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Johanna Kao

Regional Director, Asia

Johanna Kao serves as Regional Director for Asia for IRI. She brings more than 20 years’ experience in international political development, nonprofit management and citizen empowerment to this role, and has lived and worked in the Asia region most of her life. The Asia division includes a diverse range of countries and political systems, ranging from Pakistan to the Philippines and Mongolia to Indonesia. 

Johanna’s tenure with IRI has seen her live and work in some of Asia’s most challenging and exciting countries. Most recently, as Senior Advisor for Asia, Johanna provided in-country strategic and programmatic oversight and support to IRI’s programs in the region. Based in Yangon, she also oversaw all of IRI’s political party, local governance and civil society programs in Burma – her fifth country posting with IRI. Before Burma, Johanna was based in Hong Kong as Asia Senior Advisor and Country Director for China where she oversaw IRI’s programs on governance, civil society development and political participation from 2008 to 2014.  From 2003 to 2008, Johanna managed IRI’s projects for Indonesia and Timor-Leste, based in Jakarta, implementing programs on party development, good governance, women’s political participation and e-governance.  From 2002 to 2003, she served as country director in Cambodia, managing one of IRI’s largest election support programs. In June 2000, Johanna launched IRI’s programs in Timor-Leste, opening an office there later that year. She has observed elections in Burma, Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Indonesia, Tunisia, Afghanistan, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, and led IRI’s entry into Timor-Leste, Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. 
Before joining IRI, Johanna worked as a consultant with the UN in Indonesia, coordinated policy programs for the Asia Society in Hong Kong, and pursued what she thought was her calling with TIME magazine.  Johanna was born and grew up in Hong Kong. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in political science and completed her LLM at the University of Hong Kong.