Karin Landgren was until 2015 an under-secretary-general of the United Nations and one of only a handful of women leading United Nations peacekeeping missions. In 2009, she became the eighth woman in the history of the UN to head a peace operation.
Between 2012 and 2015 she led UNMIL (the UN Mission in Liberia) as the special representative of the secretary-general. In 2014, UNMIL had 9000 staff (including troops, police and civilians) in 30 locations throughout Liberia, with a budget of just under US $500 million. UNMIL's wide-ranging functions included supporting national institutions to maintain security, strengthening the rule of law, and supporting national reconciliation. Landgren also led UNMIL's response to Liberia's deadly Ebola outbreak from March 2014 through its peak.
In 2009, Landgren was appointed by the secretary-general to head UNMIN, the UN Mission in Nepal, and in 2011 to head BNUB, the UN Mission in Burundi. While in UNMIN, she and her colleagues secured the release of former child soldiers of the Maoist army. In BNUB, she worked intensively with the government and partners to advance transitional justice mechanisms and to address extrajudicial killings. She has overseen the closure or downsizing of three UN operations.
Landgren's engagement with human rights-oriented policy and practical responses to crises dates to her work with UNHCR between 1980 and 1998. During the war in Former Yugoslavia, she served as UNHCR's chief of mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, overseeing a major operation and liaising closely with the UN peacekeeping operation there. She served as chief of mission in Eritrea immediately after the war and prior to Eritrean independence, planning the repatriation of refugees from the Sudan. As the UNHCR representative in Singapore and earlier as deputy representative in the Philippines, she worked to protect and resettle Vietnamese boat people.
Landgren worked in South Asia for many years, based in India, as UNHCR protection officer, primarily with refugees from Afghanistan and Iran. She was UNHCR chief of standards and legal advice for four years before leaving to become UNICEF's first chief of child protection, in 1998, where she and her colleagues developed a groundbreaking systemic approach to strengthening children's protection against violence, abuse and exploitation. She served on the editorial board of the UN study on violence against children in 2004-6, and on the international advisory board of the Children and Torture Project, 1998-2001.
In 2007-8, Landgren designed and taught a graduate course in child protection at SIPA, Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.
Landgren has continued to publish and lecture on conflict- and rights-related themes, as well as on leadership. She has given 15 briefings to the UN Security Council, and also blogged from Liberia for the Huffington Post. She earned a Bachelor of Science (Economics) and an LLM from the London School of Economics.
Landgren taught a course on "Liberia from War to Stability: Policy Lessons and Dilemmas" in Winter Term 2016.