The Contest

Eager to stimulate reflection and innovation on development from diverse disciplinary and contextual perspectives and with the generous support of Ambassador Jenö Staehelin, the Graduate Institute has launched in 2014 the Advancing Development Goals Contest, an international competition for Master students.

The idea is to gather contributions that are both theoretically grounded and offer pragmatic solutions to a relevant international development problem stemming from an interdisciplinary collaboration between three to five enrolled master students from anywhere in the world.

Five prizes will be distributed; one in each of the following categories (based on the UN Statistics list):

  • Universities located in Africa

  • Universities located in Asia

  • Universities located in Europe

  • Universities located in North America and Oceania

  • Universities located in Latin America

The Advancing Development Goals Contest is a worthy and important initiative and will encourage and inspire young students to be key agents for development and peace
Kofi Annan
High Patron of the Advancing Development Goals Contest

How to Apply


Registration deadline:  May 19, 2024 at 23:59 CET.

Submission deadline: July 14, 2024 at 23:59 CET.


What is the difference between the two deadlines?

The registration deadline is simply the date by which we need you to fill in the application form and send us your proof of enrolment, confirming your status as a master student.

  • The confirmation documents (enrolment certificates or student cards) should contain your name, your graduate programme and a recent issuance date.

  • In case you do not have these documents at the time of your registration, please send them to this email address (

Following the registration, you have twelve weeks to prepare you proposal, which is due by the submission deadline.

Registration form

Selection Process


Submissions are evaluated by an interdisciplinary academic steering committee that will select three submissions per category to be published on the competition's website and then reviewed by an independent jury of experts with academic, governmental and private sector backgrounds.

Five finalist teams, one team per continent, will be invited to an oral presentation in Geneva, where they will defend their ideas and answer questions from the jury and the public. The finalists will also be invited to an awards ceremony where the contest results will be announced, preceded by a high-level keynote speech. 



The ADG contest distributes 25,000 CHF in monetary prizes. The winning project will be awarded CHF 10,000; the two teams in second place will receive CHF 5,000 each and the two teams in third place, CHF 2,500 each.

The Geneva Challenge owes its initiative and patronage to the generous vision of Ambassador Staehelin with the support of late Kofi Annan who was the High Patron of the contest. 

Jenö C.A. Staehelin

Founder and Donor of the Advancing Development Goals contests

Jeno C.A. Staehelin




The Geneva Challenge owes its initiative and patronage to the generous vision of Ambassador Staehelin, who believes in the participation of talented young minds in framing and implementing an international development agenda. Ambassador Staehelin built an impressive career in the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs, having served as the former Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN in New York. He orchestrated the referendum by which the people and cantons of Switzerland approved the country's membership to the United Nations. Among other achievements and activities, he is also the former President of the Executive Board of UNICEF and an honorary member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The Jury is an independent high level Panel composed of policy makers, academics and experienced professionals, who will select the competition’s finalists.

michAEl Møller (Chair)

Michael Moller

Mr Møller is the Chairman of the Diplomacy Forum of the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA), Senior Adviser to Macro Advisory Partners and on the Boards of a number of Foundations, including the Kofi Annan Foundation.

Mr Møller spent 40 years as an international civil servant in the United Nations. He began his career in 1979 with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and worked for the United Nations in different capacities in New York, Mexico, Iran, Haiti, Cyprus and Geneva. Mr Møller served as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva as well as Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament and Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to the Conference of Disarmament from September 2013 to July 2019. Prior to that, Mr Møller served as Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation from 2008 to 2011.

rachel quick

Rachel Quick

Rachel Quick has headed Oak Foundation’s Special Interest Programme for the last 9 years, overseeing an annual budget of approximately 80 million USD.  Trustees of the Foundation use their special interest budget to support work in a wide range of fields from the environment to education.  From 2009-2014, Rachel Quick was a Humanitarian Affairs officer with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva.  Her previous experience working for UN agencies and NGOs in different countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bosnia Herzegovina gave her a good insight into the challenges of humanitarian response and a profound respect for the resilience of communities living with war, food insecurity, economic marginalisation and social and racial injustice.  She trained to be a Barrister in the UK where she specialised in human rights law, asylum law and criminal defence (particularly for juveniles).  She worked pro bono on death row appeals before the Privy Council and for the Special Court in Sierre Leone. Rachel Quick has a Masters in International Relations and Economics from Johns Hopkins University and a BA in Geography from Oxford University.

