Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva: Here’s why Switzerland is the ideal host for diplomacy

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Micol Lucchi, Lead, Swiss Public Affairs, World Economic Forum and Samuel Werthmuller, Communications Officer, Europe, World Economic Forum

  • US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet in Geneva, Switzerland, on 16 June.
  • ‘International Geneva’ has a long history of hosting diplomatic meetings.
  • Here’s why Switzerland makes sense as a meeting place.

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet in Geneva, Switzerland, this week in what will be their first face-to-face meeting since Biden’s election and Putin’s first trip abroad since the start of the pandemic.

Almost 36 years after the first U.S.-Russia summit in the city, the discussions could serve as a critical moment in reviving relations between the two countries. The meeting also places Geneva under the spotlight as the heart of international diplomacy.

Why did the two parties choose Switzerland?

Commitment to neutrality

Switzerland has been neutral for more than 200 years. Neutrality is a status that enables the small landlocked country of fewer than 9 million people to be an important mediator of international disputes and a trusted diplomatic representative between countries. For example, in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Switzerland represents the interests of the US.

Switzerland’s neutrality means much more than simply refraining from engaging in armed conflicts. The country also attributes its neutrality to its humanitarian and peaceful inclination, in keeping with its tradition of providing good offices and humanitarian aid. The country uses its neutrality for the needs of international solidarity, and places it at the service of peace and prosperity.

Given the current tense state of affairs between the US and Russia, the meeting could not be held in their respective countries. The positive bilateral relations Switzerland maintains with the two countries – and the fact that it is not a NATO member played an important role. Switzerland has also not joined Western sanctions against Russia.

Home to diverse organizations and countries

“International Geneva” hosts 39 international institutions, organizations, bodies, as well as a secretariat established under a treaty, approximately 750 nongovernmental organizations, and the permanent representations of 177 member states. The US and Russia are among the countries that maintain large missions in the city.

This diversity brings a level of recognized expertise in areas such as trade, labour, health, peace, human rights, migration, telecommunications, science and sustainable development.

It also makes Geneva the most active center of global governance in the world, with more than 3,400 meetings taking place every year, bringing together approximately 182,000 delegates from around the globe. Some 4,700 prominent figures, including heads of state and government, ministers and other dignitaries, travelled to Geneva annually before the pandemic.

There is a very strong symbolism in the coming of these two heads of state: it is the return of dialogue in a city of dialogue. —Serge Dal Busco, President of the Geneva State Council

Long history of hosting diplomatic meetings

Switzerland has a long tradition of hosting diplomatic meetings that dates back more than 150 years. Since the founding of the Red Cross in 1863, Geneva has continuously adapted and evolved considerably into what is now one of the foremost centers of global governance and multilateral diplomacy. The city’s international vocation is embedded in the canton’s constitution, and there is tradition of respect, welcome and dialogue.

For example, Villa La Grange, where Biden and Putin will meet, hosted the closing gala of the Geneva Convention in 1864. ICRC founder Henry Dunant presided at the event, which was considered the beginning of international humanitarian law.

In 1920, the first General Assembly of the League of Nations, whose principal mission was to maintain world peace, was also held in Geneva. When the United Nations succeeded the League of Nations, its European headquarters was kept in the Swiss city and maintains its place today.

Under the aegis of the United Nations, Geneva hosted the historic meeting between the so-called “Big Four” in 1955. For the first time since the end of World War II, the US, the USSR, France and Great Britain agreed to meet to discuss the key issues of peace and security.

Another noteworthy meeting held in Geneva was the one between Ronald Reagan and Mikhaïl Gorbatchev, in which the two leaders discussed their countries’ relations and the arms race in 1985. The peace discussions on Cyprus, Libya and Syria also took place in the Lemanic region in the first trimester of 2021.

It is no coincidence that the World Economic Forum has called Switzerland its home since the early 1970s. Impartiality and neutrality are also enshrined in the Forum’s values as an international organization, and it has played a role in bringing together opposing parties from the business and political worlds.

Impressions from the Annual Meeting 2019 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 20, 2019.Copyright by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell
Host to the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Image: World Economic Forum

In 1992, for example, outgoing State President F.W. De Klerk and incoming President Nelson Mandela met in Davos, Switzerland, to work towards peace and collaboration in South Africa. Over the years, Davos has also served as an informal forum for leaders from West and East Germany as well as for leaders from Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

More recently, Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus and Greek Cypriot Leader, and Mustafa Akıncı, Turkish-Cypriot Leader, convened at the Annual Meeting 2016 to discuss a future peace settlement to reunite their divided island. Leaders from the Western Balkans met in Davos and Geneva in 2018 and 2019 to discuss the future of the region.

Innovative approach to digital

While some may be concerned by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on a city that pioneered international gatherings, the Swiss government is working to support new, futuristic Geneva platforms to face the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

For example, even before the pandemic, the Swiss Digital Initiative, a foundation that aims to bring ethical principles and values into technologies through concrete projects, was launched at the Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos. Furthermore, by adopting the Digital Foreign Policy Strategy 2021–2024, the Swiss government acknowledged digitalization as a thematic priority of Switzerland’s foreign policy. The new strategy provides a framework to place Geneva and Switzerland even more at the heart of global digital policy issues.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The World Economic Forum was the first to draw the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the current period of unprecedented change driven by rapid technological advances. Policies, norms and regulations have not been able to keep up with the pace of innovation, creating a growing need to fill this gap.

