Chapter 11

Ensuring Action by 2030


© UN Photo - Iryna Turtaieva

UN Geneva is one of the largest conference centres in Europe, with numerous conference and meeting spaces. It also provides a variety of services to ensure that events are well coordinated, accessible and safe, and that they are efficient and effective for participants and organizers alike.

As part of its strategic focus on client orientation and adaptability, UN Geneva launched the Conferencing Today and Tomorrow initiative in 2018. The purpose was to understand how the overall conferencing experience could be enhanced, and how the needs of meeting organizers may evolve in the next five to ten years.

Innovations and conferencing technologies were analysed for their potential to better support the needs of clients and to service intergovernmental processes more effectively. In 2019, UN Geneva carried out a series of interviews, a survey and a shadowing exercise, to assess needs and, in response to the feedback received, began developing several projects.

The projects were for enhanced indoor navigation, improved formatting of meeting documents, providing better guidance to meeting organizers, and developing speech-to-text technologies to produce searchable transcripts.

Find out how UN Geneva is working to enhance the conferencing experience.



© UN Photo - Adam Kane

Creating a work environment where staff can thrive will help ensure that UN Geneva continues to play its critical global role. Through an initiative called #NewWork, staff are creating a workplace culture that values innovation, collaboration, learning, empowerment and flexibility.

In 2019, staff implemented a range of projects that contribute to the five #NewWork themes of Innovation and Risk-taking, Collaboration, Fit for the Future, Empowered Networks, and Working Flexibly. These have included various “innovation challenges”, the roll-out of collaborative digital tools such as Microsoft Teams, learning events about new workplace trends and technologies, the piloting of new meeting techniques such as “huddles”, and the promotion of an updated policy on flexible working arrangements, which includes telecommuting. Many more such activities are on the horizon for 2020.

Ultimately, #NewWork won’t just bring positive changes for staff; it will also ensure that our Organization is equipped to deliver on its mission well into the future.

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© UN Photo - Adam Kane


© UN Photo - SDG Lab at UN Geneva

What do you get when you combine a spool of red thread and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals? A flurry of activity highlighting the interconnectedness and interdependency of the Goals.    

As part of its mission to experiment and engage in new methods to support countries and other actors in achieving the Goals, the SDG Lab at UN Geneva invited participants attending the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE Region in March to physically make linkages between the Goals.

Find out how the SDG Lab engages with and supports the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“We experimented, and it was great to see the number of interesting stories that came out of visually showing those interlinkages,” said Nadia Isler, SDG Lab Director, about the activity held during the two-day Regional Forum. “It sparked other ideas and analysis of what were the drivers and incentives that made them have a more integrated approach to the challenges at the country level,” she added. 



© UN Photo - Josie Bauman

To drive the transition to a low-carbon economy – one that is greener and more inclusive – we must combine private and public expertise, including from international organizations, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and specialized actors.

Increasing collaboration between the financial and international development communities in Switzerland and bringing additional resources for the Sustainable Development Goals were the main objectives of the five-day Building Bridges Week in early October.

Solidifying the role of International Geneva as a hub for sustainable finance and impact investing for the Global Goals, the week-long event was led by UN Geneva’s SDG Lab and supported by key Geneva-based partners.

A one-day summit was the pinnacle of the week, with the President of Switzerland, the Director-General of UN Geneva, the chief executive officers of UBS and Julius Baer and other influential voices taking part. The financial and international development communities heard the clarion call for increased partnership, collaboration and financing for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.   

Featuring more than 30 events, and with over 1,000 participants, Building Bridges Week brought forward an important discussion on the approaches and solutions needed to close the Global Goals financing gap, through the lens of key financial, governmental and regulatory actors in Switzerland and beyond.    

The Building Bridges Summit marked the culmination of a concerted effort which

“demonstrates that, in Geneva and in Switzerland, stakeholders are coming together to commit to action on the SDGs through sustainable finance”, said UN Geneva Director-General Tatiana Valovaya. “Initiatives like this are crucial, because not only do they foster mutual understanding between the international development and financial sectors, they also build trust that is fundamentally important for ongoing, sustained partnership in the SDG era.”


© UN Photo - SDG Lab at UN Geneva

“It’s through platforms like ‘So What?’ that we better understand the integrated and interconnected nature of the 17 Goals,” said UN Geneva Director-General Tatiana Valovaya at the 7th “So What?” discussion.

The “So What?” discussion series focuses on uncovering and explaining the correlations between two or more seemingly unrelated Sustainable Development Goals, and exploring practical means of achieving them.

The intersections between Goal 2 on zero hunger, Goal 3 on good health and well-being and Goal 13 on climate action were the focus of the December event. Reflecting the rich diversity of International Geneva, the discussions explored what organizations and countries are doing to incentivise joint action on these three goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The event featured a keynote address by the President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, who presented his country’s plan for full decarbonization by 2050 and his vision for a net-zero emissions future. He shared his country’s commitment to becoming the world’s first decarbonization lab, “to see how it works in practice and how to scale up elsewhere”.

“Without looking deeper into the correlations between the different Sustainable Development Goals, the Goals can come across as one big puzzle. We are helping to shed light on the challenges and opportunities of an integrated 2030 Agenda,” added the Director-General.


© UN Photo - Iryna Turtaieva

UN Geneva provides numerous services to more effectively fulfil its mission of supporting multilateral processes. To play its part in overcoming the challenges posed by climate change, UN Geneva has committed itself to reducing overall energy consumption at the Palais des Nations. UN Geneva continuously upgrades infrastructure and services to achieve sustainability and efficiency goals, while transitioning to cleaner renewable or low-CO2– emitting sources of energy.

A modern – yet heat-producing and energy-consuming – data centre provides stable and secure IT infrastructure for staff, delegates and visitors at the Palais des Nations. 

To reduce the carbon footprint of the data centre, UN Geneva has recently installed a heat recovery system. It transfers excess heat generated by the servers to help warm the E Building in winter and heat water in summer. Yearly, this system is expected to recover 420,000 kWh of energy, saving nearly 70 tons of CO2 per year.

A similar project will soon extract heat from water used for refrigeration in the cafeteria and transfer it to some plumbing systems within the Palais des Nations. This system is intended to prevent the emission of 34 tons of CO2 per year.   

UN Geneva is becoming more efficient and less resource-intensive. In the last 20 years, overall energy consumption at the Palais des Nations has decreased by approximately 35%. Since 2017, UN Geneva has achieved net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase of carbon credits. In 2019, certified emission reductions came from a project in Malawi to replace carbon-intensive cooking stoves with sustainable, energy-efficient models.