Former Swiss leader elected as next President of General Assembly

11 June 2010

A former leader of Switzerland who was instrumental in his country joining the United Nations eight years ago was today chosen by the world body’s 192 Member States to serve as the next President of the General Assembly.

Joseph Deiss, 64, who was elected this morning by acclamation, will succeed Ali Treki when he takes over the presidency in mid-September as the General Assembly’s 65th session begins.

Accepting the post “with great hope and solid conviction,” Mr. Deiss told the Assembly that the world has entered an era of increasing interdependence.

“Everything is moving faster and coming closer,” he said. “New global challenges have also emerged – climate change, economic and financial crises, terrorism and global crime, extremism of all kinds – in addition to the perennial problems of war and poverty. They all require collective and urgent responses. More than ever before, we need to act together to be effective.”

The President-elect later called on Member States today to return to the goals set out in the UN Charter and guide their work by the principles of peace, friendship and cooperation.

“I was struck by the importance that we give in the Charter to the idea of friendship that goes much further than just defending the interests of our countries,” he told journalists at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York.

Mr. Deiss’ first major event as President will be the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit in September, where world leaders will be asked to accelerate progress to reach the anti-poverty goals by their target date of 2015.

As a former economics professor, the President-elect said he would focus the Assembly’s agenda in 2010-11 on global governance in general and economic governance, as well as Security Council reform, climate change and biodiversity, and food security.

Earlier today, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro spoke on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in conveying congratulations to Mr. Deiss.

“The President-elect brings great experience to the job – as a scholar, as a parliamentarian, and as a government minister,” she said. “He knows the immense value of the United Nations, having led Switzerland’s accession campaign to the Organization.”

Despite having a UN office in Geneva, Switzerland did not sign on as a UN Member State until 2002 for fear that membership would tarnish its long-standing neutrality.

While serving as Swiss foreign minister between 1999 and 2002, Mr. Deiss worked to allay such concerns as headed of the accession bid. In 2004 he served as president of the Swiss Confederation for a year.


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