"Humanitarian aid isn't solely about responding needs, but also rekindling hope."
- Cornelio Sommaruga

Dr. Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from 1987 to 1999, passed away on Sunday, February 18, 2024. Cornelio Sommaruga was a cherished friend of Soroptimists, showing keen interest in our activities throughout his tenure. He led the ICRC through a pivotal era marked by the end of the Cold War, conflicts in the Balkans, and the genocide in Rwanda. Cornelio played a pivotal role in galvanizing international support for the Treaty of Ottawa, which banned anti-personnel landmines.


His charisma and unwavering dedication to the victims of conflicts inspired numerous humanitarian initiatives. In 1993, he graced the 25th anniversary celebrations of my club in Lugano, Switzerland. During my tenure as President of Soroptimist Europe, our governors had the privilege of meeting Dr. Sommaruga in Geneva, fostering a meaningful dialogue, especially with our African representatives.


In collaboration with the ICRC, we championed the successful ‘Limbs for Life’ project (1999-2003), aiding victims of anti-personnel mines. Dr. Sommaruga’s poignant reminder that a landmine claims or maims a victim every 10 minutes underscored the urgency of our mission, particularly highlighting the plight of children.


Hand in hand, we partnered with the ICRC in regions like Afghanistan, Georgia, and Angola. Many Soroptimists visited the ICRC in Geneva, engaging with its representatives and experiencing the Red Cross Museum firsthand. In 1994, our collaboration focused on reuniting displaced families in ex-Yugoslavia, facilitating the reunion of over 5000 individuals.


During the 75th anniversary celebrations of Soroptimist International in San Francisco in 1995, Dr. Sommaruga lauded our contributions to family reunification efforts in ex-Yugoslavia and underscored the Red Cross’s enduring commitment to humanity. He emphasized the ICRC’s principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence, urging governments to honor humanitarian treaties.


Dr. Sommaruga’s address encapsulated key challenges: upholding human dignity, fostering cooperation over conflict, embracing compassion, ensuring reconciliation, and tirelessly pursuing peace. He passionately denounced anti-personnel landmines, shedding light on their global impact.


Dr. Sommaruga’s speech culminated in a standing ovation, as he wished Soroptimist International a joyous 75th anniversary, echoing the Red Cross motto: “Per Humanitatem ad pacem” (Through humanity to peace).


Thank you, Dr. Cornelio Sommaruga.


Marie-Jeanne Bosia,

Past President

Soroptimist International of Europe 1987-1989

Soroptimist International 1993-1995

Honorary President of the Swiss Soroptimist Union