An official website of the United States government

Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, Former U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council (2010-2013)
September 12, 2012

Portrait of a woman
Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe served as the first United States Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the lead UN body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights.

Appointed by President Obama as the first U.S. representative to the Council, Ambassador Donahoe served during a period marked by transformative change, as people around the world have given ever-greater voice to their desire to forge their own destinies and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.

On the front lines of the Obama administration’s strategy of multilateral engagement to promote democracy and respect for universal human rights, Ambassador Donahoe and the U.S. delegation work to ensure that the courageous voices of human rights defenders from around the globe are heard. During the first three-year term of the United States, the Human Rights Council has taken action on some of the most egregious and urgent human rights crises of our times, from Syria to Libya, Iran, and Cote d’Ivoire and beyond.

Before undertaking her role as Ambassador, Ms. Chamberlain Donahoe was an Affiliate Scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University.  Her research focused on international norms on use of force, United Nations reform, and the international rule of law. Her Ph.D. dissertation, entitled:  “Humanitarian Military Intervention: The Moral Imperative Versus the Rule of Law,” addressed conflicting legal and ethical justifications for humanitarian military intervention.

In her earlier career as a lawyer, Ambassador Donahoe was a litigator at Fenwick & West in Silicon Valley, where she served technology clients in intellectual property and commercial disputes.  She also served as a teaching fellow at Stanford Law School, and as a law clerk to the Honorable William H. Orrick, Federal District Court for the Northern District of California.  She is a member of the Bar of the State of California.

Ambassador Donahoe has worked with various human rights organizations including The Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights and Amnesty International’s Ginetta Sagan Fund.  She has served on the Board of Visitors for the Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College, and was awarded the “Emerge Woman of the Year” award in 2009.

Ambassador Donahoe holds a Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College and a Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard University.  She earned a J.D. from Stanford Law School, where she was a member of the Stanford Law Review, and was awarded the Hilmer Oelman, Jr. Prize and the U.S. Department of Education’s Fellowship for Foreign Language Areas Studies.   She also holds a Masters in East Asian Studies from Stanford University.  Ambassador Donahoe earned her  Ph.D. in Ethics and Social Theory, with an emphasis on Human Rights, from the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California, Berkeley.  She earned certificates in the study of Mandarin (1981-82) and Chinese law (1984) respectively, from Nankai University in Tianjin, and East China Normal University in Shanghai.