Geneva Talks: Humanitarians and Technologists, Unite! [Recording]

Exploring the symbiotic relationship between technology and humanity.

Photo by Nathalie Kardjian for swissnex San Francisco

Event Details


Online Event


Thursday, June 25, 2020
08:00am to 09:15am in San Francisco 05:00pm to 06:15pm in Switzerland


Free. RSVP below.

This summer marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) in a time of turmoil and uncertainty. After the Second World War, countries across the World have signed the UN Charter in San Francisco in agreement to collectively work on a multilateral future. This year, the global pandemic not only reminds us that we are all interconnected, but also challenges us in upholding the principles that stand at the core of the UN Charter. The unprecedented crisis highlights the need for cooperation across countries, sectors, and generations. It is also a time of deep reflections about past, present, and what is ahead. Science and technology are the nexus of discussions ranging from finding a vaccine against COVID-19 to foresight for the future impact of AI and robotics on our lives and society.

In light of the UN’s 75th anniversary, swissnex San Francisco and the Consulate General of Switzerland in partnership with the Republic and Canton of Geneva, ICRC, DiploFoundation, and ICT4peace are hosting a two-part digital conversation aimed at bridging the dialogue between Geneva, the world’s capital for humanitarian and diplomatic affairs, and Silicon Valley, the epicenter of tech innovation. We will explore the challenges and opportunities that new technologies are introducing to the multilateral and humanitarian sector by bringing the technology industry into a conversation with actors from the multilateral and humanitarian sector.

The Geneva Talks series is a collaboration between swissnex SF, the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco, and the Republic and Canton of Geneva. Inspired by the conviction that technology is key to the future of humanity, the digital talks explores the symbiotic relationship between technology and humanity. The current global health pandemic highlights how central technology has become to address international crisis, and touches on the core values of the UN Charter. The future of the UN and multilateral governance, housed in Geneva, will be inextricably linked to technological progress sparked in Silicon Valley.

The debate about the ethical balancing act between the benefits and risks of using technology during a crisis is part of a longer discussion in the humanitarian field. With this panel, we look at technologies developed to combat the spread of the virus and their implications on privacy. To that end, we invite representatives from the humanitarian and tech-sector to discuss the future of crisis response and the potential of cross-sectoral collaboration. What is the role of tech-companies in a humanitarian crisis? How can we strengthen the dialogue between Silicon Valley and Geneva?

In the second part of this program taking place on Friday, June 26, we will discuss the state of multilateral governance in a digital post-pandemic world (register for the workshop).


San Francisco
08:00am — Welcome & Introduction
08:35am — Panel-Discussion moderated by Ludwig Siegele
09:05am — Q&A
09:15am — Conclusion  

05:00pm — Welcome & Introduction
05:35pm — Panel-Discussion moderated by Ludwig Siegele
06:05pm — Q&A
06:15pm — Conclusion


Ludwig Siegele
Ludwig joined The Economist as US technology correspondent in 1998. In 2003 he moved to Berlin as the newspaper’s Germany correspondent, before relocating to London in 2008 to cover the IT industry. In 2019 he returned to San Francisco as US technology editor. Ludwig started his journalistic career in 1990 as the Paris business correspondent of Die Zeit, a German weekly. In 1995 he moved from France to California to write about the internet for several German publications. He holds a degree in economics and political science from Cologne University and degrees in journalism from the Kölner Journalistenschule and the Centre de Formation des Journalists (CFJ) in Paris. He is also co-author of a book on SAP (“Matrix der Welt – SAP und der neue globale Kapitalismus”). From November 2018 to March 2019 Ludwig was Mercator Technology Fellow at the policy-planning unit of the German Foreign Office in Berlin.


Lene Wendland
Lene Wendland is Chief of the Business and Human Rights Unit in UN Human Rights. She was part of the team of former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie, and contributed to the development and drafting of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Lene directs the UN Human Rights’ Corporate Accountability and Remedy Project, which aims to enhance accountability and access to remedy in cases of business involvement in human rights abuses. She also directs a new initiative by UN Human Rights – the B-Tech Project – applying the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to key human rights challenges related to digital technologies. Lene is a member of the FIFA Independent Human Rights Advisory Board and represents UN Human Rights in the Governance Committee of the Centre for Sport and Human Rights. Lene holds a Masters degree in law from the University of Copenhagen.

Balthasar Staehelin
Mr. Staehelin was appointed ICRC’s Director of Digital Transformation and Data in May 2020.He joined the ICRC in 1993 and has served in the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans and at headquarters. From 2002 to 2006, he was Delegate-General for the Middle East and North. Africa, overseeing all ICRC work in the region. He served as Deputy Director of Operations for Policy and Global Affairs from 2006 to 2008. In 2008, he left the ICRC to join the local government in Geneva, Switzerland where he ran the department in charge of providing social welfare, housing, health and integration programmes for asylum-seekers and refugees. He returned to the ICRC in August 2012 as Deputy Director-General, where he served until May, 2020. In his current role, Balthasar leads the ICRC’s digital transformation, which is a transversal effort to have the ICRC better able to navigate the opportunities and risks new technologies create in order to best provide protection and assistance to conflict affected populations.

Rakesh Bharania
Rakesh Bharania is Director of Humanitarian Impact Data at, where he is responsible for defining engagement with the humanitarian community, focusing on the principled, safe and ethical application of innovative technologies in humanitarian contexts. He has spent more than 25 years in the humanitarian sector, focusing on the intersection of emerging technologies and international humanitarian crisis response and development.  Some of his past work includes responding to the September 11, 2001 attacks and Hurricane Katrina in the United States, the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the Ebola response in West Africa, and the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe.  He is currently working on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to, Rakesh worked on the privacy engineering team at Apple, focused on EU GDPR compliance and related policy and engineering work, and at Cisco where he helped to create one of the earliest private sector humanitarian technology response teams.

Philipp Stauffer
Philipp is an entrepreneur, investor, futurist and Co-Founder and Managing Partner at FYRFLY Venture Partners, an early stage venture firm based in San Francisco with focused investments in data and intelligence. Philipp brings a proven track record of building and accelerating businesses in cloud computing, AI / machine learning, analytics, and other convergent technologies. An early crypto advocate with expertise in decentralization trends, Philipp is also involved in driving distributed ledger technology initiatives in pockets of innovation that include his home country Switzerland. Philipp is on the Board of the Swiss American Chamber of Commerce (SACC) and an Honorary Ambassador to Switzerland for Swiss/U.S. Economic Development (GZA). Philipp holds an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. in Micro Economics, University of Applied Sciences, Zurich, Switzerland.