The NGO capital: Switzerland is host to a total of 29 international organisations of which 24 are located in Geneva--a location often favoured as a headquarters for international operations.

AuteurO'Brien, Tom
Fonction Politics

Not only are 170 NGOs based in Geneva, but also 153 foreign nations have one permanent representation there, either to the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation or the Disarmament Conference. Nowadays, the number of international civil servants working in Geneva is 17,000 and there are 3,600 more employed as staff members of Permanent Missions.

The City

Geneva, a city elf 185,000 inhabitants, combines the advantages of a medium sized, low crime city with those of an important cosmopolitan centre. One third of its resident population are foreigners from all over the world.

"As numerous institutions have chosen to establish offices either in Geneva or in Switzerland, important and fertile synergies are brought about between them, which is a great asset for Geneva," notes Francois Schmidt, director of the International Geneva Welcome Centre.

"These international organisations are active in fields as varied as humanitarian aid, commerce, human rights, the environment and sustainable development, training and education, peacekeeping and security meteorology, intellectual property, nuclear research, health, telecommunications and labour."

The Attraction

Historically speaking, Geneva's liberal tradition, its place as a key actor during the Reformation and its important location at the crossroads of northern and southern Europe has meant that it has always attracted more than its fair share of the 'great and the good'.

Schmidt underlines the reasons behind the attraction of international organisations to the city: "Switzerland has been hosting international organisations, for over 130 years, in fact since the International Committee of the Red Cross was set up," Schmidt explains. "In line with this long tradition, specific facilities have been created for them, and federal and cantonal authorities are always pursuing efforts to strengthen their services in this respect," Schmidt also mentions the International Geneva Welcome Centre, which was launched in 1996 in order to guide, reform and help integrate the community of 40,000 of inter national civil servants, members of diplomatic representations. consulates and non-governmental organisations, who work and live in the Geneva region.

Settling In

Despite the cosmopolitan feel of the place, new international staff can sometimes face problems when trying to settle into their new home Schmidt explains that the main concern newcomers have in Geneva is to find suitable accommodation in what could...

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