Press Release

Bertrand Piccard, Round the World Balloonist, Appointed UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador for Switzerland

16 November 1999

New York – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) today appointed Dr. Bertrand Piccard, its Goodwill Ambassador and Face to Face Campaign Spokesperson for Switzerland.

Dr. Piccard completed the first round-the-world balloon trip in March this year. The trip, undertaken with British co-pilot Brian Jones, took 19 days, 21 hours and 47 minutes and was the longest flight ever, both in duration and distance by any aircraft.

Bertrand PiccardPhoto: Eskinder Debebe/UN

Dr. Piccard is a scientist-adventurer, psychiatrist and aeronaut who comes from a legendary Swiss family of scientists and explorers. His grandfather, Auguste Piccard (1884-1962), invented the principle of the pressurized cockpit and the stratospheric balloon. He was the inspiration for the character Professor Calculus in cartoonist Herge’s Tintin series. Bertrand’s father, Jacques, is a renowned submarine constructor and completed the world’s deepest dive in 1960 of 10,916 metres in the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

"Hot-air ballooning is for me a metaphor for life. Just as a hot-air balloon is a prisoner of the currents, which propel it, people are captive to their problems and destiny. But I believe strongly, that just like a balloon can change altitude in order to find the currents which will make it change direction, men and women can raise themselves up and be responsible for the direction their lives take. I am supporting UNFPA and the Face to Face campaign because I believe that every human being has the right to become responsible for the direction of their existence," said Dr. Piccard.

"I plan to support UNFPA in its efforts to raise awareness in Switzerland of the urgent need for population assistance in developing countries in education, gender equity, respect for human life and the immense benefits to the quality of people’s lives that work in this area can bring," said Dr. Piccard.

Switzerland has been a strong supporter of UNFPA since the early 1970s. Its contribution to UNFPA in 1999 was SFr 11 million ($7.8 million).

Dr. Piccard will work closely with the International Foundation for Population and Development (IFPD), a Swiss-based non-governmental organization and UNFPA’s partner in Switzerland for the Face to Face campaign.

Face to Face is an international campaign to publicize the plight of millions of women and youth denied basic human rights taken for granted in developed countries, especially access to reproductive health care and family planning services. The goal of Face to Face is to increase global awareness that women's rights are human rights. It also aims to build support for increased funding - both domestic and international - for services that will allow everyone everywhere to exercise their reproductive rights.

Dr. Piccard’s first official function as UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador will be to launch the Face to Face campaign in Switzerland on 8 March 2000, International Women's Day. The launch will feature a ballet on the plight of women in the world which has been specially created for the occasion by Etienne Frey, a well-known Swiss choreographer. Later in 2000, Dr. Piccard will take part in a study tour to developing countries to see IFPD and UNFPA programmes in action for himself.

Dr. Piccard is the author of three books, "Quand le vent souffle dans le sens de ton chemin", "Une Trace dans le ciel" and "Around the World in 20 days" and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars on issues of life management, psychology and coping with stress and crises.

In honour of their achievement in scaling one of the greatest challenges of aviation, Dr. Piccard and Mr. Brian Jones won the Olympic Order, the Golden Plate of the American Academy of Achievement, the Victor Award, the Explorers Club Medal, the Gold Medal of the Aeroclub de France, the Hubbard Medal of the National Geographic Society, the Gold Medal of the French Ministry of Youth and Sport and the Pole Star of the Jules Verne Adventure Association.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Piccard will be appointed UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador at a press conference at United Nations Headquarters at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, 16 November. Photo and television coverage will be provided by United Nations Photo and United Nations Television. Subscribers to Reuters and Associated Press are advised to contact those agencies to arrange for footage.

Contact Information:

William A. Ryan
Tel.: +66 2 288 2446

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