Cornelio Sommaruga Honoured
Tuesday, 11. March 2003

Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Foundation Initiatives of Change,and also President of the International IC Association, was last night named the most popular personality of the year? by the Swiss Foreign Correspondent?s Association in Geneva.

Léon Davico, the President of the Association saluted Sommaruga’s life-long commitment to peace, ‘that rare resource’. ‘He doesn’t know the meaning to the word “rest”,’ Davico said.
Last year’s winner, controversial Swiss politician and author Jean Ziegler, presented the award. Ziegler stressed Sommaruga’s tireless humanitarian commitment. He spoke for the suffering people of the world, and he knows their needs, Ziegler said. He quoted the German philosopher Nietzsche’s words, ‘If there were Christians in the world, the world would know.’ For Ziegler, Sommaruga was one of the two or three figures that he’d met who embodied the Christian principles he proclaimed. He was proud to be able to call himself a contemporary and a compatriot of such a man, he concluded, to warm applause.

Veteran Geneva foreign correspondent Gordon Martin (Daily Telegraph, London) who had proposed Sommaruga’s name to the committee noted wryly that the Swiss were not noted for their communications skills, which meant that Sommaruga’s transparency was all the more appreciated by their number. The ceremony took place in the historic Chateau de Penthes, a stones throw away from the floodlit and guarded United States diplomatic mission.

Sommaruga has also just been awarded ‘The Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award’ by Tufts University, in the Unites States. The award say, ‘In recognition of a remarkably eclectic and effective life time of global engagement, diplomacy and public service; and in honor of your many years of compassionate, ethical, selfless and determined dedication to people, not as victims, but as individuals and communities deserving of dignity and respect.’

The current issue of ‘Bonne Nouvelle’ (‘Good News’), the monthly magazine of the Protestant church in the Canton of Vaud, which goes to every home (330,000 circulation), has a cover story on Cornelio Sommaruga.

Andrew Stallybrass