President of the Swiss Confederation Guy Parmelin and Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis set priorities in New York for sustainability and political resolution of conflicts

Bern, 23.09.2021 - President of the Swiss Confederation Guy Parmelin and FDFA head Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis set various thematic priorities during the high-level week marking the opening of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. At the virtual UN Summit on Food Systems, Mr Parmelin explained what Switzerland intends to do to help shape the transformation towards sustainable food systems at home and abroad. Mr Cassis chaired a high-level event on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen with Sweden's minister of foreign affairs, Ann Linde, and took part in an event on the Libyan peace process. The federal councillors also held bilateral talks in New York on various topics, including Switzerland's candidature for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Mr Parmelin's speech at the UN Summit on Food Systems on 23 September will focus on the 2030 Sustainable Development Strategy adopted by the Federal Council and the related Action Plan for the period 2021–2023. The Action Plan includes the target of halving the level of avoidable food losses on a per capita basis compared to 2017. At the virtual summit, Mr Parmelin presened the roadmap Switzerland has adopted to achieve a transformation towards sustainable food systems by 2030: In addition to reducing food losses, another goal is for Switzerland's population to follow the recommendations of the Swiss food pyramid even more closely when planning their meals. Furthermore, the per capita carbon footprint for food consumption is to be markedly reduced. And, last, the number of farms engaged in particularly environmentally and animal-friendly food production is to be increased. The road map sets out concrete measures to achieve these goals.

In the run-up to the UN food systems summit hosted by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Mr Parmelin spoke with the presidents of Costa Rica and Senegal, Carlos Alvarado Quesada and Macky Sall, about innovative approaches to sustainable food systems and agreed on common priorities with them. These include the promotion of agroecological farming principles, support for smallholder farms and the development of inclusive digital financial instruments for smallholder farmers in rural areas.

Talks on possible solutions for Yemen and Libya

Mr Cassis also used the high-level week as an opportunity to discuss current political developments. Together with his Swedish counterpart Ann Linde, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs Per Olsson Fridh, and EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič, he chaired an event on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. He stressed that in view of the humanitarian situation in the region, support was still urgently needed and Switzerland would therefore increase its contribution. At a ministerial meeting on the peace process in Libya, Mr Cassis called for free and fair elections in the country. He also emphasised Switzerland's commitment to peaceful conflict resolution and to strengthening human rights and international humanitarian law within the framework of the Berlin Process.

Bilateral meetings

Mr Parmelin and Mr Cassis also took advantage of their stay in New York to hold bilateral talks with various heads of state and government as well as ministers. President Parmelin met, among others, with Maia Sandu, President of Moldova, and with Colombian President Iván Duque, with whom he also discussed the development of bilateral economic relations. Mr Parmelin also met with Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. He also discussed the potential for a free trade agreement with Vietnamese President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc. In a meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, he also highlighted the contributions that International Geneva is making to address current challenges.

Mr Cassis also met with Iran's new Foreign Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, for the first time, and explained Switzerland's good offices under various protecting power mandates. They also discussed bilateral relations and the future of the nuclear deal. Bilateral issues and the future configuration of relations between Switzerland and the European Union were the focus of talks with his European counterparts, Evarist Bartolo of Malta, Anže Logar of Slovenia and Ann Linde of Sweden. Mr Parmelin also discussed issues of sustainability, digitalisation, prosperity, science and research with his African counterparts – Kandia Camara of Côte d'Ivoire and Raychelle Omamo of Kenya – in keeping with the Federal Council's Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy. He also held bilateral talks with the President of the UN General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, with the Secretary General of the Francophonie, Louise Mushikiwabo, and with the Secretary General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Nayef Al-Hajraf. Switzerland's candidature for a seat on the UN Security Council was the subject of various bilateral talks. After 20 years of membership in the UN, Switzerland has submitted its candidature for the Security Council for the first time. The election for a seat for the period 2023–24 is expected to take place in June of next year.

Making vaccines available sooner

On the margins of the UN General Assembly, Mr Parmelin took part in a virtual COVID-19 summit on Wednesday. The Global COVID-19 Summit, convened by US President Joe Biden, aims to strengthen vaccination efforts worldwide and to ensure preparedness for future pandemics. In his statement, Mr Parmelin said: "We are now called upon to work with all stakeholders to create the necessary production capacities and make vaccines available more quickly."

Taking care of the world like winegrowers take care of their vines

On Tuesday, 21 September, the President of the Swiss Confederation addressed the UN General Assembly representing his country. He emphasised the lessons to be learnt from the current pandemic, and compared it to the effects bad weather can have on a vineyard. "The COVID-19 pandemic is in many ways like hail or frost that can cause severe damage to a vineyard: both are unpredictable and disruptive. Good winegrowers live with these risks and know how to deal with such strokes of fate." He added that it should be clear to all "that we need to anticipate future crises, prepare for them and show solidarity to create a more resilient world." Long-term perspectives and scientific knowledge, research and education are essential to achieve this: "access to knowledge and expertise enables us to anticipate and prepare for our future. We must take care of the planet like winegrowers take care of their vines," said Parmelin.

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