Katherine Ellena, Legal Advisor, Center for Applied Research and Learning
Katherine Ellena is a legal advisor with the Center for Applied Research and Learning at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), focused on legal frameworks for elections, electoral dispute resolution and electoral integrity.
Ellena serves as the technical lead for IFES’ Legal Framework group and contributes to research initiatives and the development of tools and resources for IFES’ legal service line. Ellena also provides direct technical legal assistance to IFES’ field programs globally, and has worked with election commissions, tribunals, courts, government interlocutors and civil society in Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Kenya, the Maldives, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sint Maarten, Sri Lanka, The Gambia, and Ukraine. She also spent two years in New Delhi, India, with the IFES Gender and Law program.
Ellena has published various opinion pieces, blogs, and academic papers, along with a paper on electoral integrity and election audits, a chapter on measuring effective remedies for fraud and administrative malpractice in the American Bar Association (ABA) book, International Election Remedies, and a guide on the hierarchy of laws for election practitioners who are developing, interpreting, and implementing legal frameworks for elections. A new research paper on effective management of elections disputes and violations is forthcoming.
Prior to joining the Center, she was a senior program manager with the IFES Europe and Asia department, responsible for $40 million electoral reform programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This included managing a program supporting the newly-established Independent Electoral Complaints Commission in Afghanistan during the 2014 presidential elections, and a comprehensive electoral support program in Pakistan in the wake of the historic 2013 general elections.
Before joining IFES, Ellena was the acting vice president of the United States New Zealand Council, supporting deeper political, trade and security connections between the U.S. and New Zealand. She was also a research associate with the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of Defense Analysis, developing a global counter terrorism oral history archive with both U.S. and international special operations forces.
Prior to this, she was a diplomat with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade focused on politics and security in Southeast Asia, including two years with the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Ellena has a master’s degree in law with honors from the University of Canterbury; a bachelor’s degree in law and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Canterbury; and a diploma for graduates in international development from the University of London’s London School of Economics.
Ellena was admitted as a barrister and solicitor to the High Court of New Zealand in 2004, and is a member of the ABA, International Bar Association, and New Zealand Law Society.