Ten days after taking office, UN Secretary-General António Guterres met with Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter in Geneva today. At the meeting Mr Guterres set out his priorities in detail, while Mr Burkhalter assured the new UN Secretary-General of Switzerland’s continued support and formally invited him to pay an official visit to Bern.
Conflict prevention and UN reform dominated the discussion – two issues which the new UN Secretary-General has made his top priorities, and on which Switzerland has long taken a proactive stance, as evidenced by the appeal it launched on 13 June 2016 to put human rights at the heart of conflict prevention.
Mr Burkhalter also argued that the tremendous potential of International Geneva should be harnessed more effectively, adding that this centre of global governance could better leverage its expertise for the greater benefit of the UN system and the international community, particularly in the fields of peace and security, human rights, humanitarian aid, migration and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Likewise, Mr Guterres, who was based in Geneva for several years during his term as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, spoke of the wide and extensive capabilities of the international actors working in International Geneva today.
A further item on the agenda was the ‘Strategic Heritage Plan’. This project to renovate the Palais des Nations, home of the UN in Geneva, is of utmost importance to the UN and also to Switzerland as the host state; construction work is scheduled to start this year.
The two men also discussed the UN Cyprus talks, expressing a shared hope that the meeting in Geneva will pave the way for a lasting solution to the long-running conflict.
Both highlighted the excellent cooperation in the area of good offices and agreed that the United Nations played a key role in mediation and that its capacity in this regard must be strengthened.
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