Goodbye Geneva – Hallo-Wien

Goodbye to my good friends in Geneva – you know who you are, and I’m sure we shall meet again.

Today is All Saints Day and my first day of retirement. I came to Geneva in Schwarzenbach’s heyday and left it last week in Blocher’s. Between those two events Tim Berners-Lee, then working at CERN, invented the World Wide Web and Switzerland joined the United Nations.

Looking back now on a somewhat unorthodox but enriching career with the UN specialised agency for telecommunications, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), I’m struck by the seesaw of the personal and the universal, the blurring of boundaries, and the urgent need for seeing all sides and for not pitting one against the other.

In 1865, long before the UN existed, the ITU was set up in a spirit of pragmatic altruism. Today, altruism scares the pants off the powers that be because it is perhaps one of the last things they cannot control. With elections soon coming up in an organisation where I spent a good time of my adult life, I wonder if the fine and “universal” campaign words are not just a cover-up for personal ambitions. What would be the answers if candidates were asked why they wanted those jobs to which they so ardently aspire?