Haifa Aljedea

International Relations Advisor to the Minister of Tourism

As a diplomat, my father’s work took my family to different parts of the world. My siblings and I learned how to ski on the Swiss Alps, went apple-picking in the orchards of New York, explored the Swedish archipelago in the summer months, and discovered Morocco’s rich culture and history through many road trips. 

Being the daughter of a diplomat as well as attending international schools for most of my life has exposed me to different cultures and peoples across the world. This has allowed me to garner a sense of comfort and understanding in international settings, one that has greatly benefited me in my career. It also played an important role in shaping who I am today. I love to travel, experience different cultures, explore diverse cuisines, and absorb as many languages as possible. In short, it has enabled in me a more nuanced understanding of the way the world works. 

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Growing up, I found inspiration from my family who has been an unwavering pillar of support over the years. My father encouraged and guided me through my career and is always there to help navigate the complicated landscape and intricacies of the sector. My mother was our connection to Saudi and played an instrumental role in maintaining our Saudi culture, traditions and heritage by keeping it alive in our household no matter where we were in the world. I also grew up around some of the strongest, perseverant, intelligent, and gracious Saudi women who have set the foundations for myself and many others in Saudi society. 

This upbringing led me to begin my professional journey in the Media Sector. After 9/11, Saudis and Muslims faced a global stigma mostly due to inaccurate stories and odious misrepresentations by international news entities. 

I studied Broadcast Journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York and spent the summers between my undergraduate semesters participating in internships with media entities such as ABC News. Throughout the semester, I wrote for the University newspaper and carried my camera around the city of Syracuse covering stories for my classes. However, during an internship as a reporter for InterPress News at the United Nations, something changed.

The United Nations had already been familiar territory as I received much of my primary education in United Nations International Schools in Geneva and New York, and had my high school graduation ceremony at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. However, that internship was the first time I experienced the UN system as a professional and knew that I needed to work in the international relations sector. I switched my academic focus and received a graduate degree in International Relations. Shortly after, I was privileged enough to be one of the first Saudi Junior Professional Officers (JPO) in the United Nations, a dream job I worked very hard to achieve. 

Being the daughter of a diplomat as well as attending international schools for most of my life has exposed me to different cultures and peoples across the world.

In 2017, I pursued a second master’s degree in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Columbia University in New York.  This program allowed me to develop crucial skills and expertise within the international relations sector but also a wider understanding of the role Conflict Resolution plays across many disciplines. 

Soon after obtaining my degree, I decided to leave the UN and move to Riyadh to work on initiatives under Vision 2030. In the years following my move, I worked around the clock to create and streamline strategic international relations in the areas of international development aid, social and economic partnership, investment, and tourism. I led negotiations on multiple bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs), participated in high-level official delegations, and led several delegations regionally and internationally.  

The main approach I took to my work was to utilize the traditional foundations and teachings of international relations and diplomacy but adopt a method focused on efficiency, impact, and sustainable results.

I took this approach to my next posting, where I joined the Embassy in Washington D.C. as Director of Public Diplomacy. We focused on creating an effective and unique strategy that encompassed a breadth of methods and styles of public diplomacy. We garnered important partnerships that create new avenues for the Saudi and American public to connect and interact, thus fostering an increased sense of mutual understanding and friendship. As part of my responsibilities, I was also able to work on enhancing bilateral partnerships on issues related to the empowerment of women.

 International relations has the power to harness collective action to tackle the world’s biggest challenges; the prevention of conflict, providing developmental and humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable, preserving the global economy, and combating climate change. 

Currently, I am an International Relations Advisor to the Minister of Tourism at the Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia. As I move on to the next phase of my career, I aim to continue to enhance the Kingdom’s strategic relationships in the international arena while advancing and enabling our domestic objectives.

Follow Haifa Aljedea
Twitter: @HJedea
Linkedin:  @haifa-aljedea