Switzerland's relationship with the United Nations will be a major topic at the annual congress of Swiss expatriates in the mountain resort of Davos this weekend. The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, will address the Swiss-UN issue in his keynote speech.
The organisers expect about 500 people from all corners of the globe to attend the three-day congress. Politicians and personalities from the business community and cultural organisations will debate the UN ties in a series of panel discussions.
Rudolf Wyder, director of the Organisation for the Swiss Abroad, says the focus of the meeting is not about whether Switzerland should finally become a full member of the world body.
"We want to give a specific picture of the UN as seen from the inside. We have invited a number of people who have witnessed how the UN works, what the Swiss contribution is, and how it affects our country," he told swissinfo.
Switzerland is the only country, besides the Vatican, not to be a full member of the UN, but it contributes financially, as well as with expertise and manpower.
Next year Swiss voters will decide at the ballot box on whether Switzerland should become a full member of the UN. A similar proposal was overwhelmingly rejected in 1986.
The Davos congress is preceded by a session of the Council of the Swiss Abroad, an assembly of about 150 people who represent the interests of the Swiss expatriates.
More than 590,000 registered Swiss nationals reside abroad, according to figures from the foreign ministry. Most of them live in countries that are part of the European Union, and seven out of 10 Swiss expatriates have dual nationality.
The biggest community of Swiss expatriates lives in neighbouring France (154,730), followed by the United States (68,821) and Germany (68,564). A sizeable number of Swiss nationals have also settled in Canada (35,177), Britain (25,416), Australia (19,536) and South Africa (8,769).
The Organisation for the Swiss Abroad was founded in 1916. It acts as an umbrella for about 750 Swiss clubs and institutions around the world. There are also 17 Swiss schools located in 10 countries.
by Urs Geiser