Competition on a global scale
However, Geneva and Switzerland are not alone in putting themselves forward to be or become centres of global governance. New York, Paris, Copenhagen and Istanbul, city selected to welcome the first World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, all provide strong competition.
In light of this, Geneva and Swiss federal authorities published a joint report in June 2013 entitled 'International Geneva and its future'. One of the conclusions of the prospective study was the necessity to consider the strengthening of 'International Geneva' (or 'International Switzerland through Geneva') in dual terms: “We must think in terms of ‘hardware’ and ‘software’”, considers Ambassador Fasel. “This means looking after our guests on the one hand, doing a better job and doing more to provide them with attractive material services; and on the other hand, spreading the Geneva or Swiss ‘brand’, to ensure that our country contributes to creating decisive content.”
The affirmation of Geneva's humanitarian 'software' can be envisaged within as well as outside of the country's borders. Within the country, Switzerland has gone to great lengths to put in place platforms for sharing information and experiences that facilitate dialogue between the institutions present in Geneva. From the 'Geneva Peace Building Platform' to the very recent 'Geneva Internet Platform', several initiatives have already proved successful.
Current debates about sexual violence carried out in conflicts offer another promising development. They represent a great potential for synergies, advocates Doris Schopper, director of the Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action (CERAH), a joint centre between the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. “Everyone talks about it, but no one really knows what to do about it. In partnership with the ICRC, Handicap International, Médecins Sans Frontières and the UNHCR, we are in the process of developing a study programme on this type of gender-based violence. It will enable policy makers within international organisations to establish action plans based on cutting-edge knowledge.”
Being seen everywhere
Outside of its borders, Switzerland seeks to communicate its message around the world. Its diplomatic representations engage themselves on a daily basis; drawing on its field experience, the SDC sends its experts to take part in strategic multilateral discussions. “Switzerland must be seen everywhere, even when discussions take place elsewhere,” insists Ambassador Fasel. With a little help from history: “The humanitarian spirit formally fostered for 150 years by the Swiss Confederation, as well as its neutrality, give Switzerland's voice solid credibility,” observes Isabelle Barras.
Arab Spring, urbanisation, transitional justice, climate change... Discussion topics abound and civil society has genuine expectations. “In an international context undergoing transformation, where new global and local actors are asserting themselves, Switzerland must embody this ability to make coherent lines of action emerge,” puts forward Nan Buzard, director of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies, a Geneva-based network representing over 80 NGOs from around the world. “Gathering everyone's ideas in Geneva, to then export new strategies for humanitarian involvement, is a challenge. It is both an opportunity and a great responsibility entrusted to today's Switzerland.”