Jakob Kellenberger was born in Heiden, Switzerland in 1944. After studies in Spanish and French Literature and Linguistics at the University of Zürich with stays at the Universities of Granada/Spain and Tours/France, he received his PhD from Zürich University. He wrote his undergraduate dissertation (Lizentiatsarbeit) on Jean Jacques Rousseau and his doctoral thesis on Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Jakob Kellenberger entered the Swiss diplomatic service in 1974. He was posted to Madrid, then to Brussels and subsequently to London. From 1984 to 1992, he headed the joint office of the Swiss Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs in charge of the relations to the European Union and EFTA. In 1988, he was promoted from the diplomatic rank of minister to that of ambassador. From 1989 to 1991, he headed the transport negotiations (transit) with the European Community on the Swiss side. In 1992, Kellenberger was appointed State Secretary for Foreign Affairs. From 1992 to 1999, he held the posts of State Secretary and head of the Directorate of Political Affairs within the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. From 1994 to 1998, he was also coordinator and chief negotiator for Switzerland’s sector-by-sector bilateral negotiations with the European Union. His diplomatic career strongly focused on European Integration and Cooperation. His responsibilities included strategic foreign, and, in particular, European policy work. On 1 January 2000, Jakob Kellenberger was appointed President of the ICRC, one of the largest international humanitarian organizations that today has about 13,000 permanent staff and a worldwide network of over 200 offices. The scope of the ICRC’s operations expanded considerably during his term in office. Jakob Kellenberger is teaching at the Spanish University of Salamanca and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich.
Kellenberger was previously a member of the Council for the Future of Europe.