Skip to main content

Opening Ceremony

Caux Forum 18 July 2023

'Strengthening Democracy: The Journey from Trauma to Trust' 


The Opening Ceremony of the Caux Forum 2023 titled

'Strengthening Democracy: The Journey from Trauma to Trust' 

sets the stage for two important conferences: Healing the Wounds of the Past (17-22 July) and Trust and Integrity in Democracy (23-26 July)


About the event

In a world witnessing a rise in conflicts that threaten our democratic values, our speakers will share their insights on confronting the past, address the key challenges facing community trustbuilding and offer their vision on where we can find hope for a stronger democratic future. It will offer inspiration for us to take action by standing against extremes, promoting dialogue and fostering respect whilst working for a more just, peaceful and sustainable world, one step at a time.

We are delighted to welcome you back to Caux both in person and online. This Opening Ceremony sets the tone for the Caux Forum 2023, which will provide a unique opportunity to discuss, share and discover global issues in a multicultural and diverse setting.



Join us on 18 July, 2023! 


  • Time: 10:00 - 12:00 CEST
  • Location: Caux Palace - Main Hall, 1824 Caux, Switzerland
Caux Palace

The programme

We are honored to have a distinguished panel of speakers who are dedicated to human rights, peace building and conflict prevention.

Gerald Pillay, President of Initiatives of Change International and Jacqueline Coté, President of Initiatives of Change Switzerland, will open the event with a short welcome address.

Rea Gehring - Minister and Deputy Head of the Peace and Human Rights Division at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), will provide a welcome address, giving the FDFA's perspective on the role Switzerland has played and continues to play in strengthening democracy and supporting individual and national journeys from trauma to trust. 

Our keynote speaker is Elena Zhemkova, the Co-founder and Executive Director of Memorial, a human rights organization that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022. Ms Zhemkova will talk about honesty as a tool for healing historical wounds, her experience of how that works and the challenges it represents.

Following her speech, Ms. Zhemkova will join a panel discussion with two other important figures in the field of conflict prevention and reconciliation: Corinne Momal-Vanian, the Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation, and Mô Bleeker, Independent Advisor and Former Special Envoy for Peace and Prevention of Atrocities for the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

The panel will be moderated by by Ignacio Packer, Executive Director at Initiatives of Change Switzerland, ensuring that the discussion is insightful and thought-provoking. After a short musical performance by Norwegian musician Sveinung Nygaard, there will be a Q&A session open to participants.

Our Speakers

Elena Zhemkova

ELENA ZHEMKOVA - Executive Director of Memorial (Keynote) 

Born in Saratov, Russia, Elena Zhemkova is a mathematician by education. In 1987, she was a co-founder of the Memorial International Historical, Educational and Human Rights Society and served as its Executive Director until the organization was liquidated by the Russian government in February 2022. In December 2022, Memorial was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Belarussian human rights advocate, Ales Bialiatski, and Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties.

Besides this, she coordinates the International Memorial regional network, which includes more than 40 regional organizations from Germany, Italy, Russia, France, the Czech Republic and Ukraine. 

She is a member of the Supervisory Council of the Russian foundation Understanding and Reconciliation which paid compensations for the people who used to be forced workers in Nazi Germany.

Her main fields of academic interest are the history of political repression, a comparative analysis of the Nazi and Soviet repression mechanisms, and the memorialization of victims of political repressions (monuments, toponymy etc.). Her main field of public interest is the development of non-profit, non-governmental organizations and assistance with their work. 

Corinne Momal-Vanian

CORINNE MOMAL-VANIAN - Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation

Corinne Momal-Vanian is the Executive Director of the Foundation. Previously, she worked in various senior positions and a variety of countries for the United Nations, most recently as Director of Conference Management at the United Nations Office at Geneva (2015-2020) and Director of Information (2010-2015).

Ms. Momal-Vanian served as Special Assistant to Kofi Annan in 2005 and 2006, traveling with him to some 20 countries as he worked to resolve crises, defuse tensions, highlight the plight of communities and individuals suffering from discrimination and abuses, build international cooperation and strengthen support for development and justice. She worked for a total of six years in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, after serving in two regional economic and social commissions of the United Nations.

Passionate about justice, gender equality, inclusion, innovation and learning, Ms. Momal-Vanian chaired the Steering Group of the International Gender Champions from 2016 to 2019 and was a co-organiser of the three editions of TEDxPlaceDesNations.

A French citizen, she holds a master’s degree in business administration from HEC Graduate School of Management, Paris, an advanced degree in international relations from the Institut Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po) – Paris and an Executive Certificate in Management and Leadership from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Mô Bleeker

MÔ BLEEKER - Independent Senior Advisor and Former Special Envoy for Peace and Prevention of Atrocities for the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs

Mô Bleeker served as a member of the Swiss Foreign Ministry from 2003 to February 2022. During her tenure, she held several key positions such as Special Envoy for Dealing with the Past and Prevention of Atrocities, Special Envoy for Peace in Colombia, Chair of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission for the Bangsamoro Peace Agreement-Philippines, and Co-founder and Chair of the multilateral prevention platform Global Alliance Against Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC). She has been actively involved in mediation, negotiation, dealing with the past/transitional justice, prevention, reconciliation, conflict transformation, promotion of human rights, and the rule of law in various contexts including Central and Latin America, Balkans, South and North Caucasus, Central Asia, South-Eastern Asia, several African countries, Middle East, and North Africa. Mô Bleeker has studied anthropology, religious sciences, journalism, social communication, and development.

