Friday, February 21, 2014

The Swiss View: Didier Burkhalter

Speech by Mr. Didier Burkhalter, President of the Swiss Confederation at the opening of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (WEF) 2014, January 22, 2014

“Facing today’s Challenges - Working Together to Ensure the Future of Young Generations. Switzerland is ready to Contribute to this Goal.”

The World Economic Forum styles itself as “an independent international organization commented to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas." This non-profit organizations is made up of businesses, governments and civil societies driven by a mission to improve the state of the world. Centered in Geneva, Switzerland, they hold an annual meeting in Davon Switzerland. It is at this year’s WEF annual meeting that the fallowing speech was delivered by Didier Burkhalter. 

Didier Burkhalter, currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, has long been involved in Switzerland politics. Starting in 2003 as a member of the Swiss National Council, he has since moved his way through Head of Department of Home Affairs, in 2009, Vice President in 2013, and finally to Head of Foreign Affairs and President of Switzerland. He started as the Head in Foreign Affairs in 2012. Since, he has been committed to the OSCE meetings and events, and has recently put much effort and patients towards the Syria conflict. This next speech provides an outline his goals and wishes for Switzerland in the coming year. Having Assumed Presidency January 1st of this year, 2014, the speech at WEF was one of his first, in the position of President and Head of Foreign Affairs.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, 
Dear friends from around the world, united here in Switzerland,

Today, Switzerland welcomes you, and with you, the efforts of the world towards peace and progress.

Efforts such as those made in Montreux and Geneva on the future of Syria. 

Efforts made in Geneva on the future of relations with Iran. 

Efforts made here in Davos to think about, prepare for and - who knows - possibly even reshape the world of tomorrow.

Switzerland is ready. We are ready to play our part in these efforts, assume our share of responsibility and make our contribution. 

The world today faces numerous challenges: 
- Security, stability and peace. 
- The environment, climate, access to clean water and food.
- Transport, Energy, life in the cities of tomorrow.
- Health, especially with regard to aging populations in numerous societies... 
Yes, we have mountains to move. We will only be able to move them with a collective effort. States will have to join forces, and governments will have to work with international organizations, the private sector and civil society. The future of our world needs a great public-private partnership.

Together, the combined leverage effect would be enormous. And it is essential if we are to allow the future to emerge; a future in which each man, woman and child is entitled to brighter prospects and dignity, where they can bask in the sun of freedom.

No, Switzerland doesn't want to move the Alps, it wants to drill through them instead! We are in the process of building the world's longest railway tunnel through the Gotthard massif, which is set to open in 2016. It is a project that will make a real contribution to improving traffic between northern and southern Europe, while protecting the environment.

We hope this alpine panorama will once again serve as an ideal source of inspiration to stimulate our exchanges over the next few days. Let us hope they work their magic!

Ladies and gentlemen,

[…] We are reminded that 2014 marks the centenary of the start of that tragedy for humanity, with the horrors of its trenches, the horrendous destruction and the invention of chemical weapons [of World War I]. It is also seventy-five years since the outbreak of the Second World War with its concentration camps, colossal battles and the invention of nuclear weapons.

We have a duty to commemorate these two wars, these two disasters for humanity, which altered the face of the world creating only losers. 
They serve as a lesson of just how important it is for states to work together – in collective security mechanisms – to defuse tensions where they arise; to seek diplomatic solutions to conflicts, both existing and potential.

"It always seems impossible until it's done", said Nelson Mandela. […]
This adage can be applied to many of the challenges in the world today – and especially to the dramatic situation in Syria. This terrible conflict has, for far too long, caused too much suffering and too many deaths. It is robbing millions of men, women and children of any prospects for the future and it has created millions of refugees. This crisis, if it were to spread, could destabilize the entire region and even beyond.

After months of diplomatic effort, a peace conference has begun today in Switzerland, which I had the privilege to attend. The states and parties are jointly seeking a way out of the conflict. A solution can only be achieved politically. The will of the international community can make possible that which seemed impossible just a short time ago. Switzerland is ready to welcome such conferences, and it is proud and glad to be able to offer a safe and effective environment for the search for peace and to prepare for reconstruction.
Switzerland is also ready to offer its traditional good offices and assume its role as a mediator.

Switzerland is also proud and glad that Geneva serves as a useful, safe and discreet location for discussions with Iran. 

Here too it is a matter of finding solutions and defusing tensions. Of enabling a future without being naïve – but determined.

