Karen Hanrahan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights, Obama Administration
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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 (I’ve been asked on multiple occassions to speak at universities (and recently a youth forum) on careers in international affairs
karen Hanrahan was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in August 2012. Hanrahan began her work under the Obama Administration working with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as the U.S. 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. Ms. Hanrahan recently served as the Chief Innovation Officer for the UK Department for International Development (DFID), on detail assignment in London.
We met her back in the spring of 2008—before she had stepped into these top jobs. What has life been like in the last four years?
In this podcast, you’ll learn:
- These positions are but many high-level jobs she has held in her illustrious career, which began after graduating with a Political Science and Journalism degree at Indiana University in 1992.
- While in college, Hanrahan took the first steps along her path to work internationally when she spent a year abroad in Morocco, studying at the King Fahd Arabic Language School in Tangier, and the School of International Training in Rabat.
- Hanrahan then got her MA in International Politics at American University in 1995; and in 2000 finished her Law degree—with honors and at the top 5 percent of her class—at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle. While there, she was the Law Review editor and a research assistant for Professor Joan Fitzpatrick, a federal public defender who has written habeas corpus petitions for indefinitely detained immigrants, and an assistant mediator at the US Court of Appeals.
- If that’s not impressive enough, Hanrahan capped her education with a degree from the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 2008.
When it comes to defining what it means to be a Truly Amazing Woman, sometimes it’s the work a woman does—from running a multimillion-dollar business, and founding a philanthropic organization, to being a bestselling author or an internationally renowned artist.
Sometimes it’s just who she is, what she has overcome, and the fact that she is willing and able to share those life lessons with the rest of us.
When it comes to Karen Hanrahan, it’s a powerful combination of all of the above.
We met Deputy Assistant Secretary of Human Rights and Democracy Karen Hanrahan in 2008—before she had this top job in the Obama administration at the US Department of State.
At the time, she was a senior advisor to the Iraqi minister of human rights.
And soon after, she became the director and COO of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, where she led a comprehensive project for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to redefine how the US government practices international development and diplomacy.