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Jakob Kellenberger

speaker location icon Switzerland

President of swisspeace

Former President of the International Red Cross Committee

Former Swiss Diplomat

Jakob Kellenburger is a former Swiss diplomat and former President of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Throughout his extensive career, Jakob has been immersed in the European project, providing deep contributions to its continued development. The implicit pursuit of peace and cooperation therein is one that he has dedicated his life to.

Jakob entered the Swiss Diplomatic Service in 1974 after graduating from the University of Zurich, concurrent to his further studies at the Graduate Institute of International Studies. Over the next decade he would serve posts in Madrid, Brussels and London, before joining the Swiss Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs, leading relations with the EU and EFTA.

Serving in this role as Ambassador from 1989 to 1991, Jakob would then become Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and lead the Directorate of Political Affairs until 1997. During this same prolific period, he was the Chief Negotiator for Switzerland for bilateral negotiations with the EU.

In 2000, however, Jakob stepped outside of the framework of European politics after 25 years of service to assume the presidency of the International Committee of the Red Cross. A vast global organisation, the challenge of the next decade would have been unknown at that time. In a post-9/11 world though, Jakob’s leadership saw the ICRC undertake numerous operations amidst intense conflict.

Relief operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Israel, Syria and beyond, while managing difficult relationships with government bodies including the United States, would comprise only some of the visible work done by the organisation during Jakob’s tenure.

Until the end of his presidency in 2012, Jakob expanded the scope of ICRC operations and established a clear set of positions and strategies upon which the organisation could continue to thrive amidst a constantly shifting set of global affairs.

Since leaving the ICRC, Jakob took over the presidency of swisspeace, a Swiss research institute dedicated to conflict prevention and conflict transformation. He also lectures at the Spanish University of Salamanca and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich.

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