Suzanne Nossel
EducationHarvard University (BA, JD)

Suzanne F. Nossel is a human rights advocate, former government official, author, and Chief Executive Officer of PEN America.[1] She has served in a variety of leadership roles in the corporate, non-profit, and government sectors and has led PEN America since 2013.[2] She is the author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All.[3]

Non-profit career

Nossel currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of the literary and human rights organization PEN America. She oversaw the unification of PEN America with Los Angeles-based PEN Center USA,[4] the establishment of a Washington, D.C. office to drive policy advocacy in the nation's capital, and the creation of a network of PEN America chapters across the organization.[5] Under her leadership, the organization has advocated for free expression in Hong Kong and China, Myanmar, Eurasia, and the United States.[6] PEN America has also developed programs focused on campus free speech, online harassment, artistic freedom, writing for justice and a range of other issues. PEN America has also expanded its literary programming,[7] reimagining the PEN America Literary Awards,[8] expanding the PEN World Voices Festival outside New York City, and through writing programs dedicated to amplifying lesser heard voices, including incarcerated writers and DREAMers.[9][10]

Nossel previously served as Executive Director of Amnesty International USA[11] and as chief operating officer at Human Rights Watch.[12] She has also served as a Board Member of Tides Foundation, beginning in 2013, and still serving in 2019.[13][14]

Government career

Nossel served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs in 2009, where she was responsible for multilateral human rights, humanitarian affairs, women's issues, public diplomacy, press, and congressional relations. At the State Department, Nossel played a leading role in U.S. engagement at the U.N. Human Rights Council, including the initiation of groundbreaking human rights resolutions on Iran, Syria, Libya, Côte d'Ivoire, freedom of association, freedom of expression, and the first U.N. resolution on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.[15]

From 1999 to 2001, she served as Deputy to the Ambassador for U.N. Management and Reform at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations[16] under Richard C. Holbrooke. She was the lead U.S. negotiator in settling U.S. arrears to the United Nations through a landmark consensus agreement reached by the UN's General Assembly.[17]

She served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for Judge Judith W. Rogers.

Private sector career

Early in her career, Nossel was an associate in consumer and media practice at the consulting firm McKinsey and Company.[18] She later worked Vice President of U.S. Business Development for Bertelsmann Media and Vice president of strategy and operations for the Wall Street Journal.[19]


In 1997 Suzanne Nossel was awarded a Kauffman Fellowship for showing exceptional promise for a career in public interest law. Shortly thereafter she began to work as a Skadden Fellow at Children's Rights, a public interest advocacy organization in New York City.[20]


Nossel is the author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All, a set of principles to chart a course for free speech that also promotes equity and inclusion.[21] Excerpts from the book have appeared in LitHub,[22] the Washington Post,[23] and the LA Times.[24] She is a featured columnist for Foreign Policy magazine and has published op-eds in The New York Times,[25] Politico,[26] and The Guardian,[27] among others.

Nossel co-wrote, along with PEN America President Andrew Solomon, an op-ed piece for The New York Times on PEN's decision to present the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Free Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo.[28]

In Foreign Affairs, she has covered topics ranging from the changing nature of liberal internationalism to Samantha Power's ambassadorship in the United Nations. In 2004, she coined the term "Smart Power", which was the title of an article she published in Foreign Affairs that year.[29] It later became the theme of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's confirmation testimony and guided her tenure in office.[30]


Nossel graduated magna cum laude from both Harvard College and Harvard Law School.[31]

Personal life

Nossel was born in Westchester, New York,[32] the daughter of South African parents and granddaughter of refugees from Nazi Germany who fled to South Africa during the 1930s.[33] She traces her interest in human rights to her growing up Jewish in America, and her visits to apartheid South Africa in her youth.[33] She has frequently visited relatives in Israel, saying "It's a place where I feel very comfortable and at home."[33]

She lives with her husband and two children in Manhattan.[34]


  1. ^ "PW Notables of the Year: Suzanne Nossel". Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  2. ^ "PEN American Center Names Suzanne Nossel as Executive Director". January 16, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  3. ^ "Dare to Speak". HarperCollins. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  4. ^ "PEN America, PEN Center USA to Merge".
  5. ^ "PEN America Launches Six Regional Chapters".
  6. ^ "PEN America: China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey Are World's Worst Jailers of Writers". May 19, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  7. ^ León, Concepción de (May 2, 2019). "15 Years Later, PEN World Voices Festival Is Still Trying to Unify the World (Published 2019)". The New York Times. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  8. ^ Wylde, Kaitlyn (March 4, 2020). "Seth Meyers Hosted the PEN America Literary Awards". Vogue. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  9. ^ Hobbs, Allegra (August 15, 2019). "DREAMers in New York City break their silence in PEN America workshop". amNewYork. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  10. ^ "Pen America Publishes Anthology of Essays, Memoir, Stories and Poems by Immigrant 'Dreamers' - MOME". Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  11. ^ "Amnesty International USA Announces Leadership Transition: Suzanne Nossel Selected as New Executive Director of Human Rights Organization". Amnesty International USA. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  12. ^ "Suzanne Nossel". Global Freedom of Expression. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  13. ^ Board of Directors, Tides Foundation, archived 1 Oct 2019
  14. ^ "Board of Directors". Tides Foundation. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  15. ^ "U.N. council passes gay rights resolution". CNN. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  16. ^ "United States Mission to the United Nations". United States Mission to the United Nations. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  17. ^ "Suzanne Nossel". Foreign Policy for America. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  18. ^ "Suzanne Nossel". December 2015.
  19. ^ "Suzanne Nossel". Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  20. ^ "About". Kauffman Fellows. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  21. ^ "Dare to Speak". January 29, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  22. ^ "Has Free Speech Become an Even More Partisan Issue Under the Trump Administration?". July 15, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  23. ^ Nossel, Suzanne. "Perspective | Five myths about free speech". Retrieved November 25, 2020 – via
  24. ^ "Op-Ed: Those who exercise free speech should also defend it — even when it's offensive". Los Angeles Times. June 19, 2020. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  25. ^ Nossel, Suzanne (December 17, 2019). "Opinion | Fool Us Once, Shame on You. Fool Us in 2020, Shame on Us". The New York Times. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  26. ^ Nossel, Suzanne (October 16, 2018). "Trump's Attacks on the Press Are Illegal. We're Suing". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  27. ^ "Donald Trump treats the press like an authoritarian thug | Suzanne Nossel". the Guardian. January 12, 2017. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  28. ^ "Why We're Honoring Charlie Hebdo". The New York Times. May 2, 2015.
  29. ^ Nossel, Suzanne (January 28, 2009). "Smart Power". Foreign Affairs. No. March/April 2004. Retrieved November 25, 2020 – via
  30. ^ Hertzberg, Hendrik. "Smart Power". The New Yorker. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  31. ^ "Radcliffe honors alums". May 31, 2001. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  32. ^ "Distinguished Alumni". Scarsdale Alumni Association. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  33. ^ a b c "Suzanne Nossel on UN Human Rights Council -- at JBI Meeting".
  34. ^ "WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS; Suzanne Nossel, David Greenberg (Published 2002)". The New York Times. November 10, 2002. Retrieved November 25, 2020.