Special Adviser of the Secretary-General
on the Responsibility to Protect

Portrait of Karen Smith

Ms. Karen Smith was appointed as Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Responsibility to Protect on 7 January 2019. Currently a lecturer in International Relations at the Institute for History at Leiden University, Netherlands, and an honorary research associate at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Ms. Smith has a research focus on non-Western contributions to international relations theory, as well as on regional and emerging powers, South Africa’s foreign policy, and the changing global order.

She was previously an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Cape Town (2011-2017) and taught at the universities of Stellenbosch (2000-2010) and Western Cape (2003-2004), both in South Africa.  Between 2006 and 2007, she served as Secretary-General of the United Nations Association of South Africa. Ms. Smith holds a doctorate in International Relations from Stellenbosch University (2005) and serves on the editorial boards of the journals Review of International Studies, Foreign Policy Analysis, Rising Powers Quarterly, and Journal of African Union Studies, among others. She teaches short courses at Stellenbosch University, as part of the University of Cape Town-London School of Economics July school, and as a visiting professor at Sciences Po, Paris.

A South African citizen, Ms. Smith has also lived in Austria, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science and a Master in International Studies from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.


Previous Special Advisers

  • Ivan Šimonović (2016-2018)
  • Jennifer Welsh (2013-2015)
  • Edward Luck (2008-2012)