Modern multilateralism was born in the wake of the First World War in 1919 with the establishment of the League of Nations under a covenant contained in the Treaty of Versailles. The decision to put the headquarters of the League of Nations in Geneva, which already housed the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international organisations, signalled International Geneva's arrival.
"History teaches us that dialogue between states is the only way to prevent the greatest tragedies afflicting humanity," noted Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis during the signing ceremony, adding that a tireless pursuit of consensus and respect for the rule of law are "written into Switzerland's DNA". These Swiss traits, along with the country's neutrality, were key reasons why Geneva was chosen as the seat of the League of Nations a hundred years ago.
Some 40 international organisations, diplomatic representatives from 179 states and hundreds of NGOs are working together and with the private sector and the academic community in Geneva to build a safer and more prosperous world. The 43,000 people who make up the city's international community generate significant economic benefits for the Lake Geneva region, equivalent to nearly 1% of Switzerland's GDP.
With the signing of this joint declaration, the Swiss government and the Genevan authorities have reaffirmed their commitment to preserving and further developing International Geneva. "This joint declaration underlines our partnership and ensures that we will henceforth speak with one voice on behalf of the host state," explained Mr Cassis at the signing ceremony, which was also attended by the director-general of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Tatiana Valovaya.
The declaration also strengthens Geneva's role as a platform to address future challenges. In February 2019, the Federal Council and the Canton and City of Geneva had already set an important milestone in this regard with the creation of the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator foundation (GESDA), an innovative platform designed to anticipate social phenomena triggered by new technologies. The GESDA will enable science and diplomacy to exploit synergies more effectively.
Switzerland and the making of multilateralism
The signing ceremony was followed by a public event at the University of Geneva. Sacha Zala, director of the Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland research centre (Dodis), presented a recently published collection of diplomatic documents on the history of multilateralism ('La Suisse et la construction du multilatéralisme', in French). The volume was published at the initiative of Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis to further understanding of the foundations of Switzerland's multilateralism and host state policy, and to better equip International Geneva to meet the challenges of the future.
The book presentation was followed by a panel discussion on the future of multilateralism with representatives from the academic community, the private sector and international and youth organisations.
Address for enquiries:
Federal Palace West Wing
CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53