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Program Staff: Conflict Resolution

  • A convoy of U.N. peacekeepers escorts a Carter Center team from a nearby U.N. base to the town of Kidal in Northern Mali, protecting them from possible attacks by jihadi terrorists. (All photos: The Carter Center/ J. Hahn)

Hrair Balian, J.D.

Hrair Balian joined The Carter Center in 2008 as director of the Conflict Resolution Program. He also served as an adjunct professor at the Emory University Law School from 2008 to 2017, teaching an advanced international negotiations seminar.

Since 1991, Balian has worked in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the independent states emerging from the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, and Africa, serving in intergovernmental organizations (the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and nongovernmental organizations (International Crisis Group and others). He has worked on elections, human rights, and conflict resolution.

Balian received his Juris Doctor degree from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. In May 2009, the New England College awarded him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, for his "lifetime commitment to the dignity, respect, and self-determination of all peoples" and for his "uncompromising effort to resolve international conflicts."

He is fluent in English, French, and Armenian, with a basic knowledge of Arabic. He was born and raised in Lebanon, moving to the United States for university studies.

Tom Crick
Associate Director

Tom Crick joined the Center in 1994, first as a research assistant in the Conflict Resolution Program, becoming executive assistant to the director of peace programs, then assistant director of the Center's China Village Elections Project, and finally associate director of the Conflict Resolution Program. Crick has worked on numerous Carter Center election and conflict resolution projects, primarily in Africa, including the Carter Center-brokered 1995 Guinea worm cease-fire in Sudan, the Great Lakes peace initiative from 1995-1997, and the Center's mediation between Sudan and Uganda. Most recently, his work has concentrated on peacebuilding in Liberia.

Crick received his bachelor's degree from Bristol University and his master's degree from the Queen's University of Belfast. He has conducted doctoral research at the London School of Economics and at Emory University. Prior to joining the Center, he lectured in political science at a number of polytechnics in the United Kingdom and worked as a journalist and as a project leader at an interdenominational youth project in Northern Ireland. Crick is a licensed mediator in the state of Georgia and an adjunct faculty member at Emory Law School.

John Goodman, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Africa

John Goodman is the Conflict Resolution Program's associate director for Africa, with responsibility for the design, implementation, and evaluation of the program's mission and strategy in East Africa.

Goodman comes to The Carter Center from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), where, since 2010, he served as delegate and head of sub-delegation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Goodman's responsibilities included representing the ICRC with government officials, armed actors, international agencies, and civil society; managing relief operations; visiting prisoners of war; and promoting international humanitarian law. In particular, in the Congo, Goodman directed the ICRC's programs in eight prisons and multiple transitory places of detention. In South Sudan, his portfolio included ICRC programs in health, civilian protection, and relief along the border with Sudan.

Prior to joining the ICRC, Goodman was an attorney in private practice in the United States, working primarily in civil litigation on behalf of the immigrant community. He holds a bachelor's degree from Centre College, a master's and juris doctorate from the University of Kentucky, and a doctorate from the Graduate Institute, University of Geneva (Switzerland). He spent parts of his youth in Gabon and the island of La Reunion, as well as California, New Mexico, Alabama, and Kentucky. He speaks fluent French, Spanish, and Catalan.

José Vericat, Ph.D.
Field Office Director, Israel/Palestine

José Vericat joined the staff in 2018 as the field office director for Israel and Palestine. He is also a non-resident advisor at the International Peace Institute in New York, having worked there as Middle East advisor before joining The Carter Center.

Previously, he worked in the region for a decade as a spokesperson for the EU and correspondent for the Spanish news agency EFE, providing prize-winning coverage of the Second Intifada and the U.S. invasion of Iraq, among other major historical events.

Vericat has a doctorate in Oriental studies from the University of Oxford and a master’s from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. At Oxford, he was the Sheikh Zayed Islamic Studies scholar and taught courses on the politics of the Middle East, political Islam, and the U.N. in the Middle East. José speaks Arabic and some Persian and has professional working proficiency in Hebrew.

Nancy Azar
Senior Program Associate

Nancy Azar joined the Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program in January 2016 and supports the implementation activities of the Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Extremism project. Prior to joining the Center, Azar’s role was the coordination of all aspects of regional drug prevention programs in more than seven Arab countries for Mentor Arabia, the regional branch of the Mentor International Foundation, established and presided over by Queen Sylvia of Sweden. Azar holds a bachelor’s degree in political sciences and public administration from Université Saint Joseph in Beirut. Her professional and academic interests include the role of youth, women, and religion in peacebuilding. She was born and raised in Lebanon and speaks Arabic and French.

