With a 62% majority, Geneva citizens approved by referendum a proposed extension of the World Trade Organization’s headquarters.
”The result of this referendum allows us to advance beyond this important stage of the project of renovation/extension of the WTO headquarters in Geneva,” said Director-General Pascal Lamy. “The WTO will continue to work with the authorities of the host country. The debate on this referendum has brought us closer to the Geneva population and we intend to pursue our efforts in this respect,” he added.
Opinions had been divided on the matter, with some protestors objecting to the US$126 million plan, arguing that an extension of the WTO’s William Rappard Centre would damage the surrounding park and lakeside promenade. “The capitalist cancer of WTO is attacking the lung of Geneva,” read one of their posters.
Supporters of the extension plan consider that the international organizations based in the country's capitol contribute to the local economy and that rejection of the proposal would drive the WTO to shift its headquarters elsewhere. Hong Kong and Singapore were rumoured to be possible alternatives.
The extension is planned to be built on the current WTO parking lot and will accommodate an additional 300 employees besides the current staff of 800. Many professionals will work together to ensure that the future perimeter of the building will not encroach access to the surrounding Barton Park.
Half the cost of the renovation plan will be funded through interest-free loans to be paid back within 50 years and the remainder will be paid by Swiss citizens.