Historical Milestones

No other city has a richer history of international cooperation than Geneva.

In 1863, a small group of Genevois created the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which led to the first international humanitarian treaty, the Geneva Convention of 1864.

In 1919, the city gained strength and momentum as a platform for dialogue and cooperation when the victorious states of World War I decided to establish the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization (ILO) there.

After World War II, the international community chose Geneva again to host key international organizations. Today, key actors in the health sector, like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have all set up headquarters there.

Discover the timeline of International Geneva history.



  • 1859

    The battle of Solferino was fought in northern Italy on 24 June 1859. A young Swiss man named Henry Dunant – who was in the area for business – did his best to care for the wounded and dying. This battle led Dunant to push for the creation of a neutral and impartial organization to protect and assist war victims (ICRC). 

  • 1863

    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is founded. One year later, the first international humanitarian law agreement is signed. 

  • 1872

    The Alabama Arbitration is pronounced in Geneva. For the first time, a dispute between two nations is settled through international mediation. 

  • 1889

    The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is created.

  • 1919

    Geneva is chosen to host the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

  • 1920

    The Geneva International Airport is officially inaugurated

  • 1925

    The International Bureau of Education (IBE) is created in Geneva to  centralize documentation related to public and private education, take an interest in scientific research in the educational field, and to serve as a coordinating centre for institutions and societies concerned with education. 

  • 1926

    The William Rappard Centre, the first building specifically constructed to host an international organization in Geneva, becomes the ILO headquarters. It is hosting today the World trade Organization (WTO).

  • 1927

    The Graduate Institute of International Studies (HEI), one of the world’s first academic institutions dedicated to the study of international relations, opens in Geneva.

  • 1936

    The construction of the Palais des Nations, which started in 1929, is achieved. It is hosting today the United Nations Office at Geneva. 

  • 1945

    The United Nations decide to establish their European headquarters in Geneva.  In the following years, a dozen UN bodies - such as ITU, UNHCR, WHO or WMO - choose Geneva for their headquarters.

  • 1949

    The four Geneva Conventions are adopted. These international treaties lay at the core of international humanitarian law and protect those who are not taking part in the hostilities  (civilians, health workers and aid workers) and those who are no longer participating in the hostilities, such as wounded, sick and shipwrecked soldiers and prisoners of war. 

  • 1954

    The Geneva Agreements put an end to the first Indochina war and leads to Vietnam's independence, opening the way to decolonization. 

  • 1954

    The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) opens at the border between France and Geneva.

  • 1955

    For the fist time since 1945, the winners of World War II - President Dwight D. Eisenhower for the United States, Prime Minister Anthony Eden for Britain, Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin for the Soviet Union, and Prime Minister Edgar Faure for France - meet in Geneva to discuss European security, disarmament and Germany's reunification. 

  • 1964

    The Building Foundation for International Organizations (FIPOI) is created by the Geneva and Swiss authorities in order to supports international organizations based in the Geneva area to find buildings and office spaces.

  • 1973

    Geneva extends its conference venue capacity with the inauguration of the International Conference Centre Geneva (ICCG).

  • 1973

    The conference on disarmament opens for the first time in Geneva.It remains, today, the only multilateral disarmament-negotiating forum. 

  • 1973

    The World Economic Forum (WEF) holds its first meeting.

  • 1985

    The Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Geneva is a turning point that leads to the end of the Cold War.

  • 1987

    The Brundtland Report defines, for the first time, the concept of sustainable development by stating that development is sustainable “if it guarantees that the needs of the current generation are met, without prejudicing the ability of future generations to meet their needs”. The report is published by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former Norwegian Prime Minister.

  • 1988

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is set up by WMO  and UNEP to provide governments with a clear scientific view of what is happening to the world's climate.

  • 1989

    Tim Berner-Lee, a scientist working at the CERN, invents the world wide web as a tool for scientists working in different universities and research institutes to automatically share information 

  • 1993

    The UN General Assembly adopts resolution 48/141 establishing the position of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The High Commissioner is the United Nations’ principal human rights official.

  • 1995

    The World Trade Organization (WTO) establishes its headquarters in Geneva.It is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Headquartered in Geneva, the WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.

  • 1996

    The Geneva and Swiss authorities launch a new welcome service for the international community, the Geneva Welcome Center (CAGI).

  • 1996

    UNAIDS, the joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS, is established  in Geneva 

  • 1999

    The new building of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is inaugurated. It is one of the first environmentally friendly UN buildings in Geneva.

  • 2000

    The Gavi Alliance chooses Geneva for its headquarters. In the following years, most innovative partnerships in the health sector choose Geneva:  the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM), Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), Foundation for innovative new diagnosis (FIND), Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the Stop TB Partnership.

  • 2006

    The creation of the Human Rights Council reinforces Geneva’s position as a centre for human rights.

  • 2008

    The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), an institution for research and higher education results from the merger of the Graduate Institute of International Studies (HEI) and the Graduate Institute of Development Studies (IUED). 

  • 2009-2010

    The United States of America and the Russian Federation successfully negotiate in Geneva the new Start treaty on strategic arms reduction.

  • 2010

    CERN launches the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) which will advance research on the origin of the universe.

  • 2018

    The Global Health Campus opened its doors in March 2018. Home of the Global Fund, Gavi, Unitaid, Roll Back Malaria and Stop TB, it brings together global health partners to unlock the collective potential of their distinctive missions.