The IHRA currently has 31 member countries, two liaison countries and 9 observer countries. The national government of each country forms a delegation, generally consisting of leading educators, academics and representatives of museums and memorials. Many delegates also have specific areas of expertise, for example the genocide of the Roma; antisemitism and Holocaust denial; and other genocides and crimes against humanity.
The Chairmanship of the IHRA is held each year by a different member country on a voluntary basis. The Chairmanship hosts the IHRA plenary meetings up to twice a year in its country. The Plenary is the official decision-making body of the IHRA, consisting of the Head of Delegation from each IHRA Member Country, and responsible for adopting recommendations and decisions made by IHRA experts.
These experts meet in specialist Working Groups and Committees in the days leading up to Plenary Session, and work together remotely on multinational projects throughout the rest of the year. The unique composition of the IHRA means it is uniquely placed to take the lead on issues related to Holocaust education, research and remembrance in the international political arena.
Working Groups and Committees
The IHRA’s network of delegates is divided into four Working Groups. The Academic, Education, and Memorials and Museums Working Groups are each tasked with following developments in their respective sectors, identifying priority areas and making recommendations to the IHRA Plenary regarding how the IHRA can most effectively make an impact. The Communication Working Group is dedicated to ensuring that IHRA’s output reaches its target groups of policymakers, educational practitioners, representatives of museums and memorials and scholars.
In addition to their core affiliation to these Working Groups, delegates also bring their expertise to IHRA’s specialized Committees. The Committee on the Genocide of the Roma, the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial and the Committee on the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity are issue-focused standing committees that bring together experts from a range of different professional backgrounds and countries to recommend multidisciplinary solutions to persistent challenges.
Other, more temporary IHRA Committees form to coordinate specific IHRA initiatives, such as the “Seeking Protection” blog or the multi-year research project examining teaching and learning about the Holocaust.
On 7 March 2017 Switzerland assumed the Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Switzerland became a member of IHRA in 2004. Switzerland’s chairmanship is rooted in a particular set of values: Respect for minorities and for cultural, political and social diversity is an essential part of Switzerland, just as it is crucial to its existence and its functioning as a state under the rule of the law, thereby ensuring peace, security and equality for all.
The IHRA Chair is Ambassador Benno Bättig. Ambassador Bättig completed his secondary schooling (Maturität) in 1987 at the Gymnasium in Sursee, preceded by a year of study at a high school in the United States. He subsequently graduated with a lic. rer. pol. from the University of Fribourg in 1993. Mr Bättig worked from 1993-1999 first as a desk officer in the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, then in the Export Controls and Sanctions Division of the Federal Office for Foreign Economic Affairs (FOFEA, now SECO), and then from 1995 in the International Industry and Technology Section of the FOFEA. From 1999 to 2002, Mr Bättig served in the Swiss embassy in Washington as first secretary for economics, finance and trade. During that time he pursued his studies at the Kogod School of Business at the American University in Washington, majoring in Finance and International Business, and completing an MBA in 2002. In 2002, Mr Bättig was appointed personal assistant to Federal Councillor Pascal Couchepin, a post which he held until September 2007. From September 2007 until the end of 2009, Mr Bättig worked in the private sector, serving as secretary-general and head of corporate public affairs in the general secretariat of the Galenica Group. From 2010 to January 2012, he was secretary-general of the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) under Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter. In February 2012, Mr Bättig followed Didier Burkhalter to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) to take up the post of secretary-general.
Honorary Chairman and Advisor to the IHRA
The IHRA has an Honorary Chairman, Professor Yehuda Bauer, and an Advisor to the IHRA, Dr Wichert ten Have. The Honorary Chairman and the Advisor to the IHRA are available to consultant with and guide the IHRA Chair, Executive Secretary and working group members on key content issues.