Owen Kirby

Regional Director, North Africa and Middle East
Owen Kirby Headshot

Owen Kirby is IRI’s Regional Director for North Africa and Middle East (MENA). Owen joined the Institute in 1998 as an Assistant Program Officer overseeing activities in support of the Oslo Accords in the West Bank-Gaza. In 2001, he became IRI’s inaugural MENA regional director and oversaw the opening of the Institute’s first offices in the region, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. In January 2002, Owen led IRI’s initial mission to Afghanistan; the start of a 20-year IRI engagement in the country.

In 2004, after the first presidential elections in post-Taliban Afghanistan, Owen joined the Administration of George W. Bush, serving as Senior Advisor in the Office of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) at the U.S. Department of State (DOS), managing a team and portfolio of democracy and political reform initiatives in 17 countries.

In 2009, Owen deployed to Afghanistan as DOS Senior Governance Advisor in Kandahar Province’s Spin Boldak District, embedded with U.S. elements of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), where he was responsible for relations with and support to local Afghan government institutions and officials.

In 2018, following a return to IRI as Senior Advisor, Owen joined the U.S. Agency for International Development, serving as the director of the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). In 2021, Owen returned to IRI as a Senior Regional Advisor for MENA.

Owen is a recipient of the USAID’s Superior Honor Award, U.S. Department of State’s Superior Service and Expeditionary Service awards, the U.S. Army’s Commander’s Award for Civilian Service and Afghanistan’s Ghazi Mir Bach Khan Medal for Government Service.

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