On 3 March 2002, both the people and the cantons (the double majority required) accepted the popular initiative on Switzerland's membership to the United Nations. On the basis of an expected decision by the competent organs of the Organization, my country will thus become the 190th member of the United Nations this coming autumn. This fills me with great satisfaction for at least two reasons.
First of all, I still consider myself somewhat of a "UN man", having worked for over twenty years with and within the UN system. I started my career in New York in 1971 at the Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations, then continued in Vienna (at the UN Industrial Development Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency), where I proposed the opening of and inaugurated the very first mission in Donaupark, and later transferred to Geneva as Deputy Chief of Mission (Host Country Affairs and Political Questions). In 1990/1991, I acted as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara--a difficult but fascinating assignment--before being appointed Permanent Observer of Switzerland in New York. My work within the United Nations was a very special experience from which I learned a lot. Although coming from a country where people with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds live together in harmony, it was quite a challenge to encounter this on a much larger scale.
At the beginning, I was quite worried at the idea of having a staff coming from several nations and liaising with colleagues from many more. But it worked perfectly. I just had to accept the fact that one can arrive at the same result by using different methods and that nobody should pretend to have the only valid one. The UN Secretariat has quite a distinct corporate identity that unites most of its staff. I have great respect for the work of these international civil servants, most of whom are reliable, well trained and serious about their work. That there are always some exceptions is inherent in human nature and certainly not unique for the United Nations. In any case, and in spite of some less happy experiences, I would not miss my activity within the United Nations for anything and am grateful for having had this opportunity.
Apart from a fascinating time spent within the UN system, I cherish wonderful memories and have kept many good friends, among them, might I say, the present Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, whom I had already known and greatly admired during our common stay in Geneva. …