A few posts ago I wrote about walls, inspired by the experience of being in Berlin. Geneva offers an antithesis.
On the 24th June 1859, Henry Dunant, a Swiss business man witnessed the aftermath of a bloody battle in Solferino, North Italy that left 40,000 men killed or wounded as the Austrians were expelled with the help of the French. He was appalled at the abandonment of the injured and mobilized the local population of deliver relief with the resources that were available.
On his return to Geneva he wrote “A memory of Solferino”, in which he proposed that the States should ‘formulate some international principle … for the relief of the wounded’. Along with four others (The Committee of Five), 100 years before my birthday in September 1863, he formed The International Committee for the Relief to the Wounded Soldiers’ and drew up the First Geneva Convention. The Red Cross was born. Again the story of one person’s vision and commitment has had a cascading impact for good beyond imagination.
While debate about its effectiveness is live and appropriate, the subsequent story(s) of the League of Nations (post WWI) and the United Nations (post WWII) similarly evokes in me a swelling of pride in the capacity of humanity to do the right thing. Maria and I were guided through some of the meeting rooms in which very significant negotiations and agreements were forged and got a glimpse of the scale of ongoing conversation that happens between leadership of nations. Perhaps the time has come for the UN to get a renovation, but the idea of facilitating a coming together around the most significant challenges facing humanity with objectives that embrace peace and human rights is indeed a great thing.