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UN General Assembly Sommaruga calls for joint action on migrants at UN

There are around 60 million displaced persons worldwide, more than at any time since the UN was founded


In her speech at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga warned that everyone would lose out if national interests impede a joint response to the Middle East refugee crisis. 

“We can only face the important flow of migrants jointly,” she said. “If each of us only looks after its own interests, we all lose out in the end: The migrants lose out and the solidarity between states falls by the wayside.” 

Pointing to the significant Syrian refugee burden shouldered by neigbouring countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon Sommaruga said that “it is not possible for a few European countries to take in all the refugees”. 

The Swiss president also flagged up some of the causes for the large scale migration of people around the world, including well-educated, young people from European countries. 

“We have to acknowledge that we have not yet succeeded in achieving anything close to a fair global distribution of wealth,” she said. “Nor have we succeeded in establishing the rule of law as the norm.” 

Strengthening the UN 

Sommaruga also listed three priorities for ensuring the United Nations continues to have a positive impact on the ground: peace and security, human rights and UN reform.

She highlighted the importance of finding a political solution to conflicts citing peace talks and dialogues held in the country concerning Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iran. Sommaruga also stressed the importance of conflict prevention and said that the UN must “strengthen its conflict prevention capacities so that tensions are detected early and violent conflicts do not break out in the first place”.

As far as human rights are concerned, the Swiss president said that key priorities for Switzerland would be “the abolition of the death penalty, the enforcement of the prohibition of torture and the promotion of women’s and children’s rights as well as the protection of human rights defenders”. She also confirmed that Switzerland will be seeking election to the Human Rights Council in 2016-18.

Sommaruga also supported the reform of the UN governance system in order to build “a modern and effective UN”. She reiterated Switzerland’s commitment to providing “fit-for-purpose” infrastructure in Geneva through support of the Strategic Heritage Plan aimed at renovating the Palais des Nations. and agencies

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