The Forum established the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017 to ensure that new and emerging technologies will help—not harm—humanity in the future. Headquartered in San Francisco, the network launched centres in China, India and Japan in 2018 and is rapidly establishing locally-run Affiliate Centres in many countries around the world.World Economic Forum | Centre for the Fourth Industrial R…

The global network is working closely with partners from government, business, academia and civil society to co-design and pilot agile frameworks for governing new and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, blockchain, data policy, digital trade, drones, internet of things (IoT), precision medicine and environmental innovations.

Learn more about the groundbreaking work that the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network is doing to prepare us for the future.

Want to help us shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Contact us to find out how you can become a member or partner.

Geneva has already played a major role in the development of the internet through collaboration with the Secretariat of the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and via CERN. It is also home to the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), an organization that promotes understanding and knowledge of new technologies, and the Cyberpeace Institute, an effort to address cybersecurity. In addition, the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) focuses interlinking the digital revolution with other disruptive fields of science and with the diplomacy world.

As Biden and Putin meet, and the world watches, there’s hope that the “spirit of Geneva” can once again serve as a shining light toward dialogue, peace and democracy.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

EU and China to do more in common if the global scene gets worse

Click and Download: your app is ready to help you save lives

WHO reports ‘very strong progress’ in battling DR Congo Ebola outbreak

New Eurobarometer survey shows: The majority of Europeans think the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality problems

Public Health equality in a trench

10 ways cities are tackling the global affordable housing crisis

Germany tries to save Europe from war between Ukraine and Russia

Long-term EU budget: It is not possible to do more with less, say MEPs

UN chief saddened at news of death of former US President George H.W. Bush

End discrimination against women and children affected by leprosy

Drought in southern Africa: EU releases over €22 million in humanitarian aid

These tech start-ups are changing what it means to farm

Attack on Saudi facilities risks dragging Yemen into ‘regional conflagration’: UN Envoy

Celebrating the Customs Union: the world’s largest trading bloc turns 50

How to outsmart bias when you’re recruiting

Primary Healthcare vs Specialization Careers, how to promote PHC to the Young Health Workforce?

Haitian Foreign Minister calls for development reboot to close ‘striking gap’ between promises and action on ending poverty

This is how drones and other ‘tradetech’ are transforming international trade

European Democracy Action Plan: making EU democracies stronger

Why we need a blockchain bill of rights

Prospect of a nuclear war ‘higher than it has been in generations’, warns UN

Antitrust: Commission imposes binding obligations on Gazprom to enable free flow of gas at competitive prices in Central and Eastern European gas markets

How 3 MENA business leaders are building resilient companies post-COVID-19

Thousands of health professionals call on world leaders to prioritize a greener future, post-pandemic

Kenya wants to run entirely on green energy by 2020

COVID vaccination campaign. What are the challenges?

Greece bailout ends but with no substantial effect on citizens’ life

1 million citizens try to create a new EU institution

What the next 20 years will mean for jobs – and how to prepare

Statement by Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, on the announcement to postpone the COP26

EU and US take decisive step to end aircraft dispute

How COVID-19 is making companies act for the long term

We need tech solutions that value human interaction more than ever

Grievous violations continue against Myanmar civilians, Human Rights Council hears

The West and Russia accomplished the dismembering and the economic destruction of Ukraine

Guterres lauds UN peacekeeping, highlights need to bridge ‘critical’ gaps

How cities are failing to be inclusive – and what they can do about it

We must stop turning a blind eye to the world’s health crises

London wants to treat violent crime like a disease

Cybersecurity Act: build trust in digital technologies

MasterCard @ MWC14: Innovation in times of regulatory uncertainty

The digital revolution will transform the steel industry

‘Protracted crisis’ in Venezuela leads to ‘alarming escalation of tensions’: UN political chief

From battlefields to boardrooms: 3 steps to building high-morale teams

‘Act now with ambition and urgency’ to tackle the world’s ‘grave climate emergency’, UN chief urges UAE meeting

African cooperation on peace ‘increasingly strong’, Security Council told

European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production

State aid: Commission approves €790 million Croatian guarantee scheme for companies with export activities affected by coronavirus outbreak

How COVID-19 might help us win the fight against climate change

Civilians suffering due to sanctions must be spared ‘collective punishment’ urges UN rights expert

5 urgent actions in the fightback against ransomware

The UN came of age with the nuclear bomb. Time for it to step up to the AI era

How can we prepare students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution? 5 lessons from innovative schools around the world

How digital identity can improve lives in a post-COVID-19 world

How we measure stakeholder capitalism will determine our recovery

Commission disburses €14.1 billion under SURE to 12 Member States

How distorted is the EU labour market by this crisis?

UN study projects $32 billion loss for UK post no-deal Brexit

One for all? Are physicians prepared to deliver care to the LGBTQIA+ community?

Trade surplus up production down in Eurozone

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s