Since August 2020 Jenny Piaget is the Head of the Human Rights Diplomacy Team in the Peace and Human Rights Division of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in Bern. As such, she represents Switzerland in the Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights Steering Committee as co-organiser.
From 2016 to 2020, she was Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Switzerland in Tunis. Prior to her mandate in Tunis, she spent 4 years in Beijing as Head of the Culture and Media Section at the Embassy of Switzerland to China. From 2010 to 2012, she joined the media relations team of the Head of the FDFA in Bern. She previously served as Deputy Regional Coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa region. Jenny Piaget joined the FDFA in 2007. From 2007 to 2008, she worked in Nairobi at the Embassy of Switzerland to Kenya. Before joining the FDFA, Jenny Piaget worked several years in the private sector as Communication manager, mainly for watch companies.
Jenny Piaget is a graduate of the Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. She also achieved a Master in International Management at the University of Lausanne, Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC). During this master, she spent one semester at National University of Singapore.
Tell us a bit about your life and career.
I am a Swiss diplomat who joined the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in 2007 after several years of work in the communication field in the watch industry. That was a significant change, but I never regretted it! I was then posted to Nairobi, Beijing and Tunis and worked on a variety of topics such as media, culture, economy, politics and now human rights. I love this career which allows me to work on so many different issues. It is a non-ending fast learning process, which of course requires a lot of personal commitment, but is extremely rewarding.
What are some of the things you have done that you are most proud of?
I don’t think that I am proud of anything. I am just extremely grateful to live in a country such as Switzerland that gives every child equal chances to get a high level of education, whichever family he or she comes from. I was able to become a diplomat thanks to this inclusive system of education. And today, this diplomatic career allows me to make extraordinary experiences. One of my most striking experiences was the organisation of the Chinese leg of the experimental solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse world tour. With my team, we prepared this diplomatic and logistical challenge and used this great communication opportunity for almost two years.
Any regrets, things you wish you had done differently?
I sometimes regret that I don’t have enough time for my family. This is probably the price to pay for an exciting job with responsibilities. Even if the Swiss government encourages part-time work, I never got the chance to do it. But I think that I would do it exactly the same way if I could do it again, especially the two last posts in China and Tunisia. They were incredible experiences, both from a private and professional point of view.
Your organisation, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) is a co-organiser of the Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights since 2016. What motivated Switzerland to become involved in the programme, and what in your view have been some of the main achievements of the Seminar?
ASEM Seminars offers a unique chance for civil society and representatives of governments of Asia and Europe to exchange on a variety of issues related to human rights. They allow us to get to know each other, to hear different points of view and address topics on which we do not always share the same views. But dialogue is extremely important to understand each other’s positions. This human relation aspect is certainly one of the most important benefits of the seminars.
The programme recently completed its 20th Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights on theme of “Human Rights of Older Persons”. What were some of your key takeaways from this event?
This year we had to organize the ASEM Seminar in a hybrid form. We therefore lacked this personal dimension. However, the content of the discussions was of very high quality. The human rights of older persons have probably never been so prominently discussed by society at large due to the pandemic. As a representative of a European country, I was impressed by how some Asian countries put the rights of older persons at the centre of their response to COVID-19.
As an intergovernmental organisation that brings together peoples of Asia and Europe, how, in your opinion, can ASEF better contribute to issues related to promotion, advancement and protection of human rights?
We all need to take better advantage of the vast internal and external networks we dispose of. Talks amongst diplomats are not enough. There are affected people behind these human rights issues. Make their voice heard. At the internal level, we need to ensure that the relevant ministries are on board – again, not only discussions amongst MFAs. ASEF can play a crucial role in connecting the dots and bringing the right people to the table.
If you had the chance, whom would you most like to meet?
I dreamt about spending a day talking to Nelson Mandela about his conviction and faith that allowed him to keep on fighting for justice after 27 years of prison. I am fascinated by personalities endowed with a vision and the power to contribute to a better world. I never got the chance to meet Nelson Mandela, but I actually met many other everyday heroes, little known and yet fully committed to society, to their beliefs and to human rights. I am thinking of those women who gave shelter, food and education to more than 600 orphan children in the Kibera slums in Nairobi; I am thinking of the initiators of the cultural centre in the mountains of Sammema, a region in Tunisia that is suffering from the presence of terrorist groups; Just to name a few of them.
Do you have hobbies or leisurely pursuits you’d like to share with us?
I’m an outdoor enthusiast in a variety of forms: hiking, bicycling, swimming, rowing, etc. Switzerland is of course a paradise for walking tours. In this sense, I am glad to be posted in Bern now for a while. But everywhere I go, I always try to hike. It is an extremely pleasant way to discover other cultures, to meet people, take time to learn about their life and customs. In this sense, my most wonderful hiking experiences where certainly made in China.
Please recommend a book you read recently, and what was in it you found interesting.
I am now reading “A promised land” written by former US president Barack Obama (by the way, another person I would be glad to meet…). I would definitely advise anybody interested in politics to read it.
ABOUT ASEF FAMILY AND FRIENDS
This is the latest edition of our ‘Meet our ASEF Family and Friends’ Initiative where we want to introduce our ASEF Governors, staff, as well as resource experts, participants and friends who have or had some connections to ASEF – to our growing audiences. We hope to show the human side of our networks as we at ASEF strive to remain a core facilitator of people-to-people connectivity within the ASEM region.