Biden names Indian American Uzra Zeya as under secretary at State Department

Uzra Zeya named Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
Uzra Zeya; photo credit: Georgetown University School of Foreign Service

Veteran diplomat, who quit the State Department in 2018, named Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

An Indian American who quit her State Department job denouncing the Trump administration’s alleged racial and sexist bias in 2018 has been tapped by President-elect Joe Biden to be his Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

Uzra Zeya, who has more than two decades of experience with the Department of State and has expertise in Near East, South Asian, Europe, human rights and multilateral affairs, was nominated on January 16.

“Zeya will be a champion for putting universal rights and strengthening democracy at the center of our efforts to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” the Biden campaign said, announcing her nomination.

Until recently, the veteran diplomat served as CEO and President of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, a nonprofit that works to end violent conflict and promotes peace globally.

Zeya, who joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1990, left the State Department in 2018, alleging that the administration was bent on reversing decades of gains made by minorities and women under secretaries like Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton.

In an article published by Politico, she wrote that “a quieter trend unfolded” under then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “the exclusion of minorities from top leadership positions in the State Department and embassies abroad.”

RELATED: List of Indian Americans in the incoming Biden administration (January 2, 2021)

During his nearly three-decade-long stint at the State Department, Zeya served in a number of roles, including as Chargé d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy in Paris from 2014 to 2017; as Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, from 2012 to 2014; and as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary of State from 2011 to 2012. She has served as U.S. diplomat in capitals such as New Delhi, Muscat, Damascus, Cairo and Kingston.

Her other assignments include serving as Deputy Executive Secretary to the Secretary of State, Director of the Executive Secretariat Staff, and as UN General Assembly Coordinator.

Zeya joined the Department of State in 1990, a year after she graduated from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Zeya received the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest civilian honor, a Presidential Rank Award, and 15 Superior Honor and Senior Performance Awards.

At Georgetown University, her alma mater, she serves on the Board of Advisors of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. She also taught diplomatic tradecraft and U.S.-European relations at the school.

After leaving the State Department, Zeya served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and as a Senior Advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group.


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