The Case of Switzerland
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is convinced that the United Nations offers unique opportunities at international level to achieve change at national and local level. The advocacy strategy and the UN mechanisms used may change depending on the needs of WEA’s constituencies. In any case, WEA wants to serve as a Liaison and a service for its local constituencies, in particular the national Evangelical Alliances. WEA’s constituencies have the final word on the topics, the strategy and the message WEA might deliver on their behalf.
Though the permanent presence of WEA at the UN is rather recent, a number of best practices can already be highlighted. Over the last three years, the WEA UN Liaison Office in Geneva has focused on human rights situations in over 10 different countries from almost all continents. Switzerland is one of these countries.
Early 2012, the WEA UN Liaison Office approached the Swiss Evangelical Alliance (EA) to inform them about the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Switzerland at the UN in Geneva. According to this mechanism, all the UN member States are reviewed during a 4,5 year cycle. Some readers might wonder what human rights issues there might be in a tiny and peaceful country such as Switzerland. Yet we all know that there is no country in the world that is not confronted by its own social justice challenges.
The Swiss EA suggested to focus on human trafficking, a forgotten issue in Switzerland, although it affects thousands of victims every year. At that time, Switzerland was one of the rare countries that allowed prostitution even for girls or boys aged between 16 and 18. Political action against trafficking was insufficient. The Swiss EA mandated one of its members, a mission organisation with expertise on this topic, to collaborate with the WEA UN Liaison Office on their behalf.
WEA UN Liaison Office in Geneva assisted in writing a short report on the situation of human trafficking, a topic that was not strongly highlighted by other civil society reports also submitted in the context of the Swiss UPR review. WEA’s report was shared with the relevant Swiss government authorities. The report did not go unnoticed and was even posted on a government website! Just 10 days before the UPR review was to take place at the UN, the Swiss government issued its first National Action Plan Against Human Trafficking. Most of the concerns raised in WEA’s report were taken into account.
During the UPR review in October 2012, over 10 States made recommendations to Switzerland pertaining to its human trafficking policy. Switzerland promised it would implement them. A couple of weeks before, briefings had been organised in Geneva by WEA, to inform diplomats about human trafficking in Switzerland and to influence the content of their statements and recommendations.
As a follow-up to the Review, a delegation composed of constituencies of the Swiss EA met with the Minister of Justice in February 2013. In October 2013, that same Minister took part in a national conference organised by the Swiss EA and its national Micah Challenge campaign focusing on trafficking. Also in the meantime, prostitution of minors was prohibited. The report at international level was a key element leading to positive change at national and local level.
The work of the Swiss EA and its constituency was instrumental to this progress. Working in partnership is a key for success. There is great richness of knowledge within the Evangelical constituencies, in matters relating to social justice. WEA would like to encourage other EAs to use these resources and, when relevant, to connect them at international level via the WEA Liaison offices at the UN in order to advocate for positive changes in their countries.