Katherine Ellena, Senior Legal Specialist, Center for Applied Research and Learning

IFES staff Katherine Ellena

Katherine Ellena is the Senior Legal Specialist with the Center for Applied Research and Learning at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), focused on legal frameworks for elections, electoral dispute resolution and electoral integrity. Ellena has published various opinion pieces, blogs, and academic papers, and most recently for IFES a paper on electoral integrity and election audits, and a guide on the hierarchy of laws for election practitioners who are developing, interpreting, and implementing legal frameworks for elections. Ellena has worked on electoral integrity, legal reform and election dispute resolution assignments in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives, Czech Republic, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Cambodia. She also spent two years in New Delhi, India with the IFES Gender and Law program.

Prior to joining the Center, she was a Senior Program Manager with the IFES Europe and Asia department, responsible for IFES' electoral reform programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Fiji – all countries undergoing different forms of democratic transition. This included managing a program supporting the newly-established Independent Electoral Complaints Commission in Afghanistan during the 2014 presidential elections, and a comprehensive electoral support program in Pakistan in the wake of the historic 2013 general elections.

Prior to taking on this role, Ellena was the Acting Vice President of the United States New Zealand Council, supporting deeper political, trade and security connections between the U.S. and New Zealand. She was also Research Associate with the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of Defense Analysis, developing a global counter terrorism oral history archive. Prior to this, she was a Foreign Policy Officer with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade focused on politics and security in Southeast Asia, including two years with the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Ellena has a Master of Laws with honors from the University of Canterbury, a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Canterbury, a diploma for graduates in international development from the University of London’s London School of Economics, and was admitted as a barrister and solicitor to the High Court of New Zealand in 2004.



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