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Conference Speakers

Opening Speaker: Robin Raphel

Each year, Northwest Model United Nations invites individuals to speak to our full conference at Opening or Closing Ceremonies. Together, these individuals, along with speakers from past conferences, form a broad speakers program - collectively representative of the international space in terms of the issues they speak on, types of experiences they have, and their various worldviews. Individual speakers are not chosen to be representative, but to share their individual experiences and views, and in so doing share insight from their work in their communities and around the world on issues that we feel will be of interest to our delegates. We do not endorse every opinion of our speakers, and that is intentional - we want to share with our delegates a range of voices that collectively help educate delegates on international issues the same way the conference experience as a whole does.

Former US Ambassador to Tunisia; Former US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs;
Former US coordinator for non-military assistance to Pakistan and US Department of State Senior Adviser on Pakistan

Ambassador Robin L. Raphel, retired, is a deeply-experienced diplomat with extensive knowledge of South Asia and the Middle East, with a particular focus on Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Born in Longview, Washington, Ambassador Raphel completed undergraduate degrees in economics and history at the University of Washington and graduate degrees in economics and modern European history from the University of Maryland and Cambridge University, respectively. Early in her career she taught history at Damavand College in Tehran, Iran.

Ambassador Raphel has held a variety of positions across the US State Department, the US Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense and the CIA in places as varied as South Africa, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, and the United Kingdom. She was the first Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, and served as the US ambassador to Tunisia. Ambassador Raphel worked in Iraq immediately after the 2003 US invasion to restore the critical food rationing system, and later was made Deputy Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The Ambassador has also held a number of other positions, including Vice President, National Defense University and Coordinator for Civilian Assistance in Pakistan when the Obama administration dramatically increased aid to Pakistan 2009-2014. She is a Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic Studies and Nicholds Liu LLC, and serves on the board of the Friends of the American University of Afghanistan, the Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training, and Pugwash USA. In recent years, Ambassador Raphel is credited with back channel diplomatic work which facilitated the historic 2018-2019 US-Taliban peace talks in Doha, Qatar.

Additional Information
Ambassador Raphel is renowned for her old-school, people intensive approach to diplomacy, which has led her to forge relationships with diplomats, politicians, generals, and other major figures to help promote US interests in an ever more challenging global environment. As diplomacy has become a more dangerous profession and State Department personnel often do not venture beyond the embassy walls, Ambassador Raphel has been noted for her relentless drive to genuinely understand the political culture and motivations of the people in the places in which she serves.

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