Ruth Dreifuss was Federal Councilor between 1993 and 2002, in charge of the Federal Department of Home Affairs. In 1999, she became President of the Swiss Confederation, the first woman to hold that office.
After studying economics at the University of Geneva, Ruth Dreifuss worked successively as a teaching assistant, journalist, scientific collaborator in the field of development cooperation and humanitarian aid at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and Secretary of the Swiss Trade Union Federation (1981–1993). In this last role, she was responsible for sectors including social insurance, labour law, women’s issues and relations with the International Labour Organization. She was elected Federal Councillor in 1993 and reelected twice to that position. As the councilor responsible for higher education, she initiated a stronger cooperation between the federal state and the cantons, and reformed the governance of the federal institutes of technology.
After her retirement from government, Ruth Dreifuss contributed to the reform of the University of Geneva and to the World Health Organization report “Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights”. She is now active in several non-governmental and international organisations, notably the Global Commission on Drug Policy and the International Commission against the Death Penalty. She has also been chancellor of the University for Peace, Costa Rica) created by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations.