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Swiss criticise UN reform plan as too vague

Peter Maurer presented the Swiss position in New York Keystone

The Swiss ambassador to the United Nations has called for key elements of a draft document on reform of the world body to be made more specific.

This content was published on June 21, 2005 - 21:32

Peter Maurer's demands come ahead of a meeting of heads of state in New York in September, when it is hoped world leaders will approve the most far-ranging reforms of the UN in its history.

The sweeping reforms focus on development, security and human rights, and include calls for an enlarged Security Council, a Swiss suggestion for the creation of a new, permanent human-rights council and efforts to make the UN administration more transparent.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Maurer called for "stronger and more specific wording" of the proposal to make the Security Council "more representative, more transparent, more accountable and more inclusive".

But he refused to take a stand on the proposal to expand the number of permanent members, saying instead that the reforms could be achieved "irrespective of [the Council’s] future size and structure".

Divisions

Member states are divided on the plan, with opposition to Germany’s desire to become a new permanent member, and tensions between China and Japan over Tokyo’s bid.

Maurer said a new human-rights council – to be based in Geneva – would need to have more authority than the current discredited Commission on Human Rights in order to be effective.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said recently that the "commission's declining credibility has cast a shadow on the reputation of the UN system as a whole".

The Swiss ambassador expressed hope that the creation of the new human-rights body would go ahead since it already had the support of the United States and because China had softened its opposition to the idea.

Maurer added that Switzerland supported the request by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to "double its resources".

"Peacebuilding"

Another key element of the draft document calls for the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission.

Maurer said Switzerland fully supported the idea of such a body, whose focus would be to improve coordination between short-term peacekeeping and long-term stabilisation efforts.

However, Maurer said the document would have to include "further and even more precise language with regard to mandate, composition, institutional set-up and financing".

Maurer also spoke about planned changes to the UN’s management structure, calling it "an integral part of the reform package".

He warned that without "swift and consistent progress in this area, the credibility of the entire reform process could be affected".

To ensure transparency and accountability, he said Switzerland wanted to see a strengthening of the independence of the watchdog unit, the Office of Internal Oversight.

The office in its current form failed to uncover the conflict of interest scandal surrounding Annan and his son Kojo, which concerns the awarding of contracts under Iraq’s oil-for-food programme.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Swiss voters said yes to joining the UN in March 2002.
Switzerland officially became a member in September of the same year.
Previously, Switzerland held observer status, and was a member of each UN body.

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In brief

Heads of state will gather at the United Nations in September to discuss sweeping reforms of the international body.

The Swiss government has proposed the creation of a human-rights council to replace the discredited Commission on Human Rights.

It has called for more precise language to be included in the draft text of the reform document.

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