A PLACE FOR CONTACTS, CONVERGENCE,
HUMANITY AND PEACE
by Michel VEUTHEY
1. A privileged place for convergence
Geneva's geology with its mountains and waters predisposes it to be a place of convergence of peoples and civilizations : Celts, Romans, Alemanic and Burgundian tribes, "Refuge" of Protestant fleeing prosecution in France, Germany and Italy. This convergence took on a universal dimension during the 20th century.
Geneva extends on two banks of the Geneva Lake and Rhone river:
- the right bank with its international organizations (the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN High Commisioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Committte of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the World Council of Churches (WCC), etc.) and communication infrastructures (airport, train station, highway), like the right brain hemisphere, provides space for dialogue and exchange along;
-The left bank with the Geneva University founded by Calvin in 1559, the private banks, the St. Peter's Cathedral, now a Calvinist temple since the Reformation, like the left brain hemisphere, is marked by rigor, sobriety and discretion, even exclusivity.
2. A meeting point of civilizations
Geneva has been "discovered" by Julius Caesar in 41 BC during the Gallic Wars.
Geneva still bears in its coat of arms both the eagle of the Holy Roman Empire and the key of the Bishop, who was usually a Member of the House of Savoy.
3. A platform for religious renewal and dialogue : from Calvin to the World Council of Churches
With the Reformation in 1536, Geneva became the "Protestant Rome" spreading the message of Calvin around Europe and the world.
Today, Geneva is the headquarters of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The first meeting ever of all leaders of Christian communities in Syria took place in Geneva on 8 May 2014.
4. Where the religious connection contributes to the political dialogue : from Calvin to Woodrow Wilson and the choice of Geneva as headquarters of the League of Nations
Geneva was chosen over Bruxelles and Paris as the headquarters of the League of Nations because the American President Woodrow Wilson was a Presbyterian and preferred the city of his spiritual father to more prestigious European Capital cities.
5. A breeding ground for humanitarian action, law and diplomacy
Geneva was the birth place of the ICRC in 1863 and of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as well as of modern international humanitarian law with Henry Dunant and the First 1864 Geneva Convention.
The 1906, 1929 and 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols form the core of international humanitarian law.
Geneva is the headquarters of the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as well as numerous humanitarian and Human Rights NGOs like Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the International Commission of Jurists, CARE, etc.
6. A unique trilateral negotiating process for labor relations
Shortly after the Soviet Revolution and after labor riots in Europe and Switzerland, the International Labor Office (ILO) was established in Geneva, with a unique tripartite membership: representatives of Governments, employers and workers.
This pioneer setting could inspire today's struggling intergovernmental organizations and civil society in their search for a new global governance! It succeeded in building the most sophisticated body of treaties regulations and mechanisms on labor relations.
Ideally, the ILO could be the ethical counterpart to the World Trade Organization...
7. Where trade is regulated : From the Geneva Fairs ("Foires de Genève") to GATT and WTO]
During the Middle Ages, the Geneva Fairs ("Foires de Genève") were one of the busiest in Europe until the King of France undercut them in order to promote his own fairs in Lyons.
Today, the World Trade Organization succeeded the GATT.
One of Geneva's leading sector is trading commodities. With hundreds of companies that now handle the majority of global transactions, Geneva is a world leader in oil, sugar, coffee, grains, rice and oilseeds trade.
And Geneva is a lively place for private arbitration of trade contracts.
8. A special place for peace negotiations
Geneva has become a favorite place for peace negotiations with the agreements on Indochina in 1954, the Evian Accords in 1962 on the independence of Algeria, and the on-going Syria as well as Israeli-Palestinian talks. Equally, informal negotiations between parties to the conflict in Colombia were hosted in Geneva.
9. Monitoring threats and adjusting trends
Geneva is also a place to monitor threats and adjust policies, with the World Economic Forum (WEF), discretely and beautifully headquartered in Cologny, and with Swiss-International think tanks like the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), the DCAF and the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD)...
10. A long tradition of education. From Rousseau to Vassali and Burrin.
Geneva has a long tradition of education. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, proud Geneva citizen ("Citoyen de Genève"), is well known for his theories on education in "L'Emile" as well the 20th century child psychologist Jean Piaget.
Today's emulation between both sides of the lake creates a diversity of training and research in international studies, with the Graduate Institute dating back to the League of Nations, on the right bank, and the Global Studies Institute of the Geneva University on the left bank, as well as Webster University, the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations and the Collège Universitaire Henry-Dunant.
11. A tradition for scientific innovation: from Augustin Pyramus de Candolle to CERN and Michel Mayor discovering the first exoplanet
Geneva has a tradition for scientific innovation which continues with the CERN - where the Web was invented by Tim Bernes-Lee and Robert Caillau - and in a near future with the new research center on life sciences which will be created by The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the University of Geneva following a donation from the Wyss Foundation.
12. A tension between provincialism and universalism :
both the regional and the global visions complement each other
Geneva incorporates a tension between two dimensions at more than one level:
- Between the Bishop of Geneva and the Protestant Rome;
- Between the "Chef Lieu du Département du Léman", French préfecture during the Napoleonic times, and the Headquarters of the League of Nations;
- Between private banks and humanitarian organizations.
Even if the next World Humanitarian Summit takes place in Istanbul in 2016, Geneva will remain the necessary permanent meeting ground for humanitarian dialogue, diplomacy and action, including the mobilization of public conscience on a human rights and religious level, as a complement to the political and security decision-making platforms in New York, beginning with the Security Council.
WEBSITES ON INTERNATIONAL GENEVA
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IN GENEVA MAP
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IN GENEVA : LIST OF PROTOCOL
INTERNATIONAL GENEVA : THE GRADUATE INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AND DEVELOPMENT (IHEID)
PERMANENT MISSIONS TO INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IN GENEVA
HANDBOOK ON PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES
INTERATIONAL GENEVA WELCOME CENTER
NGOs IN GENEVA
NGOs IN GENEVA (In French)
COOPERATION INTERNATIONALE, GENEVE
INTERNATIONAL GENEVA FACTS & FIGURES
 Associate Professor of International Law at Webster University in Geneva, Deputy Permanent Observer of the Order of Malta at the United Nations in Geneva, Vice-President of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law (www.iihl.org).The author would like to thank Eveline Höpli for her editorial comments.
 "De Bello Gallico" and Other Commentaries by Julius Caesar. English translation by Thomas de Quincey, orginally published in 1915, available online at : http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_text_caesar_bellogallico_1.htm
 See an English translation of « Brève histoire de Genève » by Louis Binz online at :
Full original text in French available online (3rd ed., 2000) at : https://egeneve.ch/GENEVE.pdf
See this bibliography on Medieval Geneva : http://www.unige.ch/lettres/istge/hma/ressources/bibliogeneve.pdf
 See the excellent short address by Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, on 20 January 2014 « Quel rôle pour les Nations Unies dans la gouvernance mondiale ? » online at: http://bit.ly/1kabM6f
 http://cds.cern.ch/record/1405411/files/ARCH-WWW-4-010.pdf (interesting original document…)