Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (1987 - 1999)
31-12-1999 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 836
President Cornelio Sommaruga retired from his position as head of the International Committee of the Red Cross at the end of 1999.
Mr Sommaruga, who had been a member of the Committee since November 1986, became President on 7 May 1987, succeeding the late Alexandre Hay. The new President, Jakob Kellenberger, took office on 1 January 2000.
Cornelio Sommaruga was born in Rome in 1932. A Swiss citizen from Lugano (Ticino), he graduated with a doctorate in law from the University of Zurich in 1957, entered the service of the Swiss Confederation in 1960 and held various diplomatic posts within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs until 1973, when he was appointed Deputy Secretary-General of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in Geneva. Three years later he joined the staff of the Swiss Federal Office for External Economic Affairs in Bern, where he served first as Ambassador, then as Delegate for Trade Agreements, before being appointed Secretary of State for External Economic Affairs in 1984. In 1986 the ICRC Assembly elected him a member of the Committee, which he presided over from 7 May 1987 to 31 December 1999. He has received honorary degrees from several universities.
The new President, Jakob Kellenberger, a Swiss citizen born in 1944, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Zurich. During his diplomatic career within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs he headed the Integration Office, with the title of Ambassador. Mr Kellenberger, who has been Secretary of State since 1992, joined the ICRC in the autumn of 1999. He took over as President on 1 January 2000.
International Committee of the Red Cross