Parliamentarians in Bern have given the green light to increase Switzerland’s budget for so-called International Geneva by a third to CHF117.2 million ($125.8 million).
On Tuesday, senators followed parliamentarians from the lower house by backing the cabinet’s strategy for hosting international organisations in Switzerland for the 2016-2019 period. It rubberstamped plans for a bigger budget totalling CHF117.2 million – an increase of CHF44.8 million.
The money will go towards improving building and technological infrastructure, and fostering better interaction among the various international and national actors. The additional funds are in response to a parliamentary motion, and are in line with current foreign policy strategy that aims to promote Switzerland's long-term role and attractiveness as a host state.
During the debate, senators rejected a proposal to cut CHF5.8 million to help the remaining 20 diplomatic missions unrepresented in Geneva set up offices in the city.
Of the additional funds, CHF30 million will go directly towards implementing the host strategy, CHF4 million to the renovation of the Geneva International Conference Centre (CICG) and CHF11 million for the security of international organisation buildings.
However, the money is not intended for the renovation of buildings in the International Geneva district, several of which are in a poor state. The federal authorities will provide loans at reduced interest rates to help international organisations carry out repairs. These projects will be submitted to parliament for approval.
Geneva is home to the headquarters of 32 international organisations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "International Geneva", as it is known, is worth around CHF3 billion a year to the canton in taxes and spending power.
In all, some 40,000 international diplomats and civil servants are based in Geneva. In addition, there are around 2,400 staff working for 250 non-governmental organisations. Around 8,500 staff work for the United Nations in Geneva, which is the largest concentration of UN personnel in the world. There are also 173 permanent diplomatic missions to the UN. Some 2,700 international conferences are held in the city each year, attended by over 220,000 officials and experts. In addition, 3,000 visits by heads of state, ministers and other dignitaries take place every year.
The UN headquarters is currently playing host to peace talks between Yemen's warring parties. Recent talks have taken place on Syria, Ukraine, Iran and Libya.
swissinfo.ch with agencies