Catherine Wiesner is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s Regional Refugee Coordinator / Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) Champion for the Burundi Situation. Ms. Wiesner works with UNHCR Representatives in Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to ensure an overarching vision and coherent inter-agency engagement across the region in pursuit of protection and comprehensive solutions for more than 400,000 Burundian refugees. She works at the regional level to facilitate strategic, planning and operational synergies and collaboration with Governmental, UN system, Non-Governmental Organizations, donors, civil society partners, private sector, and other stakeholders in the application of the CRRF.
Ms. Wiesner took up her appointment with UNHCR after serving 8 years in the US Government, first as Principal Director to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs at the Pentagon (2009-2012) and then Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration at the Department of State (2012-2017) where she was responsible for the Offices of Assistance Programs for Africa, Multilateral Coordination and External Relations, and International Migration Policy. She led cross-Bureau efforts to respond to the global refugee and migration crisis, including as a chief architect of President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees at the United Nations in 2016.
Prior to government service, Ms. Wiesner worked as a practitioner and consultant in the fields of humanitarian assistance, peace process, and post-conflict programming, specializing in child and adolescent protection. She has designed and managed child soldier demobilization programs, provided technical assistance to peace negotiations, and served on emergency response teams. Ms. Wiesner has worked for the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and Save the Children (SCF) in Sudan, Uganda, Indonesia, Liberia, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Geneva, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe.
Ms. Wiesner holds a B.A. in Comparative Area Studies from Duke University and a M.P.P. in International Security and Political Economy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.