In June 2020, the Federal Council adopted the priorities for the 75th UN General Assembly, which begins in September. Drawing on the four thematic focus areas of its Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23 (peace and security, sustainability, prosperity and digitalisation) and with a view to its candidature for a seat on the Security Council in 2023–24, Switzerland will pursue the following priorities:
- Dealing with the impact of COVID-19: COVID-19 poses enormous challenges for the whole world. Switzerland is committed to ensuring that the UN response is based on scientific evidence and benefits in particular the people who have been especially hard hit by the pandemic and its repercussions.
- UN reforms: If the UN is to meet the current challenges successfully, it must be efficient and effective. Switzerland therefore continues to support the UN Secretary-General's reforms and their implementation, focusing primarily on activities on the ground.
- Cybersecurity and digital governance: Developments in this area offer both opportunities and risks for people and society. Recognising that the UN is the most appropriate platform for the intergovernmental discussions that are necessary to achieve progress in this area, Switzerland participates in UN processes to address issues surrounding cybersecurity, cybercrime and digital governance. In this context, it works to ensure the applicability of international law in the digital space.
- International Geneva: Switzerland is a host state to many international organisations. In 2019, the Federal Council adopted a dispatch to strengthen Switzerland's position as a host state and a centre of excellence in global governance for the future.
Switzerland will continue to pursue its efforts in its long-standing areas of activity. In the field of peace and security, for example, it is engaged in conflict prevention, participating in various related processes, including the Special Session of the General Assembly against Corruption. In the area of sustainable development, efforts to tackle climate change and implement the 2030 Agenda remain key priorities. The collection of reliable data is also essential in order to be able to measure progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This is why Switzerland will host the next UN World Data Forum in Bern, which has had to be postponed until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the area of human rights, this year's focus is on freedom of expression, assembly and association, the fight against the death penalty, and women's rights.
Parliament's foreign affairs committees were consulted on the priorities.
Opening week under extraordinary circumstances
Heads of state and government from around the world normally travel to New York for the high-level opening of the UN General Assembly, which is an opportunity to meet one-on-one on the margins of the official events with other world leaders. Last year almost 150 heads of state and government attended the opening of the General Assembly. Because the COVID-19 pandemic has severely restricted large gatherings and international travel this year, the UN member states have decided to hold the opening week's meetings and events primarily via video conference over an extended two-week period from 21 September to 2 October. President Sommaruga and Mr Cassis will represent Switzerland remotely at the high-level week.
On 21 September, Mr Cassis will take part in an event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN. On the first day of the high-level general debate on 22 September, President Sommaruga will address the General Assembly on behalf of Switzerland. Ms Sommaruga will also take part in events on biodiversity, digital cooperation and women's rights during the two opening weeks.
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