Christoph Harnisch was born in Switzerland. He studied Diplomacy at the University of Geneva and was awarded a master degree by the Graduate Institute of International Relations. In 1984, he joined the International Committee of the Red Cross and was assigned to Beirut as a first mission delegate. One year later he was appointed as Head of Sub Delegation in Gaza then in Baghdad and Managua, Nicaragua. In 1989 he was invited to work at the ICRC Headquarters in Geneva until he was appointed Head of the ICRC Delegation in Beirut.
He has been Head of the Operations for Eastern, Central and Southern Africa; Deputy Delegate General for Sub-Saharan Africa and Delegate General for Africa; Head of the ICRC Delegations in Iraq, Angola, Sudan, Tel Aviv -a position he held until being invited back to ICRC Headquarters in Geneva as Head of the Fundraising Division- and finally Head of Delegation in Colombia, where has been a facilitator in numerous releases of persons detained and a neutral intermediary in the framework of the negotiations in Habana.