‘The Graduate Institute (known by its Geneva abbreviation of HEI – Hautes Eâtudes Internationales) was founded in 1927. The moving spirits behind its creation were William Rappard, a friend of Woodrow Wilson, and Paul Mantoux, a friend of Lloyd George and of Clemenceau – both scholar-diplomats. They worked side by side and in friendship as senior officials in the secretariat at the first headquarters of the League of Nations in the building, later (and still) known as the Palais Wilson. Their shared vision, at the peak of faith in internationalism associated with the League, was for a graduate school to help prepare statesmen and secretariat staff by studying, in complete impartiality, the new and distinct subject of international relations.
Rappard was influential in convincing President Wilson to locate the League in Geneva. Indeed, the current site of the Institute in the Parc Barton on the shore of Lake of Geneva, was one of the first sites considered for the organization’s headquarters. The original mandate of the Institute highlighted the aim of working closely with the League and the ILO (its precursor in Geneva) in a cooperative exchange through which HEI would prepare staff and delegates, while the intergovernmental organizations would provide intellectual resources and diplomatic expertise as guest lecturers. The Institute continues to pride itself on being an intellectual catalyst, and a magnet, for what is known as “Geneve international”.
The professors chosen to teach at the Institute constituted a galaxy of brilliant academic merit. As Rappard himself was to observe, ironically, the two men to whom the Institute owed a debt for so happy a selection were Mussolini and Hitler! From 1928 onwards, the faculty consisting of co-directors Professors Mantoux and Rappard, and two local teachers was reinforced by the arrival of eminent newcomers from abroad – Hans Wehberg and Georges Scelle for law, Maurice Bourquin for diplomatic history, and Pitman B. Potter for political science; and the rising young Swiss jurist, Paul Guggenheim.
These outstanding scholars were soon joined by other heavyweights, notably Hans Kelsen, the towering theorist and philosopher of law, Guglielmo Ferrero, the polymath Italian historian, and Carl Burckhardt, scholar and diplomat. Later arrivals, also seeking refuge from the dictatorships, included the apostle of the free market economy, Ludwig von Mises, and another economist, Wilhelm Ropke, who wielded much influence over German postwar liberal economic policy and the development of the theory of a social market system.
Around the constellation of permanent professors orbited a galaxy of visiting professors teaching for a semester or two, or giving cours temporaires. The list of their names reads like an Almanac de Gotha of prominent intellectuals of the 1930s. Between 1928 and 1957, in addition to the 40 professors who had taught for a minimum of one semester, over 260 lecturers from Switzerland or abroad, contributed through their weeklong cours temporaires to enriching considerably the curriculum of the Institute.
In a sense the cours temporaires were the intellectual showcase of the Institute, attracting such names as Raymond Aron, Ren√© Cassin, Luigi Einaudi, John Kenneth Galbraith, G. P. Gooch, Gottfried Haberler, Friedrich A. von Hayek, Hersch Lauterpacht, Lord McNair, Gunnar Myrdal, Harold Nicolson, Philip Noel Baker, Pierre Renouvin, Lionel Robbins, Jean de Salis, Count Sforza, Jacob Viner, and the Montagu Burton Professor of International Relations at Oxford, Sir Alfred Zimmern.
The last-named deserves separate mention for his own pioneering role in the systematic study and teaching of international relations. As early as 1924, while serving on the staff of the International Council for intellectual Cooperation in Paris, he began organising summer schools in international affairs under the auspices of the University of Geneva – the “Zimmern schools” as they were known. That initiative was taken in parallel with the early planning for the launch of the Graduate Institute and the experience acquired by the former helped to shape the latter. Zimmern retained friendly connections with the Geneva institute when he moved to Oxford to take up the first specialized chair in international relations at that University. In that special sense, he was a precursor of the renewed cooperation between the two within the framework of the Europeum.
HEI takes pride in the fact that, despite its small size (the faculty never exceeded 25 members before the 1980s), four of those who have taught for more than one semester (i.e. excluding guest lecturers for shorter periods) have won Nobel Prizes for economics – Gunnar Myrdal, Friedrich von Hayek, Maurice Allais, and Robert Mundell.
From 1927 until 1954 HEI obtained most of its funds from a generous subvention provided by the Rockefeller Foundation. Since then the Canton of Geneva and the Swiss Federal Council have borne most of the costs. The change in financial sponsorship coincided with a change of Directorship in 1955, when the Lausanne historian Jacques Freymond took over from William Rappard. Freymond inaugurated a period of rapid expansion in the range of subjects taught, in the size of the faculty and in student numbers, which continued after his retirement in 1978. During that period HEI was host to many international colloquia dealing with subjects as diverse as preconditions for east-west negotiations, relations with China and the rising influence of that country in world affairs, European integration, techniques and results of politico-socioeconomic forecasting (the famous early Club of Rome reports, and the Futuribles project led by Bertrand de Jouvenel), the causes and possible antidotes to terrorism, Pugwash concerns and many more. Landmark publications of these years included the celebrated Treatise on international law by Professor Paul Guggenheim and the path-breaking six-volume compilation of historical documents relating to the various forms taken by the Communist International.
Despite many changes over its seven and a half decades, HEI has remained faithful to its original vocation, and retains much of its original character. Associated with, but separate from, the University of Geneva, the Institute is a teaching and research institution devoted to the graduate-level study of international relations. Its claim to distinction (in addition to its role as a pioneer on the continent in specializing in international relations as a distinct field of study) is by virtue of its pluri-disciplinary and international character. Four disciplines – international law, international economics, international history and politics, and political science – are taught at the Institute in English or French with the goal of drawing on cross-disciplinary links to present a broad understanding of international relations.
Located in the heart of International Geneva – within 500 meters of such major organizations as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) among many others – HEI has a geographically very diverse teaching staff and student body that give it a markedly cosmopolitan and intercultural personality.
To mark its 75th Anniversary, the Institute staged a major two-day conference on Globalisation and International Relations in the 21st Century. The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and a former student of the Institute, delivered the keynote address. Other speakers include a Ministers from the Swiss Government and noted alumni in academia and international organizations. A film festival dedicated to 75 years of history of international relations with commentaries from GIIS professors, was also held, and a special in-house video entitled Memories in Image: 75 Years of Teaching of International Relations as Seen by its Actors, was shown.’