Farah Pandith was born in Srinagar, Kashmir, India.
Special Representative Pandith received an A.B. in Government and Psychology from Smith College, where she was president of the student body. She has served as a Trustee of alma maters Smith College and Milton Academy. She is currently a member of the Board of Overseers of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
State Department appointment
Farah Pandith was appointed U.S. State Department Special Representative to Muslim Communities in June 2009. Her office is responsible for executing Secretary Hillary Clinton’s vision for engagement with Muslims around the world on a people-to-people and organizational level. She reports directly to the Secretary of State.
Prior to this appointment, she was Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. In this role she was focused on Muslim communities in Europe where she was responsible for policy oversight for integration, democracy, and Islam in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. She also worked on issues relating to countering violent Islamic extremism.
Before joining the Department of State, Farah Pandith served as the Director for Middle East Regional Initiatives for the National Security Council. She was responsible for coordinating U.S. policy on “Muslim World” Outreach and the Broader Middle East North Africa initiative. She reported directly to the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy. Special Representative Pandith served on the staff of the National Security Council from December 2004 to February 2007.
Prior to joining the NSC, Special Representative Pandith was Chief of Staff for the Bureau for Asia and the Near East for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She worked directly for the Assistant Administrator for the bureau responsible for more than $4 billion in programs throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and Asia -- including Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza/West Bank. In 2004, she spent two months in Kabul, Afghanistan.
From 1997 to 2003 Special Representative Pandith was Vice President of International Business for ML Strategies in Boston, Massachusetts. She received a Master’s degree from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she specialized in International Security Studies, Islamic Civilizations and Southwest Asia, and International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution. She concentrated on the insurgency in Kashmir and has spoken on the subject in international and domestic forums.
Prior to graduate school, Special Representative Pandith worked at USAID as the Special Assistant to the Director of Policy. She has been a consultant in both the public and non-profit sectors. Special Representative Pandith has served on several boards with a focus on international affairs including the World Affairs Council of Boston, the Council for Emerging National Security Affairs, and the British-American Project. She was a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
New Zealand connection
In September 2009, Pandith was named the first Special Representative to Muslim Communities in American history. Shortly after my swearing in, the New Zealand Deputy Chief of Mission to the United States, Jane Coombs, asked to see her. She was the first member of the Diplomatic Corps in Washington who came to congratulate her and tell me more about Muslims in New Zealand. She "underscored the importance of all of us doing as much as we can to build strong bridges of dialogue and partnership with diverse groups of people around the world."
- Though New Zealand has a small number of Muslims (the population of Muslims is just 0.9 percent of the whole population), the importance of recognizing that Muslims live all over the world cannot be understated. There are more Muslims outside of the Middle East than in it, and the deep roots and history of these diverse cultures have impacted communities all over the world.