Advisory Board

Eric Bjornlund is an adjunct professor with Georgetown University’s M.A. Program in Democracy and Governance, teaching “Democracy, Governance, and Stabilization,” and “Democracy Promotion and Democratic Theory.” Mr. Bjornlund is also co-founder and principal of Democracy International. A lawyer and development professional with two decades of international experience, Mr. Bjornlund has designed, managed, and evaluated democratic development programs in 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East. He has worked in the areas of international and domestic election monitoring, election systems and administration, political party building, legislative development, constitutional and legal reform, decentralization, women’s political empowerment, civil-military relations, civic and voter education, and civil society advocacy. He has extensive experience with assessments, evaluations, project designs, democracy assistance studies, and survey research and has led projects in emerging democracies, semiauthoritarian countries, postconflict societies, and failed and failing states. Mr. Bjornlund currently serves as Senior Technical Advisor for Democracy International’s indefinite quantity contracts for Elections and Political Processes and Democracy and Governance Analytical Services.

From 1989 to 2000, Mr. Bjornlund worked for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) in various senior positions in Washington and overseas. As Senior Associate and Asia Director (1994-95, 1996-2000), he developed and managed democracy and governance programs in 14 countries in South, Southeast, and East Asia. As NDI Country Director (Chief of Party) in Indonesia (1999-2000), he developed and oversaw a multimillion-dollar USAID-funded program in support of elections, election monitoring, political parties, legislative strengthening, and NGO advocacy in the world’s largest predominately Muslim country. He also served as Country Director (Chief of Party) in the West Bank and Gaza (1995-96), Director of Program Coordination and General Counsel (1992-95), and Senior Program Officer (1989-92) at NDI. From 2000 to 2001, Mr. Bjornlund was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In 2004, he served as Field Office Director for The Carter Center in Indonesia, where he directed a comprehensive international election monitoring program. Earlier in his career, he practiced corporate and international law for four years at Ropes & Gray in Boston, Massachusetts, one of the nation’s largest law firms.

Mr. Bjornlund has written and spoken extensively about transitional and postconflict elections, democratization, legal reform, and international democracy promotion. He is author of Beyond Free and Fair: Monitoring Elections and Building Democracy (Washington, Baltimore and London: Wilson Center Press and Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), which explores the history and evolution of international and domestic election monitoring and offers insight into how the international community can more successfully advance democracy around the world. He also has published numerous book chapters, articles, essays, and assessment reports. Mr. Bjornlund has testified on many occasions before Congress and the United Nations and has spoken at conferences and universities throughout the world. He has served as an expert on election commissions and election monitoring for the U.S. State Department and has appeared on television and radio in the U.S. and abroad, including on the BBC, C-SPAN, CNN, National Public Radio, Voice of America, and other media outlets.

Mr. Bjornlund holds a J.D. from Columbia University, an M.P.A. from John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a B.A. magna cum laude from Williams College.

Shari Bryan is NDI’s vice president. She joined NDI in 1998 and served as senior associate and regional director of the Institute’s democratic programs in Southern and East Africa from 2001 through early 2008. Ms. Bryan has been actively involved in law, international development, and foreign affairs since 1998 and has travelled extensively throughout the world. She has conducted assessments or mission to more than 30 countries during her tenure at NDI, and played a key role promoting democratic assistance programs in Africa; conceptualizing and organizing projects on political party finance; governance and HIV/AIDS; and increasing the role of legislatures in overseeing the extractive industries. Ms. Bryan is a guest and commentator for many major news outlets including CNN and the BBC, has testified before the U.S. Congress, and has presented papers before a variety of organizations. Before joining NDI, Ms. Bryan served as an attorney in the former UN Trust Territory of Palau, where she worked on negotiating the Compact for Free Association in 2004. She also worked as an attorney for the United States government and served with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

She has co-authored Money in Politics – A Study of Party Financing Practices in 22 Countries, published in 2005, and Transparency and Accountability in Africa’s Extractive Industries: The Role of the Legislature, published in 2007.

Dr Annika Silva-Leander is Head of North America at International IDEA where she oversees International IDEA’s outreach in the region, its engagement in the Global Democracy Coalition, and its work in support of the Summit for Democracy. She is also International IDEA’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, representing International IDEA at the UN General Assembly as a leading voice and advocate on democracy. She heads International IDEA’s offices in Washington, DC and New York, USA.

As an opinion-builder on democracy, she also contributes to the global democracy debate through her analysis and speaking engagements on the state of democracy globally, in the context of the UN and other global fora of relevance to the global democracy discussions.

Between 2018 and 2021, Silva-Leander was the Head of the Democracy Assessment Unit in Stockholm, where she led International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy report, as lead author, editor and Programme head. She also oversaw the production of the annually updated Global State of Democracy Indices and the implementation of the Covid-19 Global Monitor on Democracy and Human Rights. From 2015 to 2018, she worked as the Senior Adviser to the Secretary-General of International IDEA.

