Washington, DC – At a time when individual freedoms are being challenged in so many places, the International Republican Institute (IRI) has established an International Advisory Council of recognized leaders from around the world who share IRI’s vision of democracy and freedom.
The Council, which includes three former presidents, two former prime ministers and luminaries in the fields of human rights, governance, philanthropy and business, will advise and support IRI in its strategic direction; provide advice and perspectives on regional and world developments; and provide international expertise to ensure excellence in and enhance the relevance of democracy and governance programming.
“IRI’s Council, along with its Board of Directors, demonstrates that there are strong voices who believe in promoting democracy and citizen-oriented government,” said Senator John McCain, chairman if IRI’s Board of Directors. “From former prime ministers and presidents, to a Nobel Laureate, and leading advocates in good governance and human rights, the members of IRI’s International Advisory Council bring a wealth of experience to the Institute and its work.”
Members of IRI’s International Advisory Council
Human Rights Activist and Journalist from Tunisia
Sihem Bensedrine has worked for more than two decades to expose human rights violations in Tunisia and defend freedom of expression. Under the autocratic rule of President Ben Ali, ousted in early 2011, she was jailed, subjected to smear campaigns and endured persecution. Her fight for human rights, women’s rights and press freedom has not ended with the revolution. She continues to lobby for free elections and democracy as spokesperson for the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia and as president of the Tunisian Center for Transitional Justice. In June 2014, she was appointed as president of the Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission, which is responsible for implementing Tunisia’s law on transitional justice.
U.S. Treasurer (2005-2009)
Anna Escobedo Cabral served as the 42nd treasurer of the United States, the highest-ranking Latina in the George W. Bush administration. She currently serves as the senior advisor in the external relations department of the Inter-American Development Bank. During her career she has served as the deputy staff director for the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, the executive director of the U.S. Senate Republican Conference Task Force on Hispanic Affairs, as president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, and as director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Latino Initiatives. Cabral has also served on numerous boards including the Council on the 21st Century Workplace, the Diversity Council of the Premier Automotive Group, Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, and she currently serves on the Diversity Advisory Group for Comcast/NBC Universal/Telemundo.
Member of Dáil Éireann and Vice President, European People’s Party (2012-2014)
Lucinda Creighton has served as a member of the Irish Parliament since May 2007, representing the people of the Dublin Bay South constituency. In March 2015 she founded Renua Ireland and was elected its leader. From 2011-2013 she served as minister for European affairs where she travelled to 28 different European Union member states and represented the continent in bilateral trade discussions in the United States. From 2012-2014, she served as vice president of the European People’s Party, the first candidate to be elected to the position from the ranks of the Youth of the European People’s Party.
Minister, International Trade Canada (2008-2010)
Stockwell Day was successfully elected to serve the citizens of Canada nine times over 25 years and has held a number of cabinet positions over his career. From 1986 to 2000, he served in the Alberta Legislature as government house leader, minister of labour, minister of social services and minister of finance. In 2000, he won the leadership of the newly-formed Canadian Alliance and became leader of Canada’s official opposition. He was foreign affairs critic as well as chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights in 2002. In 2006, Day was appointed minister of public safety and to the Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning. Upon his re-election in 2008, he was named minister of international trade, minister for the Asia-Pacific gateway and chair of the Cabinet Committee on Afghanistan and in 2010 he was appointed president of the Treasury Board. He decided to not stand for re-election in 2011 and today, in addition to his business ventures, serves as vice chair of the Canada-China Business Council, the Canada India Business Council, and as a distinguished fellow at the Asia Pacific Foundation.
Prime Minister of Slovakia (1998-2006)
Mikuláš Dzurinda currently serves as president of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and is a member of the Slovakia Parliament, serving on the Committee for Foreign Relations. A strong proponent of democracy building programs, he served as prime minister of Slovakia from 1998-2006 and has held various positions in government since first entering politics in 1990. During his time as prime minister, Dzurinda introduced a number of far-reaching reforms which enabled Slovakia to join the European Union in 2004. He also served as minister of transportation and minister for foreign affairs. A founding member of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union–Democratic Party, Dzurinda served as party chair from 2000 to 2012.
Governor of Puerto Rico (2009-2013)
Luis Fortuño served as governor of Puerto Rico from 2009-2013. During that time he also served as president of the Council of State Governments, chair of the Southern Governors Association and sat on the Board of Directors of the Center for Best Practices of the National Governors Association. He also served on the Council of Governors. Prior to serving as governor, Fortuño was elected as Puerto Rico’s sole representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. While in Congress he served as the vice-chair of the Congressional Hispanic Conference during the 109th Congress and as chair during the 110th Congress. He also served as ranking member on the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs; on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; the Natural Resources Committee, International Relations; and the Education and Workforce Committee.
Prime Minister of Australia (1996-2007)
John Howard was Australia’s second longest serving prime minister, a member of Parliament for 33 years and served as the country’s treasurer (1977-1983). Under his leadership, Australia led an international peace-keeping force to Timor-Leste ending Indonesia’s “scorched-earth” campaign, which was launched in retaliation for Timor’s overwhelming vote in favor of independence. Howard is a Companion of the Order of Australia and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States by President George W. Bush. In January 2012, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Howard to the Order of Merit.
Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Mo Ibrahim is a leading voice for good governance, government accountability and transparency in Africa. As the founder and chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which he established in 2006 to support good governance and leadership in Africa, he has worked tirelessly to improve and strengthen democratic governance. In October 2015, Bloomberg Business named him one of the 50 Most Influential People saying, “The Ibrahim Index of African Governance is an unequaled tool for assessing the investing environment on the second-most-populous continent.” Through the Ibrahim Foundation African leaders are gaining the tools needed to govern more effectively and the recognition they deserve for governing democratically.
