logo
Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining

Dr Cornelio SOMMARUGA

Biography

1932 Born in Rome, as son of Swiss parents from Lugano (Ticino/Switzerland)
Schools in Rome and Lugano, High School diploma in literature and humanities
Studies at the Universities of Zurich, Paris and Rome

1957 Graduated with a doctorate in law from the University of Zurich (magna cum laude)

1957-59 Banking in Zurich

1960-68 Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs (diplomatic posts at The Hague, Bonn, Rome)

1969-73 Deputy Head of the Swiss Delegation to EFTA, GATT, UNCTAD and ECE/UN in Geneva

1973-75 Deputy Secretary General of EFTA in Geneva

1976-83 Federal Office for External Economic Affairs in Berne (Minister plenipotentiary, Ambassador, Delegate of the Swiss Government for Trade Agreements)

1984-86 State Secretary for External Economic Affairs in Berne

1987-99 President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Geneva

2000 Honorary Member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

2000 Member of the Panel on UN Peace Operations

2000-01 Member of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS)

2000-07 Chairman of the Karl Popper Foundation, Zug

2000-07 Member of the Board of the Open Society Institute, Budapest (Hungary)

2000-07 President, then member, of the Council of the Swiss Foundation Caux - Initiatives of Change

2000-08 President of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD)

2000-09 Member of the Board of the Accentus Foundation, Zurich

2004-05 President of the Graduate Institute for International Studies, Geneva

2006-09 Chairman of the Board of the International Cancer Foundation, Geneva

2006-11 Member of the Board of the Foundation for the Future, Amman (Jordan)

2007 Honorary Chair of the International Association Initiatives of Change, Caux (Switzerland)

2008 Honorary Chair of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD)

Honorary Doctorates 

University of Fribourg (Switzerland), 1985; University of Minho, Braga (Portugal), 1990; University of Bologna (Italy), 1991; University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis (France), 1992; Seoul National University (Republic of Korea), 1992; University of Geneva (Switzerland), 1997; Webster University of Saint Louis (USA), 1998; Università dell’Insubria, Como (Italy) 2008.   

Presidential Awards 

University of Tel Aviv (Israel); Comenius University, Bratislava (Slovakia); Karl's University, Prague (Czech Republic); Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, Tufts University, Boston (USA), 2003; University for Peace, San José (Costarica), 2009.

1996 Prize of the International Human Rights Society, Berne2001North - South Prize of the Council of Europe

2003 Prize of the Foreign Press Association in Switzerland for the most popular Swiss personality

2008 Prize of the Cardinal Van Thuàn Foundation of the Pontifical Council Justitia et Pace, Vatican

2009 Henry Dunant Medal of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, Nairobi

2011 Prix de la Tolérance Marcel Rudloff, Strasbourg            

1977-78 President of the UN Economic Commission for Europe

1982-84 Co-Chairman of the Commissione consultiva culturale Italo-Svizzera

State Decorations of Belgium, France, Holy See, Italy, Iceland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Sweden

Red Cross and Red Crescent Awards from numerous National Societies

Married, four daughters, two sons, 16 grandchildren.