Philippe Mottaz (66) is the founder and editorial director of Geneva Observer, an online-platform for analysis and reporting on International Geneva. He was US correspondent and editor-in-chief of French-speaking Swiss Television and director of the English-speaking World Radio Switzerland (Swiss broadcasting corporation) and is the author of “#Trump: De la démagogie en Amérique” (with Stéphane Bussard). An old friend from years past, our daughters were born at almost the same time.
Salut, Philippe – has the child been born?
Yes. A boy.
You are a grandfather now, which makes you more dignified and also a bit older. I congratulate and confess to a wee bit of envy. Did you already get babysitting requests?
Not possible. Louisa is in London, you know. We cannot go there right now.
Giving birth in the middle of the Corona crisis is not exactly what one wishes for, no?
Everything is fine. But she had to leave the hospital earlier than normal. And once out she cannot return there.
Is there something like maternity leave in England?
The legal firm where she works has a very good setup. One year of maternity leave which she can divide up with her partner as they choose. Companies in London must offer good packages like that because competition for qualified labor is super intensive.
Geneva is the seat of the World Health Organization which now is the most important UN organization. Do you somehow feel it in the city?
We talk about it. But you won’t notice anything different.
You now are the world capital of multilateral politics. The UN organs in New York are not up to the challenge. The Security Council stays mum.
New York has shifted to Geneva now.
You founded Geneva Observer – do you experience more recognition?
We are small – too small. I want to do independent, critically minded journalism without being dependent of Geneva institutions or the government. Old-fashioned journalism based on facts. I see that there is a demand for that, an interest out there. But Geneva remains the only global city without a news organization dedicated to covering its action and its influence in the world. I continue looking for partners, and for money. I have good talks with the New York Times, but the Corona crisis has put everything on hold.
What do you think of Trump’s attacks on the WTO and his claim that WTO downplayed China’s responsibility for the Corona crisis?
This is complicated. On the one hand you have a tendency in the US working against all multilateral approaches. It is one of several hidden agendas using Trump as a political vehicle to pursue their interests. They very strategically put people from their networks on important positions. The US-Ambassador to the UN in Geneva is a case in point – well-connected on the right, from the school of Mitch McConnell, catholic-conservative. These people fight against the WTO as part of the multilateral system, talking about “alternatives”. They even relativize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by putting forward a concept of “natural rights”. On the other hand, you must see that the chief of WTO is an Ethiopian, and Ethiopia cultivates a close relationship with China since the seventies. China has invested in Ethiopia, Chinese aid to Africa is managed from Addis Ababa, there is a long-standing Chinese-Ethiopian cooperation on health issues. Ethiopia is China’s middleman in instrumentalizing multilateral institutions. So, you cannot just dismiss a notion that the Ethiopian chief of WTO might have been enormously understanding to China on the Corona issue, maybe too much. But how do they want to prove possible collusions or cover-ups? With E-Mails? Where is the justice system with the power to seize them? Pompeo’s claims regarding China’s virus labs recall very much Colin Powell’s claims regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
How does China act in the institutions in Geneva?
They invest in the system. They are active in the bodies that negotiate terms, notions, words. They introduce texts which contain new notions. They are active where it is about filling positions. The new chief of staff of ILO is a Chinese.
And the Americans?
They have realized that it is wrong to disengage from multilateral institutions. They mobilize against China, in different ways. The attack institutions like in the case of WTO. Or they build coalitions against China, for instance on intellectual property issues in WIPO.