The United Nations Organization (UN) was founded on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries determined to preserve peace through international cooperation and collective security. With 193 states, almost all countries in the world are members of the UN today, including Switzerland since 2002. The organisation has a unique universality with regard to the subjects which it tackles, its members, its involvement in decision-making processes, its role in the drafting of international norms and standards and its international influence.
Under the terms of the Charter of the United Nations, the international treaty which founded the organisation, the four goals of the UN are:
- to maintain international peace and security;
- to develop friendly relations among nations;
- to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems and by encouraging respect for human rights;
- to be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations.
The United Nations have their principal seat in New York but they maintain an important presence in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi.
The UN is linked within a framework of cooperation agreements to some fifteen independent organisations, termed ‘specialised agencies’, such as, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Universal Postal Union (UPU) or UNESCO. These institutions are autonomous bodies created by intergovernmental agreements. Endowed with a broad range of international competencies for economic, social and cultural matters, and in the areas of education, health and related questions, some of them pre-date the UN itself, such as the ITU and the UPU.
All these organisations have their own management bodies, budget and secretariat. They constitute, with the UN, what is known as the system of the United Nations and together they provide technical aid and other forms of practical assistance in virtually all economic and social spheres.
Importance for Switzerland
Switzerland and the UN are both committed to the same values including the fight against poverty, respect of human rights, democracy, the peaceful coexistence of peoples and the preservation of natural resources. The external policy objectives of the Confederation in the Constitution coincide with the objectives of the UN charter. Switzerland uses the UN as a leading forum to pursue these objectives and to represent its interests.
Switzerland is also a host state for the UN, with offices in Geneva. The United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) is a focal point for multilateral diplomacy and a body for disarmament and human rights. In addition, UN specialised agencies such as the ITU and UPU are also based in Switzerland.
OFCOM represents Switzerland in matters that fall within its area of competency. In particular, OFCOM is active in the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), which is the focal point within the UN for the follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The CSTD is a functional commission of the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with its headquarters in Geneva. Switzerland is a member of this Commission and is represented jointly by OFCOM and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).
OFCOM is also in close contact with the Geneva-based secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which is responsible for preparing the annual IGF meeting and for organising activities between annual meetings (see also Internet and Digital Governance and IGF).
For more information on OFCOM’s role in each of the UN specialised agencies, see the relevant posts on the OFCOM website.
Last modification 30.12.2015