Alliances between international organizations

Introduction

Geneva, world city of coordination

Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba

Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba,
Permanent Representative of Mexico in Geneva

Geneva enjoys the distinction of being a world city for its clusters of humanitarian relief and human rights organizations - and has always made a strong showing in another domain as well: coordination between environmental actors and other actors. Geneva clusters in a tiny corner of Switzerland the full range of organizations that are required for an effective dialogue on sustainability today: chemicals is an issue to be discussed between environmental and health organizations; climate change is clearly a cross-sectoral issue; disaster prevention institutions are increasingly placing environmental protection in the center of their action.

For diplomatic representatives of developing countries or countries in transition - whether the specialty is trade, environment or development - such clustering is of major importance, perhaps even essential today. The dispersal of expertise in increasingly technical issues across a scattered number of offices would not only be wasteful of scarce resources. It would also work against the democratic ideal of giving poorer countries an adequate voice in international deliberations, since few can afford or find the specialist staff to participate meaningfully in the major global discussions of our time.

Clustering enables us to focus our resources in one place, and Geneva offers the advantage of working outside the politically fraught spotlight of, say, New York or Brussels. Not that, in the age of instant communication and a decentralized scientific community, everyone needs to be in the same place. But somebody has to bring all the expertise together when needed, find the world experts on the issues being tackled, and help them to work with each other productively. This, too, has long been Geneva's specialty - from the International Red Cross to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - and this could remain its goal in the digital age: to strengthen its reputation as a world capital of coordination and synergies.