Charles Harns

Charles’ career continues to focus largely on government capacity building in the many areas related to migration and governance.  Building on earlier work with migrant and refuge communities in New England during his years at CIE, and subsequently as a member of the senior management team at the Philippines Refugee Processing Center in Bataan until its closure in 1994, Charles then joined the International Organization for Migration (IOM), now the UN’s migration agency.  He served in programmatic and senior management positions in Georgia (Tbilisi), Italy, Geneva, again the Philippines and finally in Korea (ROK). The span of work with IOM included humanitarian and disaster response, technical capacity building, policy analysis and development, better linking migration policy with national development strategies, and supporting the development of international partnerships to better manage migration toward international standards and principles.  Charles was among the first few recipients of the IOM Director General’s award (2003).


Following his formal retirement from IOM in 2013, Charles continued as a consultant with IOM on a nearly full-time basis, spending the next five years in Nigeria developing and implementing programmes to further build the capacities of Nigeria’s Immigration Service, and to forge international partnerships of mutual benefit to Nigeria and the EU, specific European countries, and other partners.  Charles continues to work as a senior advisor to governments, often through IOM, though now virtually since the Covid pandemic.  He is currently supporting Government of Ethiopia in developing its first comprehensive National Migration Policy.  He has written many articles and a book on aspects of migration policy and technical capacity building, including for the African Union addressing regional free movement on the Continent.


Reflecting on his career achievements: “The most important achievements were, and continue to be, the mentoring and supporting of peers and junior staff in IOM to help them get the recognition and promotion responsibilities they deserve.  Helping this happen, particularly for women colleagues who are so often overlooked, is more important than all the policy, programmatic and funding accomplishments.”


Reflecting on his CIE experience: “The Center gave me a place to land after being in the Peace Corps in Botswana in 1982, and to begin to get exposed to the larger context of development work.  I am grateful that the Center was not an outwardly rigorous programme with many prerequisite requirements or structured academic demands.  It allowed me to make my own way and create my own challenges, and to shape a unique programme of study that supported my later, rather specialized area of work.  The CIE experience also first exposed me to the very competitive nature and often un-transparent process of securing coveted positions within development projects, and to the lengths some will go to secure those positions.  This was all new and surprising to me, but as a result I left CIE better prepared to deal with those processes and to improve them.”


Charles continues to make his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  His wife, Marilyn Gates, works with indigenous communities in Subic Bay Philippines.  Their son Colin is a public interest attorney in Boston, and son Myles is a musician and student in the Ann Arbor area. [1-21]




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CIE Graduate