Image of the flags of the United Nations member states flying in front of the Palais des Nations in Geneva in 2014
In front of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, home to the United Nations, the flags of the 193 member states line the "Allée des drapeaux". © UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

With its 193 member states the United Nations Organization (UN) is the only organization capable of providing a forum that allows all the nations and actors on the world stage to come together to discuss the many issues of worldwide importance that arise. The UN is universal in a sense unmatched by any other organization, both in terms of the subjects it deals with, its members, its involvement in decision-making processes, in creating international norms and standards and its unrivalled international presence. Despite certain shortcomings, it enjoys a unique legitimacy throughout the world.

The range of challenges facing the world, notably security, peace, combating poverty, promoting human rights as well as safeguarding natural resources, make Switzerland’s involvement in the United Nations indispensable. Since joining the UN in September 2002, Switzerland has been an active and innovative member. Membership offers Switzerland the opportunity to participate in the search for solutions to global problems and to accept its share of responsibility for exerting a positive influence on world affairs. However, the UN also offers Switzerland the ideal forum within which to represent its own national interests.

The focus of Switzerland's activities at the UN is in three areas:

  • Launching and supporting its own initiatives
  • Strengthening the presence of Swiss nationals at all levels of the organization
  • The day-to-day activities of Switzerland’s permanent missions to the UN (Geneva, New York, Vienna) and of Swiss delegates with the United Nations' special organizations and programmes (Rome, Paris, Nairobi)

Geneva is the main seat of the United Nations in Europe and, with New York, is one of the two major centres of multilateral cooperation. Despite Switzerland’s relatively small size, thanks to “International Geneva” the Confederation is able to “box above its weight” in the international arena, making it that much easier to achieve foreign policy objectives.

73rd UN General Assembly

Logo de l'ONU au siège de l'organisation à New York.
End of September the UN General Assembly begins in New York. © Keystone

Switzerland's priorities are in line with the two key strategic areas for its commitment to the UN for the period 2012-22: peace and security, and UN reform.


Swiss initiatives

Achieving agreement between all states in the world is essential for dealing with the major challenges facing the world today, and contributes to the stability of the international system. It is therefore in the interests of Switzerland to help promote a strong and well-functioning UN. To this end it participates actively in the debates on UN reforms, and, by contributing ideas and pragmatic proposals helps to fashion solutions. Switzerland has managed to make itself heard on a number of questions including the creation of a Human Rights Council, reform of the Security Council, international policy on the environment, development cooperation and humanitarian aid, promotion of the rule of law, as well as on a number of financial and administrative issues.

Swiss nationals in top positions at the UN

The election of Joseph Deiss as President of the 65th Session of the General Assembly (14 September 2010 - 13 September 2011) underlines the fact that Switzerland can and does help to strengthen the UN’s multilateral system. Together with the appointment of other Swiss nationals to high positions within the United Nations, or as independent experts, it is further proof of the UN’s recognition of Switzerland’s commitment.