The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is proud to announce the appointment of Katherine Ellena as IFES’s new Vice President of Programs. Ellena previously served as IFES's Senior Global Legal Advisor and Director of IFES’s Center for Anti-Corruption and Democratic Trust. As Vice President of Programs, Ellena will be responsible for overseeing all of IFES’s work in countries around the world and the development and application of the highest quality program tools capable of advancing electoral integrity and democracy consolidation in the face of growing threats to democracy.
Ellena started her IFES career in 2004 in India and has spent significant time working in and supporting IFES country offices around the world. Ellena has provided direct technical assistance to IFES’s programs worldwide and worked with government ministries, election commissions, oversight bodies, anti-corruption commissions, tribunals, courts, government interlocutors, and civil society in over 25 countries since she joined IFES. Recognizing the fundamental role that electoral and political corruption plays in undermining democracy, in 2021, Ellena helped conceptualize and launch IFES’s Center for Anti-Corruption and Democratic Trust, which is focused on pervasive forms of political and electoral corruption that pose the greatest threat to democracy.
“Katherine is known across IFES as a collaborative, respected, and trustworthy colleague, and someone with the highest standards of professionalism, integrity, and a deep commitment to IFES and to our values and mission,” said IFES President & CEO Anthony Banbury.
Before joining IFES, Ellena was the acting vice president of the United States New Zealand Council, a research and faculty associate with the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of Defense Analysis, and a diplomat with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade focused on politics and security in Southeast Asia. This last position included two years with the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she helped manage New Zealand government responses to both a natural disaster and a terrorist attack.
Ellena is a special advisor to the Standing Committee on Election Law at the American Bar Association and a member of the Scientific Committee for the Global Network on Electoral Justice. She holds a master’s degree in law with honors from the University of Canterbury, bachelor’s degrees in law and philosophy from the University of Canterbury, and a diploma for graduates in international development from the University of London’s London School of Economics. She was admitted as a barrister and solicitor to the High Court of New Zealand in 2004 and is a member of the American Bar Association and New Zealand Law Society.