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The Swiss government spends considerable sums on humanitarian aid overseas, especially after disasters like earthquakes.

This is where the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unitexternal link with its large body of experts comes into play.

Short-term emergency relief precedes longer-term infrastructure projects that are often run by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperationexternal link (SDC), also a part of the foreign ministry. The SDC focuses its financial and technical aid on a dozen priority countries and regions. Other developing countries receive Swiss support channelled through international programmes.

A long-standing symbol of Swiss humanitarian aid is the ICRC, the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross.

Switzerland as depositary state of the Geneva Conventions has a keen interest in the successful work of the ICRC, and makes a sizeable contribution to costs, while not influencing the organisation politically. 

The city of Geneva is the headquarters of the ICRC, and the European headquarters of the United Nations. Around 9,500 staff work for the UN family in Geneva, which is the largest concentration of UN personnel in the world.

Geneva is also the base for the headquarters of 34 international organisations, such as the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization. In all, some 40,000 international diplomats, civil servants and their families are based in Geneva; in addition there are around 2,400 staff working for 250 non-governmental organisations. There are also 176 permanent diplomatic missions to the UN.

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