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Swiss president blasts UN member states for ‘blocking’ decisions

Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga gave a video speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on September 23, 2020 Keystone / Rick Bajornas / Un Photo Handout

Simonetta Sommaruga, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency, has criticised United Nations member states for “standing in the way” of the global body’s work, in her video speech to the General Assembly on Wednesday.

This content was published on September 24, 2020 - 09:49
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She took a swipe at members – without naming any specific countries – that “block decisions or refuse to implement them, undermine resolutions or flout their principles”.

“This weakens the UN and it weakens all of us, too,” she told the assembly in her video presentation.

She urged states to assume their responsibilities.

“If we want a strong UN, then we – member states – must strongly support the organisation and work together to pursue its objectives. Because the goals of the UN are our goals.”

This year’s event, which marks the 75th anniversary of the UN, is taking place via video link, owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Not always easy’

After years of hesitation, Switzerland finally joined the UN in 2002 after a close public vote. Since becoming the 190th UN member, Swiss attitudes towards membership and other UN-related issues have been largely positive.

“My country is proud to contribute to the achievement of the UN's goals, even if it is not always easy.” She added that it is difficult to translate the goals Switzerland has set itself – on climate or gender equality for example – into national policy.

“My country is prepared to take on more responsibilities, which is why for the first time, Switzerland is a candidate for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for the period 2023–2024.”

Sommaruga also underlined the role of Geneva in promoting peace and in the field of international security. She also highlighted that the western Swiss city is the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Virtual debate

World leaders convened electronically on September 22 for the six-day virtual General Assembly, which is unique in the UN’s 75-year history.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the first virtual “general debate” exhorting member states to unite and tackle the era’s towering problems: the coronavirus, the “economic calamity” it unleashed and the risk of a new Cold War between the United States and China.

Political differences and anger were evident in various speeches. China and Iran clashed with the US— via pre-recorded videos from home — and leaders expressed frustration and anger at the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which the UN chief has called “the number one global security threat in our world today”.

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