Your Excellencies, 

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to this Arria Formula Meeting on the issue of missing persons, an absolutely crucial aspect of the protection of civilians and other protected persons in armed conflicts. Five years after the adoption of Resolution 2474 – while Kuwait was on the Security Council – and with the full support of our partners in the Global Alliance for the Missing, who are also co-sponsors of this meeting, we wish to continue the dialogue on how to best prevent people from going missing in armed conflicts.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Every armed conflict leaves a permanent trail of human suffering. Among the deepest wounds are those caused by the disappearance of a loved one, leaving families and entire communities in an unbearable state of uncertainty. As the mother of a missing person put it: “If you lose someone to accident or illness, you know they're never coming back. But in the case of a missing person, you still have hope, a hope that may never come true."  

Allow me to highlight four aspects that seem particularly important:

Firstly, in peacetime and especially from the very first day of a conflict, measures must be put in place to prevent disappearances, as well as to remedy them and inform families. Parties to an armed conflict have a primary responsibility to take these measures. All too often, civilians are deliberately targeted, including through arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearance or abduction, acts strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law. The dignified treatment of the dead, even on the enemy's side, is essential for human dignity in the armed conflicts. 

Secondly, the importance of preventive mechanisms. Resolution 2474 mentions concrete, practical examples in this respect, such as the registration of detainees, appropriate training of armed forces or the development of technologies that help identify individuals. To strengthen prevention, Switzerland collaborates with other states, including members of the Global Alliance for the Missing, humanitarian organizations and directly affected communities. At the same time, we support the Central Tracing Agency, one of the oldest ICRC institutions enshrined in the Geneva Conventions – and we're delighted to have its representative here. 

Thirdly, we must recognize the crucial role played by families - and women in particular - in the search for the missing. The creation of numerous family associations headed by women bears witness to this. Under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, families have the right to know what happened to their loved ones. In addition to these legal obligations, the involvement of families and the establishment of national mechanisms in the tracing process are essential. Civil society, for example, played a key role in the creation of an independent UN institution to deal with the issue of missing persons in Syria. A few weeks ago, the General Assembly allocated the necessary resources for the operation of this institution, which will be based in Geneva. 

My final point concerns the need to systematically include the issue of missing persons in the Council's geographical dossiers. This is already the case in certain contexts, such as Cyprus, Iraq and Syria. Many other contexts, however, are concerned by this issue. As conflicts multiply, so does the number of missing persons. Resolution 2474 calls on “all parties to an armed conflict, when negotiating and implementing peace agreements, to include provisions to facilitate the search for missing persons”. For peacekeeping and peace negotiations to be successful, the issue of missing persons must be addressed systematically. Everything must be done to prevent more people from disappearing in conflicts, and to shed light on those who have gone missing. Families have a right to know! The fight against impunity and the establishment of transitional justice processes can play a key role in reconciliation and peace.

Your Excellencies,

Today we have the pleasure of hearing from experts in this field:

  • Ambassador Tareq Albanai, Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the United Nations, who played a key role – him personally and his country – in the adoption of Resolution 2474 five years ago;
  • Then, we have Ms. Luz Janeth Forero Martinez: Director of the Search Unit for Missing Persons in the context and due to the Armed Conflict in Colombia. Ms. Forero Martínez has contributed to major advances in research on disappearances in Colombia. Her commitment to transparent research and her dedication to the families of missing persons are the cornerstones of her work.
  • I also wish to welcome Mr. Ram Kumar Bhandari is a Nepalese human rights defender and researcher. Following the disappearance of his father in 2001 during the armed conflict in Nepal, Mr. Bhandari became committed to a transitional justice system that addresses the needs of the families of missing persons. He helped launch a community radio station, a network of families of the disappeared in Nepal, and an international network of victims and survivors of human rights violations. 
  • Last but not least, Ms. Florence Anselmo is in charge of the ICRC's Central Tracing Agency. The Agency's aim is to prevent disappearances, preserve and re-establish family links, search for missing persons, protect the dignity of the dead and provide for the needs of families. 

Closing remarks

I would like to thank you all, dear colleagues, starting with the panelists, for your valuable contributions. Many aspects have been raised concerning the implementation of Resolution 2474 and the inclusion of the issue of missing persons on the Council's agenda.

Resolution 2474 - and I think we've seen once again how visionary it was, and I'd like to thank Kuwait for introducing this resolution 5 years ago. It reminds us of the various measures needed to prevent and deal with disappearances in armed conflicts. It also reaffirms our crucial obligations under international humanitarian law incumbent on all parties to conflict. Nevertheless, we have also heard from the ICRC that 2023 recorded the highest number of cases of disappearance in decades. We heard that the issue remains on the agenda, and that it concerns us in all contexts of conflict. We also had the chance to hear about possible responses at national level, with institutions, and also the great commitment of families affected by enforced disappearances.

And I think that we have heard from everyone that the issue of missing persons is crucial in all phases of conflict. If left unresolved, it can have devastating consequences for the post-conflict period, complicating reconciliation and the establishment of lasting peace. It was impressive to hear how many colleagues represent countries that are still affected by the issue of missing persons, sometimes decades after conflicts.

Excellencies, Colleagues,

For Switzerland, the protection of civilians in armed conflict is a long-standing priority, which we are also pursuing in this Council. Working to prevent and resolve cases of disappearances in conflicts is an integral part of this, and this will remain a priority for us. And I hope that we will be able to pursue it with all the members of the Council who are gathered here, also in partnership with institutions, civil society, the United Nations, the ICRC, and everyone here present.

I'd like to thank you all, our partners in the Global Alliance and the UN, who helped us organize this meeting, as well as the translators and especially my team, who helped prepare this meeting.