Erica Barks Ruggles

Senior Advisor

Former Head of U.S. Mission to UNESCO and Former Ambassador to Rwanda, U.S. Department of State

Ambassador Erica Barks Ruggles brings over three decades of distinguished service in high-level diplomatic and leadership roles. She was pivotal in orchestrating the United States’ reintegration into UNESCO, where she established the U.S. Mission anew, revitalizing America’s influence in this premier UN agency focused on ethical standards in AI, education, and cultural preservation, particularly in zones of conflict.

Erica served as the Senior Representative and led the U.S. delegation at four key International Telecommunication Union conferences in 2022. Her leadership was instrumental in achieving the historic election of the first female Secretary General in the ITU’s 157-year history. In 2021, she took on the role of Senior Bureau Official for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, managing U.S. policies and relationships across the United Nations systems. Erica spent two years as a Senior Diplomatic Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and acted as the Chancellor of the College of International Strategic Affairs at the National Defense University from 2018 to 2020.

She represented the United States as Ambassador to Rwanda from January 2015 to March 2018, following her tenure as the U.S. Consul General in Cape Town, South Africa. From 2009 to 2011, she was Deputy to the U.S. Permanent Representative at the United Nations and participated in the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee.

Between 2004 and 2008, Erica served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, focusing on human rights and democracy efforts in the Middle East and South and Central Asia. Her earlier career included a role as Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, where she spearheaded the passage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.

Her overseas posts include assignments in France, India, and Norway, and she has worked directly with three U.S. Secretaries of State. Her academic affiliations have included a Visiting Fellowship at The Brookings Institution and an International Affairs Fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Erica has frequently provided testimony before both chambers of the U.S. Congress and is an experienced public speaker and media interviewee, both in the U.S. and globally. She is proficient in French and Norwegian, with a basic understanding of Spanish.