Dr. Athar Sultan-Khan

Professor Dr. Athar Sultan-Khan is the Dean of the Geneva School of Diplomacy since 2018, after finalizing his role as Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General during the transition period at the Executive Office in New York. He also continues on a “special advisor on diplomatic matters”, role on a pro bono basis, in UNHCR, providing diplomatic training and orientation on an ad hoc basis to UNHCR’s Representatives and also senior staff assigned to politically complex and high-risk environments, based on the UNHCR Diplomatic Protocol Handbook that he finalized and was published in 2023 at UNHCR.

Dr. Sultan-Khan has developed a “new diplomacy for peace agenda”, based on a concept he finalized at UNHCR and GSD called “Real Diplomacy by Dialogue”. He hopes that this would complement the SG’s “new agenda for peace”. He is also frequently invited to lead dialogue on the subject of the “art of diplomacy in conflict resolution” at various Foreign Offices, institutes/universities, civil and diplomatic communities in Europe, Middle East and North Africa.

He also conducts a mandatory workshop on the diplomatic protocol for all students at GSD; and engages in an active dialogue on diplomacy and multilateralism with students, visiting scholars, diplomates, political leaders and members of the civil and diplomatic community on diplomacy.

In his close to 4 decades of service with the UN, Dr. Sultan-Khan was Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General in 2017 based in New York. He served as Chef de Cabinet of UNHCR from 2002 to 2016 in Geneva to three consecutive UN High Commissioners, and worked in coordination with three consecutive UN Secretary-Generals.

Dr. Sultan-Khan held successive of senior leadership and representation positions in UNHCR from 1993 to 2002 in Asia, Middle East and North Africa; including as Representative in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia; Coordinator for the Western Sahara; Head of Desk for the Middle East and North Africa, including Cyprus, Kosovo, Palestine and Israel; and Deputy Regional Representative and Coordinator for South-East Asia, based in Malaysia.

During the early part of his career, he was assigned by UNHCR, from 1980 to 1993, as Head of Recruitment, and Desk Officer for North Africa (Western Sahara), based in Geneva; Head of Sub-Office in Port Sudan; Regional Program Officer in Kinshasa; Acting Representative and Program/Administrative Officer in Yaoundé; and Program Officer in Mogadishu.

A Swiss national of dual Pakistani citizenship, Athar Sultan-Khan was born in Brussels and raised and studied in Geneva and New York. He joined the United Nations in 1980 in New York, immediately after his graduating from Columbia University with a Masters of International Affairs. He was awarded in 2016 with a Doctor of International Relations from the Geneva School of Diplomacy and was appointed in 2018 as Dean and Professor of International Relations.  He is married to Cornelia (née Neumann) and they have one son.

Courses Taught

  • Diplomatic Etiquette
  • Refugee and Migration Issues
  • International Relations