Switzerland’s priorities at the UN’s 71st General Assembly

Press release, 07.09.2016

Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, President of the Swiss Confederation, will set out Switzerland’s priorities in relation to the UN for the coming year on 20 September at the opening of the UN’s 71st General Assembly. He will also take part in various events and meet with heads of state and government. During this ministerial week in New York, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter will also represent Switzerland at various events, focusing in particular on international security, and will conduct bilateral talks. Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga will also take part in the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants to be held on the eve of the opening of the General Assembly.

Flags at the UN headquarters.
Mid-September the UN General Assembly and the Summit for Refugees and Migrants begin in New York. ©

At its meeting on Wednesday, the Federal Council approved the foreign policy priorities that Switzerland aims to implement during the UN’s 71st General Assembly. It also agreed that President Schneider-Ammann and Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter will represent Switzerland in New York at the opening of the General Assembly. In New York, Switzerland will prioritise the two issues of peacebuilding and international security, as well as the reform of UN institutions in order to enhance their efficiency. These issues reflect Switzerland’s values, interests and traditional role and are also in line with the priorities set by the Federal Council for Switzerland’s work within the UN during the 2012-22 period: security and reform. 
The general debate at the 71st session of the UN’s General Assembly, where President Schneider-Ammann will speak on behalf of Switzerland, will open on 20 September. He will address the most significant current world issues as well as the priorities of Swiss foreign policy in the context of the UN. In addition to peacebuilding and security, these also include promoting free trade, liberal framework conditions and innovation for economic development, prosperity and employment. The President will also attend various events, including a high-level UN meeting on antimicrobial resistance – a global public health challenge in the face of which the international community is called upon to do more ¬– and a summit on the role of non-state actors in tackling migration issues. President Schneider-Ammann will also use the visit to meet with various heads of state and government. The ministerial week will be interspersed by high-level meetings which will be attended by many heads of state and government and ministers from UN member states coming to New York especially for the occasion.
During the ministerial week, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter will take part in various events focusing, in particular, on the importance of improving the coordination of human rights and security within the UN. In this respect, Federal Councillor Burkhalter will chair – together with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Minister for Foreign Affairs – a high-level discussion on increasing recognition of human rights as an early warning mechanism in conflict prevention. On 13 June of this year, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council, Switzerland launched an appeal concerning this issue, which has since then garnered the support of 70 member states. Preventing violent extremism and combating terrorism as well as efforts to abolish the death penalty worldwide will also be amongst Mr Burkhalter’s main priorities in New York. Switzerland will also continue to pursue its initiative on ‘water, peace and security’. This involves stepping up and facilitating dialogue about water as an instrument of cooperation and peace instead of a source of conflict as well as intensifying dialogue on the institutional governance of water in the UN system. He will also meet with a number of foreign affairs ministers for various bilateral discussions.

Simonetta Sommaruga at the summit on migration
Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga will attend the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants on Monday 19 September. Here Switzerland will seek, in particular, to strengthen measures aimed at preventing forced displacement and protecting refugees and migrants in vulnerable situations. Switzerland will also focus on promoting the economic autonomy of displaced persons. It will also underline the role played by International Geneva as a key location for international dialogue on migration.      

Further information:

Dossier 71st UN General Assembly

Report on the implementation of Switzerland’s priorities for the 70th session of the UN General Assembly (de)(pdf, 100kb)

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