Silja Paasilinna, Country Director, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
Silja Paasilinna is currently the International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ (IFES) country director for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, based out of Colombo, Sri Lanka. She has over 17 years of international experience in leadership and technical roles in democratic governance, political transitions, electoral assistance and capacity building. Paasilinna also served as the chief of party for Counterpart International on a United States Agency for International Development-funded program in Mozambique, and prior to that, as IFES’ chief of party in Bangladesh.
Much of Paasilinna’s work has focused on forming broad-based coalitions of governance stakeholders, building consensus and shaping platforms to advocate for political and electoral reform, and she co-chaired Interaction’s Pakistan working group from 2009-11. She is a highly experienced trainer, being an accrediting-level trainer in Building Resources in Democracy, Governance, and Elections (BRIDGE), and facilitator with the practical skills to build the capacity of both state institutions and civil society networks. Paasilinna has made significant contributions in various areas of technical assistance, including democratic reform, women’s political participation and representation, political violence, domestic and international election observation, electoral systems, money in politics, inclusion of marginalized groups and gender mainstreaming. Drawing on her technical skills and international comparative experience, Paasilinna has written research papers, international best practice documents, guidelines, analyses, fact sheets, assessments and other publications. She is the author of Women’s Reserved Seats in Bangladesh: A Systemic Analysis of Meaningful Representation and co-author of The Effect of Violence on Women’s Electoral and Political Participation in Bangladesh.
Paasilinna has overseen projects in conflict-affected environments, where she has held leadership roles in crisis management and ensured compliance with industry standards and donor regulations for programs with budgets of up to $150 million (USD). Paasilinna has had lifelong international exposure, having lived, studied and worked long-term in ten countries and completed short-term assignments in dozens of countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia. She holds a master’s degree in political science from Lund University in Sweden and is fluent in English, Finnish, Swedish and Portuguese.