The Contest

Learn more about the Advancing Development Goals Contest for Master students

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

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 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 and academics, young talents and experienced professionals, who will select the competition’s finalists.

micheal 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.

Michael Keating


Michael Keating is Executive Director of the European Institute of Peace in Brussels. Until September 2018, he was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia. Until 2015, he was an Associate Director at Chatham House in London. Between 2010-15, he worked as an advisor to conflict mediation bodies, including Intermediate and Search for Common Ground. From 2008 – 10, he served as the Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel, a policy group chaired by Kofi Annan. His UN career has included assignments in Kabul as deputy SRSG, in Lilongwe, Jerusalem/Gaza, New York, Geneva, Islamabad and Mogadishu. He was born in Uganda, educated in the UK and has a Master of Arts in History from the University of Cambridge.

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.

Maria Luisa Silva


Maria Luisa Silva is the former Director of the UNDP Office in Geneva. She has over 25 years’ experience in UNDP and the UN system, most recently as UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative in Peru (2014-2015). From 2009-14 she served in UNEP as Executive Secretary for the Convention for Protection of the Marine Environment in the Mediterranean and its Commission on Sustainable Development. Prior to joining the United Nations, she was a consultant on European Affairs with Deloitte at their Brussels office, and taught international law at the University of Seville (Spain). Ms Silva holds a master’s degree in International and Public Law from the University of Seville and a post-graduate certificate on European Integration from the College of Europe, in Bruges (Belgium).

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.

The Academic Steering Committee of the Geneva Challenge is a young, 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. 

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 (complying with COVID-19 restrictions; travel and accommodation expenses covered) 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 Advancing Development Goals International Student Competition | Retrospective