In order to contribute to peace and security in the world, Switzerland is also ready to step up and make real commitments. We want to further enhance the assets Geneva offers to even better meet the needs of the international community.

This year Switzerland has accepted to chair the world's largest regional security organization - the OSCE. It is an honour, a responsibility and an opportunity. An opportunity to build new bridges. Switzerland doesn't just build tunnels! It is also used to building bridges across valleys and between its different cultures – and between countries when it is asked of us. We want to make the OSCE a true security community at the service of all, from Vancouver to Vladivostok. (The situation in the Balkans and the Southern Caucasus, the management of natural disasters, the fight against terrorism and the strengthening of the OSCE's mediation capabilities are just some of the priorities of this chairmanship.)”

Considering Burkhlter’s enthusiasm of bringing the Europeans Nations closer together and strengthening the international community, the outcome of the recent bill proposing immigration quotas is striking. According to the Times this Law will implement “quotas on the immigration from the European unions”, causing Switzerland to withdraw into itself. This presents a very worrying case for Switzerland’s biggest trading pretender, France. It will also result in 80,000 fewer jobs in the next three years, as stated by Alice Baghfjia and Caroline Copley. Didier Burkhlter recently met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France to discuss the issue. 
Continuing his speech Didier Burkhlter explains the contributions economy and science, particularly those of the Swiss will have on goals of global peace, stability and development, as well as challenges of environment, climate and health among the nations. Adding that Switzerland is ready to lead its economic support and “cut-throught” scientific innovations for the Greater Good. He concludes his speech with his views and wishes of youth employment.

“The last subject I wish to raise with you is one that is particularly important to me: youth employment. This is one of the great challenges in safeguarding the future.

(Young people with a job see their future open up ahead of them. They gain independence, assume their responsibilities – in respect to themselves and those around them – and they find their place in society.)

In contrast, youth unemployment is a cancer on society. The human and social consequences are dramatic. Studies show that if a young person fails to get a foothold on the career ladder within two to three years of completing training, the chances of entering the labour market drop by 80% (eighty per cent)! Three years is not long when you think you have your whole life ahead of you. Taking action in this field is not just 'reshaping' the future; it is giving someone a future. For what is the future, if not youth?

Here too Switzerland is fortunate enough to have a strong hand, and it is willing to make a contribution. Our labour market is good at integrating young people.
This is thanks to a dynamic economy, flexible labour market, liberal state and strong social partnership. But it is also thanks to an education system which combines the academic and the vocational.

Switzerland's dual-track system of vocational education and training for young people has a long tradition. The practical element mostly takes place in businesses, through immersion, with additional theory and academic education provided at a vocational school. The costs of this dual-track system are shared equally by the state and by business. Education authorities are in direct contact with professional organizations.

Here too we build bridges; between education and employment, between adolescence and adult life. Young people who earn their living benefit from the support of experienced professionals: they work for a company and are productive. It is a boost to productivity for the company, and in the medium term it is a boost to the workforce. It is also a boost for young people who develop skills which are immediately transferable in the workplace. It is a win-win situation: an excellent example of the considerable leverage effect that can be created through good partnership between the public and private sectors.
Here too Switzerland wants to play its part. We are in the process of developing partnership projects with a number of countries, such as Myanmar, India and others.

Switzerland is organizing an international conference on vocational education and training to be held in Winterthur, in the canton of Zurich, in September. The event is aimed at decision-makers and VET actors from around the world.
Switzerland is ready to contribute towards youth employment through its experience in the field of vocational education and training.

Ladies and gentleman,

Switzerland is prepared to play its part. But only by working together, in Davos, Geneva, Montreux or elsewhere, will we succeed in building bridges and reshaping the future.

Thank you for making the journey to Davos to seek solutions together. Rest assured that Switzerland is ready - together with all of you - to build a better world!”
Through his speech we see that Switzerland is a strong advocator for collective cooperation and efforts among the nations to promote world harmony. It is expressed that Switzerland is ready and willing to move forward in tackling global issues such as health environment, security and more, with all they can offer in financing, science and simply moral support. Lastly, we see conclude that youth employment and education is a high importance to Switzerland’s goals and interests for the future.

--Aurelia Carrillo

Didier Burkhalter, Minister of Foreign Affairs, “Facing Today’s Challenges – working together to ensure the future of young generations. Switzerland is ready to contribute to this goal.” Davon, Switzerland. January 1 2014,

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