Ambassador Maria Leissner has served as Secretary General of the Community of Democracies since 2012. As Secretary General, she leads the organization’s permanent secretariat in Warsaw and serves as a vocal advocate for democracy, human rights and rule of law around the world.
She served as a member of the Swedish Parliament from 1985-1991. As a legislator, she sat on the Foreign Affairs Committee and was party spokesperson for refugee and immigration issues. Ms. Leissner was also elected leader of the Liberal Party (FP) in 1995, becoming the first woman to lead that party.
Ambassador Leissner joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2000. She served as Sweden’s envoy to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize and Costa Rica (2000-2004) and ambassador-at-large for democracy (2006-2012), during which time she also chaired a governmental Delegation for Roma Issues that investigated the situation of this minority group in her country.
She has participated in a number of international programs, including a large number of election-monitoring missions with SIDA, the Scandinavian Institute for African Studies and other organizations. Ambassador Leissner directed the National Democratic Institute’s governance program in Iraq (2004-2005) and served as Senior Adviser for Human Rights at AMM (EU/ASEAN peace monitoring mission) in Aceh, Indonesia (2005-2006).
She chaired the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (1991-1994), the Swedish women’s organization “Kvinnor Kan” (1991-1994), the board of the University of College of Borås (2007–2010), the advisory board of the Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Södertörn (2011-2015) and was a member of the Swedish Commission Against Antiziganism (2014-2015).
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