The Maison de la paix, a glass and concrete building with inter-linked “petals”, serves as the new centre of the Graduate Institute, a post-graduate school with 777 students enrolled in Master’s and PhD programmes.
The speech of Annan, who headed the UN from 1997 to 2006, served double duty as the official opening of the 180-million-franc ($198-million) building and as the opening lecture of the 2013-14 academic year.
An alumnus of the Graduate Institute, the Nobel Prize-winning Ghanaian diplomat spoke about Africa’s booming mining industry and how in many countries natural resource revenues are actually widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
While Africa has enormous opportunities, Annan, 75, called for a better management of the “wealth bonanza” to ensure it is accompanied by improvements in health, education and nutrition.
Other speakers at the event, drawing around 800 people to a new auditorium at the Maison de la paix, included Mauro Dell’Ambrogio, Swiss state secretary for education, research and innovation; Charles Beer, president of the Geneva government; and Philippe Burrin, director of the Graduate Institute.
The building, financed through a mixture of public and private financing, was erected on land granted for 100 years by the Hans-Wilsdorf Foundation, the foundation set up by the late founder of the Geneva-based Rolex watch company.
The structure incorporates a 4,500-square metre library, 15 classrooms, 10 seminar rooms and a cafeteria.
It is at the centre of a campus with a network of buildings, including a residence for 243 students, that stretches from the United Nations Office of Geneva to the shores of Lake Geneva.
Dedicated to the study of world affairs, the Graduate Institute is a bilingual (English-French) school that attracts students from more than 100 countries, with 70 percent of them residing outside Switzerland at the time of application.
If you are interested in peeking inside the new building, the institute is opening its doors to the public on October 19th.
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