When Eric Schwartz took over the helm as Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs he brought with him a lifetime of experience working on human rights issues. During his twenty-five years working in international and domestic governmental agencies and in non-governmental and philanthropic communities, Schwartz has demonstrated devotion to public service and the advancement of human rights.
After receiving a J.D. from New York University School of Law, where he was a recipient of a Root-Tilden-Snow Scholarship for commitment to public service, Schwartz began his career in human rights through his work as the Washington director of Asia Watch (now, Human Rights Watch–Asia). Schwartz then served as Staff Consultant to the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs from 1989-1993. President Clinton brought Schwartz to the White House as an advisor to the National Security Council, (1993-2001), where he served a variety of functions, eventually rising to the position of Senior Director and Special Assistant to the President for Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs. Schwartz played an integral role in drafting the Clinton Administration's response to a number of peacekeeping, humanitarian and refugee issues, including support for and involvement in the international, UN-mandated deployment in East Timor, the US train-and-equip program for West African troops in Sierra Leone, the rescue of Kurdish refugees from Northern Iraq, the resettlement of Vietnamese boat people, the safe haven program for Haitian refugees, and US relief efforts in Central America and Kosovo
From 2001 through 2003, Schwartz held fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson Center, the US Institute of Peace, and the Council on Foreign Relations, where he completed many articles and book chapters, contributing invaluable insight on subjects such as peace operations, humanitarian issues, and refugee policy. As a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, he directed the Independent Task Force on Post-Conflict Iraq, working closely with Ambassador Thomas Pickering and James Schlesinger, co-chairs of the Task Force. During this period, he also contributed to the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty's Responsibility to Protect Project.
In 2003, Dean Schwartz brought his formidable skills to the United Nations when then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, appointed him as Chief to Staff at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in Geneva, Switzerland. Following the tragic death of de Mello in a terrorist attack in Baghdad August 2003, Schwartz served as the second-ranking official in the office, initiating and implementing reforms of management and program-planning activities across the organization. Schwartz received wide-spread and well-deserved praise from UN member states, UN officials, and NGOs for providing guidance and stability during the turbulent transition period that followed Sergio Vieira de Mello’s death.
Between 2005 and 2007, Schwartz worked alongside former President Bill Clinton as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery to provide coordination and promote best practices in the recovery effort. He also served as a lead expert for the Mitchell-Gingrich Task Force on United Nations Reform. The task force benefited from his deep knowledge on refugees and international affairs and accomplished many feats of reform, including the creation of the Human Rights Council to replace the previous Commission on Human Rights, and the promotion of the Right to Protect in order to prevent genocide and human rights abuses within sovereign states. In 2007, Schwartz was named Executive Director of the Connect US Fund, a non-profit initiative focused on foreign and international affairs, where he served until 2009, when President Obama brought him back to the US Government as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. Working with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he served as the Department of State’s principal humanitarian official, Schwartz managed a $1.85 billion budget, as well as State Department policy and programs for U.S. refugee admissions and U.S. international assistance worldwide.
Schwartz’s expertise on humanitarian intervention, gained through his extensive history as a scholar of international affairs and refugees and as an avid advocate for human rights, has placed him among the ranks of the most proficient and visionary human rights leaders of our time. Through his experience in international affairs, Schwartz has witnessed the birth of the idea of the “Responsibility to Protect,” a reformulation of the international legal basis for protecting civilians from mass atrocities, and has worked tirelessly to assist in its development and promote its acceptance as a norm. As the international community works toward a better understanding of this new norm, Dean Eric Schwartz will certainly continue to be a key actor in determining the parameters and implementation of the Responsibility to Protect.
Written by Anna Meteyer.