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Good morning, this is Paula. Unable to agree on where a technical assistance body intended for the climate disaster-hit states should be located, countries were swayed to choose Geneva, but not without a deal sweetener from Bern.

Bickering over the Santiago Network’s future location was rife between countries concerned that their own climate vulnerabilities would not be properly addressed if the new UN body weren’t where the impacts are most felt. In the end Swiss ‘neutrality’ prevailed and a financial carrot didn’t hurt either.

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Paula Dupraz-Dobias


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The United Nations Office for Disaster and Risk Reduction, selected to host the Santiago Network, is located in the building of the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva. (Keystone/Martial Trezzini)

Despite failing to garner support in Bern to host a climate summit, Geneva scored a win in March after other governments selected the city as the base for the Santiago Network’s secretariat, but not without Switzerland’s encouragement.

The decision on where the secretariat of the Santiago Network – an advisory body helping to equip climate disaster-hit states with support from various sources, including international organisations and experts – had been delayed since the Cop28 in Dubai, with countries bickering about locations.

Various groups of countries on the frontlines of climate impacts, including small island states, African nations and the least developed countries, were worried that their specific vulnerabilities may not be fully addressed from other shortlisted locations that may be dealing with their own natural disasters.

“Geneva is seen as a neutral space,” Matthew McKinnon, executive director of Aroha, an NGO promoting the interests of climate-vulnerable nations, said. “It was a way to resolve interest clashes that could have come from locating (the headquarters) geographically in a country representative of one of the country groups,” on the network’s voting advisory board.

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