Charles Albert Gobat († March 16, 1914 in Bern) was a Swiss politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1902).
His father was a Protestant pastor and his uncle Samuel Gobat a Protestant bishop of Jerusalem. He attended elementary school in Tramelan, the Herrnhut boarding school in Korntal near Stuttgart and the Progymnasium in La Neuveville. He then attended the Pädagogium in Basel, where he graduated in 1862. From 1862 to 1864 he studied law, history and literature at the University of Basel and received his doctorate in law from the University of Heidelberg in 1864. He continued his legal studies in Paris. In 1866 he was habilitated in Basel. From 1867 he worked in a law office in Bern, where he also obtained his advocate”s license. In 186768 he taught French civil law as a private lecturer at the University of Bern. In 1868 he took over the law office of Édouard Carlin in Delsberg.
Gobat started his political career in 1882 as a liberal member of the Grand Council of the Canton of Bern. From 1882 to 1912 he was also a member of the cantonal government, heading the Education Department until 1906 and then the Department of the Interior. His university policy and the grammar school reform did not only win him friends; he represented and promoted a Catholic theological faculty, which was to conduct research in scientific freedom independent of the papal teaching authority. Somewhat less controversial, however, were his achievements in school reform (primary school law of 1849), the reorganization of teacher training colleges, the material improvement of teachers and, above all, the abolition of corporal punishment. In the period from 1886 to 1887, Gobat was chairman of the cantonal government of Bern and was elected to the Constitutional Council in 1883. In 1884 the Bernese government elected him to the Swiss parliament as a member of the Council of States, and after the parliamentary elections of 1890 he moved to the National Council, where he remained until his death in 1914. He is buried in the Bremgarten cemetery in Bern.
In 1889, Gobat was one of the participants in the founding assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Paris. Its advocacy of peace through the establishment of arbitration tribunals in cases of international conflict became the focus of his public activity. Gobat organized the 4th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Berne, 1892, where he was given the leadership of the newly established Central Office of the Union. Gobat held this post until his death. After the death of Élie Ducommun in 1906, he also took charge of the International Peace Bureau, thus becoming the most influential European “administrator of peace.” The Bureau International Permanent de la Paix was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1910.
On December 10, 1902, Albert Gobat received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Élie Ducommun, for his work in the Inter-Parliamentary Union. This award spurred him on to work even harder for peace. Gobat used the reputation this prize gave him to intervene in current conflicts. At international congresses, he fought for the idea of arbitration and disarmament before the First World War. At a reception at the White House in 1904, he made a plea to President Theodore Roosevelt to that effect. He was particularly concerned with reconciliation between France and the German Empire, as demonstrated by his unsuccessful efforts to resolve the Alsace-Lorraine question.
His daughter Marguerite Gobat (1870-1937) assisted her father in his duties, especially in the International Peace Bureau. In 1915 she was appointed to head the office of the Women”s World Federation for the Promotion of International Concord in Geneva. At the same time she was active in the Women”s International League for Peace and Freedom. She was also close to the suffragette movement. In 1918 she turned to education and began teaching. In 1928 she opened a home in Magglingen for the education of children of all national and social origins.
In 2021, a work of art in honor of Albert Gobat was unveiled at Bern City Hall. Artist Esther van der Bie won the art-on-a-building competition. Her 100 cm × 554 cm commissioned work entitled “The Peace Process: Charles-Albert Gobat” towers over the staircase leading from the town hall hall to the Grand Council Chamber.