Geneva Uses The Centenary Of The SDN To Claim Multilateralism

Antonio Broto

Geneva, Oct 25 (EFE) .- Geneva became the world capital of diplomacy in 1919 when it was chosen as the headquarters of the League of Nations (SDN), predecessor of the UN, and the centenary of the foundation of that ephemeral body seeks to claim him as the great precursor of multilateralism that these days is in crisis.

An exhibition at the Palais des Nations – former headquarters of the SDN, inherited by the United Nations – recalls the importance of this organization and others that from the Swiss city tried to seek peace and global cooperation with a spirit different from the warmongering of centuries previous.


The SDN was the daughter of the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on June 28, 1919 after the Paris Conference to end the First World War, and Geneva was chosen as the headquarters in a struggle with other cities such as Lausanne, Barcelona, ​​La Beech, Istanbul or Brussels.

"It was a city located in the center of Europe and in a neutral country in the war, so it offered the ideal conditions," historian Pierre-Etienne Bourneuf, curator of the exhibition, told Efe, adding to host the Red Cross. since 1863 he had already given him international experience and contacts.

The legend says that he beat nearby Lausanne, with similar advantages and that he was already host the International Olympic Committee, because a US delegate at the Paris Conference asked a Swiss waiter to tell him which of the two was better and he admitted that Geneva was less hot in summer.

The SDN was born with problems, because the US Senate voted against the United States joining it despite the fact that US President Woodrow Wilson himself had been his main promoter, although he served as a model for the United Nations, both in its organization chart and in their working methods.

Documents in the exhibition show their role in reducing conflict in the interwar period (avoided an armed confrontation between Greece and Bulgaria) or sanctioning the Soviet Union in 1939 for its attempt to annex Finland, something that earned it to the communist regime his expulsion from the SDN.

"It is true that in many cases he failed," Bourneuf acknowledges, remembering that he did nothing to prevent the Japanese invasion of Chinese Manchuria in 1937, or the Italian one of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935.

The organization was dissolved with the creation of the UN in 1945, but this did not put an end to the importance of Geneva in world diplomacy, since important United Nations agencies such as the World Health Organization or the World Organization settled there. of Labor, among others.

In addition, the Swiss city benefited in the Cold War from the suspicion of Soviet diplomats to negotiate at the United Nations headquarters in New York, and remained as the great center of diplomacy between the two blocks – and surely espionage – during half a century more.

The exhibition at the Palais des Nations is complemented by two others that this fall also revolve around the idea of ​​multilateralism that Geneva helped prop up: one at the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross and another at the Martin Bodmer Foundation.

This second sample, in which we can see rare treasures such as the original of the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 or pages of "War and Peace" handwritten by Leon Tolstoy, serves as a prologue to understand the birth of the SDN.

Reflect on the centuries when armed conflicts came to be seen as something positive and necessary, until the horrors of World War I popularized a pacifism that had already been promoted by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant or Jean-Jacques Rousseau but was still "frowned upon." ".

In an era like the current one, in which the president of the most powerful country in the world, the American Donald Trump, hates international organizations and flees from multi-party treaties, Geneva wants with these activities to remember that international cooperation is still necessary.

"Multilateralism is in grave danger and we have to support it with moral and intellectual arguments," Jacques Berchtold, curator of the exhibition at the Martin Bodmer museum, told Efe.

"We must ask ourselves if we are going to face together or alone challenges such as climate change or threats to security, and in this sense I would say that cooperation continues to matter today," Bourneuf said. EFE

abc / aam



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