Switzerland at the vanguard of human rights

2019 marked 100 years of multilateralism in Geneva, one of the key themes of which is the protection of human rights. 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, whose Charter places fundamental rights and human dignity at the heart of efforts to ensure peace and sustainable development. "Reaffirming, promoting and defending these common values is a task for all of us," said Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis at the opening of the spring session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 24 February 2020.

The minister addressing members of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In his speech, the head of the FDFA stressed that the great challenges facing humanity can only be overcome together. © FDFA

Le Conseil des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies (CDH), dont le siège est à Genève, est l’institution internationale principale chargée de renforcer la promotion et la protection des droits de l’homme à travers le monde. Il a également pour mission de faire face aux situations de violations des droits de l’homme et de formuler des recommandations.

Since it was founded, Switzerland has consistently supported the work of the Human Rights Council. Switzerland's commitment to the promotion, protection and implementation of human rights is an essential component of Swiss foreign policy, and is enshrined as such in the Federal Constitution.

43rd session of the Human Rights Council

At the opening of the 43rd session on Monday 24 February, Mr Cassis reiterated this commitment and presented Switzerland's human rights priorities. As representative of the host state, in his opening speech the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs highlighted the central role played by the United Nations since its founding in 1945.

Opening of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council - Speech by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis

Nothing can be taken for granted

In 75 years, the United Nations has established itself as the common framework for international cooperation for the protection and well-being of all. Nevertheless, the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, including human rights, cannot be taken for granted. As Mr Cassis pointed out in his speech: "We are all called upon to reaffirm, protect and defend these fundamental rights... again and again." Indeed, human rights, and the other two pillars of the UN's work – peace and security, and development – are the cornerstones of the rule of law.

In a world that is constantly changing and that is faced with enormous challenges, such as digitalisation and the climate emergency, states and governments must work together. The complex challenges of our time require the appropriate forums for transnational, inclusive dialogue. And International Geneva provides such a space. "The past 75 years have shown us that the great challenges facing humanity can only be tackled together. And this holds particularly true for fundamental human rights," said Cassis.

Switzerland building bridges

Switzerland is at the forefront of building bridges within institutions such as the United Nations, including the Human Rights Council. It firmly believes that ensuring human rights is a prerequisite for long-term social and economic development, peace and security and the prevention of conflicts, human rights violations and violent extremism.

Switzerland will thus participate actively in the work of the Human Rights Council, which over the next four weeks will examine a wide range of topics as well as the human rights situation in specific countries.

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