The Peace, Elections and Democracy thematic approach of the Human Security Division (DSH) aims to prevent and mitigate violence and conflict by strengthening democratic processes (electoral, constitutional and parliamentary) for the peaceful and legitimate sharing of power. The approach is unique as it combines peace policy tools (dialogue facilitation, preventive diplomacy and mediation) with technical expertise (legal expertise, assisting political parties, democratic processes experts) to promote human security.
Peace, elections and democracy
In practice, this means that in states undertaking reforms in the wake of armed conflict or the fall of an authoritarian regime, specialists from the FDFA's Human Security Division (HSD) assist – at the request of the different political parties and other stakeholders – with the holding of elections and with constitutional and parliamentary reforms. The specialists also observe elections and provide support to national parliaments. The HSD's work is supported by and complements the efforts of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), whose projects are longer term. Thanks to its long-standing experience and expertise in democracy as well as in providing good offices, Switzerland is viewed worldwide as a credible partner that contributes its know-how in a neutral manner.
In 2015, Switzerland facilitated a voluntary code of conduct for fair election campaigning during the first free parliamentary elections in Myanmar. The code set out the basic rules and rights for the governing party, the opposition and ethnic parties, such as not using hate speech or religion during the election campaign. Switzerland supported the parties by introducing examples from other countries, and assisted with the preparations and implementation of the code.
The parties' agreement on the code was a historic event after decades of military dictatorship marked by restricted civil liberties and armed conflicts with ethnic minorities. It increased mutual trust between the parties and strengthened the culture of democratic compromise.
Since 2011, the HSD has assisted Tunisia in its work on the country's constitution and in election processes, supporting the development of a new democracy in this state. It provided an Arabic-speaking Swiss expert in constitutional law who held discussions with MPs in Tunisia, helping them to find compromises to ensure a majority vote in Parliament for the country's new constitution The new Tunisian constitution came into force on 27 January 2014 after two years of consultations.
At the same time, the HSD worked together with the NGO Democracy Reporting International in the run-up to the elections in 2011 and 2014 to reform the electoral system for the inaugural national assembly. It helped conduct a study into the challenges and possible outcomes of changing the system.
In connection with the justice system reforms in Tunisia, the HSD organised a high-level seminar on dispute settlement procedures together with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. A federal judge from Switzerland participated as an expert at this event.
Together with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva and a group of election experts from Switzerland and Tunisia, the HSD provided topic-related and financial support for the inter-party dialogue on a code of conduct (the Tunisian Charter of Honour) aimed at preventing outbreaks of violence during the elections.
Switzerland has worked to prevent violence in the run-up to the last two presidential elections in Nigeria.
In 2015, it worked with the Kofi Annan Foundation in Geneva in support of the initiative for free and fair elections, and with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue to establish a national peace committee to ensure peaceful elections.
To reduce electoral tensions in the run-up to the 2019 presidential elections, the FDFA supported the National Peace Committee (NCP), which organised the signing ceremony of the Abuja Peace Agreement. By signing the Abuja Peace Agreement, the main candidates renewed their commitment to conducting peaceful presidential elections and promoting post-election peace.