Relocating the United Nations to Seychelles?

Human Rights

Swiss Visa restrictions for citizens of third world countries restrict activists from such countries to join the United Nation in its fight against discrimination

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Seychelles does not require visas for any nationality. Former Seychelles Minister of Tourism Alain St. Ange taught the tourism world for more than 20 years when saying:

Seychelles is a friend of all and an enemy of none.

The agreement was declared “dead” by the Island’s opposition party. Seychelles can remain the status of friends of all and enemies of none.

It has been the policy of the Indian Ocean Republic of Seychelles, and other countries are following. Recently Kenya announced the elimination of visas.

Alain
Relocating the United Nations to Seychelles?

St. Ange who is now the VP for International relations for the World Tourism Network Chairman may agree:

If a country hosting a UN agency is not allowing delegates at a UN event to attend, making visas difficult, or sometimes impossible- it’s no longer impartial to discuss issues relevant to all countries.

Also Kenya: No Visas – almost

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women CEDAW includes a total of 151 experts who have served as members of the Committee since 1982.

A CEDAW member explained the difficulty for delegates to attend sessions at the United Nations Geneva Office in Switzerland on her LinkedIn.

Switzerland is part of the Schengen visa region.

Swiss authorities had made it often difficult for some delegates to attend UN sessions due to strict visa requirements.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women CEDAW.

The last time I attended a CEDAW session, our intern was denied a visa to join us in Switzerland.

This time, my colleague’s visa was delayed, which caused a lot of stress within the team. I was in Geneva for the first few days by myself, juggling the various pieces of work while she waited in limbo. It was a stressful time for everybody affected, and I am forever grateful to our amazing friends at Sexual Rights Initiative for stepping in to deliver training with me.

My colleague has twice the experience I have and has been to the UN in Geneva and New York countless times.

However, visitors from the Global South don’t get a loyalty card.

Either your passport allows you to waltz into the country without scrutiny, or you have to submit again and again to a discriminatory, degrading, intrusive, costly, and/or lengthy process that has been normalized the world over.

Since visa regimes are already built on inequality, I don’t want to appear to legitimize them by emphasizing my colleague’s expertise; just to note that a chunk of her work time involves wading through visa challenges like these, while I to date have never had a visa appointment for anywhere.

When Switzerland itself was reviewed by CEDAW in 2022, we submitted a shadow report, Switzerland as Gatekeeper, highlighting its role (and that of its Schengen friends) in blocking Global South activists’ access to the UN.

It was gratifying that the CEDAW Committee took an interest and made relevant recommendations.

Pushing for change, though, isn’t a one-time activity. At the current 87th session, we are missing activists from Tajikistan and the Central African Republic who were denied visas. Appeal processes are, as we know, a joke.

Against this backdrop, the UN Office in Geneva abruptly ended its technical support for remote NGO participation in CEDAW and other treaty body reviews, which had been available since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. This news was delivered just a few days before the commencement of the 87th CEDAW session, granting us more headaches in terms of coordination but more significantly impacting civil society representation, most of all from the Global South.

Online participation comes with a lot of challenges, but given the huge costs of travel and visas (to say nothing of additional barriers faced by people with disabilities, undocumented migrants, and stateless people), it isn’t something we should be letting go of.

The UN’s current budget crisis encompasses a lot more than this element, but it feels like even if funding improves, civil society is quite far down the priority list.

Every other session, without fail, we constantly face challenges with visas either within the team or—more pertinently—with activists joining us.

Leading up to the 86th session in October 2023, an activist from Malawi had to travel to South Africa for her visa interview which was initially scheduled two days before her travel.

Although it really shouldn’t, it still baffles me that a country that hosts the UN—which has now ceased all remote engagement—couldn’t care less about Global South activists who work so hard to access Geneva.

Seychelles is located in the global south and is a friendly visa-free country with no enemies- ideal!

Seychelles is a paradise for tourism with the sun and blue ocean. How much better would this be for world peace when UN delegates could enjoy an evening cocktail watching the sunset together – it would give tourism the importance it should have in geopolitics, and as a peace industry.

WHAT TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS ARTICLE:

  • If a country hosting a UN agency is not allowing delegates at a UN event to attend, making visas difficult, or sometimes impossible- it’s no longer impartial to discuss issues relevant to all countries.
  • It was a stressful time for everybody affected, and I am forever grateful to our amazing friends at Sexual Rights Initiative for stepping in to deliver training with me.
  • This news was delivered just a few days before the commencement of the 87th CEDAW session, granting us more headaches in terms of coordination but more significantly impacting civil society representation, most of all from the Global South.

About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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