Florian Schatz


Florian Schatz is a development practitioner with a track record in the management and evaluation of international development projects. He has worked with different multilateral, bilateral, private and non-governmental organisations in various countries around the world. His main area of expertise is governance, in particular in anticorruption, public sector reform and citizen participation. Since 2020 he advises the Peruvian government on public sector reform. He studied in Berlin, Paris, New York and London, and earned his master’s degree in Development Management from the London School of Economics.

Yvette Stevens


Ambassador Stevens has had a broad and long experience in the United Nations System.  An Engineer by training, she taught Engineering at the University of Sierra Leone for six years, before joining the ILO in 1980. Later, she worked with the UNHCR in Geneva, and performed thorough analyses of refugee situations in about 30 countries, all over the world. She was also a Director in DESA, and at the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa. Before retirement from the UN, she was the Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in UN Geneva. Later, she served as a freelance consultant on humanitarian issues as well as on disaster risk reduction in Africa. While working as an Energy Policy Adviser to the Government of Sierra Leone, she was appointed as Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone in Geneva. Ambassador Stevens worked on human rights issues, (including Child Early and Forced Marriage, Persons Living with Albinism and Women’s Rights); trade (Women and Trade, Trade Assistance to Least Developed Countries); disarmament (Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems). She was a Geneva Gender Champion.

agi veres

Agi Veres

Agi Veres is the Director of the UNDP Office in Geneva, responsible for external relations and advocacy, as well as Geneva-based policy and programme work. From 2019 to 2021, she served as the Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia providing leadership, oversight and advisory support to 18 UNDP offices in the Europe and Central Asia region. Before joining UNDP, she worked in the private sector as a Management Consultant for Accenture in New York and Hungary, in the field of organisational change management. Ms. Veres is a native of Hungary and has a degree of Master of Sciences in Business Administration from the Budapest University of Economic Sciences.

The Academic Steering Committee of the Geneva Challenge is a enthusiastic and competent interdisciplinary group of professors.  Their main task is to read and evaluate all the contest submissions and check them for compliance with the substantial criteria including, their academic quality and the innovative potential of the solutions presented.

 Prof. Martina Viarengo (Chair)


Martina Viarengo is an Associate Professor in the Department of International Economics. She is also Faculty Associate at the Harvard University Center for International Development, at Harvard’s Women and Public Policy Program, a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Women's Empowerment and a member of the International Growth Centre in London. Prior to joining the Graduate Institute's faculty, Professor Viarengo was an economist at the Centre for Economic Performance of the London School of Economics and a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government. Professor Viarengo is a specialist in applied microeconomics and development.

Prof. Aditya Bharadwaj


Aditya Bharadwaj joined the Graduate Institute as Research Professor of Anthropology and Sociology in January 2013. He completed doctoral research at the University of Bristol and post-doctoral fellowship at Cardiff University before joining University of Edinburgh where he taught and researched for over seven years. His research uncovers the local and global dimensions underscoring the production, utilisation and circulation of biomedicine and biotechnologies. Through this work he is examining the emerging face of India’s tryst with biotechnologies in a globalised research system.

Prof. Aidan RUSSELL


Aidan Russell is Associated Professor in International History and Politics at the Institute and completed his DPhil in History at Oxford University in 2013. Prior to his arrival in Geneva he was elected to a Title A research fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge. He works on issues of truth, trust and authority, violence and memory, space and mobility, and decolonisation and the postcolony, with a particular interest in the Great Lakes region of Africa..



Carolyn Biltoft is an Associate professor in International History and Politics and received her PhD in World History from Princeton University in 2010. Her works fuses the tools of world history, intellectual history, cultural studies and critical theory. She is interested broadly in the dynamic interactions between globalising structures and infrastructures and diverse beliefs, emotions, concepts and human life-worlds. Her current projects each touch on perceptible echoes between the history of economic thought, the contours of the capitalist world system, and questions of myth-making, memory-making, and even the desire to forget and be forgotten. 

The Advancing Development Goals International Student Competition | Retrospective