Secretary General, Association of World Election Bodies
Secretary General, National Election Commission of the Republic of Korea
Yong-Hi Kim has served on the National Election Commission for the Republic of Korea since 1988. Prior to being named secretary general, he served as director general of the elections in 2005, task force head of the electronic voting system in 2006 and director general of the political party bureau in 2009. He has also served as chief election officer in 2010, before serving as the deputy secretary general. In October 2013, he was elected as the secretary general of the Association of World Election Bodies at its inaugural assembly. A recognized author he has written numerous papers on elections, including Improvement of Parliamentarian Election Law to Ease Regionalism in Korea, Improvement of Interparty Election System, A Study on the Improvement of Transparency and Equity in the Political Funds in Korea and Easy Local Council Member Elections.
Mayor of the City of Kyiv, Ukraine
A former heavyweight boxing champion, Vitali Klitschko entered the public service arena in 2004 as an advisor to then-President Viktor Yushchenko. He made his first run for mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine in 2006 in which he came in second; however, his party’s strong showing in the elections earned him a seat on the Kyiv City Council. In April 2010, he launched a new political party in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) and in 2012 he was elected to the Verkhovna Rada and served as UDAR’s leader in parliament. Following the Euro-Maidan protests, Klitschko ran again for mayor of Kyiv and was elected in May 2014. He was also appointed the Head of Kyiv City State Administration. Klitschko also is a representative on UNESCO’s Education of Children in Difficult Circumstances program and is a member of Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee.
John Agyekum Kufuor
President of the Republic of Ghana (2001-2009)
John Kufuor is the former president of Ghana. While in office he chaired the Economic Community of West African State for two terms (2003 and 2004) and the African Union from 2007-2008. Since leaving office he was named the joint winner of the World Food Prize with former Brazilian President Lula da Silva in 2011 and he currently serves as the United Nations special envoy and co-chairs the Global Panel on Climate Change and Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition. He has also served as global ambassador against hunger for the UN World Food Program, chairman of the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership, global envoy for the Neglected Tropical Diseases Alliance, and lead advocate for the Partnership for Child Development. In 2010 he established the John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation to promote and advance effective leadership, democratic governance and socioeconomic development in Ghana and Africa.
Federal Director, Liberal Party of Australia
Brian Loughnane was federal director of the Liberal Party of Australia from February 2003 – January 2016. He has been actively involved at all levels of the Liberal Party for more than 30 years. He served as the party’s national campaign director for the 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013 federal elections. Previously, Loughnane served as chief of staff to Hon John Howard in Opposition prior to the 1996 election, and subsequently as chief of staff to the Industry and Defence Minister. He has extensive international political experience and has been actively involved with the International Democrat Union for more than a decade.
U.S. Senator (2005-2009)
Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2001-2003)
Mel Martinez was elected to the United States Senate in 2004, where he served on several committees including Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Armed Services and Foreign Affairs. While serving in the Senate, Martinez led efforts to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and was a trusted voice on foreign policy issues throughout the Western Hemisphere. Prior to his time in the Senate, Martinez served as secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and was the first Cuban-American to serve in a president’s cabinet. Martinez has also served as mayor of Orange County (Orlando, FL) and prior to entering public service, he practiced law for 25 years. Today, he is chairman of the Southeast U.S. and Latin America for JPMorgan Chase and Company.
President of Colombia (1998-2002)
Andrés Pastrana is a journalist and politician who served as president of Colombia from 1998-2002. Prior to entering politics, Pastrana was co-founder and general manager of Guión Magazine and later the TV Hoy television news program, for which he won the King of Spain journalism award. In 1982 he was elected to the Bogotá City Council, becoming one of the youngest city council members to hold the presidency of the council. He was first elected mayor of Bogotá in 1988. In 1991, he founded the New Democratic Force movement and was elected to the Senate where he served until 1993. As president of Colombia, Pastrana made important progress in negotiating peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla groups. His administration also proposed and implemented Plan Colombia, a multimillion U.S. aid package to combat illegal non-state actors and to strengthen Colombia’s institution and the rule of law.
Nobel Laureate and President of Timor-Leste (2007-2012)
José Ramos-Horta was one of the leaders of Timor-Leste’s independence movement and its democratic transition. A vocal human rights activist, he has spent his career first advocating for the rights of the Timorese and later for the rights of those oppressed around the world. In 1996 he, and Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their “work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor.” Following the 1999 referendum on independence and the withdrawal of Indonesian troops, Ramos-Horta was named to the cabinet of the United Nations Transition Administration for East Timor. He served as the new country’s first foreign minister from 2002-2006 and, following the resignation of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, served as prime minister until 2007 when he was elected the country’s second president since independence. Since leaving office, he has worked and advocated for human rights around the world, stressing the rights of indigenous peoples, and minorities and for the mutual respect and tolerance among different faiths.
Member of Parliament of Mongolia
Oyun Sanjaasuren is a member of the Mongolian Parliament where she has served since first being elected in 1998. During her time in Parliament she has served as the minister of foreign affairs (2007-2008) and minister of environment and green development (2012-2014). She has also served as vice-speaker of the Parliament, leader of the Democratic Coalition Parliamentary Caucus and chair of the Sub-Committee on Millennium Development Goals and poverty reduction. A strong proponent of protecting the environment, Sanjaasuren is president of the Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Program and is the founder and leader of the Civil Will Green Party of Mongolia. In addition to her duties in Parliament, Sanjaasuren heads the Zorig Foundation, a prominent Mongolian nongovernmental organization that is known for advancing good governance, youth and education, as well as community development projects in the country. She is also the chair of Special Olympics Committee of Mongolia.