Press releases, 26.02.2024

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis has today opened the high-level segment of the UN Human Rights Council's 55th session. In his capacity as head of the FDFA, Mr Cassis emphasised the central importance of protecting human rights in order to stem many of today's crises – particularly in the Middle East and Ukraine. Over the next three days, Geneva will host a number of high-level representatives from 130 countries who are meeting at the Human Rights Council to discuss the current failure to respect human rights and how this is impacting the world.

At the opening of the Human Rights Council (HRC) this Monday, Mr Cassis reiterated the urgent need to place people centre stage – along with their dignity and freedom. Against the backdrop of violence raging in several parts of the world, he called on the international community to face its responsibility in bringing a halt to such conflicts, adding "the war in Ukraine is now entering its third year, the violence in the Middle East affecting Israelis and Palestinians appears to know no bounds, and almost eight million people have been forcibly displaced by the crisis in Sudan."

Respect for human rights in response to current challenges

Mr Cassis went on to underscore that respect for human rights can play a fundamental role in resolving the challenges faced by states. He called on the international community to courageously refuse to allow violence prevail over reason.

In 2024, elections have been scheduled in 64 different countries – calling half the world's population to the polls. For these countries, "this is both a challenge and an opportunity for human rights," said Mr Cassis. He urged all states to work together to "combat any harassment, threats or attacks being made in an attempt to restrict democratic space."

Swiss candidature for 2025–27 Human Rights Council membership

This year, Switzerland will stand in the HRC election for the 2025–27 cycle. "One of Switzerland's priorities is commitment to the universality of human rights and their central role in conflict prevention," stated Mr Cassis. This also has special significance for the year 2024, which marks the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Mr Cassis also used his presence in Geneva for bilateral talks, including with his counterparts from South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan. The talks focussed in particular on the war in Ukraine and the preconditions for a peace process. The situation in the Middle East was also addressed.

Further information:

Opening Address by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis

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