Vanessa Ortiz

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Vanessa Ortiz is the Director, Civic and Field Relations for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

"Vanessa Ortiz has worked for several international humanitarian organizations both overseas and in the United States. As Project Officer in the Resettlement Department of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), she led a three-year capacity-building project that helped strengthen refugee community-based organizations in the U.S. From 2003 to 2004, she was Special Assistant for Humanitarian Cooperation to IRC’s president. Her global experience includes work with Mercy Corps’ overseas office in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2001 and the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo, Bosnia’s post-war civilian peace implementation organization (1996-1998).

"Ms. Ortiz’s education includes a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The New York Institute of Technology and Master of Arts degree from The Fletcher School at Tufts University through its Global Master of Arts Program (GMAP). In 2006, she completed the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict. She has also participated in professional development trainings at the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation, at the International NGO Training and Research Centre in Oxford, and with the American University of Cairo Refugee Studies Program." [1]

"...Vanessa became interested in working with international communities while she was deployed as part of the NATO peacekeeping operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995. As a 1 st Lieutenant with the 353 rd Civil Affairs Command based in the Bronx , she left New York and headed for Sarajevo as a member of the first Civil Affairs contingent with NATO's Stabilization Force. After six months of being a first-hand witness to stability and reconstruction throughout the country, Vanessa decided to return there in a civilian capacity. “For the first time, I felt like I was really a part of history – even if in a very small way,” she comments upon reflecting on why she wanted to return to Bosnia . Vanessa began serving as the Logistics Officer for the Office of the High Representative, the multi-national civilian agency charged with implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, and remained for almost three years.

"Vanessa returned to New York and briefly worked in UNICEF's Emergency Response Division's Operations Center. Monitoring and reporting emergencies “remotely” made her realize how much she missed providing direct support on humanitarian issues. She decided to volunteer her time with IRC's New York Resettlement Office, providing assistance in the Bronx after-school program for resettled refugee youth. “The kids were absolutely great – energetic and eager to learn – and I wanted to share all the wonderful things about my hometown and make them feel welcomed,” she comments.

"Vanessa also spent several weeks helping to coordinate a new initiative, the NY LINK. NY LINK was an international training hosted by Cicatelli Associates which brought together small HIV/AIDS organizations from the Caribbean and Central America partner with New York City community based organizations that provide services to people living with HIV/AIDS. These start-up organizations gained capacity building skills through the information sharing with the more established New York organizations and learned the latest on HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and advocacy.

"As Vanessa searched for a career opportunity that would allow her to blend her civil military background with her desire to help others, she decided it was time to go out to the “field” again. Vanessa accepted a position with Mercy Corps, a humanitarian NGO, serving as its Senior Administration and Logistics Manager in Kandahar , Afghanistan . Managing all administrative aspects of programs operations in the southern provinces of southern Afghanistan, including human resources policies for a staff of over 300 national staff, Vanessa emphatically remarks that her most rewarding moment was hiring the first female national staff member. “It was my small way of helping change attitudes about women in the workplace, after so many years of their being forced to remain at home,” and she adds “and within a few weeks, I had so many women applying for jobs – it was inspiring!”

"Vanessa returned to New York after six months in Afghanistan as the security situation was increasingly worsening in the south. She was immediately offered a position at the newly-established Center for Humanitarian Cooperation, a non-profit organization with whom she had volunteered earlier during the donor solicitation and grant writing stages. As Special Assistant, Vanessa worked on projects that brought together the international civilian and military communities to help build cooperation, information sharing, and collaboration.

"After a few months serving as interim Program Manager with the IRC's Children in Armed Conflict Unit, Vanessa applied for and was offered the position of Program Manager on Project SOAR." [2]

Resources and articles


  1. Vanessa Ortiz, International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, accessed August 3, 2007.
  2. Field Expert Profile, IRC, accessed August 3, 2007.