The ISD community congratulates Ms. Uzra Zeya on her nomination by President Biden to serve as Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. Ms. Zeya, who has served on the ISD Board of Advisers since 2019, is the fourth member of the ISD community that the new administration has chosen to serve in a senior national security position.
As Under Secretary, Ms. Zeya will oversee a broad range of policy issues, including democracy, human rights, and labor; population, refugees, and migration; international narcotics and law enforcement; conflict and stabilization operations; counterterrorism; global criminal justice; religious freedom and combating anti-semitism; and counter-trafficking efforts.
Ms. Zeya has served the country with distinction for over three decades. Most recently, she was President and CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, where she led a network of over 130 organizations that work to end conflict and sustain peace. The Alliance was instrumental in the passage of the Global Fragility Act through Congress at the end of 2019. In her new role, she will take the lead on the State Department’s efforts to implement the new law, which seeks to address drivers of conflict and instability globally.
In addition to her Foreign Service leadership roles at Embassy Paris and in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, she has completed assignments in New Delhi, Muscat, Damascus, Cairo, Kingston, and Washington. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Chair of the ISD Board of Advisers, highlighted Ms. Zeya’s past experience and her readiness to undertake this new assignment: “Uzra Zeya is a widely experienced highly successful Foreign Service Officer who will do a great job in her new post. Her outstanding performance in the past as Deputy Chief of Mission in Paris and as Acting Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor have prepared her superbly to carry out her new assignment.”
“Uzra Zeya’s appointment is another critical step in the new Biden administration’s commitment to reinvigorate America’s global engagement through diplomacy, and to rebuild the country’s diplomatic excellence,” noted ISD Director Ambassador Barbara Bodine. “Her writ is large, complex, and covers areas often neglected by the previous administration. She will have to rebuild and transform our work in these areas. Her distinguished career at State and her work at the Alliance for Peacebuilding make her better placed than anyone to succeed.”
Ms. Zeya is also a champion for State Department reform and a stronger Foreign Service. She co-authored a new Council on Foreign Relations report, “Revitalizing the State Department and American Diplomacy,” which called for better training for Foreign and Civil Service Officers, as well as a stronger commitment to diversity. As an ISD Board member, an ISD Senior Non-resident Fellow, and as a Practitioner in Residence with Georgetown’s MSFS Program last academic year, Ms. Zeya has been a fierce advocate for greater diversity in the foreign affairs community. She most recently participated in an ISD event to discuss the findings from the Government Accountability Office’s 2020 report on diversity at the State Department. She is also featured in ISD’s Diverse Diplomacy Leaders video series.
Uzra Zeya’s nomination is another victory for diplomacy, diversity, and for career public servants, and the entire ISD community wishes her well.