J. Peter Pham rejoined the Atlantic Council as a distinguished fellow in March 2021, after concluding public service as United States Special Envoy for the Sahel Region with the personal rank of Ambassador. He had previously been Atlantic Council vice president for research and regional initiatives and director of the Council’s Africa Center.
From 2018 to 2020, Ambassador Pham served as the United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa at the US Department of State with a mandate from Secretary of State Michael Pompeo “for coordinating the implementation of U.S. policy on the cross-border security, political, and economic issues in the Great Lakes region, with an emphasis on strengthening democratic institutions and civil society, as well as the safe and voluntary return of the region’s refugees and internally displaced persons.”
In March 2020, he was appointed the first-ever US Special Envoy for the Sahel, a position created to assume “the lead in shaping, devising and coordinating U.S. strategy on the cross-border security, political, economic, assistance, and social issues arising in the Sahel as well as coordinating with both international partners and U.S. Government stakeholders to help return the Sahel to stability through programs to enhance security and support governance, political liberalization, social progress and economic development.”
Prior to joining the Atlantic Council in 2011, Ambassador Pham was previously senior vice president of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, and editor of its bimonthly journal, American Foreign Policy Interests. He was also a tenured associate professor of justice studies, political science, and Africana studies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he was director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs. He served on the Senior Advisory Group of the US Africa Command from 2008-2013.
From 2008 to 2017 he also served as vice president of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA), an academic organization which represents more than 1,300 scholars of Middle Eastern and African Studies at more than 300 colleges and universities in the United States and overseas and was founding editor-in-chief of ASMEA’s peer-reviewed Journal of the Middle East and Africa.
Ambassador Pham is the author of more than 300 essays and reviews and the author, editor, or translator of over a dozen books, including, most recently, Somalia: Fixing Africa’s Most Failed State (Tafelberg, 2013; coauthored with Greg Mills and David Kilcullen). Dr. Pham also contributes to a number of publications including The National Interest and Foreign Policy, and regularly appears as a commentator on broadcast and print media outlets including CBS, PBS, VOA, CNN, the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NPR, the BBC, Reuters, the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, USA Today, Newsweek, US News & World Report, the Times of London, New Statesman, Maclean’s, Le Monde, and Le Temps.
A longtime staunch advocate of robust American engagement with Africa, Ambassador Pham served as member of the USAID-funded International Republican Institute (IRI) delegation monitoring the historic post-conflict national elections in Liberia in 2005. He also served on the IRI pre-election assessment (2006) and election observation delegations to Nigeria (2007, 2011) and Somaliland (2010). He is also a frequent guest lecturer on African affairs at the Foreign Service Institute, the US Army War College, the Joint Special Operations University, and other US government professional educational institutions.
In 2015, the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution elected Ambassador Pham to the Board of the National Museum of African Art, reelecting him to successive terms in 2018 and 2021. He served concurrently as vice-chair of the Board from 2016-2021.
Ambassador Pham is the recipient of numerous honors and awards from African countries in recognition of contributions made over the course of his career to strengthening relations between the United States and Africa, including Commander of the National Order of Mali, Commander of the National Order of Burkina Faso, Officer of the National Order of Merit of Niger, Commander of the National Order of Merit of Gabon, and Commander of the Order of the Friendship of Peoples of Burundi.