Uzra Zeya is a senior fellow at American Progress. She is a renowned advocate for policy and people, with more than two decades of diplomatic acumen in Middle East, South Asian, European, human rights, and multilateral affairs. As charge d’affaires and deputy chief of mission at U.S. Embassy in Paris from 2014 to 2017, she led the U.S. response to three major terror attacks and forged unprecedented cooperation with France in combating terrorism in Africa and the Middle East, countering Russian aggression and malign influence in Europe; mobilizing international action against climate change; and orchestrating President Donald Trump’s July 2017 visit to Paris. Zeya oversaw the day-to-day operations of the U.S. Embassy in Paris, six constituent posts, and nearly 1,000 employees, comprising more than 50 offices and agencies, with an annual operating budget of $80 million.
Zeya served previously as acting assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, from 2012 to 2014. Her responsibilities included oversight of some $400 million in global human rights and democracy assistance and advocacy for universal human rights, including freedoms of religion, expression, and assembly. As acting assistant secretary, she led U.S. human rights dialogues with China, Egypt, and Bahrain, among others, and launched a new public-private partnership to counter gender-based violence globally. She also regularly briefed Congress on U.S. democracy and human rights promotion programs abroad and secured bipartisan support for sustained funding in an environment of budgetary austerity. Zeya also frequently briefed U.S. and international media on U.S. human rights policy and was quoted by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fox News, and BBC, among others.
Since joining the U.S. Foreign Service in 1990, Zeya served at U.S. embassies in New Delhi, Muscat, Damascus, Cairo, and Kingston. As chief of staff to the deputy secretary of state from 2011 to 2012, she helped shape the U.S. response to the Arab Spring and deepened U.S. engagement with emerging powers. She also served as deputy executive secretary to the secretary of state, as director of the executive secretariat staff, and as U.N. General Assembly coordinator. She is the recipient of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest civilian honor, and 15 Superior Honor and Senior Performance Awards. She speaks French, Arabic, and Spanish.