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International & non-governmental organizations

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Ever since the League of Nations was established here in 1920, Geneva has had a reputation as THE international city. But even those well aware of this role are astounded by the number and diversity of the agencies, organizations and NGOs based here: no less than 168 nations (169 if you include Switzerland) are represented in Geneva by a permanent mission or representation.

Two thirds of the United Nations’ activities take place in Geneva, which therefore has the largest concentration of UN personnel in the world. Presently, Geneva hosts the world headquarters for the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), World Health Organization (WHO), International Labor Organization (ILO), World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA), to name but a few. All of the UN’s major fields of work –health, labor issues, intellectual property standards, human rights, humanitarian action and disaster relief, economic, trade and development activities, disarmament, science and technology, as well as research and training – are carried out in Geneva.

This core has, in turn, attracted numerous intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), some 250 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and around 240 permanent diplomatic missions to Geneva.

All in all, the international community numbers close to 40,000.

Thanks to its international activities and numerous informal and institutional contact opportunities, Geneva today is the main global center for world cooperation.

“The fact that the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is based in Geneva does affect perceptions, in that so much knowledge about intellectual property is concentrated here. And, in my experience, perceptions are very important in business decisions.”
Howard R. Hull, International Partner, Ernst & Young International Tax Practice

The International Geneva Welcome Center was created in 1996 to guide, inform, and help integrate the approximately 40,000-strong community (including families) of international civil servants, members of diplomatic missions, consulates and NGOs working and living in the Geneva region.