Elsa Talat Khwaja is a doctoral candidate at the George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government. Her research involves international development policy and aid effectiveness in fragile and conflict-affected conflict zones. Exploring the cases of Afghanistan and Pakistan through an enhanced understanding of the social capital-aid effectiveness-fragility nexus, her main concern is how material and/or non-material exchanges among social networks of international donor agencies and recipient organizations potentially help or hinder aid-delivery processes in conflict-afflicted spaces.

Previously, Elsa worked at Chemonics International, an international development consulting firm in Washington, DC, as a New Business Associate in the Southern Africa Division, a Human Resources Division Associate, and a Project Management Associate in the Afghanistan and Pakistan Division. In the AfPak Division, she supported the Pakistan FIRMS project, a USAID private sector development initiative to improve government service delivery and develop dynamic, internationally competitive firms in order to strengthen the economy, by accelerating sales, investment, and job growth, and to undercut the basis of extremism.

Prior to that Elsa was a Brent Scowcroft Award Fellow at the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Strategy Group. Elsa also worked at the Embassy of Pakistan as a research assistant to the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States. She received her Masters in Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), where she was awarded the Fred C. Bruhns Nationality Room’s scholarship to conduct research on gender-based violence and gender disparities in development of Pakistan. For her research she worked at two NGOs in Karachi, Pakistan: the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA) and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Elsa received her Bachelors at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a double major in Global Studies and Political Science.  Elsa is a member of the  Association for Public Policy and Management, American Political Science Association, International Public Policy Association, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, Women in International Security, Society for International Development, and Amnesty International Mid-Atlantic Chapter.

Elsa’s research interests and specializations include:

  • Foreign policy
  • International Development
  • Human Security
  • Fragile and Failing states
  • Post-conflict reconstruction
  • Gendered Disparities and Impacts on Development
  • Social Capital
  • Social Network Analysis
  • Qualitative Methods

Elsa’s regional specializations include Middle East and South Asia.

Elsa has various proficiencies in Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, and Spanish.


Please find Elsa’s contact information for further inquiry here.