Good offices and humanitarian aid of the ICRC

The peace tasks of neutral Switzerland in a world of war and violence


by Dr iur. Marianne Wüthrich

In a globalised world, Switzerland’s good offices are no longer so much in demand because “larger players” such as the UN or the EU could exert more influence, one sometimes hears. Does this sound like the urge of forces at home and abroad that Switzerland should abandon its status as a neutral and independent small state and instead become more involved internationally? Two recent reports prove the opposite: In order to mediate peace and provide humanitarian aid in war and conflict zones, neutral Switzerland is just as necessary today as it was in the past.

Peace agreement in Mozambique thanks to Swiss Ambassador Mirko Manzoni

In mid-October the citizens of Mozambique elected their parliament and the president. The socialist liberation front Frelimo, which has been in power since independence from the colonial power Portugal in 1975, once again achieved clear majorities for the presidency, in the national parliament and also in all ten regional elections.
The leadership of Mozambique’s largest opposition and former civil war party, the National Resistance of Mozambique (Renamo), on the other hand, is calling for the elections to be repeated because of “violence and intimidation by the ruling party”.1 According to, the EU observer mission, the US embassy and the US organization Human Rights Watch also concluded that the elections had been marked by violence and irregularities.

Quiet elections

Mirko Manzoni, Swiss Ambassador to Mozambique, has a different opinion: “Compared to the two previous elections I had experienced, the current ballot was calm. There had been individual cases of violence and irregularities, but these should not be generalised, according to the Ticino. In any case, the results had not been decisively influenced by this. ( on 30 October)
Mirko Manzoni will probably be the best judge of the situation, because he is the successful diplomat who, as leader of the peace negotiations between the enemy parties Frelimo and Renamo, succeeded within three years in President Filipe Nyusi and opposition leader Ossufo Momade signing a peace agreement on 6 August.

Patience and skill of the negotiator

Ambassador Manzoni reports on the course of the negotiations: “We first dealt with the technical part. Then a political mediation was carried out in a very discreet way by a small team of three who worked with me. We negotiated for three years. About 30 times we travelled into the jungle, where the fighters were staying.
In May 2018, we succeeded in reaching an initial political agreement: the revision of the Constitution, which provides for a better redistribution of power in the country. A few months later, we succeeded in concluding the military agreement, which provides for the integration of a number of opposition soldiers into strategic positions in the Mozambican army. Manzoni chose this sequence of negotiated treaties with wise foresight. He explains: “What is new is that the most important preliminary agreements - the new constitution and the military agreement - were signed before the peace agreement. For this reason it was difficult to row back: There was no more reason to fight militarily.”2
Although Afonso Dhlakama, who had been leader of the Renamo party for 35 years, died in May 2018 – when no treaty had yet been signed – Manzoni managed to save the treaty package. It was signed in August 2019 and two months later the elections took place.

UN Ambassador Mirko Manzoni could do better than the major powers

On 1 November, Mirko Manzoni moved from the Swiss Embassy in Maputo to the United Nations Office at the same location. In recognition of his success in the negotiations, UN Secretary-General António Guterrez has appointed him as his personal envoy to Mozambique and will now ensure that the treaty is implemented. It remains to be seen whether this will succeed, but Manzoni is confident: everyone is still in agreement on the peace agreement, and the armed Renamo fighters have also given signs to this effect.
According to, Human Rights Watch and an EU conflict researcher from the Netherlands are dismissing the peace agreement: two previous agreements in this decades-old and persistent conflict have already failed. However, neither the protracted war nor the failure of a peace agreement can be attributed solely to the domestic conflict parties. After the country had become independent of the colonial power Portugal in 1975 and Frelimo had allied itself with the GDR and other socialist states, the neighboring apartheid state South Africa intervened via the opposition party Renamo and led a war until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990, which led to terrible human casualties with more than one million dead and the collapse of the economy ( from October 30). In 2013 the war between Frelimo and Renamo flared up again. This point in time is apparently no coincidence: according to the Zeit of January 2013, huge gold and natural gas deposits were rediscovered in Mozambique at that time - in addition to the known mineral resources to date - and foreign investors were extremely interested in them.3
Incidentally, the EU was in charge of the last failed mediation. After it had unsuccessfully discontinued it in 2016, Switzerland took over the matter. We wish Mirko Manzoni from Ticino continued success.    •

1    Spörndli, Mark. Nairobi. “The only thing everyone still agrees on is the peace agreement”. from 30 October
2    Franchini, Federico. Mediation. “Mirko Manzoni, the Swiss peacemaker in Mozambique”. from 11 September
3    Hedemann, Philipp. “Mozambique. Raw material Bonanza in the Rouma Basin”. In: Die Zeit from 31 January 2013

Switzerland’s good offices

mw. “Through its good offices, Switzerland helps to find solutions to prevent or find a way to end tragic conflicts. Switzerland’s good offices have a long tradition and help to fulfil its foreign policy goals. Switzerland uses its good offices to help to ensure human rights compliance and to promote peace and democracy, thereby contributing also to the security and prosperity of Swiss the people.“ (The Federal Council approves a report on Switzerland’s good offices, media release of 14 December 2018)
According to the Federal Council’s press release, good offices comprise three areas:

  • “Protective power mandates: As a protective power, Switzerland safeguards foreign interests. This involves taking on some consular and/or diplomatic tasks of a state [the most important consular task is to assist the nationals of the represented state] in the event that it has broken ties with another state in part or full. During the Second World War, Switzerland undertook over 200 mandates. Today it has six such mandates: for the US in Iran, for Russia in Georgia and for Georgia in Russia, for Iran in Saudi Arabia and vice versa as well as for Iran in Egypt”.
  • “Host State for peace negotiations: Switzerland, in its role as host, guarantees security, a calm environment and discretion for sensitive negotiations. It has the necessary infrastructure to organise and host such events. The conducive environment helps helps to further solutions between the parties”. Examples: Syria peace talks under the auspices of the UN Special Envoy for Syria, negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme (2008 to 2015).
  • “Mediation and Facilitation: Switzerland is a mediator […] and supports mediation and negotiation processes worldwide.” Examples are the peace process in Mozambique described above, the negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC (2012–2016), the customs agreement between Russia and Georgia (2011) as a prerequisite for Russia’s accession to the WTO.

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