Shirin Tahir-Kheli

Senior Fellow


Dr. Shirin Tahir-Kheli was named by Newsweek in 2011 as one of the "150 Women Who Shake the World." She specializes in South Asia, Nuclear Non-Proliferation, United Nations and U.S. Foreign Policy, and Women's Empowerment.
From March 2003 to April 2005, she served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations at the National Security Council. She proposed and coordinated the building of the Children's Hospital for treatment of Cancer in Basra, Iraq from 2004-2009. The hospital, the first of its kind in Iraq, and a public-private partnership, opened in 2010.
During 2004 - 2006 she served as the key U.S. official in the formulation of U.S. policy toward United Nations Reform. She oversaw the diplomatic effort to press for critical changes in the UN system from her position as Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs at the National Security Council and later as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State for UN Reform.
Shirin Tahir-Kheli was appointed by Secretary Condoleezza Rice as her Senior Advisor for Women’s Empowerment on April 5, 2006. There, she established the first ever office focused on integrating Women's Empowerment into U.S. foreign policy. She setup and oversaw the work of the Women Leaders' Working Group, comprising some sixty female heads of state, foreign ministers, political leaders, attorney generals and speakers of parliaments, focused on political participation, education, economic empowerment and justice. Tahir-Kheli spearheaded the State Department initiative for "Women's Justice," which brought together at the Department of State on March 12, 2008, judges from around the world to work on measures to alleviate the severity of violence against women and women's lack of access to justice, which continues.
Ambassador Tahir-Kheli was Research Professor of International Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC. From 1999-June 2002, she served as the founding Director of the South Asia Program, which was part of the Foreign Policy Institute at SAIS.
Earlier, during her service in the United States government, Tahir-Kheli served as: Head of the United States delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 2001; Alternate United States Representative to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs (1990-1993), a post that carries the rank of Ambassador; Member, United States Presidential Commission on the Public Service during 1992-1993; and Director of Near East and South Asian Affairs (1986-1989) and Director of Political Military Affairs (1984-1986) at the National Security Council. She joined the Reagan Administration in 1982 as Member, Policy Planning Staff in the Office of the Secretary of State.
Ambassador Tahir-Kheli has dedicated her efforts to finding areas of agreement between India and Pakistan that could change their relationship to one of productive peace. Toward that end, she has been chair of the BALUSA Group comprising senior Indian, Pakistani, and U.S. participants that is geared to influencing policy toward cooperation.
She is the author and editor of several monographs, including: Pakistan Today: The Case for U.S.-Pakistan Relations (Co-written by Shahid Javed Burki, Foreign Policy Institute, 2017); Manipulating Religion for Political Gain in Pakistan: Consequences for the U.S. and the Region (Foreign Policy Institute, 2015); India, Pakistan and the United States: Breaking with the Past (Council on Foreign Relations, 1997); The United States and Pakistan: The Evolution of an Influence Relationship (Praeger 1982), Water Conflicts in South Asia: Managing Water Disputes within and between Countries of the Region (Coordinated and Edited with Toufiq A. Siddiqi, Sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2004); Water Needs in South Asia: Closing the Demand-Supply Gap (Coordinated and  Edited with Toufiq A. Siddiqi, Sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2005).

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The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
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