02 October 2019

Marcel A. Boisard to Receive Lifetime Professional Achievement Award

Marcel A. Boisard is a Swiss intellectual and diplomat. He completed his studies in Germany, the United States and obtained his PhD from the Graduate Institute in 1977.

Marcel A. Boisard will receive the Lifetime Professional Achievement award at the Alumni Reunion gala dinner on 2 November.

Mr Boisard launched his international career in the early 1960s with the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. He was recruited by the Government of Burundi to conduct negotiations with the, then, European Economic Community within the framework of Yaoundé Convention on the Europe-Africa Association. He was appointed Chairman of the African experts and participated in numerous meetings. 

At different times of his career and at different levels of responsibilities, Mr Boisard served as a field delegate for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during armed conflicts in Algeria, Yemen, the Arab Republic of Egypt, Israel, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He was often called to negotiate cease-fires and humanitarian truces. His task was to watch over the application of the Geneva Conventions for the protection of those who did not – or no longer – participate in armed hostilities, namely civilians, prisoners of war, sick and wounded. He participated in introducing international humanitarian law in Yemen and contributed to the release of the royal family and the repatriation of Egyptian prisoners in 1963; organised the simultaneous repatriation of Israeli prisoners and agents and of  Egyptian prisoners during the Six-Day War in 1968; and in September 1970, he negotiated the liberation of Western hostages hijacked at Dawson’s Field Airport in Jordan. His last mission in the region was during the Kippur/Ramadan conflict of October 1973. 

In 1975, he was appointed Research Fellow at the Graduate Institute. Aside from lecturing and conducting a research programme on East-West relations, Mr Boisard published over 30 titles (books and articles), mainly concerned with cross-cultural relations, Muslim and Arab worlds, multilateral negotiations, and inter-governmental organisations. 

In 1980, Mr Boisard joined the United Nations. In 1992, he was appointed Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). UNITAR is one of the primary training providers in the field of multilateral diplomacy and economic and social development. At the time, it organised over 200 programmes for the benefit of some 30,000 persons and some 100 States. He established regional offices in New York, Hiroshima and Port Harcourt and launched a distance learning programme which benefit to some 40,000 trainees. In 2001, he became Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. He relinquished his functions in February 2007.

Since then, he has published extensively in newspapers with large international audiences and in specialised reviews. His latest books, entitled Une si belle illusion; réécrire la Charte des Nations Unies, published in Spring 2018 and Aventurier de l’humanitaire, Fall 2019, were well-received.

The late Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, bestowed Mr Boisard with the Order of Merit of the Arab Republic of Egypt. 

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 Lifetime Professional Achievement award recognises an alumnus who has demonstrated excellence and achievement in a distinguished career; shown leadership in their profession; made a positive contribution to the prestige, influence and reputation of the Institute; and exercised a strong positive influence within the community.