Kofi Annan launches the World Humanitarian Forum

Published on the Tribune de Genève, April 16, 2007.

Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, is spearheading a project to create an international humanitarian forum in Geneva, according to media reports. Annan has already chosen to “retire” to the canton but it appears he will remain busy in his retirement. The forum, to be launched in September, would be similar to the World Economic Forum in Davos, only it would be devoted to advancing humanitarian causes, promoting peace and reducing poverty.

Annan has already expressed his interest in these issues, while head of the UN. The idea of a humanitarian forum has received the strong support of the Swiss federal government. And it is believed to be backed by Swiss president Micheline Calmy-Rey – (see also in the german wikipedia) – who has made the promotion of an international Geneva one of her priorities.

“The federal department of foreign affairs is in contact with various partners – institutions and individuals – concerning this project for a new foundation in Geneva,” said Jean-Philippe Jeanerat, spokesman for the department. Kofi Annan “will play a central role” in the new institution, he said. In the style of the WEF, the humanitarian forum will invite world decision-makers to speak about humanitarian issues. Annan, a “master” in the art of diplomacy and communication, has an address book that would be the envy even of Klaus Schwaab, the head of the WEF, a report in La Tribune de Genève indicated.

The anticipated new home of a secretariat for the humanitarian forum is the Rigot villa, a building owned by the canton of Geneva, near the Place des Nations. The building would be made available to the forum at no cost. In addition, the canton and the federal government have promised financial support although the amount has not been revealed.

The planned institution, to be based in Geneva, would hold annual conferences to advance humanitarian causes, promote peace and reduce poverty. It has already received strong support from both federal and cantonal governments.

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