Around 320 representatives of Switzerland (ambassadors, consuls-general, heads of SDC cooperation offices as well as senior managers from the Federal Administration) are meeting from 22 to 25 August 2016 at the annual Ambassadors and International Network Conference. This year’s conference is being held in the Palais des Nations, the UN’s headquarters in Geneva, and will focus on Switzerland’s role as a host country and stakeholder in multilateral diplomacy.
Following the welcome speech given by UN Director-General Michael Møller, Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Didier Burkhalter used his opening address to talk about Switzerland’s candidature for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2023–24 term. He noted that as both a full member of the organisation and the home of the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland is an innovative, assertive and reliable partner to the UN. In addition, he said, Switzerland’s contributions in the fields of humanitarian aid, international humanitarian law and human rights, conflict prevention, the rule of law, the fight against poverty and global environmental issues are held in high esteem around the world. He emphasised that the country intends to hone and amplify its priorities in these areas in the next few years. Following the opening of the conference, Mr Burkhalter met with Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s minister of foreign affairs and guest speaker at the conference, for bilateral talks.
The first two days of the conference will be devoted to panel discussions and workshops tackling current foreign policy issues and global challenges, including issues surrounding peace and security, sustainable development, migration, global health and economic cooperation. Violent extremism, weapons of mass destruction, the impact of changing environmental conditions on security policy (environmental security) and the use of information technology will also be discussed with experts from the UN, civil society and the private sector. These discussions are an opportunity to demonstrate tangibly that Switzerland, as an active member and host of the UN in Geneva, has a wide range of tools to hand to contribute to solving global problems and promoting peace and security. On Tuesday afternoon, the President of the Swiss Confederation, Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, as well as Federal Councillors Doris Leuthard, Simonetta Sommaruga and Alain Berset and Federal Chancellor Walter Thurnherr will address the ambassadors.
The programme for Wednesday 24 August has been organised by the City and Canton of Geneva and includes several visits to state and private institutions. The ambassadors will also meet with François Longchamp, a member of Geneva’s Cantonal Council.
On Thursday, conference participants are invited to attend the president’s annual outing, which will stop at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne (where they will also get a taste of the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics), Aigle Castle and a manufacturing plant in Romont. Members of the Vaud and Fribourg cantonal governments are expected to be present at the stops in Lausanne and Aigle.
The tradition of the Ambassadors and International Network Conference dates back to 1887, when the then President of the Confederation, Numa Droz, invited the heads of the five missions that existed at the time – Paris, Vienna, Rome, Berlin and Washington – to attend a conference.
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