About the Expert

Expert Bio

Farah Pandith is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, foreign policy strategist, and former diplomat. Pandith, a pioneer in the field of countering violent extremism (CVE), has been a political appointee in the George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama administrations. She left government in early 2014 for Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where she maintains an affiliation. She served on the secretary of homeland security’s homeland security advisory council (HSAC) from 2015 to 2017, where she also chaired the HSAC subcommittee on countering violent extremism  and delivered a report in June 2016. Her book, How We Win: How Cutting-Edge Entrepreneurs, Political Visionaries, Enlightened Business Leaders, and Social Media Mavens Can Defeat the Extremist Threat, was published in 2019. Pandith is also a public speaker and global advisor, driving efforts to counter extremism through new organizations, programs, and initiatives. She was a senior advisor and commissioner on the Center for Strategic and International Studies' CVE Commission Report and is head of strategy at the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

Pandith was appointed the first special representative to Muslim communities in June 2009 by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, serving under both Clinton and John Kerry. Her office was responsible for executing a vision for engagement with Muslims around the world on a people-to-people and organizational level. During her tenure, Pandith traveled to nearly one hundred countries and launched youth-focused initiatives. She was also the main architect of the Women in Public Service Project. In January 2013, she was awarded the Secretary's Distinguished Honor Award.

Previously, Pandith was senior advisor to the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, a role created for her in the context of the Danish cartoon controversy. She built new State Department strategies for how U.S. embassies in Europe could understand the Muslim demographic and the increase in foreign ideologies present on the ground, and how the United States could build resilience.

From 2004 to 2007, Pandith served as director for Middle East regional initiatives for the National Security Council (NSC). Before joining the NSC, Pandith was chief of staff of the Bureau for Asia and the Near East for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In 2004, she spent two months in Afghanistan developing a public outreach strategy. She also served at USAID from 1990 to 1993 on the administrator’s staff and as the special assistant to the director of policy. From 1997 to 2003, Pandith was vice president of international business for ML Strategies and served as a commissioner on Governor Paul A. Cellucci’s bipartisan Asian Advisory Commission.

Pandith has been a consultant in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors and has served in leadership positions on several boards with a focus on international affairs, women’s empowerment, education, and cultural diplomacy, including America Abroad Media, the Tribeca Film Institute, We Are Family Foundation, and Women in Public Service Project. She is a member of the board of advisors of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Pandith received an AB in government and psychology from Smith College and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School, where she specialized in international security studies, Islamic civilizations and southwest Asia, and international negotiation and conflict resolution. She was awarded the Smith College Medal in 2014 and the Distinguished Achievement Award by Tufts University in 2013. She holds honorary doctorates from Mount Saint Mary’s University and Tufts University.

Affiliations: 

  • American Abroad Media, board of advisors
  • British-American Project, member
  • European Academy of Sciences and Arts, member
  • Future of Diplomacy Project, Harvard Kennedy School, senior fellow
  • Institute for Strategic Dialogue, head of strategy and member of U.S. board
  • Risk Network and Exchange, advisor
  • The Cipher Brief, network expert
  • Tribeca Film Institute, board of directors
  • Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, board of advisors
  • We Are Family Foundation, board of directors
  • Women and Girls Lead, leadership council
  • Women in Public Service Project, board member