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Kellenberger takes over at helm of ICRC

Jakob Kellenberger, a senior official at the Swiss foreign ministry, formally took over the helm of the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross on January 1st, pledging to make the organisation “as efficient as possible.”

This content was published on January 1, 2000 - 11:08

Jakob Kellenberger, a senior official at the Swiss foreign ministry, formally took over the helm of the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross on January 1st, pledging to make the organisation “as efficient as possible.”

“The biggest challenge facing the ICRC is to make the organisation as efficient as possible for the victims who need it,” Kellenberger said last month when outlining his priorities.

He has spent the last three months at the Geneva headquarters to prepare for his new job and has already travelled to Afghanistan, Rwanda, Uganda and Colombia to observe ICRC work in various crisis spots.

“I really respect the courage shown by ICRC delegates in the field,” he said after his visits, adding that he would seek to maintain a dialogue with delegates around the globe.

In January, Kellenberger plans to visit several key donor nations and is expected to travel to Washington, Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Berne.

The career diplomat takes over from fellow-Swiss Cornelia Sommaruga, who has been ICRC president for 12 years. The 66-year-old Sommaruga said last month that he was concerned about the mounting dangers faced by ICRC delegates.

He was referring to a number of staff killed in Somalia, Sarajevo, Chechnya, Sierra Leone and Sudan in the past 12 years. In one dramatic incident in Chechnya in 1996, five nurses and a technician were killed during an attack on an ICRC hospital.

Sommaruga said the main challenge facing the organisation was to find a balance between providing humanitarian aid and not interfering in military operations.

“There appears to be some confusion these days as to what ‘humanitarian operations’ really means,” Sommaruga said, adding that too many operations launched these days had really nothing to do with humanitarian aid.

From staff and wire reports.

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