Rea Gehring

REA GEHRING - Minister / Deputy Head of the Peace and Human Rights Division (PHRD) / Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA)

Rea Gehring is currently Deputy Head of the Peace and Human Rights Division (PHRD) at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). Previously, she was Deputy Head of Mission at the Swiss Embassy in Dakar from 2017 to 2021, with responsibility for Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde. Rea Gehring studied in Switzerland and Australia. She holds a Master in Law from the University of Lausanne (2001), where she first studied Forensic Science, and a Master in Strategy and Defence (National University of Australia, 2005). She is currently furthering her studies with an MBA at the Institute for Communication and Leadership (IKF Lucerne). After completing her law degree, she worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for three years as a delegate and later team leader in Israel, the West Bank, Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan before joining the Federal Department of Defence (DDPS) in 2005. In 2012, she joined the Swiss diplomatic service and initially completed assignments in Bern and Singapore. From 2013 to 2017, she worked at the FDFA's Crisis Management Centre, including as head of an interdepartmental operational task force for handling kidnapping cases. Rea Gehring has three children.


Ignacio Packer

IGNACIO PACKER - Executive Director Initiatives of Change Switzerland

Ignacio Packer has been Executive Director of the Initiatives of Change Switzerland Foundation since 1 May 2023. Prior to this, he served as Executive Director of ICVA, the global consortium of humanitarian NGOs. Ignacio has over 30 years of experience in humanitarian work and development issues. He served a five-year term as Secretary General of the Terre des Hommes International Federation, and previously worked for the Terre des Hommes Foundation, the Swiss Tropical Institute, the European Association for Development and Health, Medecins Sans Frontieres, KPMG and the European Bank for Latin America. Ignacio is an expert on human rights and social issues and has been strongly engaged in global advocacy on protection frameworks for migrant and refugees with a particular focus on children and youth.

Welcome Address

Gerald Pillay

GERALD PILLAY - President Initiatives of Change International

Gerald Pillay has been president of IofC International since January 2022 and has served in senior leadership roles in South Africa, New Zealand, the USA, and England. Appointed Rector of Liverpool Hope University College in 2003, he became Liverpool Hope University’s first Vice-Chancellor in 2005 when the institution was given full University status. In 2021, he appeared in the Queens’s Birthday Honours list when he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for ‘services to Higher Education'. Gerald Pillay earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Rhodes University, a Doctor of Theology degree from the University of Durban and holds dual citizenship of the UK and New Zealand.

Jacqueline Coté

 JACQUELINE COTÉ - President Initiatives of Change Switzerland

Jacqueline Coté was the Director of Public Relations and previously Head of Communications at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva from 2009 to 2021. Prior to that she served as the Permanent Representative to the UN of the International Chamber of Commerce and was Senior Advisor Advocacy & Partnerships to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.  In the early part of her career, Ms Coté practiced as an international lawyer in Canada and Switzerland and held management positions with multinational companies SGS and DuPont.  She has been president of Initiatives of Change Switzerland since April 2022.


Sveinung Nygaard

SVEINUNG NYGAARD - Artist, Composer and Musician

Sveinung Nygaard is from Norway and works as a professional composer, based in Gothenburg. He holds an MA in Audio Production from the University of Westminster and composes music for TV series, film and documentaries, among others the documentary The Lost Leonardo (Denmark) and the TV series Freej (Dubai). He also has his own musical project called FLYT which combines musicians from different cultures. Before the war in Ukraine, he travelled across Ukraine and recorded music there. He is the founder of the micro-festival TRACKS, seeking to bring Ukrainian and European artists together, and he is also behind the initiative Bards for Climate.


Daily Visitor Rate

CHF 60 - Visitor rate (per person per day, including lunch, dinner and refreshments)

The Visitor Rate applies to persons who are only attending one or certain non-consecutive days during the Forum; The rate is charged per day and does not include accommodation.


Full Package

CHF 150 - Standard rate (for individuals - per person per night and day) 
CHF 210 - Corporate rate (for institutions - per person per night and day) 

All participant rates include: 

Participation in the chosen event
Materials provided during the event
Meals, coffee / tea, as well as refreshments
City Tax

Important: Please note that the total fees for your participation and stay in Caux will be calculated automatically when filling in your expected dates, depending on the required room category and the number and age of all participants linked to your registration.



    Caux, high above Montreux overlooking Lake Geneva, is the location of Initiatives of Change Switzerland's conference centre, the Caux Palace. Initiatives of Change Switzerland is hosting the Caux Forum in cooperation with Initiatives of Change International.


    Photo Caux Palace: Adrien Giovannelli