A Conversation with
President and CEO, International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, UK (2007-2010)
Nicholas Burns (Moderator)
Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations, HKS
Faculty Director, Future of Diplomacy Project; Faculty Chair, Middle East Initiative, HKS
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David Miliband is President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), where he oversees the agency’s humanitarian relief operations in more than 40 war-affected countries and its refugee resettlement and assistance programs in 28 United States cities.
Under Miliband’s leadership, the IRC has expanded its ability to rapidly respond to humanitarian crises and meet the needs of an unprecedented number of people uprooted by conflict, war and disaster. The organization is implementing an ambitious global strategy to bring clear outcomes, strong evidence and systematic research to the humanitarian programs through collaborative partnerships with the public and private sectors.
From 2007 to 2010, Miliband was the 74th Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom, driving advancements in human rights and representing the U.K. throughout the world. In 2006, as Secretary of State for the Environment, he pioneered the world’s first legally binding emissions reduction requirements. He was Member of Parliament for South Shields from 2001 to 2013.
Miliband graduated from Oxford University in 1987 with a first class honors degree in philosophy, politics and economics, and received a master’s degree in political science in 1989 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which he attended as a Kennedy Scholar.
His accomplishments have earned him a reputation, in former President Bill Clinton's words, as "one of the ablest, most creative public servants of our time," and as an effective and passionate advocate for the world's uprooted and poor people.
Miliband’s parents fled to Britain from continental Europe during World War II and its aftermath. As the son of refugees, he brings a personal commitment to the IRC's work. He lives in New York City with his wife, violinist Louise Shackelton, and their two sons.
Miliband's first book, Rescue: Refugees and the Political Crisis of our Time, was published by TED Books in November 2017.
Ambassador (Ret.) Nicholas Burns is the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is founder and Faculty Director of the Future of Diplomacy Project and Faculty Chair for the Programs on the Middle East and on India and South Asia. He serves on the Board of Directors of the School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and is a Faculty Associate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.
Burns is Director of the Aspen Strategy Group, Senior Counselor at the Cohen Group, and serves on the Board of Directors of Entegris, Inc. He also serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including the Council on Foreign Relations, Special Olympics International, the Diplomacy Center Foundation, the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, The Trilateral Commission, the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, the Atlantic Council, America Abroad Media, the Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training, the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, the Boston Committee on Foreign Relations, and the Gennadius Library. From 2014-2017, he was a member of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board at the U.S. Department of State. He is Vice Chairman of the American Ditchley Foundation and serves on the Panel of Senior Advisors at Chatham House: the Royal Institute of International Affairs. He is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Order of Saint John and Red Sox Nation.
Professor Burns served in the United States government for twenty-seven years. As a career Foreign Service Officer, he was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008; the State Department’s third-ranking official when he led negotiations on the U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement; a long-term military assistance agreement with Israel; and was the lead U.S. negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program. He was U.S. Ambassador to NATO (2001–2005), Ambassador to Greece (1997–2001) and State Department Spokesman (1995–1997). He worked for five years (1990–1995) on the National Security Council at the White House where he was Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Affairs and Special Assistant to President Clinton and Director for Soviet Affairs in the Administration of President George H.W. Bush. Burns also served in the American Consulate General in Jerusalem (1985–1987) where he coordinated U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and before that, at the American embassies in Egypt (1983-1985) and Mauritania (1980 as an intern).
Professor Burns has received fifteen honorary degrees, the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the 2017 Ignatian Award from Boston College, 2016 New Englander of the Year from the New England Council, the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Johns Hopkins University, the Boston College Alumni Achievement Award, and the Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University. He has a BA in History from Boston College (1978), an MA in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (1980), and earned the Certificat Pratique de Langue Francaise at the University of Paris-Sorbonne (1977). He was a visiting Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in summer 2008.