Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey has urged improvements in the way the United Nations operates and called on member states to fulfil their political duties.This content was published on September 26, 2007 - 21:15
Speaking at the opening of the UN's 62nd General Assembly in New York, she described the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar as "alarming" and urged all sides to engage in dialogue to resolve the situation.
"The international community has approved a great many development objectives in recent decades," Calmy-Rey told world leaders on Wednesday.
"Unfortunately, the [UN's operational] system remains fragmented and the transaction costs – borne to a great extent by the beneficiary countries themselves – are very high."
While acknowledging that the UN had embarked on a process of reform to respond more effectively to global challenges, Calmy-Rey said to strengthen the UN's credibility and efficiency, "we must now demonstrate that we have the political determination to bring these reforms to completion".
She noted solid progress made this year – citing the start of work by the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council – but she also saw a need for a "general improvement in the Security Council's working methods".
"More efficient management and better utilisation of the resources available remain a serious challenge for the organisation," she said, welcoming the decision of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to make UN efficiency one of his priorities.
Calmy-Rey also addressed the use of force on Wednesday by the military rulers of Myanmar (formerly Burma) against pro-democracy demonstrators.
"The situation in Myanmar is alarming," she told the General Assembly, adding that Switzerland favoured a dialogue among all parties involved under the leadership of the UN secretary-general's special envoy on Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari.
The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday afternoon to discuss the crisis in Myanmar. The 15 council nations were to be briefed by Gambari at the closed-door session.
Calmy-Rey spoke after Myanmar's government said security forces had opened fire on a crowd of around 10,000 anti-government demonstrators after they failed to disperse in the main city of Yangon, killing one person.
Dissident groups claimed the casualty count was higher, with as many as five people killed, including Buddhist monks.
The Swiss president reiterated Switzerland's condemnation of terrorism in all forms – "the fight against terrorism remains a priority".
She added: "There can be no peace or security without international justice. In this context, Switzerland supports the work of the International Criminal Court. For this power to be effective however, the Court must have the full support of the international community."
Environmental problems were also described by the Swiss president as a "threat to security".
"While we have developed international mechanisms and institutions to combat underdevelopment and to promote peace and respect for human rights, our efforts in relation to environmental challenges have not gone far enough," she said, calling for ambitious targets to be set for the second stage of the Kyoto Protocol.
On development, Calmy-Rey noted that "we are at the half-way point in time for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. While there is no denying that progress has been made at a number of levels, much still remains to be done".
She added: "All stakeholders – governments, multilateral institutions, non-governmental organisations and the private sector – need to combine their efforts across a wide front and at all levels: national, regional and international."
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Switzerland and the UN
The debate over joining the UN began to gain some momentum in Switzerland towards the end of the 1960s. The government presented its first UN report in 1969, which concluded that it was too early to join.
It was not until 1977 that the government adopted membership as a goal. But the public and the cantons were not ready to follow suit: in March 1986 they overwhelmingly rejected the idea at the ballot box.
It was not until the mid-1990s that politicians tried again. In 1998 the government presented its fourth UN report, declaring membership as a "strategic goal". Switzerland became the 190th member of the UN four years later.
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