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Lead, Government and International Affairs

Lead, Government and International Affairs
Organization: PEN America
Location: Washington, DC
Date Posted: 01/09/2024

Lead, Government and International Affairs, Washington

PEN America, a nonprofit organization working at the intersection of literature and human rights, seeks a motivated, highly organized, and professional lead of government and international affairs to support our advocacy, policy, engagement, and partnership efforts in defense of global free expression issues. The role focuses on international issues and requires expertise in U.S. foreign policy and challenges to free expression and human rights challenges outside of the United States. This is a full-time position based in Washington, D.C. and reports to the managing director, Washington and free expression programs.

The lead, government and international affairs will bring robust knowledge of U.S. foreign policy, experience working in foreign affairs with the U.S. government, and a strong network across foreign affairs agencies, diplomatic missions, and international organizations. The ideal candidate has a solid understanding of how to marshal U.S. government support for concrete human rights policy changes and other actions, including the use of targeted sanctions. Experience working in or with Congress and on issues pertaining to Iran is also welcomed and will be strongly considered.

Candidates should have demonstrated ability to build trusted, direct relationships with policy staff and key officials in the foreign affairs agencies; to create compelling advocacy materials and briefs; to write for a public audience and project into the media; and to leverage opportunities to deploy principals for high-level meetings, testimony, and other engagements. This role will offer the opportunity to engage in meaningful and varied work on a range of free expression and human rights issues in the United States and globally, building a portfolio of achievements as part of a dynamic, growing team.

In alignment with PEN America’s current policy, all applicants should be available to work in-person at PEN America’s Washington, D.C., office at least three days per week. This policy is subject to change.



  • Advance PEN America’s foreign policy priorities with USG officials
  • Support PEN America’s foreign policy efforts on Capitol Hill
  • Create briefing materials, testimony, and talking points
  • Act as a focal point for Washington-focused international advocacy across PEN America’s free expression programs, ensuring alignment and coordination across advocacy efforts including engagement with legislative offices and protection of writers and artists at risk abroad

Policy Development

  • Identify and push forward opportunities for targeted policy initiatives to advance free expression, in coordination with relevant staff from PEN America’s free expression programs, and particularly in the areas of support for writers and artists; countering digital and/or transnational repression and addressing oppression against writers, artists, and other creatives in areas including Iran, Egypt, and other MENA countries, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, China, Myanmar, and Eurasia
  • Lead PEN America’s efforts to promote accountability for human rights abuses via targeted sanctions programs; prepare recommendations to the U.S. government identifying Global Magnitsky sanctions targets
  • Inform, research, and/or draft policy position papers, research reports, and briefing papers on priority issues

Relationship Building

  • Maintain, build, and leverage relationships with policy staff and key officials across the executive branch, at diplomatic missions, and in international organizations
  • Develop and advance strategic alliances with counterpart organizations, including think tanks, civil society organizations, and cultural organizations

Public Engagement

  • In coordination with PEN America’s communications team and other relevant staff, work to build PEN America’s credibility, visibility and influence in the international advocacy arena through targeted interventions, effective campaign messaging, events, delegations and media outreach
  • Support and advance PEN America’s mission to safeguard free expression in the United States and abroad


  • Bachelor’s degree plus a minimum of six years of relevant professional experience, including experience working on or within the executive branch in a foreign affairs capacity
  • Experience crafting and delivering policy recommendations to government officials
  • Experience preparing recommendations to the U.S. government identifying Global Magnitsky sanctions targets
  • Polished, meticulous, and impeccably courteous written and verbal communication skills
  • Strong project and time management skills
  • Ability to engage an ideologically varied set of stakeholders
  • Demonstrated ability to effectively collaborate and coordinate with colleagues across an organization
  • Demonstrated effectiveness with building relationships and coalitions
  • Energetic, responsive, and skilled at multitasking and managing a fast-paced environment

Salary and Benefits: PEN America offers competitive compensation and full benefits. The starting salary range for this position is $90-103k commensurate with experience. Candidates whose expectations are outside this range are welcome to apply, as PEN America is open to considering talented individuals at varying stages of their careers. PEN America’s benefits package includes medical, dental, and vision health insurance, paid time off, 10 paid holidays, pre-tax commuter benefits and a 403b retirement plan.

TO APPLY: Please submit a cover letter, resume, and unedited writing sample to [email protected]. Use “Lead, Government and International Affairs, Washington” with your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Lead, Government and International Affairs, Washington – Jane Doe”). Please also share where you heard about this position in the body of your email. Only complete applications will be reviewed, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices, and in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

No phone calls, please.

ABOUT PEN AMERICA: PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

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Washington, D.C. | June 10, 2024

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