Prior to joining International IDEA, Silva-Leander worked for 10 years as a Social Development Specialist at the World Bank, on civic engagement and poverty reduction in Asia, Latin America and Africa. During her nine years in Asia, she worked for the World Bank, UNICEF and UNDP. She started her career at the AVINA Foundation in Costa Rica, managing grants to civil society organizations in Latin America.

Annika holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science and is a Swedish-Chilean global citizen who grew up in France.

Ambassador Planty is former U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala and has nearly 40 years of experience in the public and private sectors. He is an expert on Latin American affairs and European security issues, drawing on his experience living and working in Panama, Chile, Mexico, Norway, Italy and Spain. As Ambassador to Guatemala, he was instrumental in facilitating the historic 1996 Peace Accords, which ended four decades of internal conflict in that country. He is currently President of Planty & Associates LLC, a consulting firm, and was a co-founder of Port Security International, a homeland security solutions firm. Previously, he was Senior Managing Director at ManattJones Global Strategies, an international consulting firm in Washington, DC.

Prior to that, he was Chairman of the Board of the Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production and served as the Executive Director of Caribbean/Latin American Action (C/LAA), a non-profit organization promoting U.S. trade and investment in Latin America and the Caribbean. Mr. Planty’s previous diplomatic roles included: Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway; Counselor for Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spain; Minister-Counselor of the U.S. Embassy in Norway; and Deputy Personal Representative of the President and then Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See. Mr. Planty is considered one of the foremost experts on Spain and one of the most experienced base rights negotiators, and was awarded the U.S. State Department’s Superior Honor Award for his work on the Treaty of Friendship, Defense and Cooperation between the U.S. and Spain.

Prior to his diplomatic service overseas, Mr. Planty served as legislative management officer in the Bureau of Congressional Relations at the U.S. Department of State, staff assistant for operations in the Executive Office of the State Department, and legislative assistant to Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island. Mr. Planty earned his A.B. at Fordham University, his M.A. in Political Science from the University of New Mexico and studied at the Catholic University of Chile. He speaks Spanish and Italian.

Liza Prendergast serves as the Vice President of Strategy and Technical Leadership at Democracy International. She leads the development and deployment of DI’s technical solutions for democracy and development assistance. In previous roles at DI, she directed business development and program design across DI’s practice areas of elections and political transitions; governance and rule of law; monitoring, evaluation, and learning; and peace building and resilience. Since 2013, Ms. Prendergast has helped expand DI’s global presence in Africa, Asia, Europe and Eurasia, the Middle East, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Previously, she served as a Technical Specialist in Civil Society and Governance at World Learning, where she supported political transitions in Egypt and Burma and led social accountability and youth empowerment work across the Middle East and North Africa. From 2005 to 2011, she served in increasingly senior positions at the Center for Civic Education, where she advocated in the U.S. Congress for the Education for Democracy Act. She also managed the Campaign to Promote Civic Education, a national effort to improve civic education in the United States, and Civitas International programs in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Ms. Prendergast serves on the Board of Directors for the Center for Civic Education and the Election Reformers Network, non-profit organizations committed to the principles and practices of representative democracy in the United States. She also served as the first Board Chair of the Georgetown Democracy and Governance program Alumni Association. She speaks and writes regularly on issues of democracy and foreign policy and authored “Confronting a Global Democracy Recession: The Role of the United States International Democracy Support Programs”, which was featured in Democracy’s Discontent and Civic Learning (2018). Ms. Prendergast holds an M.A. in Democracy and Governance from Georgetown University, where she graduated with distinction, and a B.A. in History from George Washington University.

Kimber Shearer serves as Executive Vice President of the International Republican Institute (IRI), an international non-profit organization that advances democracy and freedom around the world. She also serves as in-house legal counsel. Ms. Shearer previously served as Vice President for Strategy and Development and Counsel where she led IRI’s organization-wide strategic planning, business development and strategic partnerships, and created and oversaw IRI’s Center for Global Impact. She previously served as IRI’s Director for Governance, Deputy Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Deputy Director for Asia. 

Prior to joining IRI, Ms. Shearer held numerous positions at the U.S. Department of State and was a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) from 2001-2003. She was a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Office of European Union and Regional Affairs, where she was responsible for managing relations with the EU on selected global issues, including around Justice and Home Affairs.  Prior to that, Ms. Shearer worked in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, where she developed and coordinated U.S. foreign policy on democracy, rule of law and the protection of human rights; consulted with foreign governments on how to improve human rights; and drafted advisory opinions and consulted with immigration judges and officials at the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice on asylum applications and torture convention cases.  She also served on three overseas assignments: in Georgia, she served as the acting Deputy Political Counselor; in The Hague, she worked in the Office of the Legal Counsel where she coordinated with investigators and prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and other international tribunals; and in Azerbaijan, she served as the acting Deputy Public Affairs Officer.  

Ms. Shearer served as co-chair of the Democracy, Rights and Governance Working Group on the USAID Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (ACVFA) from 2019-2021. 

She earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law, and a B.A. in Political Science from LaSalle University.  Ms. Shearer is a member of the Maryland Bar.