Mr Director-General of the United Nations, Madame Counsellor d’Etat, Mr President of Green Cross International, Ladies and gentlemen, Dear colleagues,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to this conference, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Green Cross International.

In our rapidly changing world, 20 years is a long period. In 1993, the year when Green Cross International came into being, our world was gong through a series of fundamental transformations. History seemed to have reached a turning point. It was a time of great hopes.

Martin Dahinden, SwitzerlandThree years after the implosion of the Soviet Union, many newly independent countries were rapidly transforming into mostly stable and successful democracies that would fundamentally change the face of Europe.

1993 was also the year when Nelson Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize and South Africa constitutionally abandoned racial discrimination.

And it was the year after the ground-breaking Earth Summit in Rio that paved the way for a better understanding, awareness and management of the world’s limited resources.

Yet, at the same time, in 1993 the world was a place of various crises. In Europe, the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia was taking its course, and wars in Somalia, Afghanistan and in the Caucuses caused the deaths of thousands and the displacement of millions. Parts of Africa were struck by serious famine, and the accelerated rise of the sea level was a worrisome warning sign of the devastating affects of climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen, the world has changed since 1993, in various regards certainly for the better. However, the challenges we are facing have not decreased in complexity, scale or in number. Unemployment rates are high, environmental threats have risen in number, unsustainable consumption and production patterns, as well as demographic growth, have increased pressure on natural resources, and persistent inequalities continue to erode social cohesion.

We are here today to discuss some of these crucial issues that will be decisive for the future of our planet. Switzerland intends to play an important role not only in discussing these challenges, but also in tackling them. Our country enjoys a proven record of international solidarity, which stems from the country’s decades long humanitarian tradition, as well as from its continuous efforts to contribute to a more equal, more sustainable world.

As a small country, we are aware of how our wellbeing is dependent on the prosperity of others, both near and far. And we are equally aware of the need to tackle today’s global challenges in close collaboration with international partners. Therefore Switzerland advocates the strengthening of a global partnership for development in the new framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, and take forward the sustainable development agenda.

Multilateral cooperation between States will remain important. At the same time Switzerland aims at strengthening its ties to actors from civil society, such as Green Cross International, with the private sector and with the scientific community.

We have to look at sustainability as a complex concept with at least three dimensions: the social, the economic and the environmental. Hence, our overarching goal is to achieve sustainable development and eradicate extreme poverty while at the same time respecting planetary boundaries, fostering peace and security, and adhering to human rights obligations and commitments.

With respect to the environmental aspect of sustainable development, which is the core competence of Green Cross International, Switzerland will put specific emphasis on challenges related to water security, and I was very happy to hear the eloquent words of the Director-General of the United Nations with that regard. This is not only about drinking water and sanitation, but also about water resources, wastewater management and water quality.

Furthermore, Switzerland will pay particular attention to challenges in the field of sustainable consumption and production of goods and issues linked to disaster risk reduction, sustainable energy, biodiversity and sustainable cities, among others.

I am convinced that many of you who are present here today share our goals and our vision. For this reason we have strong hopes in the continuing and strengthening of the collaboration with Green Cross beyond 2015. Talking together is the first important step, yet it has to be followed by collaborative action. It is only by joining forces and acting together that we will achieve the changes we want to see in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, some of the challenges that characterized the state of the world 20 years ago have been successfully tackled. Even so, many challenges remain and new ones emerge, the positive changes we have witnessed over the past two decades show that progress is possible, that history can be actively shaped by collaborating, acting and being persistent. This is a strong message and it implies that the causes of the world will depend on each and every one of us.

Let us therefore look at today’s gathering as an opportunity to strengthen our ties and to get better equipped for the challenges ahead.

With this thought in mind, and with this spirit, I would like again to congratulate Green Cross International on its 20th anniversary and wish you a fruitful exchange here in Geneva.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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