Three contributions to the world
Switzerland shares its expertise in democracy and decentralized administration with other countries.
Neutrality, democracy, decentralized administration: Experts agree that these three elements have played a major role in making Switzerland, despite linguistic, cultural and religious differences, the highly stable country it is today. At an official level, Switzerland is helping other countries to benefit from its experiences and expertise. One of the core concerns of Swiss foreign policy is to promote democratization and the decentralization of public administration.
The Swiss government is therefore supporting former dictatorships and countries torn by civil war, such as Myanmar and Tunisia, in their efforts to create democratic institutions, hold elections and carry out constitutional reforms. In Latvia and Bulgaria, for example, Switzerland is participating in projects intended to strengthen civil society. It is helping countries like Albania to improve government services, such as the waste disposal system, through decentralization.
Of Switzerland’s foreign-policy efforts, the oldest and best-known are probably what are referred to as “good offices.” Because Switzerland is neutral, it has considerable credibility as an impartial mediator. Sometimes the “good offices” role simply involves providing a neutral location for negotiations, as in the case of the 1985 summit meeting between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which was held in Geneva. Switzerland also regularly serves as a mediator between opposing parties, for example in Ukraine and Sudan.
Moreover, its tradition of representing foreign interests dates back more than a century. Switzerland first served as a so-called “protecting power” during the Franco-prussian War of 1870/71. When countries break off diplomatic relations, Switzerland is able to assume some of the responsibilities of those countries’ official representatives. At present, Switzerland is representing the interests of the United States in Iran as well as Iran’s interests in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.