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Cabinet seeks to boost country's role as host

Geneva is already the headquarters of the WHO (pictured) and many other international organisations

(Keystone)

Switzerland is preparing a new law in a bid to strengthen its role as host country for international organisations and conferences.

The government said a legal framework was necessary to make its policy more transparent.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said Switzerland had a long tradition as host country and had earned international recognition for its role.

"But we must not rest on our laurels if we want to keep our strong position," she told a news conference where she presented cabinet plans still to be discussed by parliament.

She added the new legislation would help ensure economic, political and cultural assets of Switzerland.

The aim of the law is to create a more accountable and focused policy as a host country, according to a foreign ministry statement.

The draft law lists all the privileges and perks for possible beneficiaries in addition to the prerogatives and financial contributions in place over the past 50 years which are currently based directly on the Swiss constitution and international common law.

Financial compensation

Cantonal authorities, which are responsible for security during conferences, are to be compensated to the tune of up to SFr3 million ($2.4 million) a year.

The foreign ministry statement said the planned legislation would also allow the current funding policy towards international organisations to continue. The government has earmarked SFr18.4 million for this purpose in next year's budget.

A proposal in the draft law also foresees giving the government the power to impose labour standards for employees at foreign embassies in Switzerland.

More than 220 international organisations and non-governmental groups, including major sports federations, have their seats in Switzerland.

Geneva is the European headquarters of the United Nations and hosts several UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The football and ice-hockey world governing bodies are based in Zurich.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

After New York, Geneva is the second major headquarters for UN organisations and agencies. The city is known as the most active world stage for multilateral diplomacy, with 155 foreign states represented.

Out of the 30 international organisations based in Switzerland, 22 have their headquarters in Geneva.

Seven of these belong to the UN system. The other main organisations are the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Conference on Disarmament, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

More than 200 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have their seat in Geneva. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the European Broadcasting Union and the World Council of Churches also have their headquarters in Geneva.

In total, the city is home to 35,000 diplomats and international civil servants and 2,400 NGO staff members.

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