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Have you ever noticed there is a Wilson theme on the right bank of Geneva? The Quai de Mont Blanc becomes the Quai Wilson where one can stay at the President Wilson Hotel which is next to the Palais Wilson.

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The above sign states the obvious but I only realized after a United Nations tour that the reason Geneva is the center of today’s UN humanitarian services is because the League of Nations was once headquartered in an old hotel on the right bank of Lac Leman.

Palais WilsonThe story begins after WWI when US President Wilson decided it was imperative to prevent the horrible destruction and loss of life as a result of another modern world war. He initiated the creation of an inter-governmental organization whose purpose would be to provide a forum to solve international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. It would be called the League of Nations (LN) and it would be located in the neutral city of Geneva.

While the first ten assemblies were convened in the Salle de Reformation, plans were being made to build an entire campus for the League of Nations which would be called the Palais des Nations. Construction began with laying down the “foundation stone” in 1929. Under this stone lies a specimen coin of each member state present at the tenth assembly.

Despite President Wilson promoting, establishing and even receiving a Nobel Peace prize for the League of Nations, the United States was never a member.

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The League of Nations’ primary goal was world peace. But it would also address labor conditions, human and drug trafficking, arms trade and prisoners of war. Wikipedia has an excellent page that provides a list of conflicts and social issues that the LN addressed. However the onset of WWII, the structural weaknesses of the organization, and the lack of the United States’ participation led to dissolving the League of Nations in 1946; replacing it with a differently structured organization called the United Nations.

Today the public can visit the Palais des Nations with tours sponsored by the United Nations (blog coming soon). But unless you are in Geneva for diplomatic business with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, you cannot visit the Palais Wilson.


We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland.  If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/