European Union

The EU has created the foundations for an extended common foreign and security policy (CFSP). The EU has developed mechanisms for the management of civil and military crises within the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

Switzerland’s commitment

Switzerland conducted a fundamental review of its security policy in the 1990s and developed a new strategy: “Security through cooperation”. This increases the depth and range of Switzerland’s cooperation with the international community, particularly in Europe.

Switzerland’s chairmanship of the OSCE in 1996 was followed by its accession to the Partnership for Peace (PfP), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in 1997 and the Stability Pact for South-East Europe. Switzerland also plays a larger role in multilateral peace-keeping missions.

Switzerland strengthened and expanded its involvement when it joined the UN in 2002. It helps whenever it is asked to do so – at present mainly in south-east Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Switzerland focuses on regions where its interests are most affected, and fields in which it can make a real contribution. These include:

  • the avoidance of conflicts
  • establishing the rule of law
  • strengthening democratic institutions
  • promoting international humanitarian law and human rights
  • disarmament and the reform of security institutions.