Eric Schwartz served as the top refugee policy official in the Obama administration, as the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration between 2009 and 2011. He was recently appointed the president of Refugees International, an advocacy organization in Washington, DC. We kick off this conversation discussing US refugee policy in the wake of President Trump’s attempts to sharply curb the number or refugees allowed into the United States.
Eric has had a fascinating career. He worked in the NGO sector helping to establish Human Rights Watch’s Asia branch; and also for both the United States government– including in Bill Clinton’s National Security Council. He also worked for the United Nations, under both the High Commissioner for Human Rights and under the special envoy for Tsunami recovery to help countries affected by the massive 2004 indian ocean Tsunami. (That special envoy was Bill Clinton.)
We also discuss at length about Eric’s relationship with Sergio Vieira de Mello. He was a well known figure around the United Nations who served as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights before working for a stint as the top UN official in Iraq immediately following the US invasion and occupation of the country. de Mello was killed in a bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, along with 21 others, and Eric discusses how that impacted him personally and professionally.