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Cornelio Sommaruga

A prominent Swiss humanitarian, lawyer and diplomat.

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Cornelio Sommaruga is best known for being President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from 1987 to 1999. Today, he chairs the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) in Geneva. He is also active on a number of boards, such as the International Union Against Cancer. Currently he is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Foundation For the Future, an organization dedicated to promoting human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, and the honorary President of Initiatives of Change International, a global organization dedicated to ‘building trust across the world’s divides’ of culture, nationality, belief, and background.

Cornelio Sommaruga served as President of the ICRC from 1987 to 1999. During his tenure, the budget and the international activities of the Committee increased considerably. He maintained the neutrality of the ICRC while keeping close ties to all governments of States signatories of the Geneva conventions. One of his initiatives was to propose in 1992 the introduction of an additional symbol representing the Red Cross movement, alongside the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which would be ‘devoid of any national, religious or political connotation [and] would be available to States and National Societies unable to adopt either of the existing emblems’. After 15 years of negotiations this emblem was finally made official as the Red Crystal at the 29th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva on 20 and 21 June 2006.

Sommaruga was the founding President in April, 2002 of Initiatives of Change International, a voluntary association of independent national legal bodies of Initiatives of Change (IofC). As head of this international movement working to build bridges of trust across the world’s divides, he was able to support peace and reconciliation initiatives in Africa’s Great Lakes region and in Sierra Leone. He continues to serve on a number of charitable and corporate boards.

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