Mister President,

We welcome the opportunity to contribute to today’s Arria meeting and thank the United Kingdom for convening this discussion.

Switzerland attaches great importance to the protection against persecution of religious groups or communities of belief, as well as other ostracized social groups - in general, and especially in contexts of armed conflict. Such persecution is not only an attack on human dignity of the individual, but also a threat to international peace and security. Indeed, violence committed in the context of political tensions or armed conflicts against communities is remembered and can lead to new violence, thus prolonging cycles of conflict.

In its peacebuilding work, Switzerland observes that political exclusion leads either to passivity or to violence, both of which are detrimental to sustainable peace and security. The political participation of religious or belief communities in a non-discriminatory manner is therefore a necessary condition for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and for sustaining peace.

As an example, Switzerland has worked together with Tunisia to support the development of an inclusive political dialogue in the country. After a period of authoritarian rule, Tunisia showed how to integrate previously excluded, ostracized and persecuted groups of opinion and belief into the process of political participation and citizenship.

The Security Council should encourage, where appropriate, a similar approach in the specific contexts brought to its attention. In recent decades, many communities of belief or of opinion have been excluded from political participation in many parts of the world, whether in Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, the Sahel, or East Africa. Such exclusions are regularly made in the name of the fight against terrorism in order to keep out political opponents. This only worsens the security situation and the chances of resolving conflicts peacefully: the United Nations experiences this daily in its mediation efforts.

Therefore, in order to work towards the prevention and resolution of violent political conflicts, the Security Council should on the one hand take into account the protection of religious groups and communities of belief against persecution.  On the other hand, Switzerland encourages the Council to protect them from political exclusion and to encourage their political and civic participation - even if their ideas differ from those of the majority.

Thank you.