Peter Maurer, new president of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Photo by: Mark Garten / UN

Swiss diplomat Peter Maurer was set to assume the presidency of the International Committee of the Red Cross on July 1.

Maurer has had eight months to prepare for the role, after being named the ICRC assembly’s president last October.

For the past two and a half years, Maurer served as Switzerland’s secretary of state for foreign affairs. He was previously in charge of U.N. administrative and budgetary affairs, and the U.N. Peacebuilding Commission’s Burundi Configuration. Maurer has also represented Switzerland as an ambassador, permanent representative, and permanent observer to the United Nations.

He replaces another ex-diplomat from Switzerland, Jakob Kellenberger, who held the ICRC presidency for 12 years. Kellenberger will be remembered for negotiating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, urging U.S. President Barack Obama to reconsider holding detainees who had not been charged with crimes at Guantanamo Bay, and responding to prisoner abuse by the U.S. military.

Maurer now takes on a staff of 12,500 which last year performed more than 138,000 surgical operations and visited more than 540,000 detainees in 75 countries, according to the organization.

Maurer will serve for a four-year term before he may run for a second term. He will no doubt continue to struggle with ongoing issues facing the ICRC, especially maintaining neutrality and protecting frontline employees in increasingly hostile environments, where an emblem doesn’t seem to offer as much protection as it once did.

But Maurer won’t be all serious all the time if his past media appearances are any indication. His 2009 cameo on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show was a tongue-in-cheek as he poked fun at his famously neutral home country.

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About the author

  • Jennifer Brookland

    Jennifer Brookland is a former Devex global development reporter based in Washington, D.C. She has worked as a humanitarian reporter for the United Nations and as an investigative journalist for News21. Jennifer holds a bachelor's in foreign service from Georgetown University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University and in international law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School. She also served for four years as an Air Force officer.