International Law Day 2021: resilience of states against major risks

Bern, 09.11.2021 - The Directorate of International Law of the FDFA held its annual International Law Day in Bern on 9 November 2021. This year's edition focused on the contribution of international law to the resilience of states and the international community in the face of major risks. A large number of participants attended the event, where they discussed the challenges and opportunities for Switzerland and the international community in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises. State Secretary Livia Leu gave the closing speech.

Every year, the Directorate of International Law of the FDFA organises an event on a current topic of international law. In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its global impact, the focus this year was on the role of international law in strengthening the resilience of states. Specifically, the question was what ways and means international law can provide to strengthen states in dealing with major risks such as a pandemic.

The world is exposed to increasingly complex risks. These include the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, global warming, terrorism and disinformation campaigns in the digital space. Switzerland's Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23 takes as its central basis the volatile international environment in which Switzerland operates. This volatility is amplified by major risks. The security and prosperity of a state are increasingly determined by its resilience and ability to respond to such major risks.

International law as a means of crisis management
In two high-level panel discussions, representatives of academia, politics, international organisations, the private sector and civil society discussed the contribution of international law to building resilience and the challenges posed to the rule of law and democracy. Topics included the role of international law in the sustainability and resilience of global supply chains, critical infrastructure and the internet. The possibilities for human rights to influence the handling of major risks were also discussed.

In her closing speech, State Secretary Livia Leu emphasised that international law can play an active, long-term role in strengthening the resilience of a state such as Switzerland and the entire international community in the event of major risks. "The rules of international law have been stress-tested by the COVID-19 crisis – as have we all. But they have also provided important guidelines for the global community's recovery," said Leu. Drawing on the experience of the pandemic, she stressed that international law must in future increasingly be designed not only to prevent crises but also to manage them. To this end, the international regulatory framework must increasingly include key private actors. Switzerland will be committed to these issues, especially in Geneva, the most important international crisis management hub.

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