Stéphanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt | DES in Political Science 1996

Expert on the Panel of Experts on DPRK Sanctions at United Nations Security Council

stephanie-kleine-ahlbrandt.jpgIn 1992, while working at the Council of Europe, I was asked to administer a programme that provided academic scholarships to Eastern and Central European diplomats for postgraduate work in European universities. The Graduate Institute was on that list. My father had obtained his doctorate at the Graduate Institute in 1960 and always remained passionate about his Swiss education.
I soon discovered that some colleagues at the Council of Europe had graduated from the Institute too. I applied, was accepted, and moved from Strasbourg to Geneva in 1993.

Six months later, the Rwandan genocide was unleashed. April to mid-July 1994 saw the slaughter of some 800,000 men, women and children, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Because of the Institute’s proximity to United Nations organisations, I learned that the UN Human Rights Office was planning a field operation in Rwanda to investigate the genocide. I applied and was soon on my way there. I returned to Geneva and the Institute a year later. I had just three months to write my thesis, which used the case of a postgenocide Rwandan massacre of internally displaced persons (IDPs), among the world’s most vulnerable population, to analyse the “gap” in their international protection. The thesis, published by the Graduate Institute, won the Prix Arditi and hopefully made a modest contribution to drawing attention to the plight of IDPs.

I then worked for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, before returning to Geneva to work for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on issues surrounding Africa. Subsequently, I was asked by then High Commissioner Mary Robinson to work on China, and Asia-Pacific has been the focus of my career ever since. In 2006, I joined the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and in 2008, I moved with my then seven year-old son to Beijing where I set up and ran the International Crisis Group’s Northeast Asia office. While there, I visited North Korea five times, three times with my son. In 2013, I moved to Washington DC to head the US Institute of Peace’s Asia-Pacific Programme. In September 2013, I joined the UN Security Council Panel of Experts on DPRK (North Korea) sanctions, thus bringing my career back full circle to those early years at the Graduate Institute, the foundation of my international career, and when I left on my first UN assignment.

I would like to end with a tribute to Emmanuel Rejouis, an Institute graduate and friend who, after many years with the UN, died along with two of his daughters in the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, leaving behind his wife and another daughter. Emmanuel will always be remembered by the many people whose lives he deeply touched.