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Kofi Annan's work

Fondation pour Genève

Let me start by thanking the authorities and people of Lugano for your warm reception. This is an enchanting city and I am delighted to be here again after a long absence

As you know, we are making this trip to share with you a glimpse of what Geneva is contributing to Switzerland and to the world at large.

My personal connection to Geneva goes back quite a long way. I studied at the Graduate Institute and I entered the United Nations in Geneva shortly afterwards.

And it was in Geneva that I met my wife, Nane.

When I retired from the UN, I chose to establish the Kofi Annan Foundation in Geneva because it is more than a place; it is an idea, and even an ideal.

Geneva is pre-eminently a city of international cooperation and peace.

This reputation is the product of a long history.

For centuries people sought refuge in the city from persecution. Geneva was the birthplace of the Red Cross movement. It was the headquarters of the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations.

Today, Geneva is where diplomats are trying to put an end to the fighting in Syria and conclude an agreement with Iran on its nuclear programme.

Geneva is the United Nations’ second home.

Almost every day, diplomats, international civil servants, NGO’s, and humanitarian experts gather in Geneva to address some of the most difficult problems facing the world.

Most of their work is unglamorous and unheard of but it provides the framework of cooperation without which our modern world could not connect or operate.

I cannot think of a single area of human life that is not impacted by one or other of the organisations based in Geneva. We often speak of the “Spirit of Geneva”.

To me, the “Spirit of Geneva” is the conviction that solutions to disputes can be found though dialogue, cooperation and mediation rather than through hate, conflict and violence.

That too is the ideal at the heart of my Foundation.

But the spirit of Geneva is not unique to Geneva. It stands for Switzerland as a whole.

 Here is a country where people of many different origins, speaking different languages and holding different faiths, with a history of conflict, have learned to live together in peace, resolving their disagreements though compromise and democratic practice.

Switzerland shows that pluralism can work.  It affords all of us a home in which to thrive, each in our own way.

Geneva enshrines those Swiss values and is helping to make those values an integral part of the global order.

That is why, Switzerland and Geneva will continue to have a profound influence on the world of the future; a world which I truly hope and believe will be a fairer and more peaceful one.