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UN General Assembly Swiss president calls for strong UN

Swiss President Doris Leuthard addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 19, 2017.


The world needs a strong United Nations to tackle challenges from climate change to inequality, Doris Leuthard told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. She also used the occasion to respond to a fiery speech by US President Donald Trump.

“No country, no actor alone can find solutions to the challenges of today. They are simply too big; they are too complex,” Leuthard, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, told the audience of diplomats in New York.

“Switzerland firmly believes that investing in a well-functioning multilateral system – and especially in an effective and efficient UN – is worthwhile. In view of the challenges and the interconnectedness of the world today, going it alone is not an option… We need the UN, and we need a strong UN.” 

Trump’s address – in which he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea – seemed to provoke Leuthard’s spontaneous shift from French to English, according to the Swiss News agency. She later said that his comments were “not in the spirit of the UN.”

Leuthard also praised recent progress made by UN member states, such as the 2030 Development Agenda, the Paris Climate Agreement, and ‘efforts to shift resources from post-conflict activities towards prevention’.

“Switzerland especially welcomes the reforms that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is implementing in the three areas of peace and security, development, and management,” she noted. “A strong UN system means an efficient and modern UN system.”

The Korea question

In her speech to the 193-member world body, Leuthard reminded diplomats of Switzerland’s position regarding the current tensions surrounding North Korea and its nuclear weapons programme.

“It firmly believes that a solution to the issue of nuclear weapons and security on the Korean peninsula can only be found through negotiations and a diplomatic process,” she said.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump escalated his threats against North Korea over its nuclear challenge, mocking its leader, Kim Jong Un, as a “rocket man”.

Trump offered a grim portrait of a world in peril, adopted a more confrontational approach to solving global challenges from Iran to Venezuela, and gave an unabashed defence of US sovereignty. 

Addressing the assembly, French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, said his country would not close the door to negotiations over the North Korea crisis and staunchly defended the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. 

Diplomacy Swiss president's UN intervention

Swiss president Doris Leuthard used her speech at the UN General Assembly Tuesday to respond not only to global issues, but also to Donald Trump.

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