Micheline Calmy-Rey

Micheline Calmy-Rey
President of the Swiss Confederation in 2007

Head of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Born in Sion in the Swiss canton of Valais, she received a degree in political science from the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies. For 20 years she ran a book distribution business. In 1979, she joined the Socialist Party of Geneva, which she later served as president for two terms. She became a member of the cantonal government in 1998 and took over as head of the Department of Finance. She was elected to the Federal Council in 2002 and is the second woman to serve as Switzerland's President.

Swiss President

Shared action

It is symbolic that Geneva has been chosen to host the 2007 Global Compact Leaders Summit. The Brundtland Commission, to which the international launching of the concept of sustainable development is attributed, was working at Palais Wilson in Geneva 20 years ago. Seven years previously, the World Conservation Union, which is also based on the shores of Lake Geneva, had laid the ecological foundations of sustainable development in the publication entitled «World Conservation Strategy», which it drafted in collaboration with the WWF and the United Nations Environment Programme. In 1991, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development was established in Geneva, and it was in this city too that the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was prepared. There can be no doubt therefore that international Geneva is the birthplace of the concept of sustainable development.

The Global Compact Leaders Summit in July 2007 will make Geneva the meeting place for a thousand people committed to promoting respect for the 10 environmental and social principles of the Global Compact. The participants include heads of government and international agencies, as well as leaders of civil society and industry. The event will clearly demonstrate that the challenge of sustainable development is today broadly acknowledged by our society and that Geneva has much to offer when it comes to creating a world that is both fairer and in general a better place in which to live.

Since the early days of the sustainable development movement, the Léman region has played a central role in international initiatives concerning the environment: it has inspired actions; it has been the breeding ground of concrete programs and actions; it has brought new ideas and scientific knowledge to the attention of political decision-makers; and it has been the spearhead of alliances, partnerships and individual initiatives.

The 15 years since the Earth Summit have seen a growing awareness of the interdependence of life on our planet. This better understanding of the nature of the challenges confronting the world has placed environmental issues firmly on the agendas of organizations active in the field of sustainable development, and developmental questions at the focal point of environmental organizations. As a result, almost every international organization based in Geneva today has a clearly defined environmental program, and all environmental bodies are in contact with the business world. As the mobilization of societies and political leaders on the issue of climate change finally manifests itself on a global scale, it is worth remembering that the first World Climate Conference took place under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization in February 1979 in Geneva. A few years later, following in particular a severe draught in the USA that shocked the whole world, the WMO and UNEP launched in Geneva the outstanding initiative known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In 2007, the same group of scientists, delegated by their states, is now drawing our attention to the reality of climatic change and the terrible consequences for humankind if we do not act quickly to stem the process. How do Geneva and its environs attract environmental activists and sustainable development planners? Why has Geneva been, and continues to be, the place where major international agreements are forged, the center for managing the implementation of several international conventions, and the point where scientific knowledge is pooled and applied in practice?

Thanks to a hundred or more institutions based in the city and its surrounding areas, decision-makers, experts from intergovernmental organizations, businesspeople and civil society representatives are able to put their ideas and proposals concerning the future of the planet to the test on a day-to-day basis. For these people, whose actions have worldwide ramifications at all levels of society, it is possible to have a global impact as a result of their joint efforts here in Geneva.

The question remains whether Geneva can continue to play this central role in the age of the Internet, and the quantum changes that come with it, and when distances are becoming less and less of a barrier due to developments in international communications? It will take much more than a mere wish to make it happen. The international organizations and the international business community must continue to see the current and potential benefits that Geneva has to offer, and they must continue to find inspiration in the alliances and partnerships that have developed in Geneva in the areas of environment and sustainable development. From this perspective, this brochure aims to show the enormous added valued that international institutions have derived from working together in Geneva, to recount some of their histories, to draw conclusions on the results of their activities, and to point out the potential still to be tapped for generating truly shared action to promote partnerships for the planet.

Signature of Micheline Calmy-Rey
Micheline Calmy-Rey
President of the Swiss Confederation