Some 11 years after presenting its candidacy to the Security Council, Switzerland was elected by the UN General Assembly on 9 June 2022, with 187 votes out of 190, to take a seat in 2023-2024. This was a great satisfaction for the President of the Confederation, who travelled to New York for the occasion. It was also an important moment for the different teams of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the Swiss mission to the UN in New York, who have been focusing on this deadline for several years. "I am convinced that Switzerland is ready and that it will be up to the challenge," Ignazio Cassis said confidently following the results.
There was no Swiss triumphalism in New York, but rather the satisfaction of having done what was necessary and of having done it well, including right up to the last moment, as the last few weeks were particularly intense in terms of outreach. Indeed, many countries had confirmed their support to Switzerland’s candidature in writing, but other countries were less clear. Hence the need to meet their representatives here in New York and inform them of the quality of our candidature during bilateral exchanges. This candidature, which led to an increase in outreach, has thus already proven successful, even before taking up a seat at the Council. Switzerland, its policy and its priorities having gained visibility during the campaign.
The first reactions to the elections were all positive: countries look forward to Switzerland’s accession to the Security Council. In particular, the permanent representative of Brazil, with whom Switzerland will work on the Council in 2023, welcomed the election and expressed his confidence that Switzerland, with its longstanding commitment to the rule of law, would make a substantial contribution to peace and security. "We count on Switzerland to stand up for the UN Charter and to make sure that the Security Council is able to act when asked for" said for his part the Head of the EU Delegation, Ambassador Olof Skoog.
Warm words also came from Tryne Heimerback of Norway, who enthusiastically wished Switzerland "All the best!" after stressing that the protection of civilians and climate and security are also priorities for her country. Ireland and its dynamic representative, Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, are delighted that a neutral and like-minded country is succeeding them on the Security Council. This sympathy was also expressed by the security agent at the UN exit who, after seeing my pin with the Swiss colours, cheerfully said "good luck Switzerland!”.
These reactions from a couple of countries show the extent to which the international community, which voted in favour of Switzerland's candidacy, is delighted with its election. Expectations are high and will inevitably be difficult to satisfy completely given the current international situation that is difficult and tense. But Switzerland will take its responsibilities, said President Cassis: "It is precisely in difficult times that countries like ours can play a constructive role.”
Future challenges were hardly mentioned in the final stretch of the campaign. Traditionally, candidate countries each hold a reception on the eve of the vote. This year, however, the five candidate countries - Mozambique, Ecuador, Japan, Malta and Switzerland - decided to organise a joint event to end their campaign. It was a way of showing that they would strive to work together in the Council. In order to face the five permanent members, it is indeed essential to form alliances between elected members. This reflects the eternal saying that there is strength in numbers!
This common approach seems to have been appreciated by the many guests of the event who gathered on the North Lawn of the UN compound on a mild summer evening. Between the management of the pandemic, the humanitarian crises and the multiplication of conflicts in the world, the UN community has few opportunities to take a break. This demonstration of harmony on the eve of the vote was a welcome interlude!