Jehan Balba is a humanitarian response professional, currently focused on the Horn and East Africa. In her current role as Regional Program Development Manager with Relief International, Jehan leads efforts to engage donors and develop innovative programming to address critical humanitarian issues in Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya.
Before moving to Kenya in 2012, Jehan spent three years working on humanitarian programs in Sudan and South Sudan, with the Agency for Technical Development and Cooperation (ACTED), and Save the Children UK. She holds an MA in Security Studies and a graduate certificate in Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies from Georgetown University, and a BA from American University.
Describe the impact on foreign policy you have made in your current/past positions.
Over the past four years, I have worked in program development and donor relations in East Africa. In this work, I update representatives of U.S. government agencies and other governments about the humanitarian situation in Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia, where NGOs often have greater access and more local contacts than international governments. Through this information-sharing, I have worked to advocate for targeted aid and policy support, in order to ensure that neglected areas and vulnerable populations in these countries receive appropriate, life-saving support.
What personal contribution to foreign policy are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my efforts to maintain international government and donor interest in supporting the often long and costly processes of stabilization and recovery in conflict-affected areas of East Africa. Through outreach, information-sharing, and design of innovative projects, I have secured funding for programming aimed at addressing emergency needs and supporting stability in Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia. These efforts have included advocating for continued to support to emergency response in Darfur, where international interest is waning, and championing new efforts with Somali media partners to support journalists and human rights actors in South-Central Somalia.
What is your vision of foreign policy in the 21st Century?
I believe that the U.S. is in a period of transition and re-definition as a global power. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan coming to an end and the new wave of governments in the Arab world, the U.S. has an opportunity to re-examine recent foreign policy frameworks, and re-affirm its commitment to global cooperation.
What challenges need to be overcome to create better foreign policy? What leadership traits are needed for this?
I believe that better foreign policy requires shifting away from the “war on terror” paradigm of the past decade. Through a balanced approach to realist concerns, coupled with a demonstrable commitment to global human rights and protection, the U.S. can continue to foster global security while winning greater support within the world citizenry. As economic support, for re-building post-conflict countries or supporting development in low-income countries, remains a key tool, leaders must be willing to commit resources to support foreign policy agendas, even in the context of a recovering U.S. economy.
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