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Rima Kawas

Regional Deputy Director of Middle East North Africa

Rima Kawas is Deputy Regional Director of the Middle East North Africa (MENA) Division at IRI. In this role she provides leadership to one of IRI’s largest divisions at the Institute. This includes IRI’s MENA country offices and a multimillion million-dollar portfolio focused on citizen-responsive governance, political party development, legislative strengthening, and civil society capacity building throughout the MENA region (such as Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gulf, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia).

Rima brings extensive governance experience into her current role. This includes her previous role as Director of Governance and Collaborative Learning at IRI, where she managed a global portfolio and helped her team of technical experts implement programs in governance, digital democracy and fragility and resilience.

In addition to her IRI experience, Rima has extensive public and private sector experience, working at Target Corporation where she led an extensive public policy portfolio and advised company leaders on key public policy priorities. In addition to her private sector experience, Rima has experience working at all levels of government including as a Senior Policy Advisor to former Governor Tim Pawlenty.

Rima is passionate about civic engagement both in her local and global community and serves on the Humphrey School Alumni Board and the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) Board of Trustees. She has represented the United States as part of four separate ACYPL delegations, traveling to Algeria, Jordan, Peru, and Burma. In addition, she served as the American mentor to YSEALI Professional Fellows and as a host for visiting international delegations. In addition, she was an active volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Global Village, volunteering in Cambodia and Chile and as a group leader to Bangladesh.

Rima has a master’s of public affairs from the University Of Minnesota Humphrey School Of Public Affairs with a concentration in global policy and received a Thomas H. Swain Fellowship in Public Leadership. In addition, she was a Humphrey School Policy Fellow. 

Rima has visited and implemented programs in over 50 countries – she loves to explore the outdoors with her husband by hiking, camping, biking, and being on the lake - both in the winter and summer!