“Addressing the root causes of fragility and violent conflict: Switzerland’s commitment”

Bern, 05.04.2016 - Stockholm, 05.04.16: Statement by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter at the 5th Global Meeting of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS) on the issue of Addressing Fragility and Building Peace in a Changing World – Check against delivery

Minister Lövin, Minister Marah,
Dear colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to this 5th Global Meeting of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding.

This is a timely meeting. We are gathering here at a time of growing global instability and uncertainty.  There has been a stark rise in armed violence in recent years. Humanitarian needs have reached new heights. A growing number of countries find themselves trapped in fragility. In some of them, crises and violent conflicts are becoming ever more protracted. 

Fragility has become a key obstacle to development. Poverty is increasingly concentrated in fragile states. The OECD estimates that more than 60% of the global poor will be living in fragile states by 2030, up from 43% today. This is significant.

Fragility also undermines security and human rights. It undermines the security of states, but also the security of people, in particular the security of women and of discriminated and poor segments of the population.

The consequences of fragility and armed violence obviously affect the countries concerned above all. But they also concern the international community, whether in the form of migration flows, the Ebola virus, or violent extremism. It is therefore in our shared interest to develop common answers to the fragility and conflict challenges. 

Switzerland has made it a foreign policy priority to support countries on their path out of fragility and situations of violent conflict. Since 2012, we have expanded our engagement in fragile contexts. Half of the partner countries of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation are considered fragile today. If approved by Swiss Parliament, we will increase the fragility-specific share of the Agency’s budget for bilateral cooperation to 50% in the coming four years.

We are taking another major step forward by integrating our tools for promoting peace and human security into our new strategy for international cooperation. This will enable us to address the current challenges comprehensively and in a conflict-sensitive manner by improving the coordinated use of our instruments for humanitarian aid, development and peace promotion. There can be no sustainable development without peace, and no peace without sustainable development.

The New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States that we are to reconfirm today has become an essential guiding post in Switzerland’s engagement in fragile contexts. The need to address the root causes of fragility and violent conflict and to focus on prevention has become increasingly apparent since we endorsed this deal five years ago. Addressing fragility with a long-term strategy for Peacebuilding and inclusive Statebuilding based on a partnership between governments of fragile states and development partners, including civil society, remains highly relevant.

The New Deal is a pioneering agenda for change. Change in how things are being done and in what is being done to support transitions from fragility and conflict to sustainable peace. It is also an effective answer to violent extremism and humanitarian crises.

As the four-year pilot period of the New Deal has drawn to a close, Switzerland strongly supports continuing this innovative form of collaboration. However, in addition to reconfirming the New Deal, we should also make a sober assessment of what has worked and what should still be improved.

On the positive side, the basic assumption that fragility and violent conflict are one of the biggest threats to development is widely recognised today. Sustainable Development Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda  regarding ‘peaceful and inclusive societies’ reflects much of what the New Deal stands for. It acknowledges that we must go beyond technical approaches to address the often political obstacles that stand in the way of development. Many of the countries present here have contributed to this achievement. For its part, Switzerland has sought to internationally anchor this new way of thinking ever since we launched the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development ten years ago.

Beyond the normative level, we can also note practical changes in how fragility is being addressed. The Somalia Compact is a good example. It revolves around the New Deal’s Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals designed to deliver inclusive politics, improved security, greater justice, strong foundations for economic recovery, and long-term systems to generate revenue and services. It is an action plan that has delivered encouraging results. We welcome that a Somali national development plan is currently being elaborated based on the experience with this compact.

Still on the positive side, it is also worth mentioning that the g7+ group of fragile and conflict-affected states participating in the New Deal has expanded from 7 to 20 members. And that they have become a rather influential constituency themselves.

But there is room for improvement concerning the New Deal, and we should discuss this too today. Several partner countries are struggling to implement New Deal principles. There are sometimes diverging expectations as to how to best channel financial support. The role of civil society in planning and implementing development activities should be reinforced in some cases. In other cases, it would be helpful to spread the culture of the New Deal more evenly within governments.

All these issues should be addressed through dialogue. Change takes times, and the challenges are big. But change also takes commitment – from all sides and for the long haul – and this is something we should constantly work on.

Dear colleagues,

As we jointly move forward, we should be ambitious. We should not only strive to improve implementation of the New Deal. We should also, as a group, seek to continue to influence relevant policy debates.

Three issues come to mind:

First, as it brings together all stakeholders of the New Deal, the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding is well placed to support and monitor implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in fragile situations. This holds true above all for Goal 16.

Second, in line with the recent report of the UN Secretary General for the World Humanitarian Summit, we should promote the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ as one of the international community’s core responsibilities. By adopting the 2030 Agenda, global leaders made a pledge to leave no one behind. The World Humanitarian Summit is an opportunity and a first test to give this pledge concrete meaning. Doing so is especially important from the point of view of fragile states.

Third, and again in line with the aforementioned report by the Secretary General, we should break down traditional silos in our efforts to advance development and peace and agree on strategic collective outcomes for all actors involved.  This requires combining the different instruments of international cooperation in a coordinated, complementary and coherent way. It requires working together based on clear roles and contributions. And it suggests that we should include all actors that can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including the private sector.

Dear colleagues

Switzerland is a neutral country without a colonial past. We have a strong humanitarian tradition and much experience in development cooperation and peace promotion. The combination of all these characteristics gives Switzerland a distinct profile as a credible actor for development, peace and security.

We are currently involved in more than 20 mediation processes. We are working out mandates to safeguard the respective interests of Iran and Saudi Arabia while diplomatic ties between the two states are cut off. We have a Trilateral Humanitarian Dialogue with Damascus and Teheran on how to improve working conditions for humanitarian actors in Syria. We are the only country to provide humanitarian aid on both sides of the contact line in Ukraine. And we are preparing an initiative to build stronger links between the human rights and the security pillar of the UN to give more weight to conflict prevention.

Promoting and building peace and security is becoming an increasingly important part of Swiss foreign policy. Addressing the fragility challenge plays a major role in this. Switzerland remains committed to reducing fragility, supporting transition processes, improving crisis resistance, and strengthening good governance and human rights – both in our bilateral programmes and in multilateral contexts.

We encourage you to advance collectively. Let us build on our common achievements and deepen our partnership, for the benefit of all.


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