James Patton is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy (ICRD), and currently directs ICRD’s Colombia Program: Supporting the Reintegration of Former Combatants in Colombia through the Inclusion of Women and Faith Actors.
James is an international development, conflict transformation and social reconciliation practitioner, having lived and worked for over two decades in more than a dozen countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The central focus of his work has been the building of diverse networks for collaborative problem-solving, with the broadest range of social and political actors, primarily for conflict mitigation in complex conflict environments.
Beginning his overseas experience conducting sustainable development programs in rural Paraguay as a Peace Corps volunteer, James has subsequently worked on a range of issues from assessing the impact of drug policies and military responses on indigenous communities in Bolivia to training Buddhist communities in taking a constructive role in addressing Cambodia’s enormous post-conflict and human rights challenges. Based in Colombia between 2006 and 2010, he coordinated human rights and conflict transformation efforts throughout the Andean region as Deputy Regional Director for Latin America for the American Friends Service Committee. Subsequently, as a Foreign Affairs Officer for the US Department of State, he conducted stability operations in South Sudan, before, during and after that country’s historic referendum for independence in 2011, and backstopped the Latin America and Religion and Conflict portfolios at USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation. James sits on a number of Advisory Boards, including: IGE’s Center for Women, Faith and Leadership; Global Peace Foundation-USA; FCA and UNDP’s Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers; the Global Covenant of Religions, and; the Department of State’s Working Group on Religion and Foreign Policy.
James’ work at ICRD explores the relationship between religious motives, religious actors and key areas of instability around the world, seeking ways in which this central source of identity and motivation for much of the global community can be incorporated into strategies for reducing violent conflict. He is actively expanding ICRD’s impact, both geographically and demographically. For instance, in Colombia he is exploring how shared values between Abrahamic religious traditions and indigenous spiritual traditions might lead to cooperation on reconciliation and thereby to a more sustainable reintegration of former combatants.
James holds a Master of Law and Diplomacy degree from The Fletcher School at Tufts University and a Master of Divinity degree (focused on social justice theology) from Harvard Divinity School, where he received awards for preaching. He has spoken and facilitated events in a wide range of forums, including with U.S. and foreign government leaders, foreign Militaries, the United Nations and many Universities. He served as a Senior Visiting Fellow at BYU’s Wheatley Institution in 2014. James has shared his work through the arts, including producing photography exhibitions to provoke reflection and debate on global justice issues, and consulting on a PBS WideAngle documentary on the Bolivian coca conflict. He is fluent in Spanish, with practical experience in a number of other languages. He married his wife, Andrea, in 2010. They have an articulate and artistic five-year old daughter, Gabriela, and a pensive and joyous 1-year-old son, Simon.