Center for Reproductive Rights Announces High-Ranking State Department Official Karen Hanrahan as New Chief Program Officer
(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights has appointed Karen Hanrahan, who most recently served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, as the organization’s new Chief Program Officer, effective today.
A widely recognized expert in international human rights and foreign policy, Hanrahan brings over two decades of experience leading social change and building effective organizations. As Chief Program Officer, Hanrahan will serve as a member of the Center’s executive management team and oversee the Center’s legal and policy work in the U.S., Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe and at the U.N. She will focus on envisioning, implementing, and coordinating the Center’s sweeping portfolio of programs in order to advance the continued transformation of the human rights landscape with respect to reproductive rights, health, and justice.
The Center’s game changing litigation and advocacy work, combined with its unparalleled expertise in the use of constitutional, international, and comparative human rights law, have transformed how reproductive rights are understood by courts, governments, and human rights bodies. It has played a key role in securing legal victories in the U.S., Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe on issues including access to life-saving obstetrics care, contraception, safe abortion services, and comprehensive sexuality information, as well as the prevention of forced sterilization, child marriage, and female genital mutilation. It has brought groundbreaking cases before national courts, U.N. Committees, and regional human rights bodies, and has built the legal capacity of women’s rights advocates in over 55 countries.
“Karen Hanrahan is a strategic and innovative leader with a track record of promoting and defending human rights,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The imperative need for advancing women’s reproductive health and rights throughout the world demands the kind of bold leadership that Karen has embodied throughout her impressive career, and we are thrilled that she is joining the Center for Reproductive Rights as our Chief Program Officer.”
“I am honored to be joining the leadership team of such a committed, effective organization,” said Karen Hanrahan. “I have seen the Center’s results-driven legal and policy work produce direct positive impact on people and communities around the world, and I am excited to be part of this inspiring movement.”
Hanrahan has served in the Obama administration since 2009, brought on under the leadership of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She was appointed to her most recent role of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy and Human Rights in 2012, where she provided vision and leadership to shape U.S. Government policy and programs for Africa, South and Central Asia, Business and Human Rights, International Labor Affairs, and Security and Human Rights—including policies on sexual and gender-based violence, child soldiers, and counter-terrorism. Hanrahan shaped U.S. Government policy, influenced senior foreign government officials, and worked closely with civil society groups around the world.
Prior to serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary, Hanrahan was the architect of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s inaugural Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (the QDDR) that has redefined the U.S. Government’s approach to diplomacy and development. Hanrahan went on to serve as the Chief Innovation Officer for the UK Department for International Development (DFID), where she helped the agency strengthen its capabilities to devise innovative solutions to entrenched development challenges.
Hanrahan has spent much of her career working in and on countries in conflict, including working closely with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as the US Coordinator for International Assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan. She 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. She worked for the UN High Commissioner of Refugees as a Protection Officer in Afghanistan, including substantial work on gender. 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 began her legal career as an associate at White &, Case in Washington, D.C., focusing on international financial institutions and foreign investment, while representing asylum seekers and unaccompanied refugee minors on a pro bono basis. She graduated from University of Washington School of Law, holds a master’s degree in international politics from American University, and completed the advanced management program at the Harvard Business School.