With world politics increasingly fragmented and competition between the major powers growing, it is central for the Federal Council that the international arms control and disarmament architecture is maintained and further developed. The current crisis in Ukraine and the negotiations on Europe's security architecture, in which arms control plays an essential role, confirm that this sense of urgency. In parallel, the Federal Council is pushing for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.
For the first time, the Federal Council formulates Switzerland's arms control and disarmament goals and measures for 2022–25 in the form of a strategy. The terms 'arms control' and 'disarmament' also include the non-proliferation of weapons (hence 'ADN').
Switzerland as a credible and pioneering actor
With this strategy, Switzerland is aiming to position itself even more strongly as a bridge-building actor who leads the way and to push for viable solutions, thereby bolstering security in the European neighbourhood and around the world. The ADN progress achieved to date is an essential and integral part of the rules-based international order. It must be upheld and – where possible and necessary – developed and adapted to current developments. Switzerland has set itself apart in ADN, particularly as regards this area's normative, humanitarian, scientific, and technical aspects. One example here are Switzerland's efforts to upholidng international law in ADN. Moreover, Switzerland's International Geneva serves as a platform bringing a wide range of ADN actors together for fruitful interactions.
Faced with various technological challenges, arms control must evolve. The strategy underscores Switzerland's ambition to help shape effective multilateral measures and to blaze trails leading to the responsible use of new technologies.
The ADN strategy's five areas of action
The strategy identifies the following five areas of action and sets out specific measures in each one of them:
- Nuclear weapons
Switzerland advocates complete nuclear disarmament. This is a long road. New momentum is needed for the implementation of existing agreements. One of Switzerland's priorities is to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons. Here, Switzerland's work has included developing a package of measures for risk reduction with some 25 other states and submitting it to the UN.
- Chemical and biological weapons
Switzerland is strongly committed to promoting progress in this area. One example here is the outstanding contributions made by Spiez Laboratory. Another is Switzerland's success in The Hague in 2021 in working with the US and Australia to win a large majority among the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) for a ban, in national law enforcement, on the use of chemicals affecting the central nervous system. This was a key step towards strengthening the ban on chemical weapons, which has come under pressure.
- Conventional weapons
Switzerland contributes to the redution of armed violence. Through expertise or financial contributions, it supports partner states such as Cambodiain clearing mined areas and making them accessible to the population. This helps to protect people and allows them to use their land to make a living. Switzerland is also committed to promoting responsible arms trade. Concerning Europe, Switzerland aims to strengthen arms control and confidence-building, as outlined in its action plan for the OSCE.
- Autonomous weapons
Autonomous weapons systems entail not only opportunities to improve security but also risks for humanity. Fully autonomous weapons could undermine core norms and values and destabilise the world. Switzerland aims to promote an agreement to ensure human control and prevent autonomous weapons that would not comply with the law.
- Cyberspace and outer space
The Federal Council aims to bolster Switzerland's position in the area of cyberspace and outer space; out-of-the-box thinking should tackle processes that have ground to a halt, lending them new impetus. For example, the Federal Council plans to have Switzerland take on a more active role in the work on developing norms that regulate the use of new technologies such as autonomous lethal weapons systems in conflicts.
Strategy shores up foreign policy coherence
The Arms Control and Disarmament Strategy 2022–25 sets out in specific terms the prescriptions of the Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23 in this area, reinforcing the coherence of Swiss foreign policy. The Strategy's implementation concerns all departments. Close interdepartmental cooperation is indispensable to ensuring coherence, in keeping with the whole-of-Switzerland approach.
With the RAN strategy, the Federal Council is fulfilling the postulate of the National Council's Security Policy Committee of 25 January 2021 that tasked the Federal Council with assessing how an operational doctrine for future autonomous weapons systems and artificial intelligence in the security infrastructure could be formulated, taking account of international ethical standards, and with identifying opportunities for Switzerland to promote ethical standards internationally. Switzerland will take on a leading role in efforts to draw up norms regulating autonomous weapons.
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