Ben Spears
Senior Program Associate

Before joining the Conflict Resolution Program in 2018 to focus on Sudan, Ben Spears interned with the Carter Center in 2013 and joined as program associate in 2016. With the Democracy Program, Spears coordinated election observation and transition monitoring in the Middle East and North Africa and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Spears previously managed field operations for multiple political campaigns, coordinated outreach for Congressman John Lewis’ district office, and directed programs for Ultimate Peace, a peer-to-peer sports initiative in the Middle East. Spears studied Arabic in North Atlanta High School’s International Baccalaureate program, liberal arts at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, international development at The George Washington University’s Elliott School, and nonprofit management at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.

Katelyn Knapp
Senior Program Associate

Kate Knapp is the senior program associate for the Mali Independent Observer project, contributing to project management, evaluation, and political and security analysis.Knapp joined The Carter Center in 2015 as a program associate in the Democracy Program, working with the citizen observation project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2018, she accepted a position with the Independent Observer: a new team designated to observe and evaluate the implementation of the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. Prior to joining the Center, Knapp taught English in Azerbaijan and interned with the gender equality unit at the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, where she developed targeted training initiatives on rape response protocol for law enforcement officers in Kenya. Knapp received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Clemson University in 2012. In 2014, she received her master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in international development, with a focus on post-conflict societies and gender equality.

Kate Keator
Manager, Syria Conflict Mapping Project

Kate Keator became part of the Syria conflict mapping team in 2013 as an intern before graduating to full-time employee and supporting the development of the project. As a program associate, Keator helped manage daily operations and build a database that tracks conflict incidents and maps armed-group networks across Syria to better inform the work of humanitarians and mediators. In 2017, Keator left The Carter Center to pursue her M.A. in conflict resolution at the University of Bradford as a Rotary peace fellow. She rejoined the team as manager of the Syria Conflict Mapping Project in November 2018. Besides an interest in the growing field of peace technology and its intersection with conflict resolution, Keator’s academic and professional explorations include the role of non-state armed actors in mediations or negotiations and organizational change management. Her language proficiencies entail ongoing improvement of French and Arabic.

Michael Scholtens
Program Associate

Michael Scholtens joins the Center's Conflict Resolution Program after two years of election observation and capacity-building projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and Native America with the Democracy Program. Prior to working at the Center, Scholtens interned with the U.S. Department of State, the Scottish Parliament, and the Center for Arab-West Understanding. He holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and history from Furman University and a Master of Science in International Relations of the Middle East with Arabic from the University of Edinburgh.

Annie Charif
Program Associate

Annie Charif began her work in the Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program in June 2016 as a program assistant to the Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Extremism Project. In June 2019, she began supporting the Syria Project, helping to implement and coordinate activities. Charif holds a Master of Arts in political science with a concentration in international and comparative politics. Her academic interests include conflict resolution and the role of non-state actors in failed states. She was born in Lebanon, speaks Arabic, and is conversant in French.

Hari Prasad
Program Associate

Hari Prasad joined the Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program in April 2020 as a program associate focused on research with the mapping unit of the Syria team. He previously worked with the Hudson Institute and the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. His academic interests include armed non-state actors, political violence, and religious politics in the Middle East and South Asia. He earned his master’s degree from George Washington University, where he focused on Middle East and South Asian politics and security.

Ross Hegtvedt 
Program Assistant

In Autumn of 2016, the Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program welcomed Ross Hegtvedt to the Syria Project. Hegtvedt works at the nexus of the project’s financial, administrative, logistical, and programmatic needs. Prior to joining the Center, Hegtvedt worked in politics from the local to the national level as well as with the Atlanta-based, ed-tech nonprofit honorCode. Hegtvedt holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Brown University with a specialization in the Middle East. He has studied at Al-Akhwayn University in Morocco, University of Nizwa in Oman, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His language proficiencies include English, Arabic, and Spanish.

Merissa Cope
Program Assistant

Merissa Cope joined the Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program in 2019 as a program assistant. She spent several years as a Community Building and Social Change Fellow for Emory University and also managed business operations for Nest Realty Atlanta. During her fellowship, Cope assisted in mapping house and lot conditions in the Atlanta neighborhood of Pittsburgh and helped stakeholders involved in the DeKalb Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative assemble their year-end presentation and plan. She continues to volunteer on the crisis line for the Atlanta-based domestic violence nonprofit Ahimsa House. She received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Emory University, where she minored in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.

Jennifer Phillips
Program Assistant

Jennifer Phillips began her work at The Carter Center with an internship in 2014 and joined the Center's Democracy Program in 2015. She coordinated election observation missions, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, before moving to the Conflict Resolution Program in 2018 and pivoting her focus to Middle Eastern conflicts. Phillips currently supports the Center's Israel-Palestine initiative and the Syria Transitional Dialogue Project. She holds a degree in political science with a concentration in international affairs from Georgia State University.

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