Three con­tri­bu­tions to the world

Switzer­land shares its ex­per­tise in democ­racy and de­cen­tral­ized ad­min­is­tra­tion with other coun­tries.

Bulletin - - Contents - Text Daniel Am­mann

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.

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