“A Plus of Peace”: Switzerland’s election as member of the United Nations Security Council for the Period 2023-2024
27 June 2022
Remarks by Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator in China, delivered at the Embassy of Switzerland in the People’s Republic of China
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Your Excellency, Mr. Joseph Deiss, Former President of the Swiss Federation and President of the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly,
Your Excellency, Mr. Bernardino Regazzoni, Ambassador of Switzerland to China,
Excellencies, Young Talents, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank Ambassador Regazzoni for inviting me to this event.
First, I wish to extend my congratulations to Switzerland for its election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2023 to 2024.
Since its accession to the United Nations, Switzerland has been one of its strongest supporters. I started UNICEF’s first field office in Rumbek, South Sudan, in June 2000 during the height of an ongoing conflict and a grave humanitarian crisis. I found a strong ally in His Excellency Mr. Joseph Bucher, the former Swiss ambassador to Kenya and subsequently the Bern-based special envoy for conflict issues, who focused on mediating an end to the conflict and also supported my office as we engaged with the SPLA to demobilize 3551 child soldiers, with staff and resources.
I was the Chief Diplomat for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement from 2011 to 2014, and I was privileged to work and live in Geneva to see the true spirit of multilateralism converge in the rich tapestry of Swiss society.
When I was the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, I worked closely with the Ambassador of Switzerland at the time, H.E. Mr. Ralf Heckner. Switzerland was one of the first countries to extend full support to the office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, politically and financially. Together, we launched multiple initiatives, including supporting the most marginalized counties in Northern and Northeastern Kenya. We also co-created an SDGs public-private partnership platform, which brought in a range of major private sector partners to work in lockstep with the UN to advance Kenya’s development. It is now considered a global best practice, and I was honoured to be invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2017. I did not have hotel accommodation as everything was fully booked years in advance. Ambassador Heckner’s parents extended their warmth and hospitality to me at their home in Davos during my stay there.
Your Excellency, Mr. Joseph Deiss and Ambassador Bernardino Regazzoni, I remain deeply grateful for the alacrity, friendship and solid support of the Swiss Government and to the distinguished Swiss ambassadors I have had the good fortune of meeting during my career. Thank you.
While we are here to celebrate Switzerland’s achievement, allow me also to reflect briefly on the current juncture in international relations.
Today we live in a world where global security is severely threatened. The conflict in Ukraine is a tragedy of devastating proportions. No one expected something like this to occur at the doorsteps of Europe in 2022. It is now the highest priority of the international community, and every effort needs to be made to bring this to an end. Now.
And yet, this war is not the only one. Conflicts continue to destroy lives and livelihoods in many places around the world: Syria, Libya, Yemen, South Sudan, and more. Many of these are under-reported and less known, but no less deadly.
Their devastating impact is clear. Just the other day, on June 20th, we marked the 2022 World Refugee Day. On that day, the number of people who are forcibly displaced climbed to an outrageous 100 million and more, a sad record that should put us to shame.
I mention these important facts not to dampen today’s celebratory mood but to remind all of us, the UN first of all, of our common responsibilities in the face of these crises.
Because conflicts are only one of the multiple and interlinked crises we face. I see at least three major ones: conflicts, COVID-19 and climate.
Combined, these threats are reversing global progress made in recent decades, severely undermining our prospects for the future.
These crises remind us of the importance of the three pillars at the core of the work of the United Nations: peace and security, development, and human rights. They are inherently interlinked and mutually reinforcing. As powerfully indicated in the 2030 Agenda, there is no peace without development, no development without peace, and neither without full respect for human rights and a life of dignity for all.
Peace is the foundation of development. Studies have found that agricultural production is an average of 12.3 per cent lower in conflict-affected countries than in those same countries during peacetime, and access to education and other public services is severely constrained in conflict-affected countries. As a result, according to a UNDP study of 29 conflict-affected countries, just three reported any growth in GDP during the conflict and nine experienced GDP declines of over 50 per cent.
Development also comes hand-in-hand with peace. Let me share a story of my own. Over the last four decades, the border areas of Kenya and Uganda have been a major arena for a variety of conflicts, some of which are linked to wider cross-border and regional conflicts. The roots of these conflicts are the dwindling shared natural resources, with reduced access to land, water, and other natural resources due to increasing demographic and environmental pressure. As the UN RC to Kenya, I have led a partnership between Kenya and Uganda to rebuild the border region of Karamoja. When the road work and the water dams started, the gunshots stopped. The peace in Karamoja has been maintained thanks to the hope of empowerment, employment and economic opportunities and to the strong leadership of President Kenyatta and President Museveni.
Finally, it is paramount to underscore that the realization of peace and development has always been conditioned on respecting human rights. As the UN Secretary-General António Guterres asserted, “Human rights permeate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
Just as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, the 2030 Agenda reaffirms its importance in building peaceful, just and inclusive societies. It reminds us all to “envisage a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; of respect for race, ethnicity and cultural diversity.”
Switzerland has a long-standing history of neutrality and an internationally recognized record of promoting world peace. It is the much-loved European home of the UN. The fact that it received 187 out of 190 votes on its election to the Security Council speaks volumes of Switzerland’s standing in the international community.
The priorities of Switzerland for serving on the Security Council in “building sustainable peace” are central to the UN’s peacebuilding agenda. Other thematic priories put forward are also closely connected to the core principles and goals of the 2030 Agenda, including the promise to leave no one behind and the need for decisive climate action.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world looks forward to Switzerland’s term in the Security Council, while it works to ensure the implementation of the bold and ongoing UN reforms launched by the Secretary-General.
As the UN Resident Coordinator in China, I am determined to ensure the success of UN reforms.
Our challenges are interconnected and can only be addressed through reinvigorating multilateralism, to be more inclusive, networked, and effective, with a strong, modern and efficient UN system at the centre of our efforts. Thank you, Bernardino, for your strong support and friendship.