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Hello from Bern!

For the second time in as many months, Russia and the United States are meeting in Geneva. But far from the pomp and high stakes of the last summit, today’s meetingExternal link features senior diplomats getting down to the nitty-gritty of arms control, far from the lenses of reporters’ cameras. It’s all part of a Strategic Stability Dialogue agreed by Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin at the Villa La Grange in June.

But that’s not the only reason we’re talking about the international city of peace today. The other reason is in this edition’s Deep Dive.

This content was published on July 28, 2021 - 18:00


Leaving on a high note: Petkovic at this summer's Euro2020. Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

In the News: It’s official: Switzerland’s most successful national football coach ever is saying tschüss!

  • “It was seven wonderful years that I will never forget,” said Vladimir Petkovic, confirming rumours that he was headed for Bordeaux. The Sarajevo-born coach has been released from his contract – due to expire at the end of 2022 – by the Swiss Football Association.
  • Sprinter Alex Wilson will not be competing at the Tokyo Olympics. The Jamaican-born Swiss athlete was due to run in the 100m and 200m men’s competition but saw a provisional suspension for a doping violation re-instated by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
  • If you are a Swiss living abroad and tried to get a Covid certificate here, then you’ll know that, unless you got a vaccine approved by swissmedic, it’s simply not possible. The Federal Office of Public Health has admitted as much, following a story by public television SRF.
Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

Deep Dive: The UN Refugee Convention turns 70 todayExternal link. It was signed in Geneva in 1951 and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), based in Geneva, has been its guardian ever since.

In the newspaper Le Temps, the UN refugee high commissioner Filippo Grandi (pictured above) defends the convention from detractors who say it is outdated and calls out rich states, including here in Europe, that he says are shirking their international responsibility by “warehousing” asylum-seekers elsewhere.

As host state of the convention, Switzerland has not been immune to criticism. Its asylum system has been lambasted in recent years, with claims of abuse arising in asylum centres. The accelerated procedures introduced in 2019 that the Swiss Refugee Council said was “to the detriment of quality and fairness” came in for warnings from the Federal Court.

With asylum-seeker numbers at historic lows, the UNHCR has urged Switzerland to take in more resettlement refugees, especially as the pandemic helped to cause a major dip in resettlements in 2020. 


Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

What’s trending: It’s hard to avoid news from the Tokyo Olympics, and one story in particular is trending on social media in Switzerland.

The great US gymnast Simone Biles is a talking point following her withdrawal from the final individual all-around competition for mental health reasons. It comes on the heels of Naomi Osaka’s own headline-grabbing exit from the French Open tennis tournament in June.

These high-profile exits are helping to put the spotlight on women’s mental health, long a taboo and overlooked subject, just as the pandemic has put additional stress on various population groups, chief among them young people and women. It's a topic that we in the media are making efforts to cover more regularly, as my colleague Ying Zhang did when she met a former pharma executive who gave it all up to create a platform for treating post-partum depression.

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