Tribune de Genève.
Plans are afoot to invest close to CHF 3 billion across 15 sites across Geneva over the next few years, according to Tribune de Genève.
Not only will existing buildings be renovated and extended, schools, apartments and new transport infrastructure will be added.
“Over the next five years, we are going to invest more than we have over the last fifty years” said François Longchamp, president of Geneva’s state council in charge of international Geneva. “Like the rapid expansion in the 60s and 70s, we are have reached another pivotal moment.”
The main expenditure will be on renovating the and extending large UN buildings. Work on the Palais des Nations, which will start this spring, will alone cost CHF 837 million. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) building will consume a further CHF 300 million, the World Health Organisation (WHO) building CHF 140 million, and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) building CHF 150 million. On top of the total CHF 1.5 billion investment planned for these buildings, a further CHF 600 million has been earmarked to develop CERN. Once separate investments in transport (CHF 340 million) and other private projects are included the total tally comes to CHF 3 billion. A sum which will be spent over eight years.
This image put together by Tribune de Genève shows the sites involved.
Who is funding it?
Bern, the canton of Geneva, and the city of Geneva have agreed to lend CHF 400 million to renovate the Palais des Nations. In total Switzerland has pledged to lend CHF 800 million.
So far Geneva’s parliament has approved a loan of nearly CHF 90 million to support the development, according to Le Temps. And the city of Geneva (commune) has promised a further loan of CHF 20 million.
For some time the threat of an exodus of UN agencies has loomed. Attracted to other locations, aided by the pain brought by the strong Swiss franc, Switzerland decided it needed to do something. In 2013, Switzerland’s federal government and the canton of Geneva came up with a strategy to reinforce and cement the future of international Geneva. Bern realised that it is a key platform for Switzerland’s relations with the rest of the world. It is a platform that gives the nation a political presence far bigger than a country of its size would typically have.
Cherry on the cake
A large philharmonic concert hall seating 1,700, with a price tag of CHF 250 million, is also planned. An architectural competition has just been launched for this building. François Longchamp referred to this as the cherry on the cake.
The worm has turned
Ten years ago there were concerns of an exodus. There were fears the ILO would leave, but finally they decided to stay. The number of international functionaries in Geneva has been growing. The canton’s statistics office records showed 24,500 on the books in 2016, a jump of 3,000 compared to five years earlier. The number of international organisations has climbed from 29 to 33 over the last few years and NGOs numbered 178 in 2016.
“The upward trend over the last three years is clear. In 2016 alone around 30 NGOs arrived”, said Longchamp. At a certain point a network effect kicks in. Some agencies have left, however these are mainly support and IT operations.
And while American president Donald Trump has threatened to cut back on the UN, China’s president Xi Jinping made a special trip to Geneva in February to pledge support.