Derek Mitchell
Derek Mitchell
NDI President
Washington, DC

The appointment of Ambassador Derek Mitchell to be NDI’s third president is a homecoming. Beginning in September 2018, he returned to NDI just over two decades after he departed the Institute in 1997, at the conclusion of nearly four years as Senior Program Officer for Asia and the former Soviet Union.

Since that time, Ambassador Mitchell has had a distinguished career in and out of the U.S. government, in which he has witnessed the connection between democracy and international security.

From 2012-2016, Ambassador Mitchell served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burma). He was America’s first ambassador to the country in 22 years. From 2011-12, he served as the U.S. Department of State’s first Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma, with the rank of ambassador.

Prior to this appointment, Ambassador Mitchell served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Asian and Pacific Security Affairs (APSA), in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In that capacity, he spent six months as acting APSA Assistant Secretary of Defense, and was responsible for overseeing the Defense Department’s security policy in Northeast, Southeast, South, and Central Asia. For his service, he received the Office of the Secretary of Defense Award for Distinguished Public Service in August 2011.

From 2001 to 2009, Ambassador Mitchell served as Senior Fellow and Director of the Asia Division of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

From 1997 to 2001, he served as Special Assistant for Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Ambassador Mitchell was the principal author of the Department of Defense’s 1998 East Asia Strategy Report, the last such report produced by DoD.

Ambassador Mitchell began his work in Washington as a foreign policy assistant in the office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) from 1986-88.

Most recently, Ambassador Mitchell has been a senior advisor at the Albright Stonebridge Group, the United States Institute of Peace, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as well as a lecturer for the Stanford-in-Washington program.

Ambassador Mitchell has authored numerous books, articles, policy reports, and opinion pieces on international affairs. He is the coauthor of China: The Balance Sheet—What the World Needs to Know Now about the Emerging Superpower (2006), and China and the Developing World:  Beijing’s Strategy for the 21st Century (2007).

Ambassador Mitchell received a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Virginia. He was a visiting scholar at Peking University in 2007.  He speaks Mandarin Chinese proficiently.

His wife Min is a former television journalist. They live in Washington, D.C., with their beloved dog Bernie.

Connect with the author

DemWorks Podcast: Episode 3 - Chris Walker and Shanthi Kalathil (the NED)

In this DemWorks crossover episode, NDI President Derek Mitchell talks to Chris Walker and Shanthi Kalathil from the National Endowment for Democracy (the NED) about the rise of authoritarian influence around the world. With a focus on China, they discuss how China’s Communist Party has survived since Tiananmen Square, the One Belt, One Road initiative, and the hard questions China’s rise poses to open societies’ most fundamental principles.

Read More…

DemWorks Video: Reflections on Tiananmen Square 30 Years Later

For NDI President Derek Mitchell, observing the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in person 30 years ago was a turning point in his life. There was never a question that – in that moment, at that time, in that place – he was witnessing something historic, a revolution in action.

Looking back at the footage he captured with his video camera, Derek reflects on the students, and the spirit, of Tiananmen.

Read More…

DemWorks Podcast: Episode 2 - Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze

In this second episode of the DemWorks podcast, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, the deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration in Ukraine, talks to NDI President Derek Mitchell about her decision to run for parliament in the wake of the Ukrainian revolution, confrontations with misogyny early in her career, and her fight to open up the Ukrainian military to female service members.

Read More…

An important International Women's Day message

On the occasion of my first International Women’s Day as NDI’s president, I want to reaffirm the Institute’s commitment to championing women leaders around the world who are stepping forward, often under extremely difficult circumstances, to confront persistent obstacles to their political participation. Despite the significant progress made in women’s political participation in recent years, there remains substantial resistance to women assuming positions of political power. NDI supports the efforts of women all over the world to overcome barriers to their political involvement, including ending the gender-based violence that targets politically-active women. To help address this issue, NDI has launched think10, a groundbreaking safety planning tool that guides women in politics on actions that may reduce their vulnerability within their particular political context.

Read More…

Happy Holidays: A Look Back at 2018

As 2018 draws to a close, I want to express my gratitude for your support in my transition back to NDI as its president – a true homecoming. Democracy faces serious challenges with the rise of new technologies and the resurgence of authoritarianism. While some may fall into fatalism, that is not NDI's way, and it is unworthy of those who have fought for freedom and democracy over many decades. NDI will continue to meet this moment head-on with innovative approaches that maximize potential opportunities as well as mitigate challenges, just as we did throughout 2018.

Read More…

My first Democracy Day as NDI president

On September 4, I became NDI's third president. I do so with humility, at a time when democracy around the world faces its most serious challenge in memory. While the United Nations' theme for this year's International Day of Democracy is "democracy under strain," let us honor the day not just by reflecting on challenges but also how far we’ve come.

Read More…