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Ambassador hails Geneva’s diplomatic role

Blaise Godet became Swiss ambassador to the UN in Geneva earlier this year Keystone

The new Swiss ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva has told swissinfo that his top priority is to promote security and human rights.

Blaise Godet also said that Geneva’s role on the international scene had been boosted by Switzerland joining the UN in 2002.

The ambassador took up his new post on November 1 this year, replacing Jean-Marc Boulgaris on his retirement. Godet was previously head of political affairs at the Swiss foreign ministry.

Godet has two main tasks: the first is representing and defending Swiss interests at the UN and the other international organisations in Geneva, and the second is to promote Geneva along with the Genevan authorities as an international centre.

The diplomat is also permanent representative to the UN Conference on Disarmament.

swissinfo: What are the main challenges of your new role?

Blaise Godet: Regarding international Geneva, a very important issue is upgrading security. Not that Geneva is less safe than it used to be, but as for everywhere in the world, because of recent events we have to pay particular attention to security, and this will be one of the main tasks for the years ahead.

swissinfo: And in your other role as head of the Swiss Mission to the UN in Geneva?

B.G.: Switzerland is very much engaged in the battlefront of human rights and we would very much like to see a streamlining and even an improvement of the working methods of the [Geneva-based UN] Commission on Human Rights.

Switzerland is a candidate for the commission for 2007-2009 and we do hope that we will be elected. So we have to pave the way for a successful candidacy.

swissinfo: You are Swiss ambassador to the UN in Geneva – how does that differ from role of ambassador to the UN in New York?

B.G.: Maybe a difference is here you work on Swiss ground. Maybe this is a local advantage, the local man is more likely to be listened to and this is something that, as a diplomat, I do appreciate.

Geneva is one of the very few diplomatic postings, if not the only one, where the views of the Swiss representative are not only listened to, but also sometimes even solicited.

swissinfo: How important would you say Geneva is as an international centre?

B.G.: Geneva is different to New York. It is one of the hotspots of intergovernmental cooperation because it covers the whole social, humanitarian, refugee, environmental, scientific and even nuclear research spectrum.

I wouldn’t say that it is more important or less important than New York, I’d just say that it is the other side of the same coin. Geneva is also the place for action in the field of multilateral trade diplomacy.

swissinfo: Has Geneva gained in importance since Switzerland joined the UN?

B.G.: Yes. The membership of Switzerland in the UN has clearly helped – has even, to a certain extent, boosted Geneva.

Having said that, I would not give the impression that we are complacent. To host international organisations is a challenge and an honour, but basically it’s hard work.

If we want to keep the international organisations currently located in Geneva, even if we want to expand international Geneva, like a good hotel manager we have to take good care of the customers.

So basically one of my missions is to make sure that the international community feels happy, safe and can work in an environment they like.

swissinfo-interview: Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Geneva

Born in 1947 in Neuchâtel, Blaise Godet trained as a lawyer before entering diplomatic service in 1974.

Godet previously held ambassadorial postings in Bangkok (from 1993) and Cairo (from 1997).

He was made head of political affairs at the foreign ministry in 2001 and Swiss ambassador to the UN in Geneva this year.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR