Switzerland: a key partner on defence reform

  • 22 Nov. 2012 -
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  • Last updated: 23 Nov. 2012 08:57

NATO and Switzerland have developed a strong partnership over the years since the country joined the Partnership for Peace in 1996. The Swiss armed forces are making a valuable contribution to the NATO-led force in Kosovo. Switzerland has also distinguished itself in terms of its significant contribution to promoting work with partners in the area of defence reform, education and training. The NATO Secretary General exchanged views with key members of the Swiss government on how to deepen partnership, during his visit to Switzerland on 22 November.

“Our partnership goes much further, and deeper, than operations,” underlined NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speaking at the prestigious Churchill Symposium of Zürich University’s European Institute. “Over the years, your country has developed enormous credibility and trust – both among NATO Allies and among our other partners. With your soft-power diplomacy and your mediation skills, you have become a unique and essential contributor to our cooperative security.”

He pointed to Switzerland’s “long and proud history as a champion of international norms and laws” and the commitment that it shares with NATO to defend and promote the values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights.

“Because of these shared values, Switzerland has made an enormous investment in NATO’s partnership programmes. You have provided trainers in defence reform, military training and education, and building democratic institutions. Your experts work alongside those of NATO to build more transparent and democratic security institutions,” added Mr Fogh Rasmussen.

Committed to cooperative security

Switzerland is a generous contributor – intellectually, materially and financially – to the development of practical cooperative security within the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond.

The support of the government and of government-funded institutions has played an essential part in deepening and enhancing NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme and the activities of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC): promoting reform, capacity building and transparency in defence institutions; strengthening education and training for both the military and civilians; and promoting the humanitarian aspects of security.

The country hosts many courses within the PfP framework and develops training materials in areas such as democratic control of armed forces, international humanitarian law, humanitarian demining, civil-military cooperation, security policy, arms control and disarmament.

One of the most active members of the PfP Consortium of Defence Academies and Security Studies Institutes, Switzerland has made a number of civilian training facilities available. These include the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), and the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) based in Zurich.

A number of military training facilities are available for PfP training activities. These include the Centre for Information and Communication of the Armed Forces in Berne, the Mountain Training Centre of the Swiss Armed Forces in Andermatt, the International Training Centre of the Swiss Army (SWISSINT) in Stans, and the Tactical Training Centre at the Swiss Officers’ Training Centre in Lucerne.

Switzerland is also an active donor to Partnership Trust Fund projects. Along with individual Allies and partners, it has supported 13 projects since 2000, which have provided assistance for the destruction of mines, arms, or ammunition in Albania, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Serbia, Montenegro, Ukraine and, more recently, Jordan and Mauritania.

Switzerland has also supported a Trust Fund project in Serbia for the reintegration of demobilized military personnel into the civilian workforce. Moreover, the country is co-leading a Trust Fund on Building Integrity in Defence Institutions and has also contributed over 130,000 euro to the Trust Fund for the development of the Afghan National Army.

Support for peace-support operations

Swiss law excludes participation in combat operations for peace enforcement and Swiss units will only participate in operations under UN or OSCE mandate. Within the limits of its neutrality, Switzerland participates in peace-support operations or multilateral cooperation in military training.

Over 200 soldiers are currently deployed as part of the Kosovo Force (KFOR). The Swiss armed forces have been contributing to KFOR’s Multinational Task Force – South since 1999.