The core idea of diplomacy is to solve problems through negotiations and agreements. Diplomacy is a very old trade that is as old as human history. Europe’s most significant contribution to diplomacy is not the envoy, not the permanent ambassador, nor the ministry of foreign affairsbut conference diplomacy, which gave rise to the first international organization and multilateral relations in the 19th century.
Both Switzerland and the United States played an important role in the development of multilateralism. President Wilson’s groundbreaking ideas after the horrors of World War I led to the creation of the League of Nations, the first comprehensive international organization. It was President Wilson who favored Geneva as the location for the new institution. Geneva was already an international hub and the seat of several organizations at that time. And it was the birthplace of the International Red Cross Movement fifty years before.
International Geneva has developed a great deal since those days. After World War II, the political institutions of the United Nations were established in New York. But at the same time Geneva hosted more international organizations than any other place on earth. Today Geneva hosts more than 40 UN bodies and specialized agencies, 24 international organizations, 176 permanent missions and more than 350 NGOs.
After the end of the Cold War, diplomacy changed dramatically. The old times with a handful of government representatives in a closed room were gone forever. Most of today’s challenges are very complex and multilateral negotiations have become an entirely different business. States are still the ultimate dealmakers and the final guarantors for the implementation of negotiated results. Today, however, international organizations, civil society, academia, the private sector and many others are included in the decision-making. They all contribute knowledge and ideas and they are very often crucial for implementing the outcomes.
International Geneva’s most important topics are human rights, health, labor, the environment and disarmament. Geneva is the hub for humanitarian action and discussions. Many international meetings take place in Geneva, for instance on Iran, Syria and violent extremism. Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, rightly stated: “Everything that is done here, in Geneva, has a direct impact on every person on this planet, in any 24 hour period.”
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