The MIB Class of 2017 trip to Geneva
The great author Marcel Proust once commented: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Although this might not be a direct description of a group of people, I have never read words so comprehensively grasping the spirit that connects every generation of MIB students studying at Frankfurt School before. Being constituted of young, compassionate people from all over the world united by a deeply rooted longing for exploring and experiencing the world, the MIB gives the opportunity to develop exactly what Proust is writing about: “New Eyes”. Our very own voyage of discovery already started one semester ago when most of us met for the first time, eager to start a new part of our life. And now we were as eager to start our second term with travelling to Geneva with the purpose of being introduced to some of the great architects of the world we currently experience: the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Economic Forum (WEF), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We started our trip to Geneva on Sunday, March 13th at 9 am sharp with departing from Frankfurt School and spent the eight-hour bus ride exchanging experiences we made during semester break and playing the inevitable road-trip games that seem to be omnipresent on our globe. After arriving at our hotel in the late afternoon the ones of us not having been in Switzerland before were faced with a prejudice we all compassionately hoped to be utterly wrong turning out as the bitter truth: Switzerland is expensive. So after spending a decent amount of money on dinner we spent the rest of the evening socializing and anticipating how the upcoming three days three days would look like. The first day started with a visit to the WTO where we, after passing the tight security measures, were introduced to an organization that has dedicated itself to deal with the big topics of international trade. Josep Bosch from the Information and External Relations Division of the WTO made a great effort to explain all facets of the organization ranging from the purpose of the WTO, its characteristic decision-making procedure by consensus, the basic principles of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) and National Treatment policies, its involvement in trade negotiations and the organization’s very own dispute settlement mechanism to its devotion to eliminate trade barriers across the world. His memorable allegories helped us to leave the building with an extended understanding of the importance of international trade agreements for making this world a better and more equal place for all.
MIB 2017 at the WTO
Our second visit on the first day led us all through the city center of Geneva to the quarter of Cologny. While ascending the steep and twisting street that led up the mountain towards the WEF we were awarded with brief but overwhelming views of the Geneva Lake continuously interrupted by the sight of no less stunning mansions resembling architectural styles ranging from baroque to futuristic. When we finally arrived at our destination we weren’t able not to notice the fact that the WEF building itself could be described as a diamond of architecture. Its clear, sleek lines and an entrance hall that rewarded its visitor with a breathtaking view of the Lac Léman and its surrounding shoreline overhung by a cloudless blue sky made us excuse being received as the delegation of the “Frankfurt School of Finance and Marketing”. The presentation gave us deep insights into the work of the WEF. Apart from conducting the world-renowned annual meeting in Davos it also hosts conferences around the globe that focus on improving the livelihood of people in a specific part of the world, for example the World Economic Forum on Africa, this year to be held in Kigali, Rwanda. With these conferences it is providing a platform for discussions between influential characters from around the world that usually do not have the opportunity for such. In addition to the WEF’s strategies to facilitate fruitful exchange during its meetings we were also introduced to the organization’s struggle to make the voices of “normal” people heard in an atmosphere of power, influence and expertise and the reforms tackling these difficulties. On this afternoon, surrounded by the aforementioned scenery we were faced with an institution that has realized the power of communication and the positive impact it can have on the world if the right people are sitting together on the very same table. We can only wish that it will be able to continue its work in a way that will more and more incorporate the concerns of the wider public into its discussions.
MIB 2017 at the WEF
Our second day in Geneva began with a bus ride to the large compound of the ILO where Dr. Patricia Richter introduced us to the organization itself, the topic of “The Social Dimension of Finance” and where these two overlap. The presentation was introduced by quoting the former Norwegian Prime Minister and former Director-General of the WHO Gro Harlem Brundtland: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the abilities of future generations to meet their own needs.” It was argued that by making this very definition of sustainable development a central concern for the global financial system and its institutions they can fulfill the growing public demands for a more social financial environment. An environment that is also being called for by the international community by including the topic of “access to finance” into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ILO as an organization is mainly focused on the social side of sustainable development, namely the topics rights at work, employment and income, social protection and social dialogue. All of those topics require profound expertise in the area of access to finance to be addressed in a comprehensive way. We were given an insight into several of the ILO’s projects such as the ILO Social Finance Programme, which supports the development and adoption of financial services and policies for social justice. Apart from taking the time to answer an abundance of questions from our side, Dr. Richter asked us to work on a case study that involved assessing the depth of social and environmental compliance policies in selected financial institutions. Following lunch at the ILO’s cantina we continued our day with visiting the UNCTAD, aiming to learn more about how it fulfills its mission to help developing countries to integrate into the world economy. Dr. Joachim Karl explained us how the UNCTAD uses Political Analysis, Multilateral Dialogue Fora and technical help to assist developing countries in making themselves more attractive for private investors and improve their competitiveness on international markets. He further pointed out the great importance private sector investments have to be attributed with when it comes to economic development in developing and transition countries. Lastly, we were introduced to the UNCTAD’s approach towards contractual set-up of trade agreements and the ongoing discussions about Investment Dispute Settlements.
MIB 2017 in front of the United Nations in Geneva
On the third and last day we were invited to the UNHCR, an organization that especially concerning the background of the gruesome and inhumane war in Syria and the resulting refugee crisis in Europe and the Mashriq has again deserved our support. It has been on the foremost front to fight for human rights, the adherence of international treaties on refugees and all humans who are being forced to leave their homes in this conflict since its very beginning. So after checking out of the hotel in the morning we made our way to meet Machiel Salomons, Principle Policy and Education Advisor at the UNHCR headquarter in the city center. Here we got to know the differences in definition of an asylum-seeker and a refugee, the history and the key mandate of the UNHCR, which surprisingly not only includes the protection of and search of durable solutions for refugees, but also identifying, preventing and reducing statelessness as well as the reintegration for returnees. We further were faced with disturbing statistics on and stories about the dire situation of refugees around the globe. All in all the visit to UNHCR was probably the most emotionally stirring one of our three days in Geneva, it certainly was an experience that made a number of MIB students reconsider their plans for the future. After long, rewarding three days full of new experiences and knowledge we mounted the bus back to Frankfurt. Though this time the atmosphere in the bus bore witness to the tremendous amount of work and effort that has been spent during the preceding days. Here we would also like to thank our dear Kathrin Valder and Claudia Kuckelmann for planning this experience and especially Claudia for accompanying us on this trip. Going back to the line by Marcel Proust from the beginning: What are these “New Eyes” all about and how do they connect to our voyage? My personal opinion is that the concept of “New Eyes” is no less than the key asset of our generation. It is the ability to not only look beyond the borders of your own cultural background, but to fully understand the roots and origins of the beliefs, customs and mannerisms prevailing in other cultural environments. It is the skill to analyze the strengths and flaws of the cultural environment you currently happen to live in and thereby being able to promote positive developments that lead to improvements in people’s livelihood, the environmental situation and social representation of individuals. It is wholeheartedly loving the idea of an inclusive globalization and giving the best effort to include social and ethical arguments into one’s own decisions in politics or business or whatever profession you might find yourself in one day. It is the requirement to be a true “citizen of the world”, one that in its conception goes far beyond the simplistic definition of detaching from your own cultural heritage. What we experienced during these four days was what it means to promote those values in international relations, politics and negotiations and the constant adaption to circumstances needed to achieve results in these environments. And as we grow wiser, we get to see the world with new eyes…