A citizen of Bolligen/BE and Basel/BS, Switzerland, I was born in Berlin, in 1951, as the son of a Swiss Diplomat. I schooled in Berne, New York, Bangkok and, again Berne, and studied public and constitutional law, and international relations at the Universities of Berne and Geneva (IUHEI) respectively. I read and write German, English and French, with professional working experience in all three languages. In the Swiss diplomatic service from 1980 to 2016, I have worked throughout my career between three poles: the United Nations, development cooperation and Africa.
As diplomatic trainee, I volunteered for Kinshasa and was then, upon nomination by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA in 1982, assigned to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC in Berne, in the field of UN and other multilateral affairs.
In 1986, I joined the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations in New York, where I covered economic and operational development activities and, for the year 1988/89, I was the First Vice-President of the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme UNDP. In 1990, I was assigned to the Swiss Embassy in Nairobi where I was in charge of the SDC Country Programme and UNEP, and promoted to Diplomatic Counsellor. Back to Berne in 1993, I served in the Directorate for International Organizations as the inter-departmental coordinator for the entire Swiss administration for UN General Assembly affairs.
In 1996, I took a temporary leave from the Swiss government, allowing me to follow a call from UNDP to the position of UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia. In this time, I coordinated the UN humanitarian response to the big floods of 1997/98. In 1998, I assisted the constitution of the Federal State of Puntland and compiled the first National Human Development Report for Somalia since the war.
At the end of 1999, I returned to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and was in charge of the development and implementation of a new human resources policy.
In 2001, I became Head of Mission and Coordinator of the SDC Country Programme at the Embassy of Switzerland in Madagascar, as Chargé d’Affaires. In the post-electoral crisis of the country in 2001/02, I contributed to the international mediation of the crisis. The documentary film by Thomas Lüchinger, ‘Der Diplomat – Dominik Langenbacher in Madagaskar’ (www.rosesforyou.ch
), testifies of this involvement.
From 2003 to 2005, again on leave from the FDFA, I was the Swiss ‘Delegate for Migration Dialogue’ with the title of Ambassador ad personam
, in the Federal Department of Justice and Police. I negotiated bilateral Migration Agreements and, in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration IOM, I lead the multilateral processes of the ‘Berne Initiative’ and the preparations for the establishment of the ‘Global Commission on International Migration’ under the roof of the UN.
In 2005, I became the Swiss Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Republic of Guinea and the Republic of Niger, with residence in Abidjan. As of 2008, Liberia and Sierra Leone replaced Cameroon and Niger. Côte d’Ivoire was lingering in her pre-electoral crisis while Liberia and Sierra Leone were both in difficult post-conflict stages, and I closely worked with the respective UN Missions of ONUCI, UNMIL and UNAMSIL. Together with a group of friends from the ‘Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques’ in Abidjan, I helped design a comprehensive Development Plan for the village of Bringakro and, to the name of Kouassi Bringa, was named honorary Chief of the village. In 2013, I returned to Bringakro on a call from the village council. They asked me to mediate in a conflict between the elders and the youth of the village over the lease of land to a private company.
From 2010 to 2013, I was the Swiss Ambassador to Ethiopia and Djibouti, and Representative to the African Union AU and IGAD. In 2011, I was appointed also to the newborn state of South Soudan, all with residence in Addis Ababa. During my tenure, with the Ethiopian House of Federation, IGAD, UNDP and the Forum of Federations FOF, I organized the first regional conference on federalism and decentralized governance for the Horn of Africa. I also joined the NESTown Group to give my support to a group of Ethiopian and Swiss architects who were about to design and build a ‘New Ethiopian Sustainable Town’, BuraNEST, which has become the laboratory and model for rural towns in the Ethiopian urbanization strategy.
From October 2013 to my retirement in 2016, I was the Ambassador and Special Envoy of Switzerland to Somalia, posted in the Swiss Embassy in Nairobi. Switzerland investing in federalism, both bilaterally and within the framework of UNSOM and the New Deal Compact, I animated a ‘Federalism Consortium for Somalia’ that regularly brought together the Ambassadors of a group of federal countries with Somali leadership for exchange on principles and practice of federalism. In the ongoing state-building process, I contributed towards the establishment of a federal governance system between the federal government and the existing and emerging federal member states. With regard to the sought after recognition of statehood for Somaliland, I undertook efforts to promote talks between Hargeisa and Mogadishu.
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Over the many years of my diplomatic career, I have acquired unique experience and understanding of the social, economic and political dynamics, and the values, which are at play around governance issues in Africa. As Advisor and former Ambassador, I avail myself to provide analysis and advice; project and process design; support for negotiation and mediation; studies, think pieces and presentations. I am also ready to undertake short-term missions out of Nairobi into the African region.
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I am married to an African of Kenyan origin and I listen to jazz and blues, and African music. I used to be an active runner who, today, goes jogging from time to time and – as a fan of Liverpool – follows English football on television. I live in Nairobi, Kenya, and in Ferenberg near Bern, Switzerland.
Nairobi, January 2016