Geneva Policy Outlook
05 March 2024

How Will Geneva Remain Relevant as a Global Hub?

To celebrate the launch of the Geneva Policy Outlook 2024, the Geneva Graduate Institute hosted a panel of authors to discuss the question “How will Geneva remain relevant?”. The Geneva Policy Outlook is an initiative of the Institute in partnership with the Republic and State of Geneva, the City of Geneva, and the Fondation pour Genève.


We have the duty to make use of the unique density of experiences, expertise and knowledge that is present right here, around us, and to come together and actively shape the debate on the future we want.

Marie-Laure Salles, Director of the Geneva Graduate Institute

In times of rapid change and radical uncertainty, Geneva needs more than ever to reflect on how it remains a relevant global governance hub. The Geneva Policy Outlook aims to offer an introduction to the wealth of issues and negotiations of International Geneva at a time when many readers require a guide for understanding global issues. It is a finger on the pulse of Geneva’s global policy space and asks how global governance needs to adapt to new world orders, what it means for Geneva and what can be done now, and by whom.

“The major emerging theme for 2024 is the need to adapt diplomacy to address systemic challenges with greater agility and pragmatism,” said Achim Wennmann, Editor of the Geneva Policy Outlook, and Director for Strategic Partnerships at the Institute, in his editorial for the new edition. “Climate change and environmental degradation, shifting demographics, geopolitics, nuclear weapons, and technological revolutions are all threatening the survival of humanity.”


To celebrate the launch of the Geneva Policy Outlook 2024, the Institute hosted a panel with some of its authors to discuss the question “How will Geneva remain relevant?” and highlight some of the themes addressed in this year’s edition.

Marie-Laure Salles, Director of the Institute, underscored in her introduction that the Geneva Policy Outlook is an important and meaningful initiative for the Institute that contributes to materialising its vision and mission. She believes “the Geneva Policy Outlook in one form or another can and should be an important mechanism carrying the voice of Geneva for the world, and with the world, a voice that should re-affirm its own tone in spite if not because of the current violent and dissonant chorus”.

Moderated by Achim Wennmann, the discussions touched on how, in his words, to “develop a better future together” and all came to focus on one recurring answer: adaptation. From the forms and roles of multilateralism in a rapidly changing world to finding solutions to moving forward with climate action, reigning in big tech, creating new rules and regulations to navigate pandemics, changing attitudes to war and putting forward human rights, and even the roles of cities in the international landscape, all came back to the big task of adaptation of international cooperation.  

The first panellist, Jamil Chade, an award-winning Brazilian investigative journalist and alumnus of the Institute, set the tone when, reflecting on his extensive experience with BRICS, the intergovernmental organisation comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, he said, “It’s not only how will Geneva stay relevant, it is how will multilateralism stay relevant? Geneva can only stay relevant if it recognises the obvious, and what is the obvious? It is the profound change in power structure in the world.” BRICS are overtaking G7 and want to be the architects of the 21st century, resulting in a shift of power to which Geneva needs to adapt: “it is not reform or status quo; it is reform or insignificance”.

Marie-Laure Schaufelberger,  Head of ESG and Stewardship, Pictet Group, discussed Geneva’s unique role in being able to meet the challenges of ecological collapse and climate change, and “shape a better future that has to also be a hopeful future.” She evoked a little known reality that Geneva needs to consider as one of the largest crossborder wealth managers in the world, that “markets are a social construct, but the biophysical realties upon which human societies and human beings depend are not” and that environmental and social externalities must now be priced in. This is something that is changing, and Geneva is in a unique position to “engage for change” because it is a hub not of one single industry but many, public, private, and international — the highest proportion of foundations per capita anywhere in the world — and it has a responsibility to “find the solutions of the future, to build these bridges, to not just finance change but also probably to change finance”.

Considering the changes in Big Tech and the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Roxana Radu, Associate Professor of Digital Technologies and Public Policy at the University of Oxford, addressed the challenges of governing adequately as new technologies develop in both the public and private sectors. She reminded us that 2024 is a year of elections, and that information and misinformation will play even bigger roles this year than ever before. Geneva therefore has an important role to play in international law and international protections, as the anchor of standardisation and home to the most important standard-setting organisations. Key to the future, according to Roxana Radu, is “developing a common vocabulary or terminology related to AI and AI governance in particular”. Furthermore, Geneva must “set in place adequate protections for those non-digital parts of humanity” and “harness the value of inclusivity and participation that [it] has fostered much more than any of the other hubs of global governance”.

Beginning the second panel, Co-Director of the Global Health Centre and Professor of Interdisciplinary Programmes and International Relations/Political Science at the Institute, Suerie Moon addressed the forgotten urgency around pandemic regulations and the ongoing negotiations around the Pandemic Accord at the World Health Organisation (WHO). On the role multilateralism plays in this, she stated her belief that “multilateralism and the negotiation of rules — common rules binding all countries, whether we’re talking about BRICS or the Global North or the Global South and everyone in between — [...] are actually more important than the money”. What she says is shifting more broadly in global health, with important implications for Geneva, is that money that used to flow through big institutions for development, “is flatlining and is probably actually going to decrease in part because of the rise of BRICS and in part because of the rise of crises”.

In his intervention, Andrew Clapham, Professor of International Law at the Institute, emphasised the necessity of assigning a far more central role to human rights when addressing matters of contemporary war. He wants to “challenge some fundamental thinking about war” beyond existing Geneva conventions, as discussions around current warfare skew towards contextualisation and justification of human rights violations, whereas a repositioning of human rights at the centre of affairs would allow better protection. He illuminates the issue with the example of attacks on hospitals in war, arguing that considering such attacks as “a question of the right to health” makes the human rights violations much clearer.

The final speaker, Paola Deda,  Director, Forests, Land and Housing Division, at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, discussed the role of cities as actors on the international scene, in a growing forum. Geneva’s role in this is to be a hub, but it is also to invest: “If you don’t invest, if you don’t put money, you are not going to enlarge the visibility and power of Geneva in so many areas.” Many cities around the world are as large as or larger than small countries, and so, cities need to be better integrated and included in the international system as actors.

When prompted on what Geneva needs to do to remain relevant, speakers all agreed on the necessity of Geneva using its voice more frequently and in fact, to develop a stronger voice for the future. Jamil Chade posited that while the world will always need a place for international dialogue, Geneva will not naturally be that place and that it must reform its systems and its approaches in order to earn that place for the future. As Achim Wennmann noted earlier in the evening, “travelling against the zeitgeist defines the esprit de Genève”.

In her concluding remarks, Léna Rieder-Menge, Manager of Strategic Partnerships and Public Relations, stressed that the Geneva Policy Outlook is also a network of about 150 senior policy makers working in Geneva’s global policy sphere discussing forward-looking questions. Going into 2024, the Geneva Policy Outlook will “continue to nurture collective reflections among various sectors on what the global governance for the future should look like and encourage courageous transformation and reinvention within International Geneva.”

The first panel, featuring from left to right: Roxana Radu, Marie-Laure Schaufelberger (speaking), Jamil Chade, with Achim Wennmann.
The second panel, featuring from left to right: Paola Deda, Andrew Clapham, and Suerie Moon (speaking), with Achim Wennmann.
Achim Wennmann, Editor of the Geneva Policy Outlook, and Director for Strategic Partnerships at the Institute
Léna Rieder-Menge, Manager of Strategic Partnerships and Public Relations
How will Geneva remain relevant ? - Launch of the 2024 Geneva Policy Outlook