#20 The G|O Briefing, October 22, 2020


This is an onsite, slightly edited republication of the complete G|O Briefing newsletter

Today in The Geneva Observer, another Chinese show of force as Beijing denies Wikipedia official observer status at WIPO, John Zarocostas reports on how Wikipedia got caught up in the great US-Chinese rivalry at the heart of Geneva.  

According to the San-Francisco based foundation behind it, Wikimedia is a “global movement whose mission is to bring free educational content to the world,” so it’s perhaps no surprise that Wikipedia is already blocked in China. The move itself, however, was justified on the basis that they have a “Taiwan subsidiary.” It was supported by Russia, Iran, and Pakistan—famously staunch defenders of the free flow of information.  Keen observers of the “scold war” between the US and China clearly see Beijing’s show of force as a symbolic response to Washington’s success in blocking the election of China’s candidate at the head of WIPO earlier this year to replace former D-G Francis Gurry.

The EU joined forces with the US in that successful campaign, one of the last examples of cooperation between the two blocks around a multilateral organization. As we previously reported, this move led to the election of Singaporean Daren Tang, whose term effectively started on October 1. Beijing’s swipe at Wikimedia is another clear example of how active China is at all levels and on all fronts when advancing its positions in multilateral organizations.

With an unpredictable US Presidential election looming just 12 days away, International Geneva is holding its collective breath for the result. The Geneva Observer understands that several of the main international organizations are putting any major discussions on hold until the elections, including those around the reform of the WTO, the reform of WHO, and the investigation of WHO’s response to the pandemic.  

As we all wait, we decided to ask Washington, DC-based e-commerce and trade expert Dr. Susan Aaronson what a Biden trade posture would look like. You can read her informed piece here. Main takeaway: a Biden administration would not use trade policies to solve non-trade problems.  Also, about the WTO, don’t miss former deputy governor of the Nigerian Central Bank Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu’s incisive op-ed on why the time has come for Africa to lead the organization and why it matters.



The Multilateral Dialogue Geneva KAS Foundation has just published its second “Geneva Barometer” of the year, covering some key developments. The Geneva barometer adds a wealth of analysis and contextualization to some of the developments we cover regularly.  “The crisis is bringing the issue of the financing of multilateral organizations increasingly into focus. (…) a debate on reforming international organizations cannot be discussed independently of the issue of financing.” (Full disclosure, The Geneva Observer is supported by KAS Geneva.)

An anatomical dissection of the Human Rights Council The head of the Human Rights Council Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Eric Tistounet, launched his new book, The UN Human Rights Council, A Practical Anatomy, at a hybrid event at the Geneva Academy’s Villa Moynier on Tuesday (October 20) (you can watch again here). Bertrand Ramcharan—former Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and someone who has written extensively on the UN’s human rights system—commented on the book during the event, particularly in relation to the failure of the body the HRC replaced, the Commission on Human Rights.

Today's Briefing: Philippe Mottaz - John Zarocostas

Guest essay: Susan Ariel Aaronson

Edited by: Paige Holt