The Head of the FDFA is Ignazio Cassis. He has been a member of the Federal Council since 2017.
From our Swiss chalets to the global arena
Switzerland is best known for its cosy chalets, model democracy, beautiful landscapes with enticing lakes, strong economy, progressive education, technology and research, and as a reliable negotiating partner. That’s also how we are mostly seen in other countries.
Promoting the image of Switzerland abroad falls under the remit of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). The FDFA employs around 5,500 people. Its areas of activity are as varied as the qualifications of its individual staff members. In order to represent Switzerland's interests and values at the international level, a whole spectrum of skills are required. The FDFA has its head office in Bern, comprising eight directorates (see next page), and is present around the globe with more than 170 embassies and consulates.
«Communication: integral to foreign policy»
A commitment to the Constitution
The Swiss Constitution states that Switzerland shall "assist in the alleviation of need and poverty in the world and promote respect for human rights and [...] the peaceful co-existence of peoples". Strong international ties play a decisive role in this, played out by all of the FDFA's staff who represent Switzerland in their host countries.
But in today's digitalised world, this is not enough to reach foreign policy goals. New technologies and means of communication are also needed to advance foreign policy, maintain secure international market access and consolidate the bilateral approach with our partners in Europe. To this end, purposeful and targeted communication helps to convey and elucidate our country and its achievements – both abroad and at home.By maintaining a positive image, Switzerland is in a position to influence decisions taken abroad in our favour. In this way, the FDFA contributes to ensuring that the solid reputation of the Swiss chalet can be built upon worldwide, and that the international community understands and appreciates Switzerland's interests and values.
The Federal Department of Foreign AffairsFDFA
The FDFA formulates and coordinates foreign policy on behalf of the Federal Council, safeguards Switzerland’s interests, and promotes its values abroad. It acts on the basis of the rule of law, universality and neutrality and in a spirit of solidarity and shared responsibility. It operates a network of about 170 representations and roughly 200 honorary representations.
|Staff (full-time positions) 2018
General Secretariat GS-FDFA
The General Secretariat (GS) is the driving force behind the department's operations and its strategic orientation. The Secretary General supports and advises the head of the FDFA and coordinates Federal Council and parliamentary business. The GS is also responsible for promoting equal opportunities at the FDFA and for contract administration. It coordinates the FDFA's risk management and provides internal and external communication. The GS also includes Internal Audit and Presence Switzerland.
State Secretariat StS
The State Secretariat assists the head of department in developing and planning foreign policy. The State Secretary is responsible for Switzerland’s relations with other countries and the international organisations, as well as for policy on security, peace, human rights and humanitarian policy. The StS also includes Protocol, which is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Confederation’s rules on protocol, and the Crisis Management Centre, which publishes advice on travelling in foreign countries (www.fdfa.admin.ch/reisehinweise) and coordinates measures to protect Swiss nationals who find themselves in situations of conflict or social unrest, or who experience accidents, natural disasters, attacks or are kidnapped while abroad.
Directorate of Political Affairs PD
The Directorate of Political Affairs observes and analyses the world political situation and is responsible for safeguarding Switzerland’s interests abroad. The nine political affairs divisions and the representations abroad all report to the State Secretary.
The geographical divisions are responsible for Switzerland’s bilateral relations with other countries; the United Nations and International Organisations Division is responsible for Switzerland’s policy in these organisations; the Human Security Division determines Switzerland’s activities in the fields of civilian peacebuilding, human rights, and foreign policy on migration and humanitarian policy; the Sectoral Foreign Policies Division coordinates foreign policy with regard to economic issues, finance, education, science, transport, space, sustainability, environmental issues, energy and health.; and the Security Policy Division develops policy on international security.
Directorate of European Affairs DEA
The Directorate of European Affairs is the Swiss government’s centre of expertise for all issues relating to Europe. It leads the negotiations with the EU in collaboration with the relevant specialized offices, coordinates Swiss policy on Europe, prepares decisions for the Federal Council, observes developments in the EU and European law, and analyses them and their consequences for Switzerland. In addition, the DEA is responsible for keeping the public informed about Switzerland’s policy on Europe and European integration in general.
Directorate of International Law DIL
The Directorate of International Law safeguards Switzerland’s rights and interests that derive from international law. It participates in the conclusion of international treaties, and deals with the legal aspects of Swiss neutrality, human rights and the Geneva Conventions. The Swiss Maritime Navigation Office is part of the DIL.
Consular Directorate CD
As the central point of contact for Swiss nationals abroad, the Consular Directorate, together with the representations abroad, ensures the provision of efficient and friendly consular services worldwide. Within the Federal Administration it is the central coordination point for matters concerning Swiss citizens abroad. The CD coordinates the support the Confederation provides Swiss citizens abroad who need assistance. The FDFA Helpline (+41 800 24 7 365) is available 24/7, 365 days a year to answer enquiries. The CD also organises the issuance of visas together with the representations abroad.
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation is responsible for the overall coordination of the Confederation’s international development cooperation, cooperation with the countries of Eastern Europe and the CIS, and humanitarian assistance. It is active in the fight against poverty in the countries of the Global South and East, supports victims of crises and conflicts and, together with the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit, provides emergency and reconstruction aid following natural disasters and armed conflicts.
Directorate for Resources DR
The Directorate for Resources manages and ensures the efficient use of the FDFA’s human, financial and IT resources. As the department’s centre of expertise for all matters relating to resources, the DR provides logistical services to both the FDFA’s head office in Bern and to Switzerland’s worldwide network of representations, which it maintains and runs. The Swiss Government Travel Centre, which is the centre of expertise for business travel matters for the entire Federal Administration, is part of the DR.