Leadership Transition at Refugees International

Refugees International President Michel Gabaudan to Step Down Later this Year
Eric P. Schwartz to Assume RI Presidency

Washington, D.C. – Michel Gabaudan, president of Refugees International (RI), announced today that, after nearly seven years at the organization and following consultations with the RI Board of Directors, he will step down from the presidency of Refugees International within the next several months. 

“It has been an honor to serve this important organization,” Dr. Gabaudan said. “But after nearly seven years at RI and following consultations with the RI Board of Directors, we have concluded that this is a most appropriate point for a leadership transition.  In particular, a transition now will provide a new RI leader with an important opportunity for early and long-term engagement with a new U.S. Presidential administration, which will be essential to address the formidable refugee protection challenges in the months and years ahead.”

Eileen Shields-West, chair of the Refugees International Board of Directors, commented on Dr. Gabaudan’s announcement, saying: “Michel Gabaudan has led RI with agility, diplomacy and effectiveness at a time when the world has been experiencing its worst refugee crisis in the post-World War II period.  Michel has strengthened the overall capacity of RI to pursue effective advocacy and I am deeply grateful to him for his service and for his commitment both to sustaining the efforts of RI in the months to come and to ensuring a smooth and effective leadership transition.” 

Eric P. Schwartz, current dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, will join Refugees International as its new president later this year. Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota.

Chair Shields-West also announced that the RI Board of Directors has asked Eric P. Schwartz to succeed Dr. Gabaudan as president of Refugees International, and he has agreed to do so beginning in June 2017.  Between 2009 and 2011, Schwartz was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration and now serves as Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. 

“The RI Board is delighted that Eric Schwartz has agreed to take on this challenge,” Shields-West said. “Over the past 30 years, Eric has distinguished himself as one of our country’s most thoughtful and effective international humanitarian advocates, having served with great distinction at the State Department, the White House and the United Nations, as well as in the NGO advocacy and philanthropic communities.”   

In a statement issued today, Schwartz commented on the humanitarian challenges confronting the international community and expressed his enthusiasm for the new assignment at Refugees International. 

“Around the world and in the United States, in particular, we are confronting existential challenges to hard-won principles of humanitarianism,” Schwartz said.  “Many millions are at risk and I am eager to seize this opportunity to play a more direct role in the policy debates and advocacy efforts that are now underway in Washington, in communities around the country and in countries around the world.  I do so with a sense of excitement, determination and commitment.  I also do so knowing that I join an organization with a rich history of advocacy for refugee protection, based on the principle that our values and interests are best served when the most vulnerable of the world’s citizens are at the center of national security policy-making.  I look forward to building on the important contributions of my good friend Michel Gabaudan, who has brought Refugees International to the strong and stable position it now enjoys as an advocate for refugees.”

As mentioned, Schwartz is the former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, and currently serves as Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.  He has previously served as the senior human rights and humanitarian official at the U.S. National Security Council, the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, Washington Director of Asia Watch (now Human Rights Watch-Asia) and Staff Consultant to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, among many other leadership positions in government and the non-profit sector.


Media inquiries should be directed to Gail Chalef, Senior Communications Officer, at either (202) 540-7016 or at gail@refugeesinternational.org.

Refugees International (RI) advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people and promotes solutions to displacement crises. We are an independent organization, and do not accept any government or UN funding. For more information, visit www.refugeesinternational.org