Switzerland (/ˈswɪtsərlənd/), officially the Swiss Confederation, is a federal republic in Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, and the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western-Central Europe, and is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning an area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately eight million people is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centres Zürich and Geneva.
Switzerland is one of the most developed countries in the world, with the highest nominal wealth per adult and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product according to the IMF. Switzerland ranks at or near the top globally in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic competitiveness, and human development. Zürich and Geneva have each been ranked among the top cities in the world in terms of quality of life, with the former ranked second globally, according to Mercer.
In 2002 Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations, leaving the Vatican City as the last widely recognised state without full UN membership. Switzerland is a founding member of the EFTA, but is not a member of the European Economic Area. An application for membership in the European Union was sent in May 1992, but not advanced since the EEA was rejected in December 1992 when Switzerland was the only country to launch a referendum on the EEA. There have since been several referendums on the EU issue; due to a mixed reaction from the population the membership application has been frozen. Nonetheless, Swiss law is gradually being adjusted to conform with that of the EU, and the government has signed a number of bilateral agreements with the European Union. Switzerland, together with Liechtenstein, has been completely surrounded by the EU since Austria’s entry in 1995. On 5 June 2005, Swiss voters agreed by a 55% majority to join the Schengen treaty, a result that was regarded by EU commentators as a sign of support by Switzerland, a country that is traditionally perceived as independent and reluctant to enter supranational bodies.
Geneva is a global city, a financial center, and worldwide center for diplomacy due to the presence of numerous international organizations, including the headquarters of many of the agencies of the United Nations and the Red Cross. Geneva is the city that hosts the highest number of international organizations in the world. It is also the place where the Geneva Conventions were signed, which chiefly concern the treatment of wartime non-combatants and prisoners of war.
In 2017 Geneva was ranked as the world’s fifteenth most important financial centre for competitiveness by the Global Financial Centres Index, fifth in Europe behind London, Zürich, Frankfurt and Luxembourg. A 2009 survey by Mercer found that Geneva has the third-highest quality of life of any city in the world.
The official language of Geneva, in both the city and canton is French, the main language used in Romandie. As a result of immigration flows in the 1960s and 1980s, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish are also spoken by a considerable proportion of the population. English is also quite common due to the high number of anglophone expatriates and foreigners working in international institutions and in the bank sector. Lack of proficiency in French of English-speaking expatriates (even after years spent in Geneva) is an increasing concern.
Geneva is the European headquarters of the United Nations, in the Palace of Nations building (French: Palais des Nations), which was also the headquarters of the former League of Nations. Several agencies are headquartered at Geneva, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the World Health Organization(WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Apart from the UN agencies, Geneva hosts many inter-governmental organizations, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Economic Forum(WEF), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).