Foreign policy: strategies and key aspects

Foreign policy aims to promote Switzerland's interests, including its values. The Federal Constitution is the starting point. The Foreign Policy Strategy is the overarching foreign policy document for both the geographical and thematic follow-up strategies. This method, referred to as a "cascading foreign policy strategy", contributes to the coherence of Swiss foreign policy. The strategies are renewed each legislative period.

Graphic representing the cascading strategy.
The "cascading foreign policy strategy" contributes to the coherence of Swiss foreign policy. © FDFA

Foreign Policy Strategy

A foreign policy based on the Constitution

In our polity governed by the rule of law, the Federal Constitution is the starting point for any Foreign Policy Strategy. Two articles are particularly relevant in relation to foreign affairs. The core mission is rooted in Article 2 of the Federal Constitution. It centres on Switzerland's security, welfare and independence.

With respect to foreign affairs, Article 54 paragraph 2 of the Constitution stipulates non-exhaustively:

Art. 54 Foreign relations

2 The Confederation shall ensure that the independence of Switzerland and its welfare is safeguarded; it shall in particular assist in the alleviation of need and poverty in the world and promote respect for human rights and democracy, the peaceful coexistence of peoples as well as the conservation of natural resources.

Since 2011, the Federal Council has set out its priorities for the current legislative period every four years in a Foreign Policy Strategy. The Foreign Policy Strategy 2024-27 is the latest of these. In addition to the provisions of the Federal Constitution, this strategy is based on the Federal Council's legislative programme and an assessment of the international context in which Switzerland operates.

Foreign policy is about interests. This includes promoting values, as interests and values are interdependent.

Foreign policy coherence

Effective foreign policy requires coherence in policy-making. All departments deal with foreign policy issues today. The current change in the political environment shows how important coherence is. Faced with crises and positioning issues, Switzerland needs to act and communicate in a unified way in order to safeguard its interests.

Progress was made regarding coherence in the 2019–23 legislative period. For the first time, the Federal Council adopted a series of geographical and thematic follow-up strategies, enabling it to flesh out the Foreign Policy Strategy more specifically. This new approach is referred to as a 'cascading foreign policy strategy' and has helped address the issue of coherence. 

Cascading strategy

The Foreign Policy Strategy 2024–27 is the overarching foreign policy document – and occupies the highest level of the cascading strategy. The various geographical and thematic follow-up strategies adopted by the Federal Council in line with its plans for the legislative period constitute the second level of the cascading strategy process. Under all these strategies, the Federal Council sets priorities and specifies the applicable policy objectives and measures over a four-year period.

At the third level of the process, the departments translate the Federal Council strategies into operational implementation plans. In particular, these may take the form of guidelines, action plans or cooperation programmes. 

Other key documents

Information on other documents that are key to Swiss foreign policy is available below.

Last update 31.01.2024

  • Priorities and objectives for a coherent and focused Swiss foreign policy during the 2023-27 legislative period.

  • From disarmament and international cooperation to digital diplomacy and Switzerland's communication abroad. The four thematic strategies of the Federal Council are presented here in detail.

  • Switzerland pursues a globally oriented foreign policy. However, it defines certain priority regions and countries. The geographical strategies firm up some of its priorities: in South East Asia, the Americas, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and China.

  • The federal departments are responsible for implementing the objectives set out in the strategies. To this end, they can formulate their own implementation documents in the form of guidelines, action plans, etc. The departmental policy documents make up the third tier of the cascading strategy.

  • Switzerland's 2028 Foreign Policy Vision as published by the work group AVIS28. It sets the guidelines of the swiss foreign policy in the next ten years.

  • The Federal Council submits the foreign policy report to Parliament every year to give an account of its foreign policy activities.

  • How the Confederation and the cantons work together to shape and implement foreign policy and its legal basis.

  • In addition to the policy documents of the strategy cascade, guiding documents for the FDFA as an organisation and employer are also adopted.

  • Terms and concepts from the Foreign Policy Strategy and thematic and geographical strategies explained.


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