Alexandre Hay

Alexandre Hay

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Alexandre Hay was a Swiss lawyer. From 1966 to 1976 he was Vice President of the Board of the Swiss National Bank
Swiss National Bank
The Swiss National Bank is the central bank of Switzerland. It is responsible for Swiss monetary policy and for issuing Swiss franc banknotes.The names of the institution in the four official languages of the country are: ; ; ; ....

. Later, from 1976 to 1987 he was President of the International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross
The International Committee of the Red Cross is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. States parties to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and...



Hay was born on October 29, 1919 to Frédérik and Lydia Hay-Trachsler in Berne
The city of Bern or Berne is the Bundesstadt of Switzerland, and, with a population of , the fourth most populous city in Switzerland. The Bern agglomeration, which includes 43 municipalities, has a population of 349,000. The metropolitan area had a population of 660,000 in 2000...

. For a majority of his youth was spent in the politically tense pre-war climate in Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

. There he studied law at the College of Geneva and passed the bar exam in 1944. From 1942 to 1945 he worked as a lawyer in Geneva.

In 1945 Hay went to work for the consular service of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is a department of the federal administration of Switzerland. It is charged with maintaining the foreign relations of Switzerland and serves as Switzerland's ministry of foreign affairs...

 in Paris. A year later he was appointed Attaché de légation. Then in 1948 he was promoted to Class II Secretary of Legation making him responsible for Swiss economic and financial interests in France.

In 1952 became an executive member of the European Payments Union
European Payments Union
The European Payments Union was an organization in existence from July 1950, until December 1958, when it was replaced by the European Monetary Agreement.With the end of World War II, economic depression struck Europe...

. A year later he became department head for the Zurich branch of the Swiss National Bank. From 1955 to 1966 he was director and assistant director of the department of the Second Bank of Bern. From 1966 to 1976 he was Vice President and General Manager of the Executive Board of the Bank.

Hay was married in 1945 to Hélène Morin of France. They had two sons and two daughters. After the death of his wife in 1973 he married a second time to Verena Vogler in 1980.

ICRC Presidency

In 1975, Hay became a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). A year later on July 1, 1976 he took over as President of the Committee, succeeding Eric Martin
Eric Martin
Eric Lee Martin is an American rock singer/musician active throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s both as a solo artist and as a member of various bands. He earned his most prominent success as the frontman for the hard rock/glam metal band Mr...

. By the end of the year, he shared the presidency with Roger Gallopin, the President of the Assembly Council, before he took over this function.

During his eleven years as president the budget increased from 50 million to 250 million CHF
Swiss franc
The franc is the currency and legal tender of Switzerland and Liechtenstein; it is also legal tender in the Italian exclave Campione d'Italia. Although not formally legal tender in the German exclave Büsingen , it is in wide daily use there...

 and the number of staff and delegates tripled. This was partially due to the steady increase in the number and duration of armed conflicts.

During his tenure, 250,000 refugees were removed from Cambodia by the Thai government. Increasingly, governments began ignoring their commitments under the Geneva Conventions and others. From 1980 to 1988, chemical weapons were deployed in fighting during the Iran–Iraq War in violation of their commitment under the Geneva Conventions. Hay repeatedly protested against these violation but with no significant result.

Hay was especially concerned with establishing good relations between the ICRC and various Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world.

His successor was Cornelio Sommaruga who took over in 1987, but Hay remained a member of the ICRC until 1989.


  • Honorary doctorate from the University of St. Gallen
    University of St. Gallen
    The University of St. Gallen is a public research university located in St. Gallen, Switzerland. It is specialized in the fields of business administration, economics, law, and international affairs. The University of St. Gallen is also known as HSG, which is an abbreviation of its former German...

  • Honorary doctorate from the University of Geneva
    University of Geneva
    The University of Geneva is a public research university located in Geneva, Switzerland.It was founded in 1559 by John Calvin, as a theological seminary and law school. It remained focused on theology until the 17th century, when it became a center for Enlightenment scholarship. In 1873, it...

  • In 1990 he was appointed an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia
    Order of Australia
    The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established on 14 February 1975 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, "for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service"...

    , "for eminent service to humanity at large".

Further reading

  • Georges-André Chevallaz, Alexandre Hay, Gaston Gaudard: Helvetische Perspektiven: 1291 - 1991. Ed. Libertas, Biel 1989
  • Alexandre Hay: Die Tätigkeit der OCDE. Verband Schweizerischer Holding- und Finanzgesellschaften, Zürich 1962
  • Caroline Moorehead: Dunant's dream: War, Switzerland and the history of the Red Cross. HarperCollins, London 1998, ISBN 0-00-255141-1 (Hardcover); HarperCollins, London 1999, ISBN 0-00-638883-3 (Paperback)

External links