Electing a President: Examining Liberia's 2017 Experience
November 17, 2017
NYU Washington, DC, Friends of Liberia (FOL), and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) welcomed an expert panel to examine the ongoing Liberian Presidential Election.
Retired Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, led an analysis of the election process and its meaning to Liberians through the prisms of peace, democracy, and development. Panelists provided up-to-the-minute information on the election, discussed the impact of the delay on Liberia's application of the law and acceptance of the results, and assessed the challenges a new president will face in unifying the country.
Meet the Panel
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield is the inaugural Distinguished Resident Fellow in African Studies at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.
She joined ISD in spring 2017 as a Senior State Department Fellow. She received the 2017 Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Award from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in recognition of her three decades of work promoting the values of humanitarianism and responsible global engagement.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield recently retired after a 35-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service. From 2013 to 2017 she served as the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs. In this capacity, she led the bureau in the Department of State focused on the development and management of U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to this appointment, she served as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (2012-2013), leading a team of approximately 400 employees who handled the full range of personnel functions for the State Department’s 70,000-strong workforce – from recruitment and hiring, to evaluations, promotions and retirement.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s distinguished Foreign Service career includes an ambassadorship to Liberia (2008-2012), and postings in Switzerland (at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations), Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, and Jamaica. In addition to the Bureau of Human Resources, her Washington postings include the Bureau of African Affairs (2006-2008) where she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (2004-2006) where she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield was the 2015 recipient of the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award and the 2000 recipient of the Warren Christopher Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Affairs. She has received several Superior, Meritorious, and Performance awards, including the Presidential Meritorious Service Award. She was a 2010 inductee into the Louisiana State University Alumni Association Hall of Distinction.
Prior to joining the Department of State, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield taught political science at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. She earned a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, where she also did work towards a doctorate.
Emma Arcodia, West Africa Program Development Coordinator, Search for Common Ground
Emma Arcodia is West Africa program development coordinator for Search for Common Ground (Search). Emma’s recent work includes designing projects to mitigate intercommunal violence and prevent violent extremism in Nigeria; strengthen political accountability in Sierra Leone; and enhance county-level reconciliation processes in Liberia. Emma has expertise in West Africa and the MENA region. Prior to joining the West Africa team, Emma coordinated Search's Countering Violent Extremism project in Tunisia, where she conducted thirty community dialogues across the country involving religious and community leaders, youth, CSOs and local authorities. Before that, Emma worked on a women's empowerment project for Caritas Egypt in Cairo, which aimed at strengthening women's capacities in rural areas and increasing women's engagement in local affairs.
Emma holds a Master's degree in Middle East Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) - University of London, and a BA in Political Science and International Relations from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore - Milano. Emma is fluent in Italian, English, and French, and proficient in Egyptian and Tunisian Arabic.
Jonas Claes, Senior Program Officer, U.S. Institute for Peace
Jonas Claes is a senior program officer at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where he conducts research and analysis on the prevention of electoral violence and mass atrocities. In this capacity, Claes coordinates prevention projects and consults senior U.S., U.N. and EU officials in fine-tuning prevention practices. He has engaged in election observation, research and training around the world, including in Kenya, Liberia, Bangladesh, Suriname and Honduras.
Mr. Claes is the editor of “Electing Peace,” a USIP research volume that takes an important step at identifying what works, and what does not, in preventing election violence. The book evaluates the utility of preventive diplomacy, security sector engagement, peace messaging and several other instruments for the purpose of election violence prevention. Claes has written extensively on the responsibility to protect as well, including a journal article on “Protecting Civilians from Mass Atrocities: Meeting the Challenges of R2P Opposition” published in Global Responsibility to Protect, and a chapter on “The Responsibility to Prevent” in the Cambridge volume The Role of Business in the Responsibility to Protect.
Previously, Jonas served as senior program specialist in the Center for Conflict Management, supporting USIP’s work on conflict analysis and prevention, including the Working Group on the Responsibility to Protect co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the late Ambassador Richard Williamson. In 2016, he worked from the European Institute of Peace (EIP) office to continue his work on election security from Brussels, and to integrate the work of USIP and EIP. He holds a master’s degree in security studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and a master’s degree in international relations from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium).
Sarah Morrison, President, Friends of Liberia (Moderator)
Sarah was a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1985-87 in Monrovia, serving the Ministry of Health headquarters as a national Training and Logistics Coordinator for the Combating Childhood Communicable Diseases program. The experience led to her leaving a career in Louisiana, where she had earned a MSW from Tulane and began as a protective services and foster care clinical social worker. Personal travels over ten years to places including China, India, and the Middle East hooked her on following through with an application to Peace Corps and leaving her job as Director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Program Evaluation. The Peace Corps experience introduced her to both Friends of Liberia and the U.S. State Department Foreign Service, from which she officially retired in late 2014 (though she accepted two temporary assignments in 2015 to help out with grants management in Kathmandu and Dubai). During this career of 25+ years, she served in Florence (as Consul General), Kabul (Strategic Communications Deputy Director), Mbabane (Deputy Chief of Mission), Malabo (Charge’/DCM), Washington (International Affairs Public Affairs Officer), Monrovia (PAO), Buenos Aires (Asst. Cultural Affairs Officer), and Rome/Milan (entry level tour).
Since her heart is really in development work, training, and program evaluation, she looks forward to using her experience and passion as part of the Friends of Liberia team. She is also involved in arts, health, children, and women’s empowerment organizations as a volunteer, and maintains many contacts in Liberia.
Welma Redd, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies, Morgan State University
Wlma Mashinni Redd, former Miss Liberia, is an assistant professor of Communication Studies at Morgan State University.