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Historical Background

History of the International Environmental Geneva

The Geneva region has been active on global environmental governance for various decades and preparations of various historical meetings took place in this region.

  • In 1961, the IUCN headquarters moved from Belgium to Morges. That same year after more than a decade of funding difficulties, eminent science and business personalities decide to set up a complementary fund (the World Wildlife Fund) to focus on fund raising, public relations, and increasing public support for nature conservation. The Morges Manifesto founding document signals the very beginning of WWF as we know it today.

  • In the spring of 1971, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment Secretariat initiated plans for an in-depth seminar on the development-environment issue, which was held in Founex in June. The subsequent Founex report played a critical role in laying the ground work for the 1972 Stockholm conference. The report notes that while concern about the environment sprang from the production and consumption patterns of the industrialized world, many of the environmental problems in the world are a result of underdevelopment and poverty. This acknowledgement was a factor in persuading many developing countries to attend the 1972 Stockholm Conference.

  • In 1975 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) comes into effect and its secretariat was established in Morges, where IUCN had their headquarters.

  • In 1983 the World Commission on Environment and Development known as the Brundtland Commission is established. In May of 1984, an Organizational Meeting of the Commission was held in Geneva to adopt its rules of procedure and operation and to appoint a Secretary General to guide its work. In July of 1984, a Secretariat was established in Geneva, temporarily at the Centre de Morillon and later at the Palais Wilson.

  • In 1987 "Our Common Future" (Brundtland Report) is published. It ties problems together and, for the first time, gives some direction for comprehensive global solutions. It also popularizes the term "sustainable development".

  • In 1988 the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change is established with three working groups to assess the most up-to-date scientific, technical and socio-economic research in the field of climate change. IPCC Secretariat is based in Geneva.

  • In 1988 the Centre for Our Common Future is founded in Geneva to act as a focal point for follow-up activities to the Brundtland Report.

  • Two of the four PrepCom meetings of the Rio Earth summit took place in Geneva in 1991.

  • The International Academy of the Environment was established in 1991 by the Swiss Confederation and the government of Geneva in order to create an institutionalized link between science and decision making in the environmental dimension of sustainable development.

  • In 1992 the “Geneva and the Environment” directory was published by Michael Foley Associates, the former International Academy of the Environment and the State of Geneva.

  • Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, most of the organisations of world importance in Geneva have been developing the environmental aspects of their activities.

  • In 1999, the Geneva Environment Network is launched, with the support of the Swiss Federal Office for Environment.

  • In the past decade, Geneva had experienced fast growing environmental expertise. New organizations and programmes joined the region (UN-REDD Secretariat, Sustainable United Nations, etc.) New thematic areas are covered (e-waste, green technologies, etc.)
  • In 2007, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon gave mandate to all organizations to green their activities and work on Climate Change issues. We were two years ahead of the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change.

  • Today, the Great Geneva region continues its role as an important hub for international environmental policy, where many international organizations, forums, federations and non-governmental organizations have their headquarters. The key thematic areas of the region include: Economy/Trade, Health & Environment, Chemicals, Nature conservation (Gland hub), Climate, Water, Human rights and Disasters risk prevention.