UNESCO General Conference: Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis advocates Executive Board seat for Switzerland

Bern, 14.11.2019 - Speaking at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis called for minorities to be respected, pointing out that this is essential to democratic processes. He also said that Switzerland supports the reform proposals intended to enhance the organisation’s effectiveness and explained the strengths Switzerland can bring to the UNESCO Executive Board. Switzerland is campaigning to gain a seat on the Executive Board in the election on 20 November 2019.

Education for all, scientific cooperation to protect biodiversity and drinking water resources, preserving cultural heritage and cultural diversity, and promoting the freedom of the press and access to information: these are the goals through which UNESCO intends to further mutual understanding and lasting peace and stability between peoples.

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis stressed at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris that this requires the will to develop mutual understanding. “Every week, I meet with my colleagues in government: three women and three men from several of our country’s cantons. Four have German as their mother tongue, two French,” he said. The head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs explained that, since language is an expression of culture, the Federal Council itself is also multicultural: “The whole thing is based on our desire to understand each other, and this understanding between cultures is a factor in Switzerland’s stability and prosperity.”

According to Cassis, this pluralism must also be demanded at the multilateral level, for example with regard to the right to information, exchange between young people and the protection of cultural heritage – all things to which UNESCO is committed. He added that consolidation in the media landscape and the supply of information also needs to be addressed in order to defend pluralism.

The Federal Councillor also used his attendance at the General Conference to advocate for a seat for Switzerland on the organisation’s Executive Board, noting that, in 2019, Switzerland is looking back on 100 years of multilateralism in Geneva and celebrating 70 years since it joined UNESCO. UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education has its headquarters in Geneva, as does the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which was originally created by a UNESCO initiative. Thanks to its linguistic and cultural diversity, said Cassis, Switzerland is emblematic of the organisation’s values, and it has a number of World Heritage Sites that it must actively work to preserve. He added that Switzerland is already an active member of several UNESCO bodies and supports the reforms with which Director-General Audrey Azoulay aims to enhance the organisation’s effectiveness. Providing CHF 3.7 million annually, Switzerland is among the largest contributors relative to size of population. The new Executive Board members for the period from 2019 to 2023 will be elected on 20 November 2019. The Executive Board reviews the work programme and budget plan and prepares the agenda for the General Conference.

The 40th General Conference runs from 12 to 27 November 2019. Among others, Federal Councillor Alain Berset will travel to Paris during the session to take part in a cultural forum. The General Conference is UNESCO’s highest decision-making and control body. It meets every two years at the organisation’s headquarters in Paris to set objectives and budgets and to approve the programmes put forward by the Executive Board.

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Last modification 03.10.2018

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