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Senior Governance and Fragility Advisor

Sadaf Sayyeda Lakhani specializes in violence prevention, governance and private sector development in fragile and conflict contexts, in roles from policy advisory to project management.

From 2000-2003 Sadaf set up and managed a regional program in West Africa to develop the capacity of local and community based organizations in Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana to engage in economic development strategies. She joined the Delegation of the European Commission to Ghana and Togo in 2003, responsible for a portfolio of human rights, justice and civil society programs under which she initiated the European Commission's enhanced cooperation with civil society organizations. During her time with the EC Delegation, she assisted in support for a solution to the Dagbon conflict destabilizing the north of the country. Sadaf coordinated the EC's support for the Ghanaian Presidential elections in 2003.

Following the 2004 Asian Tsunami and signature of a peace agreement to end the decades-long conflict in Aceh, Sadaf joined the Delegation of the European Commission for Indonesia and Timor Leste, responsible for programming a EUR 16 million reintegration, security and justice portfolio to support the Helsinki Peace Accord, as well for on-going law, security and justice support to the Indonesian government. She later went on to work for UNDP, Indonesia, managing reintegration and justice projects in Aceh. During that time, Sadaf initiated and developed the governance framework for Governor Irwandi's innovative and ambitious multi-billion dollar Aceh Green Economic Development Strategy that aimed for grass-roots economic development and delivering peace dividends through foreign direct investment in energy and carbon projects.

Sadaf has been providing consultancy services to select clients since 2008. She joined a small team at the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, undertaking a global review of programming in conflict and fragile countries that culminated in a new framework for UNDP's programming. The team also provided just-in-time technical advisory services for UNDP teams working in conflict contexts around the world.

Based in Washington DC since 2009, she has provided operational guidance and policy advice for clients such as the World Bank and United States Institute of Peace. Sadaf has covered issues such as the impacts of insecurity and violence on businesses, conflict and extractive industries, costs and opportunities of forced displacement, development approaches for countering violent extremism and mainstreaming of community engagement, in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. She wrote a regular blog for USIP's International Network for Economics and Conflict.

Originally from Pakistan, Sadaf has a PhD in Social Policy and Social Exclusion, a Masters in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford, a BSc in Social and Economic Geography from King's College, University of London and a Certificate in Advanced Study of Non-Violent Conflict from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

Sadaf has served on the Boards of several companies and not-for-profits, including Development in Action, Twin UK Fair Fruits-West Africa and for invest2innovate, a social enterprise working to increase the impact of entrepreneurs in frontier markets.

Selected Publications, Reports and Lectures

The Forced Return of Afghan Refugees, Implications for Stability, Peace Brief, 13 January 2016, USIP: Washington (with B. Ahmadi).

'Trucks Under Siege': A case study on the cost of crime and insecurity to the transport industry in Papua New Guinea, May 2014, World Bank: Washington.

Gates, Hired Guns and Mistrust: Business Unusual: The costs of crime and violence to businesses in Papua New Guinea, Policy Research and Dialogue Series, Paper No.4, May 2014 World Bank: Washington (with A. Willman)

Extractive Industries and Peacebuilding in Afghanistan: The role of social accountability, Special Report, 30th October 2013, USIP: Washington.

“Consolidating peace through “Aceh Green” economic development strategy” in C. Bruch, C. Muffet and S. Nichols (eds) Strengthening Post-conflict Peacebuilding Through Natural Resource Management, Vol 4: Governance, 2013, Environmental Law Institute and UNEP: Earthscan.

Business as usual in fragile states? Leveraging aid for private sector development, Blog for International Network for Economics and Conflict, June 2013.

Forced Displacement: Moving from managing risk to facilitating opportunity, Background Paper for the World Development Report 2014, February 25th, 2013, World Bank: Washington.

'They are not like us': (2012), Understanding Social Exclusion, Development Economics Group, Policy Working Paper no.6784, World Bank: Washington (with A. Sacks, A and R. Heltberg).

Governance for Peace: Securing the Social Contract, United Nations Development Programme, 2012, UNDP: New York.

Lakhani, S. “Agents of Peace?: The role of entrepreneurs in fragile and conflict contexts”, Blog for International Network for Economics and Conflict, November 2011.

Thematic specialisations

Natural resource management, extractive industries and peacebuilding, private sector development in conflict contexts, community engagement in complex contexts, social exclusion and violence-prevention, transitional governance.

Regional specialisations

Middle-east and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Central Asia and South-East Asia.


English, French, Urdu/Hindi, Bahasa Indonesia.