Expert Profile

Mr Nicholas Niggli
Position(s) Deputy Secretary General, Republic and State of Geneva, Department of Economic Development

Over nearly two decades of work as senior negotiator, chairperson, mediator, senior lecturer, director general and deputy secretary general respectively, Nicholas C. Niggli has developed outstanding experience in purposeful leadership, international trade, multilateral governance, economic, science and digital diplomacy, regenerative development as well as multistakeholder coalition building and disruptive ideation processes. Having held senior leadership positions at the international, national and regional governance levels, Nicholas is passionate about finding ways to push the boundaries of innovation and creating novel avenues for public-private collaboration and systemic value-creation. In 2015, he has been selected as a key contributor to the WTO's negotiation history, as the Multilateral Trading System celebrated its 20th birthday.

Nicholas is currently Deputy Secretary General at the Republic and State of Geneva. His mission is to create conditions favouring the emergence of new sources of growth as well as innovation, but also to strategically position Geneva as a global hub for innovative digital governance as well as for sustainable and regenerative economy. To do so, he is building innovative partnerships between Geneva’s key economic clusters and its network of multilateral governance actors, creating original, high-value bridges to make Geneva a laboratory of the future of the economy and governance 2.0.

In this context, Nicholas launched and developed the Geneva Digital Talks and the Geneva = International Innovation Centre in 2017. He negotiated the arrival of the Global Network of Financial Centres for Sustainability (FC4S) in 2018, which triggered the founding of the Building Bridges initiative focused on making Geneva a global hub for sustainable, impact and SDG finance in 2019. That same year, he also led the effort to attract the Cyber Peace Institute to Geneva, strengthening the ecosystem's capacity to leverage technology's positive effects for humanity. Within the same framework, Nicholas co-created and developed the Trust Valley, a multistakeholder and multidisciplinary initiative, which aims to boost digital trust at the local, national and global level in 2020. In 2018, he was selected as one of the Top-100 personalities of Western Switzerland by Forum des 100.

Since 2012, Nicholas has also been lecturing on complex negotiation dynamics, leadership, intercultural communication, innovation in global governance mechanisms and change management as part of the International Negotiation & Policy (INP) Executive Master at the Graduate Institute of International & Development Studies, Geneva. In this role, he has also been supervising trade negotiation simulations for advanced professionals. In parallel, he has been a guest lecturer on international trade, procurement, governance process design innovation in various other leading academic institutions across Switzerland, Europe and the US since 2011. He is also a Fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy since 2019.

From 2013 to 2017, Nicholas was Head, Economic, Finance, Science & Innovation Section at the Embassy of Switzerland in the UK, a posting for the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. In this capacity, he led a diplomatic team, which promoted Switzerland's interests in the UK, with special focus on innovation. Nicholas also oversaw the Swiss Business Hub UK and Ireland. From 2016 to 2017, he has been engaged on managing the Brexit Referendum dynamics, highlighting and enhancing the importance of the bilateral ties between Switzerland and the UK in London's top political, economic, financial and think tank circles. Those two years, he was also Vice-President of the Institute of Export and International Trade.

From 2014 to 2017, Nicholas has been Chairman of the Association of Economic Representatives in London (AERL), an association of more than 250 senior diplomats and officials based in the UK, with direct responsibility for economic, commercial and scientific affairs. AERL seeks to offer added value by providing a multistakeholder platform for dialogue between C-level representatives of industry, policy-makers and government, including through the establishment of strategic partnerships with leading think tanks.

From 2002 to 2013, Nicholas was part of Switzerland’s trade diplomacy service and was based at the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the WTO & EFTA. There he covered the Doha Development Round, initiated the International Services Agreement plurilateral negotiations (TISA), negotiated Accessions to the WTO as well as budget, administration and institutional issues as senior negotiator. From 2007 to 2013, he was Deputy Head of the WTO Division of the Mission.

Nicholas was Coordinator and Vice-Chairman of the Task Force for the organisation of the 2009 and 2011 WTO Ministerial Conferences. In 2011, he was also a Member of the team of Swiss diplomats successfully mediating between Georgia and Russia through the creation of innovative trade governance mechanisms, ultimately permitting Russia to join the WTO. During his time at the Mission, Nicholas acted as keynote speaker and panellist on trade, macro-economic trends and governance.

From 2007 to 2012, Nicholas was Chairman of the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), which is worth $US 1.8 trillion/year in market access opportunities. By 2011, he had led negotiations to improve disciplines for this key world economy sector, concluding a decade-long process. He achieve this by managing highly complex Ministerial level negotiations involving 42 countries. The resulting agreement, is much more development-friendly, created an expansion of the GPA market access coverage by $US100 billion/year and created a breakthrough in terms of fighting against corruption as well as moving towards more sustainability in public procurement processes around the world.

In the same capacity, Nicholas concluded a landmark diplomatic mediation between China and Chinese Taipei in 2009. He also led the accession process of China, Jordan, Armenia and the Ukraine. During his chairmanship, Nicholas led WTO missions to key Emerging Countries to discuss GPA Membership with political leaders, while also raising political awareness regarding links between trade, institutional strength, good governance, development and inclusive growth. In this context, Nicholas has been selected as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader candidate in 2012 and as a key contributor to WTO history in 2015,

From 2007 to 2013, Nicholas was elected Chairman of the WTO Pension Plan Management Board. In this capacity, he strategically led the Board through the 07-08 financial crisis and concluded major negotiations on administrative reform including an increase in the retirement age for WTO staff from 62 to 65. Nicholas’ responsibilities also included leading the charge on improving the management, governance and investment strategy, while representing the Board at investment committees and international conferences. From 2008 to 2013, Nicholas was a Member of the Advisory Committee of the Swiss International Forum of the European Pension Fund Investment Forum (EPFIF).

Born in Basel, Switzerland in July 1973, Nicholas holds 1st Class Honours Masters Degrees in Economic History & International Relations. He has studied at the Universities of Geneva and Aberdeen as well as the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. He is fluent in English, French, German, Swiss-German. A servant humanist and lifelong believer in the power of networks, he has created meaningful links with high-level human intelligences across the globe in government, business, finance & academia.

A former track & field athlete and head coach, Nicholas is passionate about inclusive leadership, life-long learning, the link between physical and mental performance, ethnomusicology, strategy games, uphill cycling, basketball, mountaineering and mindfulness photography. As a father, Nicholas is avidly participating in the polymathic and intercultural education of his three children.