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Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) since 2012, is stepping down amidst a global storm. Announced last November, his resignation will now take place in September. Swiss diplomat Mirjana Spoljaric is poised to succeed him. And how will the former Secretary of State at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs be remembered? Opinions are mixed. Positive feedback is notably directed at the president's actions with regard to the weapons of the future and "killer robots". His decision to open the Geneva institution to non-Swiss citizens also garnered him praise.
Although the Berne native’s diplomatic skills have been lauded time and again –he has shaken hands with Xi Jinping, Emmanuel Macron, Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin – the outcome of these meetings is a matter of some contention. Back at headquarters, staff members are happy to shift to a less diplomatic approach: one more focused on helping the victims of conflicts. They would have liked to hear their president denounce violations of humanitarian law more strongly. “He embodies the ICRC's tact and discretion, but it's the effectiveness of an action that counts,” says an insider. The biggest blunder? Maurer's decision to join the Board of Trustees of the Davos World Economic Forum. This move was roundly denounced by elected officials and former delegates, who stated that “humanitarianism cannot collude with multinationals”. During Maurer's reign, the organisation's budget has almost doubled to two billion Swiss francs. Should this be considered an achievement? Some believe that this increase is a double-edged sword, as it will prove difficult to sustain. The task of presiding over the organisation charged with upholding humanitarian law in an increasingly unstable world is most definitely a challenging mission.