• July 2014

Government 2014—Meet Karen Hanrahan, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights

Karen J. Hanrahan was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in August 2012. Her portfolio includes the Office of African Affairs and the Office of International Labor Affairs, as well as gender and security and human rights issues.

Hanrahan began her work under the Obama Administration working with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as the US Coordinator for International Assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan. She went on to design and run the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (the QDDR) for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

She most recently served as the Chief Innovation Officer for the UK Department for International Development (DFID), on detail assignment in London.

A lawyer by training, Hanrahan has spent over 15 years working in and on fragile and emerging countries for the US government, the United Nations, NGOs, and the private sector. She specializes in human rights, Rule of Law, security sector reform, gender, and protection, as well as strategic planning and organizational change.

From 2004-2006, Hanrahan served as the State Department’s Senior Rule of Law Coordinator in Iraq and Senior Consultant to the Iraqi Minister of Human Rights. Prior to this, she served with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives in Iraq as the Senior Advisor on Human Rights and Transitional Justice.

Hanrahan went on to serve as Vice President for International Peace and Stability in a Fortune 500 company, leading a large-scale organizational change effort and travelling around the world to integrate human rights, Rule of Law and security assistance.

Hanrahan is an alumna of Harvard Business School and University of Washington School of Law. She has studied Arabic and French.

Karen’s Speaking Topics

  • Revamping US development and diplomacy under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  • Unleashing the power of women and girls in the developing world
  • Socially responsible business practices in the developing world
  • Tales from the field: Witnessing human rights abuses and progress in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa
  • Innovating for social impact in the developing world
  • Building a future career in international humanitarian, human rights, and development (She has been asked on multiple occasions to speak at universities—and recently a youth forum—on careers in international affairs).
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