Matthias Stiefel is a Swiss political scientist with 40 years of operational experience on five continents. He has held senior executive positions in the United Nations, non-governmental organisations and academia and has acted as an advisor and consultant to the U.N. and various international organisations and governments on issues of development, security, peace-building and conflict resolution. During the past 22 years, he has contributed to shape and improve international assistance to post-conflict countries and acquired extensive operational experience in countries and regions emerging from conflict and rebuilding after war. Over the last 6 years, he has applied this experience to the support of civil society organisations and in his work with the private corporate sector, both in internal conflict resolution and as they invest in post-conflict and fragile countries.
Matthias Stiefel is the Founder and Vice-Chairman of Interpeace – the International Peacebuilding Alliance, an international NGO incorporated in Switzerland on the recommendation of the United Nations and main donor governments. With some 350 staff in 18 countries and an annual budget of over US$20 million, Interpeace is one of the largest private peace-building organisations in the world. Its mandate is to strengthen societies threatened or damaged by war and to support the United Nations and the international community in their responses to conflict and crisis situations. Interpeace creates and supports local peace-building initiatives in countries or regions ranging from Somalia to Guatemala, Rwanda, Palestine, Mali, Libya, Israel, Burundi, East Timor and Guinea-Bissau.
Between 1994 and 2005, Matthias Stiefel created and directed the organisations that preceded and led to Interpeace: the UNRISD – PSIS War-torn Societies Project; the DPA-UNDP WSP Transition Program; and WSP International. During these years, he developed innovative new methodologies for field-level assistance, he was instrumental in creating peace-building capacities in the UN and he acted as a resource person to multilateral and bilateral institutions and agencies. In 2005, he entrusted the executive management of the organisation to a younger CEO and senior management team and became President and then Vice-Chairman of Interpeace’s Governing Council.
Before launching Interpeace, between 1986 and 1994, and again since 2007, Matthias worked as a senior staff member or advisor to various international organisations and governments, including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission and Support Office (UNPBC/PBSO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP – ENVSEC), the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Swiss government.
Between 1976 and 1986, Matthias Stiefel developed and directed a global UN research project on popular participation and political development in Asia, Africa, Latin-America and Europe. The UNRISD PPP was instrumental in introducing participatory action research methodologies to the UN in an attempt to decrease the gap between policy and action.
Throughout his professional life, Matthias Stiefel has worked with numerous non-governmental and civil society organisations to provide advice and support. Between 1998 and 2008, he was chair of the Board of A Rocha International and helped it to become a world-wide environmental conservation organisation with national affiliates in some 20 countries. He also serves on the board of and advises Plateau Perspective, a leading conservation and public health organisation on the Tibetan plateau. In 2007 – 2008 he developed with the Clinton Initiative an innovative project called PeaceFunds. PeaceFunds was designed as a complement to the work of Interpeace, with the aim to channel private capital to invest in the economic recovery and consolidation of peace in post-conflict countries. More recently, in 2010 and 2011, he worked with Kofi Annan and his Foundation and developed a strategy to combat the increasing influence of narco-traffic on political life and the economy in West Africa.
Between 1992 and 1999, Matthias Stiefel was Deputy Director of the Programme for Strategic and International Security Studies at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, from which he graduated in 1973 with a degree in political science. He has served as a fellow and lecturer in various universities.
Matthias Stiefel is the Managing Director of a Swiss consultancy firm (Stiefel, Irvin & Associates SA) and of a Portuguese company (Andorinha Lda) set up to restore and develop village life in Southern Portugal. As a non-executive director, Matthias Stiefel is a Board member of various international companies involved in sectors such as financial asset management, IT development and agro-business. He has successfully applied his political mediation experience to resolving shareholder conflicts in some of these companies and is advising them on investments in fragile countries and post-conflict reconstruction.
He speaks Swiss German (Mother Tongue), English and French fluently. He has a great level of Portuguese and Spanish and a fair level of Italian.
He is married and is father of two children.