The Secretary-General left Amman, Jordan early in the morning of Wednesday, 28 March, for an official visit to Switzerland, where he was joined by his wife, Nane.
His first stop was in Zurich, where he addressed a gathering of close to 2,000 prominent members of the Swiss business community. In his speech (SG/SM/7756), he first noted Switzerland's generosity towards the United Nations, not only as a host, but also as a major contributor to United Nations funds and programmes. He said that he had come to thank the Swiss people for their generous support, and particularly to the Swiss business community which had done so much to make that generosity possible.
In his address, he also underscored the importance of the partnership between business, government and civil society. "Governments remain, for the most part, preoccupied with local concerns", he explained, "while business and civil society are increasingly global. It is up to you, who want to do business in a global market, to do whatever you can to create and sustain a sense of global community".
These broad social roles, the Secretary-General said, complement and do not contradict the primary aim of investing for profit. He added: "More and more corporate leaders are coming to understand that a global market requires global corporate citizenship."
The day ended with a dinner given in the honour of the Secretary-General, hosted by Crédit Suisse. Afterwards there was a short question and answer period with 60 attendees.
In the morning of Thursday, 29 March, the Secretary-General was given a guided tour of parts of the old city of Zurich by Moritz Leuenberger, President of the Swiss Confederation. The two men walked and then boarded a tram, much to the astonishment of the morning commuters on their way to Zurich’s main train station.
From Zurich, the Secretary-General boarded a special train for the one hour journey to Bern, where he met with President Leuenberger and the rest of the Federal Council, along with a number of other high-level government officials, for over 90 minutes. The Secretary-General discussed his just-completed trip to the Arab League Summit in Amman, then both sides exchanged views on a wide variety of subjects including the situation in the Middle East, Iraq, the situation in the Balkans, general peacekeeping issues, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Following the meeting, the Secretary-General and President Leuenberger met with the press. In response to a question on the abduction of United Nations aid workers in Somalia, the Secretary-General said, “I have lots of admiration and courage for those colleagues of mine who go to difficult and distant places around the world to help the poor and the needy. They do not deserve to be treated this way.”
The Secretary-General then went to a luncheon in his honour, hosted by the Federal Council and attended by a number of members of government and representatives of civil society. Following the luncheon, he visited the Biel School of Engineering and Architecture, where the students gave him a tour of various environmentally friendly projects, including solar-powered vehicles. Then he had a very open discussion with about 200 students from the school on a wide variety of topics.
The Secretary-General then proceeded to Schernelz, where he was given a tour of the vineyards around Biel Lake by the Swiss President. In the evening, the Secretary-General attended a concert in Biel by Stephan Eicher, accompanied by musicians from various parts of the world, after which he returned to Geneva.
The next morning he addressed the fifty-seventh session of the Commission for Human Rights in Geneva (SG/SM/7759). In addition to the Secretary-General, Commission members heard from the President of the Swiss Confederacy, Moritz Leuenberger, President Jacques Chirac of France, President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and President Vojislav Kostunica of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The Secretary-General’s speech focused on the importance of the upcoming World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. “It is time to consider what message we want from the conference to send. It is time to bridge the differences that have emerged”, he said. “It is time to focus on ensuring that the conference does for the word Durban what the Earth Summit did for Rio de Janeiro -- make it synonymous with a vision of progress for all mankind."
Following his appearance with the Commission, the Secretary-General met with a number of visiting officials at the Palais des Nations. He met first with Major General Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Secretary-General described the meeting as a review of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, adding that he is “very encouraged by the hopeful signs that the parties are determined to implement the Lusaka Accord".
He added: “The signs are positive, but it has to be sustained, and we need to make progress, both on the military and political tracks.” The Secretary-General and President Kabila then went to meet President Jacques Chirac of France for a trilateral meeting on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
President Chirac and the Secretary-General continued the meeting after President Kabila’s departure. The Secretary-General briefed him on his recent
visit to Amman where he attended the Arab League Summit. The two then exchanged views on the ongoing crisis in Israel and the Palestinian territory, as well as on the question of Iraq.
The last meeting of the morning was with President Vojislav Kostunica of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The two discussed the situation in the Balkans, especially the situation along the border of Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Afterwards, the Secretary-General told reporters that they had discussed Yugoslavia’s relationship with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. "President Kostunica told me", the Secretary-General said, “that his Government is working on the laws and the relationship is moving in the right direction and that he is pleased with the progress that is being made.”
The Secretary-General then attended a luncheon hosted by President Chirac at the residence of the French Permanent Representative, along with the heads of United Nations agencies in Geneva.
He then headed to the mountain resort of Mont Pelerin, above the shores of Lake Geneva, to attend the closing session of a seminar organized by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) for his Special Representatives and Envoys, entitled “Enhancing the Implementation of United Nations Peace Operations”. In the early evening, before delivering a speech (SG/SM/7760) at the closing dinner, the Secretary-General met with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine.
On Saturday, 31 March, the Secretary-General and his party flew overnight to Nairobi to attend the meeting of the United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination to take place on Monday and Tuesday.