Switzerland’s Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis has called on states to reject a world where the “law of the strongest” prevails during his first speech at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday.
Addressing a packed hall including around 100 heads of state, foreign ministers and other officials, Cassis said the key to safeguarding Switzerland’s interests, building global prosperity and guaranteeing peace is the “rule of law” and “not the law of the strongest”.
In his ten-minute speechexternal link, Cassis, who was elected to the seven-member Federal Council last September, renewed Switzerland’s commitment to the ideals laid out in Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which marks its 70th anniversary this year.
“This text still has its raison d'être,” he declared at the start of the 37th session of the UN rights forumexternal link, its main four-week annual session.
During his speech, the Swiss minister did not refer to any specific rights contexts. Instead, he called globally for an end to systematic violations of human rights, while noting a worrying increase in racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination. “Conflicts are expensive,” he added. Effective prevention could save states and international donors between $5-70 billion dollars (CHF4.6-65 billion) a year.
Cassis also urged greater political support and resources to guarantee the continued “success” of the Human Rights Council, as well as that of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, who plays an “essential role”. Since the election of Donald Trump, the US has repeatedly called for reforms of the rights council and an end to an excessive focus on Israel.
Support for ceasefire
At a press conference, Cassis said Switzerland fully supported a 30-day ceasefire called by the UN Security Council in Syria.
He highlighted Switzerland's role in providing humanitarian aid to the war-torn country in the Middle East.
Aid agencies are waiting to evacuate wounded people and deliver supplies to an estimated 400,000 people under siege in the rebel-held enclave of Ghouta.