As Geneva rebrands itself as a green, international hub, nongovernmental organizations are showing themselves to be more important to the region than just hangers-on to the United Nations community. Though in many ways the U.N., which employs more than 9,500 people, does dominate life in the area, aid implementers and NGOs are equally important to the way Geneva functions.
And although there are those who talk about moving operations to more economical places (some have taken the plunge, such as the Secretariat of the U.N. Green Climate Fund which has been awarded to South Korea), the advantages of working in Geneva continue to outweigh the costs — and the local government keeps a close watch on that balance.
“No other place hosts a more concentrated network of international and non-governmental organizations, diplomatic missions and world-class academic institutions,” said Anne Monnerat at the Presidential Department of the Republic and State of Geneva. “All fields of international cooperation are covered: environment, trade, human rights, health, humanitarian affairs, security, etc. This situation creates unique opportunities for interdisciplinary cooperation and synergies among the close to 30,000 people working for IOs, NGOs and permanent missions in Geneva. This is definitely Geneva’s main asset, and it is here to last.”
According to Corinne Momal, director of the U.N. Information Service in Geneva, it would actually be quite difficult for other locations to draw organizations away from Geneva. Besides the sheer concentration of actors coalesced around the westernmost corner of Lake Léman, Geneva offers a quality of infrastructure and reliable support from the host government that are difficult to equal anywhere else.
Aliyah Esmail is a freelance journalist and communications professional with a fascination for the economic and political realities facing nongovernmental organizations. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Carlton University in journalism and film studies and is now working on a postgraduate certificate from the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute in Global Health. She has worked for the government of Canada as well as a number of international organizations.
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