Kristen A. Cordell

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Refugees International

Describe the impact on foreign policy you have made in your current/past jobs.
My work has focused on empirically driven research and analysis on the impact of women within post conflict and nation building operations, thereby improving the foundation of advocacy efforts for a gender perspective among non-traditional audiences (specifically, the US Military and the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping). Overall, my work has advanced the argument for including women as a precursor for state stability and prosperity, not only because it is the morally “correct” thing to do. As the evidence for this approach grows, so does its use around the world.

What personal contribution to foreign policy are you most proud of?
Much of my research – including the book, Women and Nation Building – informed the development of UN Security Council Resolution 1820, the first ever Security Council Resolution to address rape and sexual violence as a tool of war. When I worked for the UN in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia, I could see first hand the impact of the resolution on bringing peace and security for women and their families in the some of the world’s most dangerous locales.

What is your vision of foreign policy in the 21st Century?
I advocate for a foreign policy arena that is highly inclusive – that is, composed of a number of diverse viewpoints and ideas – including those people and ideas that originate outside of the West. I always learn the most working and living in another country, and the diversity of opinions I am in contact with is part of that process.

What is the greatest foreign policy issue facing our generation?
The need to prioritize human security, rather than just hard security, as a precedent to state stability is one of the greatest challenges we face. It is no longer acceptable to address simply the absence of flying bullets, but we must ensure the protection of people through economic and health security as a tool for building peace. The meaningful inclusion of women in peace- and nation-building processes is part of this transition.

What challenges need to be overcome to create better foreign policy?
Today, the access to information is ubiquitous and rapid. However, one thing we have lost in the transition to the Information Age is an ability to listen closely. In listening, we are able to learn more about the parts of the world and people we work with, but it requires both time and a certain quietness – two aspects in direct conflict with the Blackberry.

What personal, managerial, and leadership skills and traits must the next generation of foreign policy leaders possess?
I think that creativity is key. The problems facing young leaders will be diverse and wide-ranging. Using resources in new ways will be key to solving problems in an innovative and effective manner.

How can foreign affairs be made more accessible to Americans, particularly younger generations?
We have to think about changing the accessibility to internships and first jobs. In most cases, there is a limitation to those candidates who can support themselves financially and thus a lack of diversity in the applicant pool. Creating diversity in opportunity at the outset will have long-term benefits for the community overall.

Which living or dead foreign policy practitioner do you look up to the most?
Madeline Albright, Michelle Bachelet, and Ellen Johnson Sir Leaf. It has always been a goal of mine to combine policy research and operational work. Few have been able to do so in such a savvy and competent way under diverse constraints as these three.

Which living or dead foreign policy practitioner do you think has missed the mark and why?
Malcolm Gladwell. Americans gravitate to frameworks and models that oversimplify human behavior. I think realizing the value of the gray area is one thing that authors like Gladwell leave out.

If you could change a critical decision in history to affect foreign policy, what would it be?
While the US was greatly involved on the initial development of International Humanitarian Law and institutions, the support since that time has been piecemeal and politically driven. Thus, I would change the variety of decisions to under-fund and under-support United Nations emerging structures on protection of Human Rights, including for women and children. I believe that current international mandates deserve the attention characteristic of our original commitment.