Katherine Ellena, Senior Global Advisor, Legal

Katherine Ellena

As the International Foundation for Electoral Systems' (IFES) senior global legal advisor, Katherine Ellena provides strategic leadership and technical assistance to IFES’ work on constitutional, legal and regulatory frameworks, justice mechanisms and electoral integrity. Ellena provides direct technical legal assistance to IFES’ field programs globally and has worked with government ministries, election commissions, oversight bodies, tribunals, courts, government interlocutors and civil society in over 20 countries over the past 17 years.

Ellena is also head of IFES’ new Center for Anti-Corruption and Democratic Trust, which is focused on improving the ability of democracies to deliver for all people through cross-sectoral anticorruption initiatives that address the global democratic trust deficit.

Ellena holds a master’s degree in law with honors from the University of Canterbury, focused on medical law and bioethics. She also holds 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, focused in part on ethics during humanitarian crises.

Ellena contributes to the development of applied research, tools and resources for IFES’ legal and anti-corruption service line, as well as applied research initiatives in areas such as electoral leadership and cybersecurity in elections. This includes the development of scenarios and tabletop exercises for IFES’ Executive Curriculum in Electoral Leadership (iEXCEL). Her research for IFES includes papers on: election investigations, public sector corruption, election postponements, electoral integrity and election audits, measuring effective remedies for fraud and administrative malpractice, a guide on the hierarchy of laws for election practitioners, effective management of elections disputes and violations, cybersecurity in elections and election annulments.

Before joining IFES, Ellena was the acting vice president of the United States--New Zealand Council, research associate with the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of Defense Analysis and diplomat with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade focused on politics and security in Southeast Asia. This included two years with the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she helped manage New Zealand government responses to 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 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, International Bar Association and New Zealand Law Society.



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