While currently draped in November fog, Geneva might not seem to be the most liveable city in the world. When my wife first came here some years back in mid-winter, she did not even realise that Geneva was surrounded by mountains until one of those heavenly days suddenly lifted the grey from the end of the lake. The sun even made the city’s eyesore modern architecture look good. As for my student daughter, she considers Geneva too expensive – and dreary – for young people with Lausanne regarded as far more fun.
Yet, according to a group of scientists from the University of Singapore, University of California and Curtin University of Australia, the cities of Geneva, Zurich and Singapore rank as the most “liveable” places in the world based on environment, economy, crime and culture. These are followed in the top ten by Copenhagen, Helsinki, Luxembourg, Stockholm, Berlin, Hong Kong and Auckland. New York came in at 17th with Tokyo in 18th, while London only managed 22nd.Moscow stands at 62nd with Jakarta bottoming the list at 64.
Geneva and Zurich regularly rank among the top cities in international ratings, including among the most expensive, but these tend to be based on powerhouse “quality of life” assessments usually enjoyed by business executives and their families rather than “ordinary” people. Other rankings tend to base their judgements on pleasant living, scenic beauty or attractive climates. The World Economic Forum and IMD’s World Competitiveness Report, for example, both habitually place Switzerland at the top of their economic and business-focused global rankings. Geneva, too, recently won, for the second time, the Gold European Energy Award for visionary energy policies, which points reliably to expectations of low pollution.
Published by the World Review of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development, this latest listing seeks to merge the above assessments by establishing a measure of “liveability” in major cities by balancing work, social life, culture and sustainability. It takes into account economic vibrancy and competitiveness, local security, political stability, environmental friendliness, sustainability, socio-cultural conditions and governance.
The report also noted that the rank of a city today does not necessarily imply a good indicator of its position in the future. “Environmental restoration and transport infrastructure improvements already underway in many Asian, and specifically Chinese cities, could see the higher liveability today of European cities outstripped as those developing cities develop further,” it said.
If its any consolation for London – and Britain – another recent report declared that 60 percent of people living in the UK consider that they are enjoying a “happiness” rating of seven out of 10, higher than most other wealthy countries. In contrast, by simply driving across the Swiss border into neighbouring France, we are told that almost half the French consider themselves miserable with their lives. Maybe they should come to Geneva more often, even with the fog, the costly coffees and lack of imagination when it comes to new buildings.
Edward Girardet, Managing Editor. firstname.lastname@example.org