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Hello, it's Kasmira with your May digest – even if the word "digest" seems a stretch to describe the sheer quantity of events and news we've been reporting on this month.

Taking place this week in what is surely one of the most critical World Health Assemblies to date, member states and health experts are taking stock and asking themselves how a series of failures led to the biggest health, economic, and social disaster of our lifetime? And how can we avoid the same mistakes again? For the co-chairs of the independent panels commissioned by the World Health Organization to investigate this past year's events - this means not letting their reports gather dust.

Looking ahead, Geneva will next month play host to the first in-person meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin since the US president took office. Although its role in this diplomatic encounter may come as no surprise, we explore how the city also plays host to more unusual forms of diplomacy – via the arts and science – in two articles that will take you from Cologny's UNESCO-listed Martin Bodmer Foundation to the Red Sea. Send us a postcard when you get there!

photo journaliste

Kasmira Jefford


This week in International Geneva

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Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset, third from left, with Juerg Lauber, permanent representative of Switzerland to the UN in Geneva and Nora Kronig Romero, head of international affairs division and vice director the federal office of public health before speaking at the opening of the 74th World Health Assembly, WHA in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, 24 May 24, 2021. (Keystone/Pool//Laurent Gillieron)

⚕️Pandemic treaty talks, a Swiss BioHub and WHO under scrutiny: the World Health Assembly so far. Talks on the creation of a new international treaty to help deal with future pandemics have been postponed until later this year following a consensus decision taken at the World Health Assembly (WHA) on Tuesday. Also on the packed agenda, Switzerland and the WHO agreed to launch a new BioHub Facility to enhance the rapid sharing of viruses and other pathogens.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

Here's what else we’re talking about

🕊️Why peace talks need ‘digital ceasefires’. Social media is being used as a tool to undermine peace processes, stoking division and making an already difficult task much harder. With stakes so high, mediators including the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) in Geneva, are calling for big tech companies to work with peacekeepers to help reach “digital ceasefires”.

by Pip Cook (EN)

🌉 Patrick Odier: Sustainable investing will be the key source of future returns. As plans for Building Bridges, Geneva's flagship sustainable finance summit taking place later this year, get underway, we spoke to its president, Patrick Odier, about what's in store and why he's counting on sustainable investment being the most important source of future returns.

by Kasmira Jefford (EN)

📖 Geneva's museums: an exhibition in multilateral diplomacy. The Martin Bodmer Foundation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts an unobstructed view of international Geneva from its hilltop perch in the commune of Cologny. Its director, Jacques Berchtold, who also heads the Geneva Association of Museums and Art Centres explains how the right bank of Geneva has nothing to envy its elder sister, the left bank, in terms of cultural offerings and perspectives.

by Kyra Dupont (EN)

🐠 Swiss science diplomacy to save Red Sea Corals. A group of scientists led by the Lausanne-based Transnational Red Sea Center will set sail this summer across the Red Sea to study its heat-resistant corals. The research boat Fleur de Passion, owned by the Geneva-based NGO Fondation Pacifique, will be hosting the project for the next four years.

Michelle Langrand (EN)

Meetings past and present

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Image 1: Then US Vice President Joe Biden with then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, 10 March 2011. (Keystone/ EPA/Maxim Shipenkov) Image 2: Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the CPSU and then US President Ronald Reagan during their summit meeting in Geneva on November 19, 1985. (Keystone / EPA / Lehtikuva / Jansson)

Geneva to host its first meeting of American and Russian leaders since 1985. President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin agreed on Tuesday to meet on 16 June in Geneva for their first in-person session since Biden took office, in an attempt to facilitate increasingly tense relations between the two nations. The summit is also a coup for the Geneva in helping to revive its reputation as a hub for multilateral diplomacy. We recommend RTS' short document below for a trip back in time – when President Ronald Reagan met Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva in 1985.

GenèveVision - RTS (FR)

Number of the month

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Rebuilding efforts begin as Israel-Hamas ceasefire holds. A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has held into its sixth day as mediators this week seek ways to strengthen the truce and prevent any further wave of violence between the two sides following the worst outbreak in years, which left hundreds dead and thousands more injured. Humanitarian efforts are now underway to rebuild Gaza, with the UN last week launching an emergency appeal for $38m to help provide immediate relief. An inter-agency response plan, which will include a financial appeal, will be released in the coming days.

Geneva Solutions (EN)

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