Federal Council adopts report on postulate regarding the “Democratisation of the United Nations”

Press release, 04.12.2020

On 4 December 2020 the Federal Council adopted its report on the “Democratisation of the United Nations” in fulfilment of postulate 18.4111 from Council of States member Daniel Jositsch. In the report, the Federal Council concludes that there is no discernible democratic deficit within the UN. It maintains that the creation of new bodies such as a parliamentary assembly is not realistic in the current global political situation and, furthermore, is not necessarily in Switzerland's interest. At the same time, the Federal Council stresses the importance of reforms and sets out ideas for further opportunities for parliamentary involvement in the future.

The Federal Council's report begins by examining from various angles the question as to whether a democratic deficit exists within the UN. Here it addresses certain points of criticism regularly voiced, such as the lack of transparency or inclusiveness and too narrow a focus on a small number of issues.

No democratic deficit of the UN, but a need for reform
Based on its analysis, the Federal Council does not see a general democratic deficit at the UN. However, the Federal Council agrees that the UN needs to be reformed if it is to meet current and future challenges. Switzerland therefore actively supports the reform initiatives launched by the UN Secretary-General in 2017 and is paying close attention to their implementation. In addition to the major reform processes in three areas – the UN development system, management, and peace and security – Switzerland is also committed to further reforms, e.g. in the reviews of working methods of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN peacebuilding architecture.

Difficulties in creating a parliamentary assembly within the UN
A new parliamentary assembly within the UN, in addition to the existing UN General Assembly, could have various advantages. It could for example promote political dialogue and help to strengthen parliamentary oversight of international work. However, creating such an assembly would face many institutional and practical challenges. These include deciding on the number and election of members and the financing of such an assembly, as well as concerns about potentially undermining the UN General Assembly and whether the UN Charter would need to be amended.

The creation of a parliamentary assembly would be highly ambitious and only conceivable with broad international support. Such support does not currently exist and is not expected in the near future. Given the practical and institutional challenges and the current global political climate, the Federal Council concludes that creating a parliamentary assembly is not a realistic option at present. Also, given the potential disadvantages facing countries with smaller populations and the geopolitical shifts in weight, such an assembly would not be entirely in Switzerland's interest.

Opportunities for involving the Swiss Parliament 
The report closes with a chapter on ways already available to the Swiss Parliament to participate in shaping Switzerland's UN policy. In particular, the Federal Council believes that promoting cooperation between the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the UN could create interesting opportunities. The report also provides other ideas for increased parliamentary involvement, implementation of which would largely fall within the scope of Parliament's powers.

Report on postulate Jositsch “Democratisation of the United Nations” (DE)(pdf, 970kb)

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