Three days after joining the UN, the Swiss foreign minister has outlined the country's policy priorities to the General Assembly in New York.This content was published on September 13, 2002 - 21:09
Joseph Deiss said that Switzerland aimed to use its membership of the world body to foster peace and security by promoting human rights and development.
Switzerland voted in a referendum last March to accede to the UN after considerable debate about the impact such a move would have on the nation's independence and sovereignty.
Deiss reiterated that Switzerland's membership of the world body should not alter its neutral status.
"But our neutral status in no way diminishes our desire for cooperation," he noted. "On the contrary, it is an advantage for our peace activities."
While Bern has said it is committed to reaching peace and global security, it has ruled out any participation in UN peace enforcement operations.
Rather, Switzerland intends to use its position in the UN to promote "human security", Deiss told the Assembly.
"This includes stopping the recruitment of child soldiers, eliminating anti-personnel mines, and stopping the proliferation of small arms."
On the sensitive topic of Iraq, Deiss said that any action to force Baghdad to disarm should be done through the UN. He warned that "only the UN can confer international legitimacy to an action against Iraq."
Human rights and development
Deiss made an impassioned plea to the Assembly to work to uphold human rights and fight the exploitation of men, women and children.
Switzerland will adopt the draft Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture this year, Deiss said. "It is most necessary, and we have been supporting this initiative for years."
Deiss also told the UN that fighting poverty and disregard for the rights of minorities were top priorities for Switzerland.
In its capacity as the depository state of the Geneva Conventions, Deiss said that Switzerland felt a special responsibility to defend international humanitarian law.
He highlighted Switzerland's recent efforts to encourage the conflicting sides in the Middle East to respect the conventions.
"We advocate two mechanisms: one for promoting dialogue to allow the Parties to settle problems concerning the application of international humanitarian law; the second, a monitoring mechanism," Deiss said.
He also reiterated Swiss support for the new International Criminal Court (ICC) and said Bern was committed to convincing countries like the United States to sign or ratify the court's founding statutes.
Deiss ended his speech by reminding the Assembly that Switzerland is the home of the UN's European headquarters and pledged full Swiss support to the international organisation.
swissinfo, Samantha Tonkin
In 1986 the Swiss rejected UN membership by a clear majority.
Switzerland finally voted to join the UN in March this year.
It will be one of 190 members.
Switzerland contributes around SFr500 million annually to the UN.
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