H. E. Mr. Peter Maurer, Chairperson of the Delegation
29 September 2008
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PETER MAURER (Switzerland) lamented the fact that even though a recent World Bank report indicated that the number of people living in poverty had fallen by some 500 million since 1981 -- their proportion of the total population having fallen from 52 per cent to 26 per cent -- some 1.2 billion people nevertheless still had to get by on less than a dollar a day. Every day, 25,000 people died as a result of starvation and poverty, and there were still some 67 million refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide.
No State, however wealthy or powerful, could tackle such challenges alone, he said, and called for a strong United Nations to lead the search for the needed common solutions. Only a strong United Nations could focus on “that which united rather than that which divided”. While cooperation across cultural and religious borders was not always easy, Swiss history had shown that that was most likely to bear fruit when specific problems were tackled and solutions were sought in an open dialogue.
He explained that such an approach was reflected in his country’s “peace policy”, and was the reason why Switzerland supported projects whose purpose was to bring together people with different values and cultural backgrounds to enable them to coexist in a positive way. It was that approach that characterized the country’s activity in the United Nations-sponsored Alliance of Civilizations. In that context, too, Switzerland was participating actively in the work of the Human Rights Council.
On progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, he observed development would only be possible if the peoples of the developed world could defend themselves against injustice, had equal access to justice, property, work and markets. He pointed out that the food crisis had made achieving the Millennium Development Goals more difficult, and he was pleased to announce that Switzerland had responded to the emergency by increasing its contribution to the World Food Programme (WFP). He saw a positive side to the crisis, noting that rising food prices might also represent an opportunity, especially for farmers in developing countries, particularly if they were given access to land and property, as well as to finance.