Students & Campus
07 June 2021

Reflecting on the Inaugural Geneva Debate

“In a spirit of consensus and understanding, que la discussion commence,” remarked Ruth Dreifuss, former President of the Swiss Confederation, kicking off the Inaugural Geneva Debate.

The Geneva Debate is an exciting new tradition founded by students at the Graduate Institute, and seeks to become International Geneva’s preeminent student debate on current affairs and global challenges.

Two teams of student debaters stood on the stage of the Ivan Pictet Auditorium on 26 May before a physically-distanced audience and an international online gathering of over 400 individuals.

With the lights dimmed, the proposition team, consisting of Vanina Meyer, Nicolle Renion, and Sarthak Roy, argued for this year’s motion: la Maison de la Paix estime que the state should make vaccination against COVID-19 a legal requirement for its residents. Ryan Mitra, Nivedita Mantha, Clara Danbakli, and Zhen Lee, who represented the opposition, presented their arguments against it. 

At the end of the debate, the panel of jurors prepared their statements. Professor Mohamed Mohamedou, accompanied by Professor David Sylvan, Professor Suerie Moon, Institute alumna Kritika Kanijo, and Mr. Mario Jimenez, exited the auditorium to deliberate in private.

Meanwhile, the debaters remained on stage to reconcile during the relaxed post-debate discussion moderated by RTS host, Mr. Marcel Mione. Since students defended views that they did not necessarily agree with during the debate, the post-debate discussion provided them with an opportunity to reflect on their perspectives more critically.

Ultimately, Team Opposition was awarded the Lafayette Cup for winning the Debate; Sarthak Roy was awarded the medal for Best Individual Speaker. 

“The first Geneva Debate was an empowering platform that sought to reframe discourse at the Institute by asserting the importance of structured, nuanced and critical argumentation”, said Nicolle Renion of Team Proposition.

“I am delighted at the introduction of this new tradition in the Institute's community and intellectual life” recalled Professor Mohamed Mohamedou. “I commend the organisers and the two teams".

Director Marie-Laure Salles reminded the audience that “nobody has a monopoly on truth”. All the debaters were winners “for opening up our internal black boxes”.

And so this new annual tradition will flourish into the spring semester of 2022. As world events unfold and the uncertainties of today cast doubt on our resilience, a new set of young people will take the stage in the spirit of consensus and understanding to face our collective challenges of tomorrow.

If you want more information about the Geneva Debate or would like to get involved, please contact:

Pictured from left to right: Sarthak Roy, Nicolle Renion, Vanina Meyer, President Ruth Dreifuss, Professor Suerie Moon, Director Marie-Laure Salles, Mr. Marcel Mione, Clara Danbakli, Nivedita Mantha, Ryan Mitra, Zhen Lee