What led you to work at the Swiss Embassy in London?
Diplomacy as a profession captured my interest early on in my studies. During my travels to Latin America and South East Asia, I became aware of the importance of human rights and poverty reduction. This led to the involvement of human rights in my academic studies and it was during these studies that I became aware of the positive impact diplomacy can have. I was eager to gain experience within the diplomatic field and, with a particular interest in UK politics, I found the Swiss Embassy in London to be the perfect fit.
What is the role of the embassy’s Political and Legal Team?
As part of the Political and Legal Team I follow UK politics and topics of interest to the Swiss Foreign Office. To this end, we are in contact with various UK government departments, in particular the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and also engage with several NGOs and think tanks. We then report relevant policy developments to the departments in the capital. Furthermore, we organise visits for Swiss diplomatic delegations and address legal concerns of both Swiss and British nationals who contact the embassy with enquiries regarding the Swiss or UK legal systems.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I particularly enjoy how varied the work is – no two days are ever the same. As a trainee at the embassy I benefit from being given broad insight into all aspects of embassy work. I have previously spent time in the visa and consular section and have also helped with cultural events. My day usually starts with a briefing in the office of the Ambassador where the day’s tasks are distributed, providing the opportunity to fully understand the priorities and working methods of the embassy.
You recently had the opportunity to go to the UN in New York, tell us about the experience.
As part of the Legal Team at the Swiss Delegation to the UN in New York, I helped negotiate resolutions on behalf of Switzerland in the Third Committee of the General Assembly, which deals with human rights issues. I was also fortunate enough to participate in a number of UN conferences, as well as attend Security Council and General Assembly debates which were addressed by heads of state.
What did you learn from the experience?
During my time at the UN I gained valuable negotiating skills. Negotiating resolutions was a new experience for me and I was able to see for myself the impact that national policies can have on the outcome. Attending a range of conferences, I gained a deeper understanding of the various working methods employed at the UN.
Switzerland, a traditionally neutral country, only joined the UN as a member state in 2002. What are its priorities at the UN?
The UN is a platform where global challenges are discussed and solutions constructed. In that sense, issues of global governance are of particular importance to Switzerland. Traditional Swiss topics and priorities at the UN include: conflict prevention, poverty reduction, sustainable development and environment, development co-operation, human rights, humanitarian activities and protection of civilians, rule of law, peace and security and non-proliferation. Another crucial priority for Switzerland is reform of UN working methods, particularly in the Security Council, for which it brought forward an initiative in early 2012 together with Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein and Singapore.
What advice would you have for someone considering a diplomatic career?
An embassy’s work is multifaceted and someone considering a diplomatic career should first research the different departments in order to evaluate which would be of most interest to them. Moreover, I would highly recommend considering embassies abroad, as learning about the political systems of other countries, and observing the way your own country conducts its foreign affairs is, in my view, fascinating.
Jardena Guttmann is an assistant in the political and legal team at the Embassy of Switzerland in the UK
Photo: © J. Guttmann. Jardena representing Switzerland at the UN.