Statement by

H.E. Federal Councillor Joseph Deiss

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, New York, 13 September 2002

 General Assembly Fifty-seventh session

General debate

Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary-General,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is imperative, now more than ever before, that all the peoples of the world act in a spirit of solidarity. The United Nations embodies solidathis spirit. In joining the UN, Switzerland sends you a message of solidarity. This makes me proud and happy.

I would like to add my thanks to those expressed by Kaspar Villiger, the President of the Swiss Confederation, on the occasion of Switzerland’s formal admission to the UN. I would also like to thank all the members of the UN for the warm welcome you have given our country. Switzerland feels welcomed. We feel that we are where we belong.

I would also like to give you, Mr. Secretary-General, my profound thanks. Your sincerity contributed greatly to convincing the people of Switzerland of the need to join the UN.

Mr President, I would like to congratulate you for your election. I already know and value your qualities and talents and l know  that you will put them to the best service of the UN. 

The Swiss people have decided. They have said ‘yes’ to co-operation with the UN. They have said ‘yes’ to a stronger international commitment. They have said ‘yes’ to taking greater responsibility for resolving global challenges.

The challenges facing the international community at the beginning of the 21st century are immense. Many regions suffer from terrible poverty. Tensions, crises and wars are rife on all continents. There are millions of refugees. We see the hideous face of terrorism. Global networks exploit human beings, and traffic in drugs and arms. The populations of whole regions are being decimated by new diseases. And, day after day, we continue to destroy the Earth's ecological balance.

There are no simple answers to any of these problems. But there is a place where we can all meet to find solutions: the United Nations. This is the only universal organisation, the only body whose scope for action is broad enough to meet global challenges.

The world needs a strong UN:

-         It alone can analyse problems at the world level;

-         It alone can create a consensus between States on common goals;

-         Finally, as stressed by the Secretary-General, there is no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the UN.

Switzerland has joined the UN as a neutral country, and we intend to remain neutral. But our neutral status in no way diminishes our desire for co-operation. On the contrary, it is an advantage for our peace activities. Our membership of the UN is not a change in direction but the logical consequence of our foreign policy.

(1.  Peace policy – human security)

Mr. President,

To quote our constitution: "The Swiss Confederation is committed… to a just and peaceful international order". The principal aim of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security. For us, therefore, the UN is the ideal place to carry out this vital mission.

As a member of the UN, Switzerland will devote itself primarily to international peace and security. The logic of armed conflict today forces us to adopt a holistic approach to peace processes. We must work in several different areas in parallel : military, diplomatic, humanitarian, as well as economic. The players must also come from different backgrounds. All this demands a major effort of co-ordination. And Switzerland will contribute to this.

Today, we see security problems from a broader angle, that of human security. Men, women and children must be able to live in this world without fear of death, starvation and despotism. In particular, we must protect vulnerable individuals and groups. Switzerland will continue its efforts in favour of human security. This includes stopping the recruitment of child soldiers, eliminating anti-personnel mines, and stopping the proliferation of small arms.

In this context, I welcome the Secretary-General’s appeal to make full use of multilateral institutions. This is especially valid for the maintenance of international peace and security. There is only one source of legitimacy for the use of force : the United Nations.

Iraq has been discussed on several occasions during these past days. There is undeniably a need to act, to act with determination, in order to ensure the implementation of UN resolutions. But action must be taken together, within the UN. Only the UN can confer international legitimacy to an action against Iraq.

(2.  Human rights)

Switzerland is convinced that peace and development can only be sustained if the international community is founded on freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights. Human dignity is our most precious asset. It must be defended at all times and in all places. We will champion this conviction at the UN to the full and without concessions. For as long as men and women are exploited, children are mistreated, and the death penalty is  carried out, Switzerland will do everything within its power to defend human dignity.

At the General Assembly this year, we will commit ourselves to adopting the draft Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture. This Protocol aims to give better protection to people in detention against torture and mistreatment. It is most necessary, and we have been supporting this initiative for years.  

(3.  International law)

In its capacity as the Depositary State, Switzerland feels a special responsibility towards the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols.  At the UN, we will continue to defend these instruments without respite.  In this area, Switzerland has submitted to a number of countries involved in the Middle East conflict a proposal which aims to ensure the better implementation of international humanitarian law. We advocate two mechanisms: one for promoting dialogue to allow the Parties to settle problems concerning the application of international humanitarian law; the second, a monitoring mechanism. 

We are also convinced that the International Criminal Court will ensure the better application of international humanitarian law. This new court is an essential tool for dealing with serious violations of the fundamental freedoms. We will therefore remain on our guard to ensure that it can function efficiently. And we will pursue our efforts to convince those states which have not yet signed or ratified the Rome Statute of the need for such a court.

(4.  Development assistance)

Two days ago, we commemorated the tragic events which rocked the United States and the world one year ago. The causes of terrorism must be eradicated. I am thinking in particular of injustice, disregard for the rights of minorities, and poverty.  This is one the objectives of our development co-operation and of our human rights policy

Sustainable development and the elimination of poverty are the main challenges facing humankind today. We saw this again in Johannesburg. These are global challenges, demanding a global strategy and global solidarity. In other words, all those institutions which are part of the United Nations family must work together. The UN and the development banks, civil society and the private sector must all collaborate much more closely. Development co-operation only makes sense if it is co-ordinated. Switzerland will continue to contribute to efforts to ensure coherence, so that the many activities currently under way achieve the success they deserve.

The struggle against poverty also requires an exchange of know-how and the transfer of technology. Switzerland is closely involved in the preparation of the World Summit on the Information Society, the first phase of which will take place in Geneva in 2003. The principal challenge of this Summit is to help narrow the gap between the North and the South in terms of access to new information technologies. I appeal to you all to make an active contribution to its success.

(5.    Geneva)

Mr. President,

These thoughts lead me to recall the close and long-standing meeting point between my country and the UN: Geneva. Switzerland is proud and grateful to be able to host the European headquarters of the United Nations as well as many of its specialised agencies. Geneva is at the hub of discussions on disarmament, humanitarian aid, social development, the promotion of human rights and environmental protection. This gives me great pleasure, and also because Swiss citizens are concerned about these issues. However, our role as host places a responsibility on us to offer the international organisations the best possible living and working conditions. I assure you that in this area you can count on Switzerland.  

Even before Switzerland became a member, I said: 'The UN is universal'. With Switzerland and soon East Timor as members it will be even more complete. The UN is the highest world forum. Switzerland will provide its full support to the UN. For the wellbeing of humanity, for “we peoples of the United Nations'.

Thank you