I am honoured to speak here today on behalf of Switzerland in the debate on the annual report of the Security Council. This report covers what has been an exceptional year, one dominated by a pandemic that has left its mark in every country across the world and directly impacted millions of people, including many in conflict zones. While the number and complexity of crises have not diminished, the consequences of COVID-19 pose an additional challenge to international peace and security.
The annual report documents the response by the Security Council to the challenges faced in terms of peace and security, while also highlighting the potential for improvement. Please allow me to raise three issues that are important for Switzerland.
First, Switzerland welcomes the flexibility demonstrated by the Council in ensuring that its activities were able to continue throughout the pandemic. It was the quickest UN body to respond to the pandemic and was able to remain operational even when New York was under a strict lockdown. However, we regret the fact that these changes made it more difficult for non-members to be involved in the Council’s work. In terms of substance, despite prolonged and often difficult negotiations, the Council ultimately sent a strong message of responsibility in adopting resolution 2532 (2020). A global ceasefire remains crucial in ensuring humanitarian access to those in need and concentrating our efforts in the fight against COVID-19.
Second, 2020 marked 20 years since the adoption of resolution 1325(2000). During this time, we have seen encouraging developments in the areas of women, peace and security, for example in Colombia, Sudan and the political process in Yemen. Nevertheless, we cannot continue to settle for 'encouraging developments’ while acknowledging that an increased representation of women at all decision-making levels is essential to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts. The celebrations on 1325 in 2020 have shown that we do not necessarily need a new resolution on women, peace and security; rather, we have to ensure that all the pillars of the agenda are consistently implemented across the world, while strengthening the role of civil society in this collective effort. Having been one of the first countries to adopt a National Action Plan, Switzerland is committed – both under its fourth plan and as a partner – to developing and implementing such plans in other countries, as was recently the case in Mali and Chad.
Third, Switzerland understands the scale of the task taken on by the Council in 2020 and commends its approach in making full use of the toolbox at its disposal to tackle the challenges it faces. For example, we welcome the establishment of UNITAMS, which plays a key role in assisting the transition taking place in Sudan. Switzerland fully supports this new mission's mandate and looks forward to working closely together with it. However, we regret the weakening in recent years of the mechanism in place for providing cross-border humanitarian assistance in Syria, where more than 13 million people urgently require assistance. Syria represents Switzerland's biggest ever humanitarian commitment. Having rapid, unimpeded and sustainable access is essential for maintaining an effective humanitarian response in the country. We call on the members of the Security Council to renew the resolution so as to allow this cross-border aid to reach those who need it most.
As we come to elect the next members of the Security Council, we can see from the actions taken by the Council in 2020 that each and every member has a role to play if we are to be able to tackle global challenges.
As we come to elect the next members of the Security Council, we are holding this debate to remind ourselves of the importance of transparency, inclusivity and accountability across the Council. My country will maintain its commitment to these goals in collaboration with our partners in the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group. We are honoured to coordinate the group and we support its intervention as just read by Portugal.
As we come to elect the next members of the Security Council, Switzerland is already looking forward to the next elections in one year's time. We will then have the honour of asking for your support to hold a seat on the Council for the first time, so that we may strengthen our contribution to maintaining international peace and security.