Paula Dobriansky

Paula Dobriansky bigraphy, stories - Officials

Paula Dobriansky : biography

September 14, 1955 –

Paula Jon Dobriansky (born September 14, 1955) is an American foreign policy expert who has served in key roles as a diplomat and policy maker in the administrations of five U.S. presidents, both Democrat and Republican. She is a specialist in the areas of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union as well as political-military affairs. She served as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs from 2001-2009, making her the longest-serving undersecretary in the State Department’s history. Currently, Dr. Dobriansky is a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.


Current role

Since 4 March 2009, Dr. Dobriansky serves as a Senior Fellow at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Dobriansky is also a co-chair of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s commission on stabilizing fragile states. She also serves as an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America.

As of January 2010, Ambassador Dobriansky served as the Class of 1960 Distinguished Visiting Professor in National Security at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Career Highlights

During her most recent term at the State Department, for which she was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Dr. Dobriansky presided over an expanded portfolio of responsibilities as Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs where she led efforts across a range of activities from democracy and human rights and labor to refugee and human trafficking issues to oceans and science, health, climate change. During this period, she vigorously encouraged public-private partnerships including, notably, the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Alliance and a voluntary government-industry initiative deriving from the Global Internet Freedom Task Force (GIFT). Also during this period she served as the Administration’s Special Coordinator for Tibet and Presidential Envoy to the Northern Ireland Peace Process for which she received the Secretary’s Distinguished Service Medal, the State Department’s highest honor .

Over the course of her career, Dr. Dobriansky has received high-level recognitions and orders of merit from the governments of Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Ukraine and Romania. She is the recipient of four honorary doctoral degrees.

Dobriansky serves on the Board of Directors for the Washington D.C.-based human rights organization, the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

On Climate Change, Dobriansky Urges Creative Thinking Beyond Copenhagen

2009 Copenhagen Conference of Parties. In an article published in the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Survival journal, Dr. Dobriansky joined forces with a leading scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science to urge creative thinking about the “Many Paths Forward” beyond the recently-concluded Copenhagen Conference of Parties on climate change. She and Vaughan Turekian point out that "give the important role that deforestration plays in producing the greenhouse effect, government and NGO-led programs that reduce forest loss are key to a global climate change strategy."

2007 Bali Conference of Parties. In 2007 in Bali, she was an architect of the ‘Bali Roadmap’ that established a pragmatic, consensus-driven approach to moving forward towards a new climate treaty. In December 2007 9000 delegates from 187 countries arrived in Bali, Indonesia for the UN Climate Change Conference. Diplomats and scientists were convening to try to strike a new global climate treaty. In her Closing Statement, Dr. Dobriansky said, “The global community has worked together to put into place a good set of elements in the Bali Roadmap on mitigation, adaptation, technology, and finance to guide important considerations toward agreement in 2009 in Copenhagen. It is important that our work be guided by the latest science laid out in the IPCC 4th assessment report. We have taken a first step in Bali in beginning an important discussion about how to achieve a truly global solution. This is a new chapter in climate diplomacy. We are committed to working hard over the next two years to ensure that we implement today’s decision in a way that achieves this end. That effort begins today.”


Dobriansky graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University in political-military affairs. She is a Fulbright-Hays scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Her late father, Lev Dobriansky, was a Ukrainian-American economist and prominent anti-communist activist who initiated the Captive Nations Week during the Eisenhower Administration.