©Lucile Maertens

About the project

About the project

Switzerland at the United Nations Security Council: Academic Insights

Switzerland holds a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the first time in 2023-2024. This provides a unique opportunity for researchers to analyze an elected member with the particular characteristics of being a neutral and small state as well as a relatively young member of the organization but with a long history of commitment to multilateralism and of hosting multilateral organizations.

The UN Security Council consists of five permanent members (P5) (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) and ten non-permanent members, elected for two-year terms (E10). Many studies exist on the role of elected members in the UN Security Council, yet they usually focus on their influence, leaving aside the manifold practices through which they participate in the UN Security Council’s work while performing their role as multilateral actors.

This research aims at broadening the analysis of the practices used by elected members in the UN Security Council. Based on the case of Switzerland, it applies ethnographic approaches to collect fine-grained data on its practices and provide a detailed account of its membership.

The project generates unique insights for both scholars and policymakers to understand the practices and the functioning of the UN Security Council on a daily basis. Based on the Swiss experience, it furthers our understanding of the main decision-making body for contemporary and future international peace and security.

Meet the team

Principal investigator

Prof. Lucile Maertens

Prof. Lucile Maertens is associate professor in political science and international relations at the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and member of the Global Governance Centre (GGC), Switzerland. Her work focuses on international organizations and multilateral practices, notably in the field of global environmental politics. Prof. Lucile Maertens manages this project with Dr. Sara Hellmüller and co-supervises Flavia Keller’s doctoral dissertation with Prof. Jean-Christophe Graz. She also studies Switzerland’s engagement on climate security during its term and the key role elected members play in ensuring the continuity and progress of the debates on this topic at the Council.

Principal investigator

Prof. Dr. Sara Hellmüller

Prof. Dr. Sara Hellmüller is an assistant professor (SNSF PRIMA) at the Geneva Graduate Institute. Her work focuses on peace and conflict research, particularly the link between world politics and UN peace missions, norms in peacemaking, and knowledge production on peace. She manages this project with Dr. Lucile Maertens and is a member of the thesis committee for Flavia Keller’s doctoral dissertation. She also studies Switzerland’s engagement on sustaining peace and the protection of civilians during its term, notably as it pertains to UN peace operations.


Prof. Dr. Jean-Christophe Graz

Prof. Jean-Christophe Graz is Professor of international relations at the Institute of Political Studies of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, co-founder of the Centre of International History and Political Studies of Globalization (CRHIM), and Vice-Dean for research, ethics and doctoral schools at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences. His work focuses on various issues of global governance. His most recent book is The Power of Standards: Hybrid authority and the Globalisation of Services (Cambridge University Press, 2019 – Open Access), for which he received the Joan Robinson Prize for the best monograph from the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy (EAEPE). In the context of this project, he co-supervises Flavia Keller’s doctoral dissertation with Dr. Lucile Maertens.

Research assistant and PhD candidate​

Flavia Keller​

Flavia Keller is a doctoral student at the Institute of Political Studies of the University of Lausanne. Besides writing her dissertation in the framework of the project, Flavia is responsible for generating ethnographic data on the practices of Switzerland on the UN Security Council. She also studies Switzerland’s engagement in building sustainable peace (in particular with a gender lens) and in relation to enhancing the effectiveness of the Council.

This three-year research project is funded by the Fondation pour l’Université de Lausanne.

News, media and other publications

December 2023

Working Day on Switzerland and the Security Council - ETH Zürich

Dr. Sara Hellmüller and Flavia Keller took part in the Working Day on Switzerland in the UN Security Council at ETH Zurich, organized joitnly by the Centre for Security Studies and the Swiss Association for Foreign Policy (SGA-ASPE).
The day included a speech by the Ambassador in New York, Pascale Baeriswyl, and three round-table discussions with academics and practitioners who took stock of Switzerland’s first year on the Council. Flavia Keller participated as a panellist in the first part of the programme, presenting initial insights from the project after representatives of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport shared their assessments.

For more information on this event

December 2023

Bern Alumni Chapter 18th Annual Reception

Prof. Lucile Maertens presented the project at the 18th Annual Reception of the IHEID Bern Alumni Chapter. The theme of the event was “The Strategic Horizon Scan: Security, Migration and the UN in Times of Radical Uncertainty” and provided an opportunity to discuss the challenges of contemporary multilateralism and the role of Swiss actors. Marie-Laure Salles, the Director of the Geneva Graduate Institute, outlined several significant institutional advancements for 2023 before facilitating a discussion featuring Prof. Keith Krause, who serves as the Director of the Centre on Conflict, Development, and Peacebuilding, as well as a Professor in International Relations/Political Science, and Prof. Lucile Maertens. The event concluded with a networking cocktail.

30 November 2023, 18:15 – 20:00

📍 University of Geneva | Uni Mail, Room MR380


  • Micheline Calmy-Rey, Professeure invitée à l’Université de Genève & ancienne Conseillère fédérale
  • Dre. Sara Hellmüller, Senior Researcher, ETH Zürich
  • Myriam Oehri, Conseillère, représentante permanente adjointe de la Mission permanente du Liechtenstein auprès des Nations unies à New York
  • Darius Farman, Co-Directeur, Forum de politique étrangère foraus
  • Président·e·s de séance : Dr. Ueli Staeger, UNIGE, & Prof. Lucile Maertens, Geneva Graduate Institute
June 2023

Switzerland and the United Nations

In June 2023, Flavia Keller presented the project at the Foreign Policy Day organized by the Swiss Association for Foreign Policy. The event was structured around two themes: the war against Ukraine and its consequences for Switzerland, as well as Switzerland’s mandate on the United Nations Security Council. In her presentation as part of the second thematic block, Flavia Keller introduced the structure and rationale of the project and argued that an ethnographic study of the daily practices of the Council’s members produces fine-grained and relevant knowledge on the functioning of the United Nations Security Council. The event attracted professionals in the field of foreign policy, civil society representatives, academics, as well as members of the interested public.


June 2023

Switzerland and the United Nations

Interview of Sara Hellmüller on Switzerland’s mandate at the United Nations Security Council, quoted in the Republik’s weekly briefing.

April 2023

A Plus for Peace: Switzerland in the UN Security Council

Project launch, latest news of the Geneva Graduate Institute.

June 2022

Switzerland's election at the UN Security Council

Radio program “Forum” by Mehmet Gultas and Thibaut Schaller, Radio Télévision Suisse.

July 2020

Switzerland's candidacy for a seat at the UN Security Council

Radio program “Forum” by Esther Coquoz, Radio Télévision Suisse.