GCSP ITC/LISC Alumni: Where are they now? No. 1: Ambassador Alexander Hoffet

GCSP ITC/LISC Alumni: Where are they now? No. 1: Ambassador Alexander Hoffet
Meeting with former Slovak President Andrej Kiska

GCSP ITC/LISC Alumni: Where are they now? No. 1: Ambassador Alexander Hoffet

Ambassador Hoffet was part of the very first International Training Course (ITC) 35 years ago.

Ambassador Alexander Hoffet, who is currently serving as Swiss Ambassador to the Slovak Republic, was part of the very first ITC. The course was called SIPOLEX at the time, and was a nine-month learning journey for Swiss Confederation civil servants. It rapidly evolved, and soon adopted an international format.

Upon completing the ITC in 1987, Alexander Hoffet worked as an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegate in Iraq and in the ICRC’s regional delegation for south-east Africa based in Harare. “The regular contacts with the Swiss Foreign and Defence Ministries throughout my ITC year undoubtedly contributed to my decision to join the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs [FDFA] in 1990”, he said. Geographically, his FDFA assignments abroad were concentrated mostly in East Asia (Seoul, Shanghai) and Central and Eastern Europe (Prague, Vienna, Bratislava).

Ambassador Hoffet kindly agreed to share some insights with us.

with Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis and members of his team at the Swiss Embassy in Bratislava
With Swiss Minister of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis and members of his team at the Swiss Embassy in Bratislava

 

The geopolitical context back in 1986-1987

Ambassador Hoffet: The 1986-1987 ITC took place in a global Cold War geopolitical context and under pre-digital age working conditions that differed enormously from the environment in which the GCSP operates today. For me, the training programme was very useful as a career stepping-stone and provided a link between my previous theoretical studies in international relations at the Graduate School (then IUHEI) and the professional practice of diplomacy.

 “The first ITC was an almost exclusively Swiss pilot exercise: all course participants were Swiss nationals.”

 

The course environment

Ambassador Hoffet: The first ITC was an almost exclusively Swiss pilot exercise: all course participants were Swiss nationals, and so was the majority of the lecturers. In accordance with the then-prevailing bipolar Cold War perspective, the main emphasis of the course was placed on hard security, while “soft” factors and new non-military challenges to international security still played a marginal role in the curriculum.

Three years before the fall of the Berlin wall, hardly any of the ITC security experts and students imagined that the end of the bipolar world order would come so soon. For example, I vividly remember a lecture given by a prominent MP of the Swiss Parliament and self-appointed foreign policy expert who tried to convince us that China would remain a weak third-rate power for the foreseeable future.

In hindsight, I am grateful for all the inputs and analytical tools provided by the ITC on the logic, mechanisms and dynamics of international security. A deeper understanding of the issues at stake has proven useful at different stages of my career, e.g. as specialist in European Security and Defence Policy at the Swiss EU Mission in Brussels, as Head of Section for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the FDFA in Bern, or more recently as a member of the Swiss OSCE Presidency team in 2014.

Video conference at the Embassy of Switzerland in Bratislava in Covid-19 times
Video conference at the Embassy of Switzerland in Bratislava in Covid-19 times

 

The GCSP life-long community

Ambassador Hoffet: I continue to follow the activities of the GCSP online, mainly through its publications. Thirty years after the first ITC, in 2016, the GCSP organised a very stimulating, thought-provoking meeting between the participants of the first ITC and the first participants when it evolved into the Leadership in International Security Course (LISC) in 2015-2016. I would like to encourage all current course participants to take full advantage of the many resources of the GCSP, mainly when it comes to the networking opportunities with like-minded fellow students and colleagues representing the new generation of the global security community.  

 

Alumni who would like to reach out to fellow alumni: connect to www.gcsp.ch/MyGCSP and search our directory