Alumni Awards
07 October 2019

Ambassador Jenö Staehelin to Receive Commitment to the Institute and Alumni Association Award

Ambassador Jenö Staehelin is a Swiss career diplomat and lawyer, previously serving as the first Swiss Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. He studied at the Graduate Institute in the early seventies.

Ambassador Staehelin will receive the Commitment to the Institute and Alumni Association award at the Alumni Reunion gala dinner on 2 November. 

Ambassador Staehelin (Dr.iur, LL.M. Harvard) started his career in the Legal Affairs Bureau of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1971. He was Vice-President of the European Patent Office in Munich from 1977 to 1984 and, upon his return to Switzerland, Deputy Director for International Organizations (1984-1987), Political Director for European and North American Affairs (1987- 1993) and Swiss Ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1997.

He orchestrated the referendum by which the people and cantons of Switzerland approved the country's membership to the United Nations. He subsequently served as the first Swiss Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York from 2002 to 2004, and as President of the UNICEF Executive Board at the international level in 2003.

He is an honorary member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and was appointed as Interim Chairman of the Board of the Kofi Annan Foundation following Mr Annan’s passing in 2018. Jenö Staehelin has served on the Board of the Foundation since its creation in 2008. 

The Advancing Development Goals contest (also known as the Geneva Challenge), hosted by the Graduate Institute since 2014, owes its initiative and patronage to the generous vision of Ambassador Staehelin (founder, donor and head of its Jury), who believes in the participation of talented young minds in framing and implementing an international development agenda. 

This competition was created to stimulate reflection, analysis, innovation and problem solving on the world’s main challenges among master students from diverse disciplinary and contextual perspectives.

It is open to teams of three to five students from all academic programmes and from anywhere in the world. The five finalist teams, one per continent, are invited (traveling and accommodation expenses covered) to give an oral presentation of their projects before a panel of high-level experts at the Graduate Institute, Geneva.

The winning project is awarded CHF 10,000; the two teams in second place receive CHF 5,000 and the two teams in third place, CHF 2,500. The award ceremony for the sixth edition of the Geneva Challenge was hosted at the Graduate Institute on 1 October 2019. This year’s theme was global health. 

In 2016, the Graduate Institute Alumni Association Committee created the Alumni Awards to honour the outstanding achievements of the Institute's alumni. The Awards are divided into four categories:

  • Alumnus of the Year
  • Young Alumnus
  • Commitment to the Institute and Alumni Association
  • Lifetime Professional Achievement

Not all awards are given every year. After consulting with the 19,200 members of the alumni community, winners are selected by Committee members through a vote. Nominated alumni that have not yet been chosen remain on a list of potential awardees for the upcoming years. This year, we have the pleasure of welcoming all of the Alumni Award recipients at the Alumni Reunion gala dinner in Geneva on 2 November at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

The award for Commitment to the Institute and Alumni Association recognises the extraordinary contribution of an alumnus to the advancement of the Graduate Institute and Alumni Association through volunteerism, dedication, philanthropy and commitment to the Institute’s values.