Located in the far western part of Switzerland, Geneva is the second most populous city in the country after Zurich. It sits on the south-western end of Lake Geneva and has two mountain chains, the Alps and the Jura, surrounding it. Geneva has a history that dates back to 58 BC, when the first Roman settlement was noted in the locale.
The city has embraced its role as a financial centre, and as far back as the 14th and 15th centuries it was the capital of European trade fairs. Student tours will take participants around the city and describe how, during the 17th century, Genevan bankers financed The Dutch West Indies Company and the Royal Bank of England, among other notable achievements. It is the ideal city to include on tours for students that focus on sociology or politics studies.
Since the time of the 17th century, the city has evolved into one of the most important financial hubs of Europe. After London and Zurich, Geneva is considered Europe’s third major financial centre. As such, it has been the base for several major international corporations and charities such as The International Committee of the Red Cross (also known as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent). Geneva was also host to the country’s first stock exchange. Student tours to the modern city can expose pupils to two of the most important business and financial institutions in Europe.
The International Committee of the Red Cross – This private humanitarian institution had its beginnings as part of the Geneva Convention, held in 1864. Representatives of 12 countries signed a document that was declared to be ‘for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field’. As a result, several of the nations created national societies within their home countries.
Student tours to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum – currently closed but to re-open in 2013 – and the headquarters of the ICRC will take students through the history of the organisation. This can include looking at how and why the ICRC is the only institute explicitly named under International Humanitarian Law. A tour can also explore the interesting aspects of the organisation itself. It is neither an international organisation, nor a sovereign entity; as such, it does not have a policy of open membership like most NGOs, and instead limits its membership to Swiss Nationals.
Geneva Stock Exchange – In the current world economic climate, student tours to one of the founding seats of the financial stock exchange will certainly prove interesting and informative. Founded in 1857, almost 25 years prior to the exchanges in Basle and Zurich, the Geneva Stock Exchange was the fifth most important stock exchange in Europe. Geneva remained in its central role in European and world economics until the stock exchanges in Basle, Zurich, and Geneva were combined in 1995 to form the SIX Swiss Exchange, which is now based in Zurich.